There I am. In a photo on Main Street in Sturgis, South Dakota on the Friday before the official start of the 75th Annual Black Hills Motor Classic. Wtf?
I mentioned before I had seen a growing number of bikers on the road and I finally figured out why. It seems like it’s something I’ve heard about in passing my entire adult life- the huge biker gathering in some small roughneck South Dakota town called Sturgis. Gangs, drugs, booze, brawls, and the babes who like’em. At least that’s what I thought.
So I almost got up early for some sunrise photos before leaving the Badlands but easily convinced myself the sunsets were good enough. Still took my time driving out of the park.
Back on the road and there was no question- I had to check out Sturgis.
By the way, I purposefully passed on stopping at Wall Drug. I figured I’d seen enough on the million billboards I passed getting there.
Definitely not the roughneck town I imagined it to be. Also, so many of the riders are weekend warrior types. And while I saw hundreds of bikes on the road making the trek, there were also hundreds of trucks pulling trailers loaded with bikes. Not really as hardcore, right?
I talked to a staff photographer from the Rapid City newspaper to get some tips on what I should check out while I was there for a few hours. He said the camping areas are where the shit happens. I asked what kind of shit and the first thing he says is “naked women”.
They were expecting 1-1.5 million people over the course of the next week because it was the 75th anniversary. The previous record of 600,000+ was set in 2000 at the 60th.
The deal is there are a few things everybody who goes to the rally does because of their proximity to Sturgis.
Washington with soul patch.
Funniest thing I overheard here was somebody asking if they served beer, and it wasn’t a biker.
Plenty of dedicated motorcycle parking at all these places, too.
The Crazy Horse monument is a work in progress, but based on the model silhouetted here…
The other place, at least south of Rapid City, is Custer State Park but I didn’t have time to go there. I was back on the road headed into who-knows-where Wyoming.
I made myself unnecessarily nervous (what’s new?) thinking about breaking down on one of the desolate roads through the middle of the state. Very impressed with UPS, though.
I pulled into Casper, WY around sunset and crashed at a nearby KOA. Luckily they had one spot left. Seriously, everywhere within a few hundred miles of Sturgis was swarming with bikers on their way to the rally, with all the main downtown streets lined with parked motorcycles.
Really glad the timing worked out and I could make the side trip to Sturgis. Can’t claim to know what it’s all about, except maybe some fun with like-minded folks who enjoy doing what they do, but at least I can say I was there and got a little taste of the sights and sounds of this quintessentially American celebration of motorcycle culture.