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Sturgis 2015 - Stripe's Trip

Written by  August 29, 2015

My ride to the 75th Annual Black Hills Rally began with a short run on Friday, July 31, to rural Wathena, Kansas, spending the first night at the home of Editor Mike’s mom. The hospitality was much appreciated. On Saturday morning, we rode into town for a rendezvous with a group of friends to begin the first day’s trek to Ogalallah, Nebraska.

Mike always does a great job of telling the travel story in his Road Trippin' to Sturgis - 2015 article, so I won’t go into great detail here. Of the traditional stops we make every year, the most significant to me is the Sunday sojourn at the place we call Boot Hill where we celebrate the memory of friends and relatives who are no longer with us. A number of the boots show the effects of years of weather, but the memories of the people represented there are unaffected by the passage of time. My they rest in peace.

After arriving at our cabin in Nemo, South Dakota, and taking a few minutes to settle in, I decided to ride on to Sturgis for a first look at changes for the 75th. I enjoyed the ride through Vanocker Canyon and noticed that a new gas station was situated on the south side of Interstate 90 at the east exit. This location is very convenient for those of us who are frequently headed from Sturgis to Nemo and other points to the south. The next big change I observed is that Harley-Davidson, Inc. now completely occupies the Community Center at 4th and Lazelle and the surrounding parking lots formerly inhabited by a variety of vendors. The back lot is devoted to Harley demo rides. Inside, visitors can view a number of Harley-Davidson videos. Another large room serves as a hospitality area for H.O.G. members. The lot in front featured displays of the company’s line of motorcycles, parts, and clothing. I also discovered that Harley-Davidson and the City of Sturgis have partnered in creating a new venue called the The Rally Point located at the corner of Main Street and Harley-Davidson Way (2nd Street). The area includes a stage where musical entertainment was provided throughout Rally Week. I stopped by Sturgis Harley-Davidson and picked up a couple of spare tail light bulbs for my bike which almost always requires at least one replacement every year during the Sturgis trip for some unknown reason. Walking down Main Street my first impression was that rally attendance would be up significantly from previous years, but it seemed that the 1.5 million number that had been tossed around prior to the rally might be a bit optimistic. At this point I have not heard of any official post-rally estimates. It was also obvious that there would be, as always, lots of great photo ops. After a while, I headed back to Nemo where a lively card game was in progress in the cabin (a nightly occurrence).

My first stop in Sturgis on Monday was Grace Lutheran Church where breakfast is available daily during the rally. One of the church members who always volunteers in the kitchen is Dorothy Short in whose back yard I camped during many past rallies. I enjoyed breakfast and a brief visit with Dorothy who was in charge of providing butter for everyone’s pancakes. Next, I stopped by the Media Center to pick up media credentials for the rally. It was also a good opportunity to collect some of the various publications that provided information on rally events, vendors, etc. I spent the rest of the morning and the first part of the afternoon enjoying the amateur hill climb competition presented by the Jackpine Gypsies. More info on that event can be found in my Sturgis 2015 – Racing article.

Following the hill climb, I rode back to downtown Sturgis where I planned to hook up at One Eyed Jacks with Editor Mike and others from our group. I was fortunate to find a parking spot in the middle of Main Street very near our rendezvous giving Mike an opportunity to snap a couple of photos of me on my bike in the middle of the multitude of motorcycles. Later on, I parted ways with the group and wondered back to the Rally Point where I enjoyed the music of Old School Felt and watched people take stationary demo rides on the electric Harley. I had a minor problem with the bike’s security system, so I decided to call it a day and head back to Nemo. That was the only day I experienced any difficulty with the bike, and there have been, thankfully, no subsequent problems.

Tuesday began with another breakfast and visit with Dorothy at the church. Next, I headed for Sturgis’ historic half-mile dirt track at the Meade County Fairgrounds for the Pappy Hoel Classic vintage motorcycle races. That event also is covered in my Sturgis 2015-Racing article. It was a great time, bringing back memories of watching ½-mile flat track races at Stockton, Kansas, every summer as I grew up. During the races, I observed the impressive B-1 low-level flyover. Afterward, I returned to the downtown area and visited many of the displays of factory and custom motorcycles and related products.

Wednesday’s breakfast was at our cabin preceding a group ride through Spearfish Canyon with stops at Roughlock Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. We spent some time in Deadwood where I visited with our friends Vicki and Gail who were selling their artwork in one of the casinos. When I left Deadwood behind, I headed back to Spearfish where I spend a few hours with my longtime friends Mickee and Jim at their home. We enjoyed a pizza buffet before I headed back to Nemo via Sturgis. As I headed south through Vanocker Canyon, a lite sprinkle began. By the time I arrived at Nemo Guest Ranch, it was more like a light rain. As I stepped onto the porch, a torrential downpour began. Good timing!

Thursday was my day for souvenir shopping. My grandniece had requested a Sturgis T-shirt with a wolf design, and I visited many T-shirt sellers with no luck. I finally decided to visit one where the customer selects a design from a wall display and waits while the selection is ironed on. I picked out one I thought Amanda would like and watched the process. The two pretty young ladies who were doing the ironing were probably the busiest people in Sturgis. They were each operating several irons at once. I don’t know how they kept the orders straight, but they were doing a super job. The line to check out was very long, more evidence that the rally attendance was strong.

After stopping by the bike to deposit T-shirts in my bag, I noticed that a demonstration was going on in the area known as Event Row. A police officer was explaining the proper technique for picking up a fallen motorcycle. After demonstrations showing how to pick up the bike from either side, a petite lady from the audience was selected to prove that the process doesn’t require brute strength as long as correct technique is applied. With some coaching, the lady was able to get the motorcycle upright with minimal effort.

Next, I returned to a vendor exhibit (Ballistic Cycles?) where I had previously noticed a really cool custom bike with a hubless front wheel. The result is the lead photo for this article. After that, I spent some time in the back lot behind the Easyriders Saloon where I spotted a familiar bike, a unique rat bike that was featured on the October 2013 Cycle Connections cover. I enjoyed visiting with Paul Evans, the bike's owner.  There were also several really nice custom bikes on display at the saloon, and the Twisted Tea Trike Show was in progress. On stage entertainment was the Cold Hard Cash Show, a tribute to Johnny Cash.

As I walked down Main Street, I observed a biker doing a series of burnouts, a rare occurrence on Main. This is not an activity that I condone, but it does present an unusual photo op. Doing Main Street burnouts is a good way to get arrested and have your bike confiscated, but this didn’t happen while I was watching. Returning to Lazelle, I stopped by the Sidehack Saloon where a wet T-shirt contest was going on. Following the contest, the announcer invited all of the veterans and active military personnel in the audience to come forward. They received a well-deserved standing ovation, and the Sidehack provided a free beer for each one.  A nice gesture, I thought.  There was also a performance by a graceful and skilled aerial silk acrobat.

On my way back to the media parking area, I watched a great stunt show by the Unknown Industries team.  I said goodbye to Jeff, the parking lot attendant and goodbye to the City of Riders for this year.  I returned to Nemo where I packed my two bags, one to go with me and the other to be transported in our support vehicle.  Thanks to Danny and Amanda for hauling my stuff.

As usual, my solo trip home began on Friday with an overnight stop in Stockton and Saturday family visits in Seneca and Topeka.  The Kansas City metro area welcomed me home in typical style with a long detour and a two-mile stop-and-go traffic jam on Interstate 435 resulting from an accident.

Once again, it was a really enjoyable trip, and, thankfully, one with no severe weather. I am already looking forward to the 76th.

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 stripe@cycleconnections.com