This was my third time visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The Biker Chef has been coming to the rally for about 20 years, and only missed a few. Another couple we were riding with this week have been coming to the rally since 1974, 40 years of riding to and through the hills, and they only missed three or four in all that time. I’ll refer to them as the Bearded Biker and Motor Mama, which doesn’t narrow down the identity much at all considering you’ll see lots of hairy guys on motorcycles. Some of their beards are so long, they bind them up in hair ties, braid them, or let them flap in the wind. Our Bearded Biker said, “Don’t blog me,” but I’ll have to say it is nice having a seasoned rider along especially when roadside repairs are necessary (more on that later), and he and his wife are good for a story or two. Back in the day, the rally was much, much smaller. He remembers the headlines saying “30,000 Bikers attend the Sturgis Rally.” Whoo hoo. Now, they expect up to 500,000 and growing. Next year is the 75th anniversary of the rally, and everyone is expecting it to hit record crowds. In fact, the owners of the hotels said, “Get your name on our list, now, and expect rates to go up.” Bearded Biker said that back in the early years for them, they always camped to save money, and the women of the Jackpine Gypsies would make bologna sandwiches and pass them out in the park. Now, the streets are loaded with vendors, both local and from afar. Nothing is free, except for maybe a little mist from a fan, strategically placed to lure you closer to their booth. We bought our ice cream at the Plumbing Supply store, and clearly, storefronts and parking lots become bars, hangouts, and “Bikes only” parking. I wonder what the regular citizens of Sturgis really do during the rally? Some of them head out of town, I’m sure, and rent out their homes. Others find ways to make a buck.
So, what are the highlights of this year’s rally? We actually spent some time in the hills this year. The Biker Chef has already done it all, gone on all the rides, camped at Hog Heaven, partied with his buddies, and visited all the major sites, so, together, we had only passed through the party on our way out West. Last year, we only had four days, so it was a very quick run out, picked up our patch, and bombed back home. This year, some of his riding buddies were staying in the area, so we rode the best runs with them. My favorite was Needles Highway. The rock formations, the twists and turns of the ride, and the view were all stunning and exciting. You simply cannot take it all in the first time. In fact, I almost missed the Presidents on the side of Mount Rushmore. I was looking right, at the scenery, and noticed cars stopping and a big building. I leaned up to The Biker Chef and asked, “Why are all these people stopping?” He pointed left. “Oh,” I said. “Geez, pay attention, Mary, I almost missed it!”
We proceeded to ride through the rock formations, narrow passages, and exciting “pigtails.” What a thrill!
I can’t imagine trying to navigate an RV through this!
Do you see the Presidents off to the left? It’s a quick, great shot, which I suppose millions of people have taken, unless, of course, they were looking the other direction!
We got close to some wild life. The weather was gorgeous, and the riding was terrific.
I’ll post more on the riding and sites, both on and off the streets, later. And, we had some surprisingly wonderful culinary adventures on this trip as well. I’ll post about that under the heading Dine off the Page.
Have you ever been to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally? Do you know anyone who makes it an annual trip? I’d love to have a chat with someone who has been attending the rally for many years. I asked the Bearded Biker if he thought it might peak at some point and lose it’s momentum. He said, “No way. It’s 500,000 strong and growing.” And, as I see bikers young and old, male and female, new bikes and old school, I think he’s right.