After last year's blistering 100+ degree heat on the ride up to Sturgis and the pouring rain all the way back, we were due for some good weather this year, and that's exactly what we got. The weather was perfect, nobody had any significant bike problems, everyone had a great time, and our entire group made it home safe and sound. What more can you ask for from a nine-day road trip to the largest motorcycle rally in the world?
Saturday, August 4 - The plan was to meet at 7 a.m. at the rest area on I-29 in Dearborn, Missouri, which is about half way between Platte City and St. Joseph, Missouri. Stripe stopped by our place to ride up with us, but Terry and I were running just a bit late that morning, so we pulled into the rest stop shortly before 7:30 a.m. We were hoping Bud, Rusty and Damnit Bill were running late again this year like they were the previous year, but no such luck. To make matters worse, we still had to load Brad's trike on Ricky's trailer, which Terry was pulling behind the Tahoe. Brad had agreed to drive our chase vehicle this year as long as he could also get his bike up there, which worked out great!
Shortly before 8 a.m., with a little help from our friends, we had Brad's trike loaded securely on the trailer and were ready to head out. We climbed back on our bikes and Ricky lead us north on I-29 to St. Joseph and then west on Hwy. 36 to my hometown of Wathena, Kansas. After topping off our bikes at the local convenience store, we continued on to Skandia, Kansas for our annual visit with Marge.
We pulled up to Marge’s house around Noon and was met out front by Marge, her son Bill, and Roberta Davis, who once again had a wonderful spread set up for us in the small garage in Marge's back yard. It was nice to be able to stretch our legs, eat some great food and rest under Marge's big shade tree for a while. After everyone had finished their lunch we took a group photo with Marge, climbed back on our bikes and continued west.
We stopped just before the Nebraska border to fuel up and stick our helmets on (Ahhh!!!) We made good time this year and pulled into the Super 8 parking lot in Ogallala, Nebraska well before sundown, where we met up with Pat, John, Tommy, a few more of our riding buddies who would ride the rest of the way to Sturgis with us.
Sunday August 5 - We checked out of our motel around 9 a.m., and while mounting up in the parking lot, I noticed our group had grown to 24 riders, plus 3 bikes still on the trailers. I mentioned to Ricky that 27 bikes beat our 2005 record by one bike. Salute! From Ogallala we headed to a scenic overlook near Lake McConaughy for 'breakfast,' which actually a stop along the way to sample one of Uncle Rusty’s world-famous Bloody Marys. After everyone finished their drinks we took a group shot of all the new riders who had never ridding with our group before, along with a group shot of the entire gang. What a motley crew! Then it was on to Boot Hill in honor of Kenny McDaniels and Mike Garzee; two close riding buddies of ours who we lost this past year. On the way to Boot Hill, there are some long open stretches of highway that gives us the opportunity to ride past each rider and get shot of them cruising down the highway on their bikes. This can be very tricky (and dangerous) to do by yourself, so thankfully my passenger/girlfriend/assistant photographer Terry was able to take some great shots while I kept my eye on the road.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Boot Hill I am referring to, it is a fence row with wooden posts located across the road from Ash Hollow Cemetery on Highway 26, between Ogallala and Lewellen, Nebraska. Bikers call this place Boot Hill because of the longstanding tradition of placing the boot of a deceased riding companion on one of the fence posts while on your way to Sturgis. Last year, Ricky brought along a boot belonging to his dad Butch, who use to lead our group to Sturgis every year.
As soon as we arrived at Boot Hill, several of us started cutting down and pulling weeds to make a path to the two posts we would use for this year's ceremony. One of the most ironic things about this year’s ceremony is that right before things got started; a lone rider rode past us on the highway with really tall ape hangers, just like the bars on Kenny's bike. Everyone had to laugh and agreed it was just Kenny's way of letting everyone know he was right there with us. Everyone then gathered around, while Bruce and Aubrey started the ceremony with some very touching words about Kenny, which soon had everyone in tears. Kenny's boot was then placed on one of the posts along with a photo and a few other personal items, before doing a shot of Jack Daniels or Butterscotch Schnapps in his honor.
The attention then shifted to Brad and me as we told everyone about how great of a friend Mike was to us and how much we miss him. Although nobody in our group other than Brad, Stripe, Terry, and I really knew Mike, you would never have know it by the camaraderie and compassion expressed by this wonderful group of friends we ride with. We then did a shot in honor of Mike, and before leaving, I placed a yellow wildflower though the laces of his boot until next year when we will stop by to pay our respects and add a photo and some additional items to Mike's boot in his honor. I hope next year and for any foreseeable time in the future we will not be adding any more boots to Boot Hill.
Bud, Rusty, Damnit Bill and Pat drove on ahead in their chase vehicles and stopped at a grocery store in Alliance, Nebraska to pick up the fixins for our annual picnic at Carhenge, which is a basically a replica of Stonehenge, except this one is made from old American-made cars that are painted gray and stuck in the ground. Call it ironic, call it fate, but while we were there, we ran into the same group of guys from Enid, Oklahoma we ran into last year. They all read our online magazine, and like last year, I traded them some Cycle Connections koozies for their 5th Annual Running of the Rats koozies, which is a charity ride they sponsor every July.
When everyone had finished eating, Ricky, Terry and I took off ahead of the group so Ricky and Terry could surprise all the Sturgis virgins by posing on a makeshift “Rest Area” along the highway, which consists of an old toilet and a chair set on top of some hay bales. For an encore, Rick decided to moon everyone, while Terry gave everyone a free flash!
A few miles down the road we stopped at a gas station to fuel up and I noticed something odd sticking out of one of Stripe's gas tank where one of his fuel caps should be. That's when I found out that somewhere along the line, his gas cap had vibrated out and went spinning off down the highway. He had turned around and went back; but it must have landed shiny side down (naturally) because it was nowhere to be found. Therefore, he replaced it with a plastic sandwich bag until he could get a new one. Nice. Good thing it wasn't pouring down rain!
We hit the road once again, and soon crossed into South Dakota. Since we didn't want to take the time to stop, a few riders and passengers removed their helmets and secured them on their bike until the next time we stopped and they could put them away for good (or at least until we crossed back into Nebraska on our way home). We stopped in Rapid City to fuel up and then made our way to Nemo Road, which would lead us to our final destination at Nemo Guest Ranch. The ride through the canyons on the way to Nemo is still breathtaking, no matter how many times you've ridden this stretch of road.
We arrived at Nemo Guest Ranch and helped Stripe get his gear out of the Tahoe and onto his bike so he could head on into Sturgis where he planned to camp in Dorothy's back yard, for the fourth straight year. After Stripe had left, we went inside to check in with Troy and Willie Saye, who took over the place just a little over a year ago and have made some significant improvements. On a side note, I later found out that about five miles outside of Sturgis the highway gremlins struck Stripe once again, and a broken bracket left his right side passing lamp and turn signal dangling from the electrical wiring. MacGyver (a.k.a. Stripe) was at it again as he made a temporary repair using some electrical tape and a washcloth. Gezzz, Stripe…ya think it may be time to trade the old Heritage in on a new bike?
Anyway, before leaving last year, Miles, had booked us a room in the Boarding House, which was the original Nemo Hotel. By the way, did I mention the Nemo Guest Ranch is very old…kind of like Uncle Bud and Rusty? The rooms at the Boarding House are pretty small and it was going to be a somewhat tight fit for the five of us who were planning to stay there; but as fate would have it, they had a last minute cancellation and we ended up spending most of our vacation in a larger cabin with seven beds that also just happens to be right next door to the Big House where the rest of our group was staying. Yes, there is a God. Thank you!
Monday, August 6 - After making our way across the street to the Nemo Firehouse where they serve all you can eat breakfast for only $6, we headed to the Broken Spoke in Sturgis, where we met up with Stripe once again. Apparently, Stripe had managed to replace the electrical tape that was holding his turn signal bracket in place with much improved bailing wire, just in time to meet up with his friend Mickee and join in the the Mayor's Ride. I also found out that before meeting up with us he had stopped by Sturgis Harley-Davidson to pick up a new gas cap to replace his sandwich bag for his soon-to-be rat bike, and has also stopped by the Sturgis Artworks Gallery to visit with Jody Wyse and check out his latest Sturgis Beer Can design.
After a few drinks and some very interesting shots of the Broken Spoke girls performing their usual shenanigans and of Terry posing with Tommy, or resident Sturgis virgin, we headed down the street for our annual visit to the Dungeon. This is the location of our traditional 'boobie photo shot,' which the girls try to sneak in each year without getting caught and asked to leave. From there, we headed out to the Full Throttle for the rest of the evening; while Stripe made his way back to the Broken Spoke to check out some of the great bands who were playing there, including Jasmine Caine, Kashmir, and Jimmie Van Zant,
Tuesday, August 7 - We woke and headed to the Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper Club for their 'Cowboy Breakfast,' which is located just outside of Rapid City. This is also the location of the film set where part of Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves was shot.
After breakfast, we made a road trip down to Custer State Park, Needles Highway, the Pig Tail, and Mt. Rushmore. Last year we saw only one buffalo in the park, which was very disappointing, however, the buffalo must have been very busy because this year the buffalo were everywhere, including several baby buffalo, who were very cute. Too cool! Needles Highway and the Pig Tail are always a real treat and, and what's a trip to Sturgis without stopping along the highway to check out Mt. Rushmore. I attempted to get four of the guys to pose for a shot in and attempt to duplicate the monument; however, a couple of them weren't comfortable enough with their manhood to pose that close to each other. Wussies!
On the way back to Nemo, we stopped in Keystone for dinner and drinks at the historic Ruby House Restaurant. While we were there, we were treated to a good old-fashioned 'Boobie Show' on the dance floor. We were in the upstairs balcony and because the lighting really sucked inside the bar, the photos turned out very dark, which I guess really doesn't matter since we can't publish nudity. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to store those memories inside my pea-sized brain for later. Sorry, guys!
Wednesday, August 8 - After several failed attempts to get out of bed, we ended up hanging around camp and wait for a cookout that Bud, Rusty and Damnit Bill were putting on in memory of Butch. While hanging out at the Big House, I was introduced to a few guys from St. Joseph, Missouri who was spending a few nights at the Big House. As it turns out, since my hometown is just across the river from St. Joseph, several of them knew some of the same people I grew up with, including one of my first cousins. It's a small world after all.
After a wonderful lunch, Miles, Lori, Terry and I headed in to Sturgis. When the girls (and Miles) finished power shopping, we ducked into Gunner's Lounge for a few cocktails. Since there is no cell phone service in Nemo, I try to touch base with Stripe whenever I'm in an area with phone service. Stripe told me he spent his day checking out the bikes at the World Champion of Custom Bike Builders display, and later met up with Mickee at her home in Spearfish. After taking a scenic ride through the Black Hills, they decided to check out a new entertainment venue just west of Sturgis called The Boneyard, which is where he was at. After finishing our drinks at Gunner's, we headed out to The Boneyard to meet up with Stripe and check out this new place. The Boneyard is set up with a similar fort-style layout like the Full Throttle, except it's the inside area is concrete rather than dirt and grass. There was a huge screen next to the stage so you could get a good close-up of the band; however, the cover charge they stick you with just to get inside this place is out of this world. The drink prices were also very high for what you get, and although The Boneyard is a pretty cool place, it isn't that cool, so unless they reduce their cover charge and drink prices that will probably be my last visit there. When we got back to Nemo, the Nemo bar was still hopping, so we spent the rest of the evening there, which is within crawling distance of our cabins.
Thursday, August 9 - Stripe rode out and met us at our cabin just as we were getting ready to head to the Silverado Casino in Deadwood for breakfast. After breakfast we headed up Spearfish Canyon and made a stop at Bridal Falls for a few photos. We then rode into Spearfish to visit with our artist friends from Lawrence, Kansas Vicki Vormehr and Gail Youngquist, who had their artwork on display at a new location this year called Horses to Harleys, which is very appropriate, especially since that is what the majority of their artwork depicts. We visited with the girls and Stripe took photos of some of their new artwork.
From there, we headed to Sturgis so I could shop for some footboards to replace the foot pegs on my Fat Boy. Throughout the entire trip, Terry had been battling my adjustable aftermarket foot peg extensions, and no matter how much I tightened them down, they still kept moving. Stripe headed over to One-Eyed Jack's for the evening, and after finding a pair of footboards I liked, I headed back to Nemo where my tools were. After installing my new footboards, I headed back to Deadwood to hook up with Miles and Lori who had taken a day trip into Wyoming. We met at Saloon #10 for a few drinks and then went across the street to The Stockade for a tasty buffalo burger before heading back through the mountains to Nemo.
Friday, August 10 - Terry and I decided to head out on our own in order to spend a little quality time together. We took our time getting around and then headed in to Deadwood to do some shopping and make one more visit to Saloon #10 and The Stockade. I just can't get enough of those buffalo burgers! From there we rode back up Spearfish Canyon, stopped at Bridal Falls for a bit, and then rode back in to Spearfish to visit with Vicki and Gail one more time. From there we rode to Sturgis, where we met up with Miles, Lori and Stripe. Stripe informed me that earlier that day he had stopped by the Ridley Motorcycles
Company display at the Top 50 Rally Park near Piedmont to visit with Clay Ridley, who started the company back in 1995, and to also touch base with Derek Smyth, owner of Route 66 Ridley Motorcycles in Carthage, Missouri, who is one of our new advertisers. While he was there, Stripe also took some Ridley demo rides to get a better feel for what these bikes are all about, and from the look in his eyes, I could tell he was very impressed. After the demo rides, Stripe spent the rest of the day at the Full Throttle Saloon listening to Joe Santana and the Motley Jackson Band. By this time it was getting pretty late, and since we would be packing up and leaving the next morning, Miles, Lori, Terry and I headed back to Nemo, while Stripe made his way over to the Knucklehead Saloon to check out the Fryed Brothers Bank; a biker favorite.
Saturday, August 11 - Most of our group who was staying in the Big House had gotten up early and headed out. Stripe has also mentioned that he was going to get an early start and ride all the way though back to Kansas City. Brad, Miles, Lori, Terry and I took our time getting around, before checking out and heading down Nemo Road to Rapid City where we caught I-90 and headed east. There was a huge traffic jam just past Wall Drug due to an earlier accident, so we exited off the highway and popped into Wall Drug for some last minute shopping and an ice cream cone. We left Wall Drug, and as we approached the highway we could see they had the onramp closed down and were not letting any more traffic on the highway. Unless we wanted to sit around and wait to try and get back on the highway, or only real option was to take a detour though the Badlands National Park and get back on I-90 on the other side of the accident. What's kind of ironic is that earlier that day Terry had made a statement that the only thing she's never gotten to see while in Sturgis was the badlands and she wished we would have had time to go through there. Wish granted!
Badlands National Park is awesome, and I could hear Terry clicking away behind me with the camera as we made our way through the park. We decided to stop for a break at Cedar Pass Lodge, and as soon as we pulled into the parking lot a couple who I thought I recognized approached us and introduced themselves as Dave and Zipper from back home in Kansas City. They recognized the Cycle Connections logo and wanted to say hi. We visited with them for a while and then headed on through the park. Wow. It's an even smaller world than I thought! We finally made our way back to I-90 and continued east before heading south into Nebraska. Our goal was to spend the night in Grand Island, Nebraska, and we made it there just after dark. We checked into a Hampton in shortly before 10 p.m. for some much needed rest.
Sunday, August 12 - We got up early, checked out and headed on home to Kansas City. When we got back in town we drove to Excelsior Springs to unload Brad's trike, and then ran by Miles and Lori's place to drop of their things and Ricky's trailer. After saying our goodbyes, we got back on I-435 south, and almost as soon as we got on the highway I looked in my mirror just in time to see Terry flash her lights and pull over to the side of the highway. I rode back to where she was and found out she was out of gas. Thanks Brad!
Thankfully, I had thought to toss in a small plastic gas can before the trip, so I put the gas can in my saddlebag and rode on the closest gas station. I filled up the gas tank, put it back in my saddlebag, rode back to the Tahoe and poured in what I hoped would be enough to get it started so we could make it to the station and fill up. It took a little coaxing, but it started up and away we went. We finally made it home and collapsed on the couch. Whew…this Sturgis stuff can really wear ya out!
Also make sure to check out this year's huge collection of Sturgis Babes, Bikers and Bikes!
Story by Mike Schweder
Photos by Mike Schweder, Stripe, Terry McClure, and Brad Bryant