Year after year, Sturgis is the only large rally I never miss. Not only is the Black Hills of South Dakota one of the most beautiful areas in which to ride, it's also an annual tradition shared with our friends. This year was the 70th anniversary of the Sturgis Rally, so we decided to take our traditional route in order to hit Carhenge and to make a much anticipated stop at Boot Hill to pay our respects to our deceased brothers and sisters; whose boots we had placed on some old wooden fence posts during some of our previous year's trips.
The following day-by-day recap will give you a snapshot of this year's trip.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Sticking with tradition, our group met at the rest stop on I-29 between Platte City and St. Joseph, Missouri at 7:30 a.m. I didn't get an exact count of the number of bikes who started off with us; however, I think it was in the neighborhood of 20 bikes and one trike. Stripe had hit a deer a few months earlier and had broken both ankles, so he was able to make arrangements to rent a Harley-Davidson Trike for this year's trip. Nichole offered to drive the Tahoe to help transport everyone's gear, and there were also three other vehicles in this year's caravan.
As soon as our group was present and accounted for, we headed north to St. Joseph, Missouri where we caught Highway 36 west. After crossing the river into Kansas, we pulled over to remove our helmets (thank you Kansas) and continued on our journey across the wastelands of Kansas. After fueling up in Mankato, we made our way down the highway to the city park, where Bruce and Sheila provided a nice lunch in exchange for a small donation. After everyone had finished, I got everyone together for a group shot, and it was time to hit the road again.
After filling our tanks in Oberlin, we headed north on Hwy 83 to McCook, Nebraska where we had to put our skid lids back on (damn you Nebraska). Although the temperature was in the mid-upper 90s, it could have been a lot worse like it was a couple years ago when we ran into a wall of 100+ degree heat. In McCook we headed west on Hwy 34/6 to Imperial where we stopped for fuel. In Imperial we hopped on Hwy 61 north towards our first day's destination at Kingsley Lodge, which is located just north of Ogallala on beautiful Lake McConaughy. While checking into the lodge, we found out they had screwed up our reservations, so part of our group had to ride back to a hotel in Ogallala for the night.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Everyone got up early, and some of the girls began making Bloody Mary's in the parking lot, which is a Sunday morning tradition for our group that began years ago. Mike Ward had green T-shirts printed up in memory of our Butch and our deceased brothers and sisters. To have fun with the shirts, Mike had the initials S.D.B.C. printed on the back, which as he explained, stands for Swinging Dick Bike Club . As soon as the rest of our group showed up and everyone finished their drinks, we packed up, climbed on our bikes, and headed north to Boot Hill. For those of you who have followed our yearly Sturgis exploits, you know that Boot Hill is a row of wooden posts just across the street from an old cemetery where we place our deceased brother or sister's boot on a fence post and hold a short ceremony in their memory.
While we were at Booth Hill this year, I noticed another couple pull up on their bike and walk down to place a boot on one of the posts just down from where we were. Curiosity got the better of me, so I walked down to where they were and introduced myself. Their names were Jim and Linda Vandrell, and to my surprise, they were from Blue Springs, Missouri, which is where I currently live. They were there paying respect to a close friend Dennis Bellins, who had recently passed away after a bout with cancer. Jim and Linda also surprised me once again by telling me they had found out about Booth Hill from reading our magazine! How cool is that?
After leaving Booth Hill, we headed to Carhenge for lunch, which is an interesting tourist trap where several old cars were placed in the ground and painted gray to resemble Stonehenge. After lunch and a couple group shots of the green T-shirt clad S.D.B.C. members and this year's Sturgis virgins, Ricky, Vickie and I sneaked off ahead of everyone on our bikes and stopped just down the road at the 'Rest Stop,' which is nothing more than several large bales of hay in a field with an old toilet and chair placed on top of it. The farmer who owns the property where the Rest Stop is located took it down a couple years ago, so we were glad to see he had put it back in place. Ricky climbed up on the hay bales and Vickie sat in the chair next to the toilet waiting to surprise the rest of our group as they rode by. As always, everyone pulled over to the side of the road next to the Rest Stop to laugh and take photos.
After stopping for a fuel stop just this side of the South Dakota borer, we once again removed our helmets and headed north to Rapid City. After fueling up our bikes and loading up the vehicles with beer, we headed into the mountains on Nemo Road on our way to Nemo Guest Ranch. After unpacking and getting settled into our cabin, we had an opportunity to chat with my cousin Mark and his friend Kurt from St. Joseph, Missouri, who had arrived on Saturday and set up tents in our yard. We also met up with our friends Dave and Zipper, who had also arrived early and would be staying for a few days before heading north into Canada.
After a brief break at the cabin, Stripe was ready to head for Sturgis to make a couple of social calls. His first stop was the Sturgis Artworks studio where he caught up with artist
Jody Wyse who has been a friend of the Cycle Connections staff for many years. Each year, Jody creates the design featured on cans of Sturgis Beer. Stripe got to see the original work that was intended for the 2010 Sturgis Beer cans, but, due to circumstances beyond Jody’s control, Sturgis Beer was not made available for this year’s rally. Jody was excited that his work was on display along with the work of a few other artists and photographers in the Legends Art Gallery at the Broken Spoke Saloon northeast of Sturgis.
After a good visit with Jody, Stripe decided to ride by the house where he had set up his tent during several past Sturgis Rallies. Dorothy, Stripe’s former Sturgis “landlady,” was out during some yard work and was surprised to see Stripe arrive on a three-wheeler. She has decided to sell the house and move into a smaller one, and she no longer rents yard space for tents during Bike Week. However, she is still as energetic as ever and is still active in preparing biker breakfast at the Lutheran Church.
As it started getting dark, we purchased some firewood and started a fire in the fire pit in front of our cabin. Later that evening, this road-weary stranger walked up to the fire asked for me. To my surprise, it was Kevin, who was a guy I had been chatting with on Facebook and decided to ride in from the Minneapolis area to hook up with us and to camp in our yard. Apparently, Kevin's GPS had been taking him down every fire road between Sturgis and Nemo, which inspired him to write his own short story about his trip there, which he appropriately titled Finding Nemo.
Monday, August 9, 2010
While walking through our cabin that morning I was surprised to bump into Vickie's boyfriend Jon, who had mysteriously showed up during the night. Jon is a friend of ours who works at Bear's Hiway Classics, a custom bike shop in Kansas City. Apparently, Jon got a wild hair and decided to hop on his bike and ride on up to join us.
While most of us chose to sleep in a bit, Stripe headed into town early and had breakfast at Dorothy’s church. Then he stopped by the Sturgis Media Center that was moved from the Civic Center to the Sturgis Library this year. The change was a good move. The library has wi-fi as well as guest computers providing easy web access for visiting journalists. A quiet, comfortable room was provided to give members of the media a good place to take a break from the heat and noise. After picking up media credentials and rally brochures and visiting with Jan who was on duty at the Media Center, Stripe headed over to the Broken Spoke to join the group.
After jump starting Mike Ward's bike, our group headed to The Broken Spoke in Sturgis for our annual tradition of introducing some of our Sturgis virgins to whip cream body shots, which are applied by attractive bartender. From there, we headed to The Dungeon, which is also one of our annual 'first day Sturgis traditions.' Jon, Danny and a few others found a black marker and signed their names on the wall in the courtyard where our group had congregated. After a few drinks and our annual group shot from the upper railing in the courtyard, we decided to check out One-Eyed Jacks, which is down the street a ways.
Stripe parted company with the group to head over to the Jackpine Gypsies short track to watch the races. Stripe’s friend Randy Blackwell from Owensville, Missouri, was one of the competitors. The Gypsies sponsor various motorcycle competitions including hill climb, ½-mile oval, motocross, arena cross, and short track. Racing is an important part of the origin and history of the Sturgis Rally, and the Gypsies always put on first class competition. According to Stripe, the event Monday evening was competitive and featured a large field of racers in numerous classes. Stripe not only enjoyed a visit to the Blackwell pit, but was also invited to share dinner there. He was treated to arguably the best chicken breast sandwich in the Black Hills.
From One-Eyed Jacks, we headed out of town to the Full Throttle Saloon were Billy Ray Cyrus was just wrapping up as we parked next to the stage. As we were getting off our bikes I notice they had replaced the old wooden tower in the center of the bar with two semi trailer rigs in mid-air, which were supported by large posts. It's always interesting to see what Mike Ballard has added to his bar each year. Last year it was the big metal bridges and a zip line that ran between them. For some reason, which we guessed to be insurance related, the zip line wasn't operating this year. We kind of missed the zip line, because last year several girls took turns flying above the crowd without their tops. Even though the zip line was a wash, the burnout pit and midget wrestling was entertaining as usual, and we also ran into Dale Minton and his wife, who are friends of ours from KC, whose custom Aces & Eights chopper was featured on a previous cover of our magazine. While sitting in our group's regular location just above the main entrance to the Throttle, Miles and Lori met some bikers from Holland who were really great people. Astrid, Klaas and Bert had flown over to attend the rally and were having a great time watching all the craziness. Just before dark, we decided it was time to head back through the mountains to camp.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
On Tuesday morning we headed to the Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper Club for breakfast, which is where part of Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves movie was filmed. After breakfast our group wandered around the old buildings and movie sets, and I talked Danny and Jodi into riding an old coin-operated mechanical horse. The horse seemed to be a pretty rough ride, and to my surprise, Danny seemed to be more of a cowboy than Jodi, who complained about getting a 'purple taco' from the saddle horn.
After breakfast, we rode through Keystone and headed on to the Pigtail on Iron Mountain Road, which is partly made up of rustic log bridges that were built in the 1930s. We then made our way to Custer State Park. The group opted to forgo the Wildlife Loop where the buffalo hang out, and headed through Needles Highway, which is one of my favorite scenic routes. From there part of our group headed to Keystone, while the rest of us made our way to Custer for lunch at Gold Pan Saloon. After lunch we headed back to where the bikes were parked and hung out in the shade of the local bank. While we were there, a biker rode up to the ATM with a little Yorkie on the back. I struck up a conversation with the rider, whose name was Tom Calcago. He and his dog Bingo had ridden into town from Pringle, South Dakota. Tom had moved to South Dakota from Oregon and told me he didn't ride anywhere without his trusty side-kick Bingo, who rides everywhere with him. Tom also told me today was Bingo's birthday and that he was 8 years old. After wishing Bingo happy birthday we climbed on our bikes and rode past Mount Rushmore to Keystone, where we hung out the rest of the evening before heading back to Nemo.
One of Stripe’s annual Sturgis activities is to ride the Hills with his long-time friend Mickee who lives in Spearfish with her husband, Jim. Mickee rides a Ridley Speedster. It’s a miniature motorcycle, but its 570 cc engine provides performance that allows it to keep up with full-sized bikes. Mickee and Stripe rode through Spearfish Canyon and over to Deadwood where they enjoyed a visit with friends Vickie and Gail. From there they rode to Nemo and then to Sturgis. At every stop, people gathered around the Ridley and asked Mickee questions about it. When Jim got off work, he headed for Sturgis on his Harley Ultra Classic to join Mickee and Stripe for dinner. Later, Stripe made a stop at the Broken Spoke to enjoy a performance by the Jasmine Cain Band, his favorite Sturgis entertainers. At the close of the final song, the highly energetic and very sexy vocalist/bass guitarist took a flying leap off the stage into the arms of her appreciative audience. Stripe was still fired up about this when he arrived back at the cabin.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The Old School Bike Show sponsored by Biker Magazine at the Broken Spoke was Stripe’s must-see event for the day. Stripe is acquainted with several members of the editorial staff from Paisano Publications and had been looking forward to seeing them as well as checking out the show entries that included some very cool original, restored, or customized antique motorcycles. Flatheads, Knuckleheads, Panheads, and Shovelheads filled the Spoke’s display area. While hanging out at the Spoke, Stripe noticed a couple who appeared very interested in the 1948 Panhead on display behind one of the bars. Lloyd explained that he had one just like it, other than the color, in his garage back home in Colorado. Carolyn showed photos of it from her cell phone photo album. Stripe was envious. Another interesting visitor to the Broken Spoke that day was a lady with very long hair, 71 inches to be exact. Roadside Marty’s 1979 Shovelhead was the Best in Show winner. He celebrated his win by smoking the tire big time in the Spoke’s burnout area.
Late Wednesday morning we headed to the Silverado Casino in Deadwood for breakfast and then headed up Spearfish Canyon for our annual stop at Bridal Veil Falls. After traversing a small stream between the road and the falls everyone posed for photos in front of the falls.
From there, we headed on up Spearfish Canyon and decided to continue on north to Belle Forche and take Hwy 34 west to the Stonehouse Saloon, which is basically an old abandoned stone house sitting in a field just off the highway. We'd never been there before, so we were pleasantly surprised to see the place was packed! Hundreds of bikes were parked in the grass near the building, and most of the patrons were huddled beneath this military netting that provided welcome relief from the sun.
While were there, we ran into Jesse James Dupree, Mike Balland and Angie who were there with a film crew who was busy shooting the next episodes for the Full Throttle Saloon TV Series. After Nichole, Jodi and Miles posed with Jesse for photos; we headed on to Spearfish where we were supposed to meet up with Kevin and three of my other Facebook friends who had made the trip Stan, Chenoa, and Valerie. Unfortunately, they weren't at the bar we had planned to meet them at, so after a drink, we had to head on to Saloon #10 in Deadwood. I was able to meet Stand and Chenoa; however, I missed out on meeting Valerie, but I'm sure I'll get another opportunity in the near future.
After a couple drinks at Saloon #10 we headed down to Miss Kitty's Casino to visit with our artist friends Gail and Vicky, who own the Vormher & Youngquist Art Gallery in Lawrence, Kansas. Gail and Vicky travel to Deadwood each year to display their incredible artwork inside one of the bars or casinos. This year, they were showcasing their Wondering Eyes painting, which they painted in celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Sturgis Rally. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of their Wondering Eyes painting will be donated to the Ali Kemp Educational Foundation to help support the self-defense program they offer to girls and women. After bidding Gail and Vicky adios, we headed back to camp for the night.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
It was Stripe’s last day in Sturgis, so he got up early and headed into town to shop for a souvenir pin and T-Shirt as well as a pair of half-gloves and a wallet to replace those ruined in his deer encounter.
We slept in again on Thursday, and after eating breakfast, we headed into Sturgis to do some shopping as well. Nichole and Danny had never been up on the photo tower before, which is located on the main street of Sturgis, so I gave them my media pass so they could climb the tower and take some photos. When everyone had finished shopping we headed out to the new Broken Spoke Saloon, which is out past the Full Throttle Saloon.
After a few drinks there, we headed back to the Full throttle Saloon to hook up with our crew and visit with Johnny Dare, who is a fellow biker and a popular radio personality at 98.9 The Rock in Kansas City. Johnny does a remote from a corner of the bar every year, and there's always lots of folks from KC gathered around in hopes of getting on the air. When we got there, Johnny, T-Bone, Jake, and the rest of the morning show crew were setting up their equipment, so we had time to mingle with several others from KC, including Angie and Mr. Mink, who is a member of the KC Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.). Johnny got things started, and after an interview with Jesse James Dupree Johnny let several fans talk on the air, including Tricia, Jodi and Jon from our group, who Johnny let give Cycle Connections a plug on the air. Thanks Jon and Johnny! After grabbing a slice of pizza we head back to camp.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Stripe began his journey home on Friday morning in the company of Ricky and several other riders. He planned to arrive in K.C. on Sunday after spending a day with family in his hometown of Stockton, Kansas.
We cooked the rest of our bacon and eggs for breakfast and then headed to Hill City for some last minute shopping. While walking around town, I came across an old Harley-Davidson with two working engines, which was very unique. Once everyone had finished shopping we headed to Deadwood for lunch. After eating buffalo burgers at the Stockade we made our way back down the street to Miss Kitty's to say one last farewell to Gail and Vicky before heading back to camp for the evening.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Saturday morning came way too soon and it was time to pack up and head out. We normally take I-90 east to Sioux Falls and head south on I-29 to KC, but this year, Mike Ward had to play drums in a band that was performing at a fair near Ogallala, Nebraska, so we decided to head south and spend the night there instead. After checking in at our hotel we headed east to this little town to watch Mike play. As Mike was wrapping up we headed back to the hotel.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
On Sunday morning we packed up once again and headed east on I-80 and caught I-29 back to Kansas City. We had a great trip this year, the weather was great, and attendance at the rally appeared to be way up. As a matter of fact, this is the first time in Sturgis we'd never been rained on. I've already put next year's trip on my calendar and am ready to start counting down the days.
Also make sure to check out this year's collection of Sturgis Babes, Bikers and Bikes!
Story by Mike Schweder and Stripe
Photos by Mike Schweder, Stripe and Nichole