After a 10-day trip to the Black Hills, we are safely back. I am not an “annual Sturgis fan” and we were not there for the 66th annual rally. I think every biker should go to the rally at least once. This was our third trip and my idea of traveling is to go to as many new places and rallies as we can. Going back to the same place every year does not appeal to me (okay, okay quit yelling at me, I know a lot of you do go every year and that’s great) because there are too many other places I have not seen and want to.
We were there a couple weeks before the rally, and for me that was a perfect time for seeing the sights and avoiding most of the traffic. We have also been there the last weekend of the rally and stayed the following week when everyone else was leaving.
In Sturgis we had the town to ourselves. No lines at the Harley-Davidson store, no pushing your way up to the bar for a drink at Broken Spoke or Gunners, and we could order food and have it within 15 minutes. We could also talk to the bartenders and hear all the latest gossip on what the vendors were paying for rental space, how many cases/kegs of beer were coming in and what was coming up for the rally. And we could actually talk in a normal voice and hear the person next to us! The Dungeon was “officially” closed, but they let us come down for a Kodak moment around the poker table.
In Deadwood we frequented Saloon #10 several times, (our bartender made a pretty darn tasty chocolate martini) we watched the gunfights and shootings on the streets of this old mining town, and canvassed all the souvenir shops. And of course hit the Harley store. Some in our group are fans of the HBO series, Deadwood, so the day before we scurried around town to see which bar we would watch the show in. There was no choice. Only The Bullock Hotel had HBO on satellite.
There wasn’t a better place to be on a Sunday night at 10 p.m., so we saddled up and headed into town. It almost felt like a step back in time to be sitting in a comfy booth, drinks in tow and smoking a cigar in the saloon of the Bullock Hotel. Ahhh, what a life!
We headed through Wyoming with Red Lodge, Montana being our destination. We encountered a slight delay in our plans when our “fearless leader,” Sid pulled over to help a stranded biker. He was a Blue Knight rider from Massachusetts, riding an older model Sportster on his way to the B.K. Convention in Ontario, Canada. His cell phone would not work and his bike just quit. Did I mention it was 104 degrees that day? One out of six cell phones worked so we contacted the Harley dealer for a tow. Well, two hours later when we were almost out of ice, water and beer, a beat up pickup truck carrying rickety old trailer showed up. They got the bike loaded up and everyone said their farewells. The last guy in our group told him, “If you ever see a yellow bike on the side of the road you better stop to help.” Riding into Montana the next day, we all pulled over by the Welcome to Montana sign for a group picture. (THE yellow bike was the last one in the line of six bikes). All of a sudden we look up and there goes the same Blue Knight on his Sportster blowing by all of us with his arm up in the air. There was no way he didn’t see the yellow bike or the five others! We hope he made it to Canada, but we sure had a few choice words for him.
We pulled into Red Lodge, Montana, had one of the bikes worked on, patches sewed on vests and grabbed a bite of lunch. It was becoming overcast and several store clerks told us it rains almost every day around 4 p.m. so we decided to leather up and hit the road. Looking at my watch…yep it was close to 4 o’clock! The Beartooth Pass is only open four months of the year from the end of May to mid-October. After the roads are closed, only snowmobiles have access to the winter wonderland.
With snow capped mountains, temperatures in the 50s, cold rain and heavy winds at 11,000 feet it was not going to be a pretty picture on this riding day. Fifteen miles out of Red Lodge you ride into hairpin curves, U curves, and long winding S curves. My husband’s front brakes went out 10 minutes into the ride.
Talk about tense riding conditions; battling the severe weather, keeping distance between the group, and only being able to use your back brakes and downshifting, I admired his riding skills and stamina.
Had it been my bike, I would have pulled over and called HOG “Mountainside” Assistance for tow service! Granted, I would probably be there for days waiting since we would have no cell reception to call!
You climb to the canyon rim past forests, cliffs, lakes and mountain peaks and usually it’s a great time to pull over for a panoramic shot to capture the beauty. We did pull over and everyone took a quick picture then hustled back to the bikes and forged on.
There are very few homes and only a couple lodges along the 45-mile trip down. At the highest point 10,974 you leave Montana and enter Wyoming. There you ride into switchbacks through the rolling hills, glaciers, hiking trails and an assortment of wildlife; elk, bison, mountain goats, and mule deer.
Needless to say, it was a long haul down and reaching the 80-degree temperatures below was like crossing over into another part of the country. We pulled into a roadside lodge to warm up, unwind, and fill our freezing cold bodies with Bailey’s and coffee. We packed our leathers away and continued on the Chief Joseph Highway to Cody, Wyoming. We were some tired bikers by now, but nothing a hot shower, soft bed and pillows couldn’t cure.
Heading back to Spearfish the next day we had to detour out of Wyoming due to the severe grass fires along I-90. The interstate was closed for several hours and we heard the next day the fires started on the other side of the highway and I-90 was again closed. Wouldn’t that be a catastrophe during Sturgis week?
I must commend the girls on the trip for their riding stamina, endurance and patience while they rode with their spouses. Some of them had never been on bike trip more than 300-400 miles. In the end, the Cape Girardeau couple made it 3200+ miles in 105-degree temperatures including some 600-mile days, and occasional rain.
We did make a stop in Wyoming to find a tack shop that sold sheepskins. As luck would have it there just happened to be a bar across the street so the guys headed there and the girls shopped for a “little added comfort” for their glutes!
If you have ever rode pillion before, you know there are only so many ways to change your position to be comfortable, so any added support is appreciated! Now everyone was happy! I congratulate Diane, Shelly, Marla and Sharon. All of you deserve the Iron Butt patch! And hey guys, Terry, Sid, Joe, Terry, and Doc, it was terrific riding with you too. You’re hard driving riders even with a passenger and full load! Thanks for indulging the ladies.
I guess I should fess up and share a funny with you since it’s on me. If you laugh at yourself, it’s easier to take when other people laugh at you. In preparation of packing I decided to take a boot bag and had extra room for my husband’s riding boots, loafers and water socks. I asked him if he wanted me to pack them and he said “yes.” I went to his closet, which normally I avoid at all times, and picked up two black boots and packed them.
When we arrived in Spearfish and unpacked I set all our shoes under the bed. Getting ready the next morning to ride he pulls out his two left-footed boots. Well at least they were both black (see photo below).
Oh my God, you can’t imagine the grief I had to listen to the next several days. So off we went to the nearest store (riding in his loafers) to purchase new boots. You can be sure he will never trust me to pack his boots again. I think I'd best be practicing my 'looking skills.'
It was a fun trip, friends enjoying each other’s company and the road, taking in the wonders of the glorious Black Hills, wind on our faces and the midday sun warming our backs. But the best part is everyone arriving home safely.
By Goldie Arnold