This story begins many months ago, as I stared at my computer screen looking for answers in my shattered life. I had recently gone through a very surprising divorce after 12-plus years of marriage and was drinking too much and looking for I don’t know what on my computer screen. I never got the answers about what happened to my marriage, but I found some wonderful friends. I’d reconnected with Val, who I was stationed with in England almost 20 years ago, and she introduced me to Mike and Stan. We all started talking about how cool it would be to get together, and we were graciously invited to join Mike and his group for the Sturgis Rally. I have wanted to go since 2003 when I bought my first Harley, an Anniversary Road King Classic. Well, after months of doubt, I decided that I would make the trip.
August 8 arrived and I was ready to go, bike packed, cash in hand, Mike’s cell number, and the directions to Nemo. Well, I thought I was ready—I checked my “wonderful” iPhone at the last minute, and it was completely locked. This required a full reboot which took a whopping three hours. I almost cancelled my trip at this point, but something made me get on that bike. I finally got on the road and was rolling west. I hit the rain in Mitchell, South Dakota but managed to wait it out for about 30 minutes and was rolling west again, a very uneventful ride into Rapid City from there. This was when the brand new Garmin GPS I bought for the trip decided to have some fun with me. Heading out of Rapid City, it took me five miles up a fire road strewn with gullies, washouts and softball-size rocks everywhere. At 150 pounds, I was pretty sure I was going to dump my bike and be found sometime in the fall by hunters.
After finally getting the bike turned around and heading downhill, I met some fellow bikers at a little dive bar and asked for help. It was almost dark, and I just wanted to roll out my bag. They gave me good directions, and I bought them all a beer for their help. So off I go to Vanocker Canyon Road, leery of the warning of deer and elk on the road. Well, I rode slowly and managed to avoid a large elk around the second or third turn. After ignoring the GPS many more times up the canyon, I finally arrived at Nemo. Having no idea where I would find Mike and his group without any cell service, I parked the bike and stopped by the first campfire I came upon. I asked for the Troxler house, which was supposed to be the Troxell house, and who is there but Mike. I had never met Mike before, but I was welcomed with a warm handshake and an ice cold beer. I had finally arrived. After introductions around the fire I got my tent up and then got to know my new friends.
I woke up the next morning with the sun coming up over the mountain to the east and I knew I had found a very special place. Hearing the first Harley start in the early morning hours was amazing. When it was joined by the others, it reminded me of a symphony of the most rhythmic sound. When the bikes tore off down the canyon it brought to mind a squadron of old radial engine fighters diving into battle. Not only did I get to ride some of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever seen, I also met some amazing people and realized there are still good people on this planet that want nothing more than to enjoy their freedom and enjoy good company.
Sturgis is whatever you want it to be; if you want loud debauchery; you can hang out at the Buffalo Chip. I much prefer the laid back friendly atmosphere up at Nemo and the day rides to the surrounding areas. This trip could not have come at a better moment in my life. I have no doubt that God had a lot to do with putting me in touch with Mike. How else would you explain the coincidences that seemed to abound during this trip? I’d never met Stan before either, and he and I seemed to have the ONLY two 03 RK Classics in Gun Metal. Or that the owners of Nemo and just about the entire staff there live only 7 miles away from me here in Minnesota.
I have no idea what I was hoping to find on this trip, but what I found was me and who I truly am. I am a biker who longs to be on an open road, wind in my face, and free. Politics be damned, this is still the best damn country full of some of the most amazing and patriotic people. I had lost faith in my God and humanity, but I found it again at Nemo. Thank you so much, Mike and Nicole, Miles and Lori, Mike and Steph, Ricky and Shelly, Brian and Trisha, Vicki and Jon, Dave and Zipper, J.O., J.B., Bob, Stripe, Mark, Danny, Jodi, Stan, Chenoa, and Val for making me feel like I’m alive again. You are all always welcome in my home if you ever get up to the Twin Cities for a rally or any other reason.
By Kevin Lorensen