Its 10 a.m. by the hotel pool and Will, at 6 feet, 1 inch, wearing shorts, a white Hoka Hey T-shirt, and H-D sandals greets me with an iced tea in hand and beams, “Welcome to my home.” We sit in the cool Arizona shade as bikini-clad women sun themselves. As I settle into a lounge chair one of the bikini-clad beauties introduces herself as Eliza, Will’s girlfriend. We cordially chat, exchanging pleasantries. Both work in the private-jet industry and travel extensively for their profession. They’ve learned that wherever you are, you are at home. Both radiate a warmth and friendliness that made me feel completely at home. Subtly trying to ply Will for some insight into his extraordinary Hoka Hey win, we discuss his profession. “I have an uncanny internal time clock and am in Dubai one day and Hong Kong the next. There really is no designated time to sleep or eat.” He pilots Gulfstreams, considered the most advanced business jet and clients run the gambit. Will flew the Pitts around Asia while filming the movies A Mighty Heart and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. “I was taking Angelina Jolie to Delhi and had to serve as captain and head of security.” Brad and Will watched the sunrise while filming aboard a small boat in the Ganges. The sun burned off the morning fog and revealed the human remains that had been entrusted overnight to the sacred river in Varanasi…his tone turns serious as he discusses the takeover of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai by commandos in 2008. “I was there with clients when the commandos took the hotel. They were sweeping the hotel for foreigners and shooting them. I secured the private-jet crew in a room under an East Indian name. The security had abandoned the hotel. I dressed in black, did a recon in the dark, commandeered a hotel car, and stripped it of its markings getting everyone to the airport and flew out at first light. We barely got out with our lives, 150 people died there.” With a long pause he continues, “I travel a lot and if I told you some of my experiences you just wouldn’t believe me.” I begin fantasizing a jet-setting Bond-esque lifestyle, gallivanting the globe, sipping Martinis when Will stops cold, looks me in the eyes and says, “I am freelance, just like you. Everyday’s a new day and a new job.”
Eliza has a parallel storyline. As an executive jet hostess she also is freelance; neither have steady jobs. Eliza tells me she plans to take Will to a drop zone in Eloy, Arizona. So passionate about skydiving, she lived and worked there for a year so she could skydive daily. Clearly they both attack life with the exuberance of 20-somethings, and if that’s what keeps them both so young, I subscribe. “We’re riding there, do you want to go?” Eliza asks. Will smiles wryly behind his shades, the Jacuzzi bubbling at his feet. “When are you going?” I respond. A long pause allows the laughter of splashing of children to resonate the hotel air. “Right now,” she purrs. I am beginning to understand these two. Will Barclay is not super-human, he’s just not afraid to take chances; impossible is just not in his vocabulary. They both seem to absorb the moment so fully that abrupt transitions to completely different experiences occur seamlessly…I like this.
I’m ecstatic to be riding with Will and Eliza, trailing the Hoka Hey winner on the ’08 H-D Electra Glide Classic that faithfully carried him safely to the Alaskan finish line. Excalibur, King Arthur’s magical sword, is the moniker Will has given the Electra, yet this lofty pseudonym is literally slathered in bugs and dirt. I remind myself that Will just rode to Arizona from upstate New York, 2,500 miles, in three days. He was leaving for Las Vegas the next day, then back to Arizona to San Francisco then back to the East Coast. He probably puts more miles on his bike in two weeks than most do in a year. As we travel Arizona highways through tepid March air, cirrus clouds give way to barren landscape and languid roadways. On a lonely two-lane road the shadow of a small plane flying at low altitude drifts over me then settles over Will, Eliza, and Excalibur and for a moment, they have wings. It’s unbelievable, this pilot even flies on land. Eliza points skyward as I yell out loud, “Hoka Hey!” It’s a good day to ride.