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Sturgis 2012 - Stripe's Trip

Written by  September 1, 2012

This is where I get to share some of the experiences of the 72nd Annual Sturgis Rally and Races that were outstanding to me. The following chronological summary, along with the accompanying photos, represents my “show and tell” on the 2012 event.

Friday, August 3:

The first leg of the trip was a short one. Mike’s mom had volunteered to be our hostess for Friday night, and staying at Wathena, Kansas, gave Mike, Nichole, Lonnie, Donna, and me the welcome opportunity to sleep a bit later on Saturday morning prior to joining our fellow travelers.

Saturday, August 4:

After a long string of hot, dry days, it was predictable that Saturday would begin with a torrential downpour. Luckily, the storm quickly passed and was gone by the time we were ready to head into town to await the arrival of our friends. There were fewer riders than usual this year with some of the regulars staying home and others choosing to depart earlier in order to avoid riding during the hottest part of the day. After a second rendezvous and picnic lunch at Mankato, our caravan included 13 motorcycles and 3 chase vehicles. With the rain having moved to the north of our course, we enjoyed comfortable weather all the way to our destination at Ogallalah, Nebraska. Our motel there was comfortable, but the adjoining restaurant left a lot to be desired.

Sunday, August 5:

As we do each year, the group gathered in the motel parking lot for Sunday morning bloody Marys. Next came a solemn tradition that has special significance for everyone in our group, a stop at a place we refer to as “Boot Hill” or “The Boot.” Over numerous years, boots have been placed atop fence posts across from the rural Ash Hollow Cemetery north of Ogallalah as a memorial to brothers and sisters who have passed on. This year the group would have the unfortunate duty of adding a boot. Clifford “Polack” Balicki was popular biker who died September 29, 2011, and was an especially close friend of J.B. and Tracie. Over the 30 miles from the motel to Boot Hill, J.B. rode alone about 500 feet in front of the group, symbolizing the one who had “ridden on ahead.” J.B. placed the boot and delivered a brief and moving eulogy, and we spent a few minutes sharing memories of Polack and those represented by the other boots before resuming our trip. There was a lunch stop at Carhenge near Alliance, Nebraska, as we made our way on to our “home away from home” at Nemo, South Dakota.

After a late afternoon arrival, I still had sufficient energy for a quick foray into Sturgis. I was aware that there had been issues concerning the licensing of the Easyriders name to the huge Saloon that made its debut during the 2011 rally. I discovered that the Easyriders signs were still in place (at least for the rally) and a block-long elevated deck had been added. At the other end of the block, the former Broken Spoke Saloon was now known as Sickies Garage. My next discovery was that properly formerly owned by my friend Jody who was responsible for the artwork on Sturgis Beer cans for several years had been sold to the Easyriders Saloon owners. Another big change was on Main Street where the east half of the 900 block had been cordoned off to serve as the location for the Sturgis Motoshow primarily sponsored by Cycle Hutt and featuring “Cowboy” Kenny Bartram’s Steel Rodeo (Freestyle Motocross jumpers) and the Team No Limit stunt riders. With two performances daily during the rally this program would definitely be included in my rally agenda.

I placed a cellphone call to my friends Mickie and Jim from Spearfish and found that they were having dinner only a block from where I was standing. I ambled over to the restaurant and enjoyed visiting with them for a while before heading back through scenic Vanocker Canyon to Nemo.

Monday, August 6:

My first order of business Monday morning was to check in at the Sturgis Media Center to pick up credentials. Then I rejoined the group to spend some time socializing at Sickies Garage and the Dungeon Bar. Next I headed out to Thunder Dome where the W.M.D.R.A. Nitro Party would be held. Having some time before the party began, I walked across the highway to Full Throttle just in time to observe a wedding ceremony after which the bride and groom went sliding down a zip line. After returning to Thunder Dome, I observed a circus-style show that included such acts as a sword swallower, a lady who danced barefoot on broken glass, a guy who swung a heavy chandelier from his nipple rings (ouch!), and a burlesque dancer. Before the Nitro Party began, I had the opportunity to meet Sandra Alberti, President of the Western Motorcycle Drag Racing Association. W.M.D.R.A. was formed in 2010 by a group of professional drag racers to promote the sport of all-make (American and Metric) motorcycle drag racing in the Western United States. The Sturgis races were formerly sponsored by A.H.D.R.A. (All-Harley) but without W.M.D.R.A. there would have been no racing at the Sturgis strip this year. During the Nitro Party I was pleased to see familiar faces. I learned that several of the race teams compete at both W.M.D.R.A. and A.H.D.R.A. events. People who attended the Nitro Party were treated to a whiff of pungent nitro-methane fumes and the ear-splitting roar of one of Mike Bahnmaier’s monster drag bikes as he performed a burnout that began inside the Thunder Dome and proceeded out the south door of the building into the parking lot. What a rush!

Tuesday, August 7:

After seeing off our buddies as they left Nemo for a sight-seeing tour of the majestic Black Hills, Danny and I headed into town. He rode on to Full Throttle to enter his spectacular bike in the prestigious bagger show there while I stopped in town to take pictures and witness the spectacular Sturgis Motoshow stunt riding demonstrations. The best of two forms of extreme exhibition riding were on display with Kenny Bartram’s Steel Rodeo riders jumping their dirtbikes over the 70-foot gap between the takeoff and landing ramps and the No Limit riders performing amazing tricks on their sportbikes. The No Limit team included Jason Britton and Eric Hoenshell who entertained large crowds by riding on one wheel (front or back) while standing or sitting on the seat, tank, or handlebars. My photos will give readers a hint of the kind of stunts that were performed, but the show really must be seen live to be appreciated. The same holds for the show put on by Kenny Bartram , Gabriel Villegas , Jarryd McNeil , and Anthony Murray. Their stunts were the type seen on television’s X-games with all kinds of flips, whips, and twists going on while the riders sometimes seem to be almost completely separated from their bikes in positions that would make a contortionist proud. How they are able to get back into landing configuration is a mystery to me. Go see these guys ride if they put on a show anywhere in your area. You will definitely be impressed.

On my way to Sturgis Dragway, I stopped at Full Throttle to check out Danny’s competition. There were some absolutely incredible baggers on display, and whoever won awards in any of the classes would earn big-time bragging rights. I spent the remainder of the day at the 1/8-mile strip watching and photographing the qualifying runs. There were some great laps in every class and enough of the fire-breathing nitro machines to guarantee an entertaining day.

Wednesday, August 8:

After enjoying a delicious buffet breakfast with the group at the Silverado in Deadwood, I walked down the street to visit Vicki and Gail , our artist friends from Lawrence, Kansas, who always have their terrific artwork on display during the rally. From Deadwood, I headed through the spectacular Spearfish Canyon, stopping for a visit with Mickie on my way to Sturgis. I got to the half-mile track in time to watch the finals of all of the classes at the Jackpine Gypsies event. Then it was back to the drag strip to check out the eliminations and see which riders would finish as champions in each of the classes. The results were as follows:


WIN - Mike Bahnmaier .1011 / 4.6957 / 164.35

R/U - Doc Hopkins .0881 / 4.8358 / 133.14


WIN - Bill Bentz .1229 / 4.8449 / 143.44

R/U - Dale Nilles .1309 / 4.9761 / 143.85


WIN - David Larson .1620 / 5.4757 / 132.04


WIN - Mark Biernbaum .0388 / 5.1452 / 133.12

R/U - Fred Love -.0110 / 11.5369 / 53.89


WIN - Vicki Bentz .1829 / 6.5039 / 86.73

R/U - Gary Don Jones .4170 / 6.7398 / 103.23


WIN - Larry Fore .2699 / 6.7901 / 107.87

R/U - Rick Grimm .0539 / 7.2369 / 91.86


WIN - Jeff Murphy (6.36 Dial) .3610 / 6.3801 / 105.37

R/U - Bryan Rosenthal (8.20 Dial) .3650 / 8.2188 / 87.43


WIN - Victoria Lockwood (7.60 Dial) .1202 / 8.5158 / 71.30

R/U - Jeff Murphy (7.74 Dial) -.0599 / 7.6618 / 92.41

In spite of a number of delays due to problems with the timing equipment, it was still an enjoyable day of racing. There were even a couple of exhibition passes by a jet-powered drag car. Thanks go to the staff and riders of W.M.D.R.A. for keeping the Sturgis drag racing tradition alive!

Thursday, August 9:

Since this would be my last day in Sturgis, I had some shopping to do. I can never go home from the rally without a pin and a T-shirt. I revisited the stunt shows to snap more photos of the riders' incredible feats of skill. Later on, I hooked up with the group at the Easyriders Saloon where Jasmine Cain , my favorite Sturgis performer, was on stage and was smokin’ hot, as always. Our next stop was another visit to Full Throttle to watch Johnny Dare record his 98.9 The Rock radio show.

Friday, August 10 – Sunday, August 12:

Danny had plans to ride all the way back to K.C., so he would do the one-turn route (I-90 to Sioux Falls, turn right on I-29). We parted company at Murdo where I headed south to spend part of the weekend visiting my sister and family in Stockton, Kansas, before completing the trip on Sunday.

Once again, it was a great Sturgis trip. I could not have asked for better weather or better traveling companions. I’ll be ready to go again next year. See you there!

Story and photos by Stripe


Photojournalist/Account Representative - Kansas City, MO

Dave Baxter, a.k.a. Stripe joined our staff in December, 2003, as a photojournalist. If that road name sounds familiar, you may have seen his photos on the pages of such publications as American Iron, V Twin, VQ, In the Wind, and Easyriders. Stripe attends as many rallies, bike shows, and charity runs as he can and is a major contributor of photos and articles to our magazine. His first assignment was our January, 2004, cover photo, where he snapped the awesome photo of a 1958 Harley-Davidson Duo Glide. A rider since the age of 14, he loves to help and encourage new riders. Stripe enjoys meeting new people and looks forward to catching many of our readers in the viewfinder of his digital camera. Contact Stripe at