Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Road Trippin' to Sturgis - 2016

Written by  August 26, 2016

This year’s Sturgis trip seemed very strange due to the absence of several friends who would be staying home due to various circumstances. Included among them were Editor Mike and Nichole. They were missed by all, but we managed to have a fun trip anyway. The Road Trippin’ to Sturgis article is normally Mike’s work, but I’m doing my best to cover for him while still providing coverage of some racing events at the 76th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

On Friday afternoon August 5, I drove my Durango to Danny and Amanda’s residence about 30 minutes north to drop off my baggage that Amanda would be hauling in their Jeep that they had volunteered to serve as a support vehicle for the trip. Then I headed back to my place to park the SUV, roll out the Wide Glide, and repeat my earlier trip to the Webb home where I would spend the night prior to the much-longer trip. The hospitality was very much appreciated.

On Saturday morning, August 6, we headed north to the rest stop south of St. Joe where our group always gathers to commence the journey. We started with ten bikes and three support vehicles, and the numbers would increase at stops along the way. The first two gas stops were at Seneca and Mankato, Kansas. More bikes and another vehicle joined the group at Mankato where we enjoyed a picnic lunch put together by Sheila. Our next fuel stop was at Oberlin, Kansas. The destination for Saturday was the Ogallala, Nebraska, Quality Inn where we were joined by more friends nearly doubling the size of our convoy. The weather had been cloudy and cool all day with a few periods of very light rain, much different from the prior year when the temperature had exceeded the century mark.    

On Sunday, August 7, several of us enjoyed the free breakfast provided by the motel before gathering in the parking lot for our traditional pre-ride Bloody Marys. Every year, Sunday morning is our time to remember relatives and friends who have passed on. This year we lost Bob Ward, a friend of many in our group. After a brief but frantic search for a missing wallet, we were ready to hit the road. Bob’s son Mike, along with Lisa, were aboard the lead bike for the foggy 30-mile ride to a place we refer to as Boot Hill. The rural Ash Hollow Cemetery is located on a hillside along a lonely two-lane highway. On the other side of the road, there is a barbed wire fence with boots adorning many of the fence posts. Over the years, the boots have been placed there in remembrance of those who had worn them during a part of their journey through this life. There are also photos and other mementos. After respectfully placing Bob’s boot and photo, members of the group visited other boots to pay respects to other special friends and family members. We bade farewell to our friend Margaret who had accompanied the group to participate in Bob’s memorial and would be driving back home as the rest of us resumed our Sturgis trek.          

After a gas stop in Alliance, Nebraska, we traveled a short distance north to a tourist attraction known as Carhenge where we always have our Sunday lunch stop. Carhenge is a group of old vehicles painted gray and partially buried in a pattern reminiscent of England’s prehistoric monument Stonehenge. In compliance with another of the group’s traditions, those who were making their first Sturgis trip were persuaded to pose for a “Sturgis Virgin” photograph.

A couple of miles north of Carhenge, someone long ago set up a comical “Rest Stop” next to the highway. Atop a large pile of hay bales sits an old toilet and a worn-out La-Z-Boy chair, along with a sign proclaiming free Wi-Fi. Each year, one of the veterans of the group slips away after lunch and is sitting on the “throne” as the group rides up. This year, it was Miles who provided the surprise for the newbies and laughs for all.

The next fuel stop was at Chadron where the clouds parted for the first time since we left Kansas City. In Rapid City we fueled up once more before heading into the hills to Nemo Guest Ranch, our rally residence for the week. We got one more dose of light rain and we completed this last leg of the journey.

After claiming my favorite bed in the Troxell House and doing some unpacking during which I located my camera lens that had somehow become “lost” in my bag, I decided to make the 17-mile ride through Vanocker Canyon into Sturgis. I stopped by the Civic Center that becomes Sturgis Harley-Davidson headquarters during rally week and picked up several copies of various rally schedules and brochures to share with the group. While in town, I made telephone contact with my friends Mickee and Jim who live in Spearfish but happened to be in Sturgis when I called. They rode their Harley trike to my location where we had a nice visit before they headed home and I rode back to Nemo.

Bright and early on Monday, August 8, I was once again on my way to Sturgis with my first stop being Grace Lutheran Church where a delicious breakfast is available at a reasonable price every day of the rally. In addition to breakfast, I always look forward to seeing Dorothy Short whose back yard was where I set up my tent for many past rallies. Now in her 90’s Dorothy is still normally one of the kitchen volunteers at her church during the rally. However, this year Dorothy was at the church, but not in the kitchen due to an injury from a fall that prevented her from spending a lot of time on her feet. I was still very happy to have the opportunity to visit with Dorothy who was always very nice to me and all of the others who shared her residence in past years.

Next, I visited the Media Center and learned that media credentials would no longer being issued by the City of Sturgis. Media representatives were given a couple of passes, each good for one 15-minutee visit to either of the two photo towers. For any other media considerations, members of the media were apparently expected to rely on their business cards and their own charm and persuasiveness. The city’s Public Information Department was very good about providing daily press releases and information, and the lady who was working at the Media Center was very nice.

I was able to make it to the Jackpine Gypsies grounds in time for the start of the amateur hill climb event. The Gypsies are always very welcoming to members of the media who are interested in covering any of their various events that go on all week. The hill, as always, was scary steep with nearly vertical walls interspersed with narrow shelves at the bottom and deep loose dirt covering the upper portion. I had time to observe the first round of competition, having to leave a bit early in order to get to the other side of I-90 to the Meade County Fairgrounds’ half-mile flat track for the start of AMA Pro races there.

The White Plate Flat Trackers and Coe Meyer are also very media-friendly. When preparing for the Sturgis trip, I was surprised and pleased to learn that the track was still in operation. Last year, the word was out that the city had plans to replace the historic track with a new housing development. Those opposed to the idea have managed to delay the process at least for the time being. They continue to oppose the elimination of the track, but it’s hard to fight City Hall. I wish them the best of luck and believe it would be a great shame to see the track taken away. There was a great field of racers on hand for the Monday program including several of the top professional riders. Steve Nace Racing managed a very smooth, efficient, and entertaining program. I had planned a full day devoted to competitive events and headed back to the Jackpine Gypsies’ facility where I expected to attend short track racing in the evening. However, after only a couple of rounds of practice laps, rain moved in and left the track looking more like a swamp. There was no way to save the event, so I headed back to Nemo after the rain moved out. As was the case every night, there was a card game going in the kitchen/dining room of the cabin and conversations going on around a campfire and on the porch.

On Tuesday, August 9, I was back at the half-mile track for the Pappy Hoel Classic Vintage Flat Track event. There were not as many riders as many had migrated to Rapid City for the pro flat track racing there. However, the vintage bikes are always great fun to watch, and the riders who ranged from very young to not so very young (85 years of age, for example) put on a great show. During a break between heat races, I had the privilege of meeting Jack Hoel, son of the legendary Pappy Hoel.

After the races I relocated to downtown Sturgis, parking my bike behind the Harley-Davidson demo base. I knew there was a stunt show scheduled at the Victory Motorcycles area and began to walk in that direction. On the way, I encountered Mark and Matt Kozak, good friends of the Cycle Connections staff from back home. They had just bought new jackets and had them autographed by Willie G. Davidson. After a quick visit, I walked another half-block to the Victory area where the stunt show was just starting. Two riders put several Victory bikes through their paces, doing wheelies and burnouts. The finale was an impressive demonstration of burnouts and smoky donuts by a Polaris Slingshot.

I returned to the Harley-Davidson headquarters to get my 2016 Sturgis H.O.G. pin. As I left the building, I spent a few minutes watching a display of Harley-Davidson police bike maneuvers in the parking lot. Then I spent some time walking the Sturgis Main Street snapping photos of bikes and people. One block had the north half of the street cordoned off for a ride-in bike show that provided some great photo ops. I did some browsing in several stores where T-shirts were sold. I am in the habit of buying at least one shirt and Sturgis pin each year, so I began the selection process. With this being an election year, there was a significant amount of merchandise featuring political themes leaning strongly to the conservative side. One popular design showed Hillary falling off the back of Trump’s bike as he rode past the White House. Another displayed a message that made a rather crude comparison of Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Sales appeared to be brisk. During my walking tour, I noted that the former Easyriders Saloon is now the Iron Horse Saloon. Late in the afternoon, stormy weather appeared to be brewing again, so I decided to ride back to Nemo and enjoy a quiet dinner at the Nemo Guest Ranch’s restaurant.

On Wednesday, August 10, several of our group decided to follow Stan’s lead on a ride through Spearfish Canyon. Three more bikes from our group joined us at a gas stop en route. We passed through Deadwood and rode through the canyon to Spearfish where several of the group parted company and headed west. The rest of us rode back to Deadwood via the quick route on East Colorado Boulevard and U.S. 85. We took advantage of the free parking in the Holiday Inn Resort Deadwood Mountain Grand’s parking garage where we met even more members of our group. Some decided to visit one of the casinos and do some gambling. I headed to the casino where our friends Vickie Vormehr and Gail Youngquist from Lawrence, Kansas, were set up to display and sell artworks from their gallery. Gail and a friend had taken some time to visit Mount Rushmore, but Vickie showed me many of their latest creations. I told Vickie I planned to be in Deadwood again on Thursday and would stop by. Our group reassembled at the appointed time and headed for Sturgis where we all had more souvenir shopping to do. I stopped by a booth where Christian music was being played by a group that included a drummer who had shared my table at Monday’s breakfast. Rain was on the way, and I ambled over to One-Eyed Jack’s to do some more photography and people watching. When the rain stopped, I did additional browsing and selected a tie-dyed T-shirt and a pin featuring an antique Harley with an American flag background. I spent the rest of my Wednesday just hanging out in Sturgis.

On Thursday, August 11, several of us returned to Deadwood to enjoy the fabulous breakfast buffet at the Silverado. I took full advantage of the amazing variety of food including prime rib, one of my favorites, and ate enough that I didn’t get hungry again until sometime the following afternoon. Lori, Miles, Stan, Dane, and I rode out to an abandoned shooting range near Lead where shooting is still permitted, but there are no services. Using targets that someone long ago left behind we all got to do some shooting, an annual activity that I participated in for the first time this year. We returned to Deadwood, and I paid another visit to our friends’ art gallery where I sat through another period of rain while visiting with Vickie, Gail, and their friend. After the rain moved on, I once again set out for Sturgis where I had decided to pay a visit to the Full Throttle Saloon’s new location formerly occupied by the Broken Spoke north of Bear Butte. The former ride-through bar had been converted to a sort of general store, and many vendor booths lined the perimeter of the large parking lot. A band was playing in the bar occupying a huge newly-constructed building. More facilities were under construction.

Before long, I once again encountered the Kozak brothers and was pleased to meet their dad, Wayne the Barber who was trimming the hair of Cole Freeman, a motorcycle stuntman from St. Louis who had been contracted to put on several daily stunt shows on the concrete slab between the bar building and the stage. Looking very neat, Cole soon mounted his Sportster and put on an impressive performance with wheelies and burnouts. He collected $20 tips from members of the audience by riding past them, front wheel high in the air, and snatching the cash out of their hands or, in the case of some ladies, out from between their breasts. Good show, Cole.

Mark was proud to have eight of the bikes from his impressive collection on display on high platforms inside the new bar. Some of Mark’s motorcycles have been cover bikes for our magazine. After my visit with the Kozaks, I got my last view, for this year, of Sturgis in my Wide Glide’s mirrors. When I returned to the cabin, it was time to pack the bag that would ride home in the Jeep and the one I would load on the bike the following morning to begin the trip home.

Bright and early on Friday, August 12, I started my solo trip home. Once again, cool, dry, and comfortable weather was in store. It was about and 8-hour ride to my hometown of Stockton, Kansas, with a South Dakota stop in Rapid City and Nebraska stops in Chadron, Bridgeport, North Platte, and Holderege.   In addition to seeing my sister Darla and relatives from several generations of her family, I also got to see my brother Dale from Colorado who was in town for a class reunion. The Rooks County Fair was in its final stages, so we spent some time there looking at exhibits and watching the children enjoy the carnival rides.

Saturday, August 13, was another family day that included watching the telecast of the Kansas City Chiefs losing their first pre-season game and more time at the fair. The last leg of the journey began early in the morning on Sunday, August 14, and included stops for gas at Russell and Abilene before another family stop in Topeka to see my brother Don, his wife Bonnie, and their little Papillon Mikey. Another gas stop at Perry was a pleasant reminder that I would soon be riding back to this area for the ABATE of Kansas Labor Day Rally at Perry Lake. After finishing the trip home and unwinding for a bit, I make another trip to Danny and Amanda’s place to retrieve my bag. They had made the entire trip home on Saturday.

The trip to the 76th Annual Sturgis Rally was a very good one, and I look forward to the 77th. Hopefully our friends who missed the rally this year will be back in the group for the 2017 trip.

Please check out our accompanying articles:

Sturgis 2016 Babes, Sturgis 2016 Bikers, Sturgis 2016 Bikes, Sturgis 2016 Bartenders, and Sturgis 2016 Racing.


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