Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Road Trippin' to Sturgis - 2005

Written by  August 31, 2005

I’d decided a few months back that I was going to skip Sturgis this year and set my sights on Bikes, Blues & BBQ in Fayetteville and the Steel Pony Express in New Orleans.

About a week before Sturgis I received a call from Carl, one of my riding buddies, asking if I wanted to ride to Sturgis with them. I told him I was going to have to pass this year and thanked him for the offer. He then went on to tell me they were planning on taking a more scenic route this year and were also invited to ride along with Butch McQuillen and a group of riders who hangs out at Knuckleheads Saloon and Frankie D’s. He said they were planning on heading up I-29 then heading west on Highway 36 across the northern part of Kansas before cutting up through Nebraska and into South Dakota where they planned to stay a place in the Black Hills National Forest called Nemo Guest Ranch.

I was intrigued, however I told Carl to let me think about it and I would call him back. I’m originally from Northeast Kansas, so I'm very familiar with that particular route and knew I would prefer it over our usual 90 mph race up I-29 to Sioux Falls, then west across wind-swept I-90 into Sturgis. That stretch of I-90 makes riding across Kansas seem mountainous! I picked up the phone and told Carl to count me in.

On Saturday morning, August 6 we met Butch and his gang at a rest area about halfway between Platte City and St. Joseph, Missouri. I was amazed at the size of our group, which consisted of 22 bikes, three SUVs and two trucks pulling motorcycle trailers, along with one RV. To the general public, our group must have looked something like the Barnum and Bailey Circus heading cross-county to the next big show. I normally prefer to travel in a smaller group, but since we were in no real hurry to get there, I figured what the hell.

The plan was to head out at 7:30 a.m. sharp so we could make it to the Super 8 Motel in Ogallala, Nebraska before dark. Since my morning jaunt from Blue Springs to the rest area was about 45 miles, and since I didn't leave in time to refuel before meeting up with everyone, myself and a couple other riders decided to ride on ahead to a gas station on Highway 36 in Wathena, Kansas (my home town) and hook back up with the group as they came through town.

We rode on ahead, fueled up and then waited...and waited...and waited. About 45 minutes later we saw a string of motorcycle headlights coming down the highway and filed in behind them as they passed. We later found out that one of the bikes had conked out due to a short in the wiring harness and had to be loaded onto a trailer.

It seemed like we had just got up to speed when all of a sudden, one of the bikes ahead of me started smoking like it was on fire. The first part of the group kept going, the second half of the group stopped to see what was wrong. By the time I got off my bike and walked back down the highway to the ailing bike, they had already diagnosed the problem—a broken oil cooler hose. After a brief attempt to repair the hose it was determined that it would be best to load the bike on another trailer. Thank God for chase vehicles and trailers!

We caught up with the rest of the group in Seneca, Kansas and headed on. In Skandia, Kansas we pulled off the highway, rode through town and parked in front of a small house in a residential neighborhood. I was told this was where Marge lived. Evidently, Marge is an elderly lady who they stop by and visit each year on the way to Sturgis. Apparently over the past several years, Marge has provided lunch for the group, but due to her declining health, she was unable to fulfill her culinary duties this year. After a brief visit with Marge, we were back on the road.

We decided to stop for lunch in Mankato, Kansas at a little place called Critters. I wasn't sure how excited I was abut eating at a restaurant just off the main highway called Critters, but much to my surprise, they had a decent menu that didn't include road kill.

After filling our bellies we once again headed east. While stopped at a gas station in Norton, Kansas, Miles, another one of my riding buddies whose wife was driving the chase RV, received a message on his cell phone from her saying they had a flat tire on the RV and were about 30 miles from our location. When Miles called her back, she said everything was under control because a couple of good Samaritans had stopped to help them change the tire and they would catch up with us shortly. We told the rest of our group to go on ahead and we'd see them at the hotel later on that night. We finally headed north on Highway 83, donned our helmets as we crossed into Nebraska and followed Highway 6 to Highway 61 towards Ogallala. With the numerous unforeseen delays, we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel just as it was getting dark. After checking in and securing my bike I grabbed a couple of drinks and headed straight to the hot tub, which never felt so good!

The next morning we took advantage of Super 8's continental breakfast and headed north on Highway 26. I also noticed we had picked up four more riders from KC who had caught up with us at the hotel, thus increasing our 'gang' to 26 riders. We made another stop at a rest area overlooking Lake McConaughy where Uncle Rusty served up 'breakfast' consisting solely of Bloody Mary's with Bloody Mary's on the side. It was hilarious watching everyone walk over to the trailer where Uncle Rusty had his portable bar setup and tell him how they wanted their breakfast cooked. Some breakfast orders I overheard were 'sunny-side up, over-easy and medium-well.' No matter how they ordered their breakfast, everyne received the same red platic cup filled with the best Bloody Mary I've ever tasted.

From there, we hit the highway again and after riding for several miles we pulled off the road next to Ash Hollow Cemetery, which according to the big arched sign over the entrance, was established in 1849. Across the road from the cemetery was a fence line with boots stuck over several of the fence posts. I was told that bikers called this place Boot Hill and there was a longstanding tradition of placing a boot from a deceased riding companion on one of the posts. On this particular trip, Butch brought along a boot belonging to Ronnie Ralston, who was not only a fellow rider, but a close personal friend and well-known Kansas City musician. They also brought along a photo memorial to Michelle Lynn Olds, another close friend and riding companion who was killed in Kansas City last year by a hit-and-run drunk driver. After a brief, but emotional ceremony, everyone did a shot in memory of our fallen brother and sister before continuing our journey.

I was soon introduced to another tradition, which was to stop at a grocery store in Alliance, Nebraska, do a little grocery shopping, then have a picnic at a very interesting little tourist trap called Carhenge. Carhenge is located about 2-1/2 miles north on Highway 87 and is a replica of Stonehenge, England’s ancient alignment of stones that chart the phases of the sun and moon; however, Carhenge is created from vintage automobiles, which replicate Stonehenge. The cars are primarily from the 1950s & 1960s and are planted trunk down in the ground and rise 15-17 feet into the air. After a nice lunch and a look at the stacked up automobiles, it was time to hit the road again; but not before Ricky and Gloria surprised everyone with another 'rest stop' of their own that was located just up the road from Carhenge. You'll have to look at the photos below to see the rest stop to which I'm referring.

Just as we were starting to make good time, the RV suffered another flat tire so we stopped once again at a small town tire store and waited for what seemed like forever for it to be fixed while the rest of the group, once again, rode on ahead. Damn RV! I had to give Miles a hard time by asking him when was the last damn time he looked at his tires? To add insult to injury, Jeanie, a friend of Patty and Carl's who was riding in the RV with Patty (Carl's wife) and Joy (Miles' wife), must have had too much time on her hands because she asked me if I would give her a ride over to the local Wal-Mart to get some hair coloring for her hair. Since my bike was packed down and I had my T-Bag situated on the passenger seat I ended up riding to Wal-Mart by myself with three different hair colors written down on a piece of paper. Naturally none of the colors on the paper matched the boxes on the shelf so I picked one that was as close as it was going to get and figured it would just have to do. Thankfully I didn't select pink or purple, and Jeanie seemed pleased with my selection. At least I didn't have to buy tampons!

Once the tire was replaced we took Highway 385 north to Highway 79 north into Rapid City, South Dakota. Just as we rode into Rapid City it started raining on us. Thankfully, it was a fairly short but wet ride up Nemo Road to Nemo Guest Ranch. Butch and his crew have stayed at Nemo for years and always reserve one of their large cabins. Since there were so many riders this year they reserved two cabins in order to accommodate everyone. Our plan was for Miles, Carl, Patty, Joy and Jeanie to stay in the RV, which they parked next to Butch's cabin, and I would pitch my tent behind the RV. Since the RV was somewhat overcrowded, I was asked to sharing my humble abode with Jeanie, the now platinum blonde.

Nemo Guest Ranch is a very cool place, which is located in a tranquil setting in the Black Hills National Forest. After flipping through one of their brochures I found out this was the site of William Randolph Hearst's first logging operation in 1876, which supplied lumber to the Homestake Mine in Lead. They offer rustic, quiet cabins, RV hookups and campsites. What they fail to mention in their brochure is that during Bike Week there isn't near enough hot water to go around for those who choose to camp out. I also noticed there was absolutely no cell phone service. I have Verizon, and if I would have seen that little nerd in their commercials walking around the campground I'd have strangled the 'Can you hear me now?' right out of him! I don't mind roughing it a bit, but a week of cold coin-operated showers is where I have to draw the line. I thought I'd give it a try, but knew in the back of my mind that before the week was over, I would most likely relocate to Dorothy's backyard. Dorothy is an older lady whose backyard Stripe, a fellow Cycle Connections photojournalist, camped in last year. Dorothy lives only a few blocks off the main drag in Sturgis, so it's very convenient and within walking (or crawling) distance of everything.

The rest of the week was packed full of scenic rides through the Black Hills National Forest, numerous visits to Sturgis, Deadwood and Rapid City, along with my traditional westerly loop through Hulett, Wyoming for 'No Panties Wednesday,' past Devil's Tower, and into Sundance for their annual burnout contest and wet T-shirt contest. Hulett was packed this year, so I was running a little behind as I pulled into Sundance, just missing the festivities. Even though I missed the burnout contest I did get to see some of the aftermath from the wet T-shirt contest.

By Thursday, I'd had enough of the cold showers and packed up my things and moved to Sturgis. After I got my camp set up, Stripe and I picked up our media packets and then dropped by the Side Hack Saloon to visit our buddy, Jody Wyse, a popular Sturgis artist, who, among other things, is currently under contract to create the artwork for the collectible Sturgis beer cans you see every year. Later that afternoon, we made our way back out to the Full Throttle Saloon and hooked up with Kansas City radio personality Johnny Dare with 98.9 The Rock, who was prerecording his annual live remote that would be played in Kansas City on Friday morning. When I got there, Johnny was interviewing Jesse James Dupree—lead singer of the rock group, Jackyl. Johnny also took time to visit with many of his fans who were up from KC and let several of them say hi to their family and friends back home. Johnny was kind enough to let me babble for a while and got rid of me by giving our magazine a free plug, which I found out later they actually played on the air. Rock on! While we were at the Full Throttle, Stripe was charming enough to get an up-close and personal interview with Angie of Angie Land, who has the most photographed booty in all of Sturgis. If you've been to the Full Throttle, I'm sure you know who I'm talking about.

On Friday, August 12, Stripe and I decided to check out the Jackpine Gypsies Hill Climb, which was blast! This was one tough hill and it was a real challenge for the riders to make it over the top. After climbing up and down the hill all afternoon and taking lots of photos, we decided to brush off our boots, pants, cameras, and everything else that had become covered in red clay dust and head back to Dorothy’s to clean up before heading to the Dungeon on Main Street Sturgis, which is Butch and the gang's favorite hangout and traditional last night hurrah! When we got back to Dorothy’s, fellow campers, Jane Pullis, Linda FrisIe and Lynda Wilde were packing up their Harleys for the trip back to Minnesota and Wisconsin. They were hoping to get ahead of the thunderstorm that was forecasted to hit Sturgis later that day. After wishing them a safe trip, Stripe and I headed down to the Dungeon. As you can tell from the photos below, this group really knows how to party! Between body shots and boobie shots (photos) there wasn't much left to the imagination. Our group was at the center of attention and before long, most of the patrons at the Dungeon had crowded around our tables to watch all the craziness.

After leaving the Dungeon, several members of our group headed back out to the Full Throttle while I decided to do some last minute shopping. This turned out to be a good call, because no sooner had I started rummaging through the discount T-shirts and souvenirs when the clouds opened up and dumped several inches of rain right on top of downtown Sturgis. After grabbing a bite to eat at the Road Kill Cafe, I made my way back to camp and settled in for my last night in Sturgis.

The next morning we got up, packed up our wet tents and headed out. Stripe rode straight through back to KC, and I hooked up with the rest of my group and rode to Sioux Falls for the evening. On Sunday, August 14 we made the trek back down I-29 to KC.

Now that Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans, it doesn't look like I'll be riding down for the Steel Pony Express this year, so in retrospect, I'm really glad I made this year's trip to Sturgis. I have to thank Carl for twisting my arm and asking me to ride along and to Butch and all the new friends I made on this year's trip. I can hardly wait until next year, and next time, I plan on staying in one of the cabins at Nemo Guest Ranch where I can look forward to a soft bed and some hot water!

Story and photos by Mike Schweder