Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

The Anaconda Visits Sturgis

Written by  August 31, 2004

For a motorcycle to attract attention among the thousands of bikes and trikes at the Sturgis Rally, it has to be something really unusual and special. The Anaconda, Smokey McGill’s 10-passenger Harley powered limo trike, got lots of attention! Everywhere the Anaconda went, crowds gathered. Smokey made the trip from Kansas City along with his partner, Ron Wright of Wright Brothers Bikes. I spent some time with them throughout the week and observed that everyone wanted to take a look at the Anaconda and get a photo. Smokey was so busy every time I saw him that I decided to wait until we returned home to talk about the rally. I caught up with him a few days later.

CC: You just returned from your first trip to Sturgis. Was it anything like you expected?
Smokey: It wasn’t nearly as wild as I thought it would be. It was much calmer. It was a great crowd!

CC: What was your impression of the size of the rally?
Smokey: To me the town was small, but there were so many motorcycles and people I was just overwhelmed. I just couldn’t believe the size of the crowd, but everyone was in a good mood. The sight of “the gauntlet” was amazing. It’s a sight that everyone should see. I was also impressed by the number of vendors from all over the country. The traffic was incredible! One day I was trying to get from town to the campground where I was staying, and it took over 2 hours. It was a 7-mile-long, 4-bike-wide parade all the way out there. I think many of them were going to the Buffalo Chip for the ZZ Top concert.

CC: You should have seen that stretch of road when it had only 2 lanes.
Smokey: If you were looking for someone you knew in Sturgis, it would be really difficult to find them. The best bet would be to just sit at an intersection on Main Street and wait for them to go by.

CC: How did you like the campground where you stayed?
Smokey: We had a great campsite at Creekside. I would recommend it for family camping. I decided to avoid the wilder campgrounds. We started out in tents but later moved into the trailer we haul the Anaconda in. That helped muffle the rumble from all those bikes.

CC: Where did you spend most of your time during the rally?
Smokey: Mostly I was in downtown Sturgis or at the Chop Lot at the Full Throttle Saloon. There were a couple of runs to Rapid City on the Anaconda.

CC: How did people react to the Anaconda?
Smokey: It got lots of attention everywhere. Everybody loved the Anaconda. Whenever I rode down the main street, people would holler and stop me to take pictures. I met people from all over who had seen pictures on the Anaconda on the web or had heard about it.

CC: How many people asked for a ride?
Smokey: I couldn’t count them. But the question that was asked most was, “Is that front engine real?” It seemed like I had been asked 1,000 times the first 2 days. I remember one morning I came out of my trailer at the campground at about 5:30 a.m. Lot’s of people get up early at the campground to get a shower, get ready, have breakfast, and get to town to find a place to park. Anyway, I had been up late the night before and hadn’t slept well because of the motorcycle noise and the drag strip across the road. I stepped out of my trailer, and saw at least 15 people standing there looking at the Anaconda. I hadn’t taken one step before a guy asked me about the front motor. I told him I was going to kill him (laughing).

CC: How did the Anaconda perform?
Smokey: It ran great. We had no mechanical problems.

CC: You must have kept pretty busy showing off the Anaconda.
Smokey: We didn’t get to see a lot of the sights, because we couldn’t get away from the Anaconda for very long. We had to keep an eye on it all the time, because people wanted to climb all over it and get their pictures taken.

CC: You weren’t able to stow it somewhere and get away to see the Hills?
Smokey: I didn’t get to do any touring at all. I missed that part, but I plan to go back next year with my wife and experience that. She couldn’t get away from work to come this year, but next year I’m going to insist that she come along. I will definitely be back next year. I don’t know whether or not the Anaconda will be, but I will.

CC: If the Anaconda isn’t there, people will wonder where it is.
Smokey: They probably will, but whether or not I take the Anaconda I’m going to take my bike and enjoy it.

CC: What else impressed you about Sturgis?
Smokey: I was impressed with the police. I thought they did a great job, and if it wasn’t for them I can see how things could get really wild and out of control. They deserve a pat on the back. Some of the officers got their pictures taken with the Anaconda. I also had the “tough” job of giving rides to the Hooters girls off and on for a couple of days.

CC: I heard they were calling you when they got bored and wanted to go riding.
Smokey: It was also fun to ride through the main area at Full Throttle among all of the bikes and in front of the stage.

CC: How did you ever manage to get through that crowd? It’s always packed there.
Smokey: Well, I actually won $100 doing that. A guy bet me I couldn’t get in and out of there, and I was able to get through with no trouble at all, never even having to back up.

CC: Did you have an escort?
Smokey: The security crew walked ahead of me, but I kind of picked my own route. Those guys do a pretty good job, but they didn’t realize how long the Anaconda is and how much room it takes to turn. Anyway, they treated us great at the Full Throttle. I got a second place trophy in the Rats Hole Bike Show there in the “most unusual” class.

CC: What did they consider more unusual than the Anaconda?
Smokey: I have no idea. I didn’t see the bike that took first. I was happy with second.

Smokey: Stripe, I want people to know that I considered it an honor to take Dorothy, your 80-year-old “hostess” for the week, for a ride down Main Street. I was watching her through the mirror, and she was like the queen of Sturgis on the back of the Anaconda.

CC: I had that same thought. She is really a special lady.
Smokey: I think she really enjoyed the ride. I’ll have to admit she is the only lady I kissed in Sturgis.

CC: A kiss on the cheek shouldn’t get you into too much trouble under the circumstances.
Smokey: No, I didn’t get into any trouble at all in Sturgis.

CC: I understand that you and Ron went through Colorado and Wyoming on your way to Sturgis.
Smokey: Yes, we saw a lot of great scenery that way. We were pulling a trailer with the Anaconda behind an ’88 Chevy pickup with a 454 engine, and I got about 5 miles per gallon. We spent about $800 just for gas on the trip, but it was worth it.

CC: Did you meet any celebrities in Sturgis?
Smokey: Indian Larry’s display was near us at the Chop Lot. He was very cool and a lot of fun to talk to.

CC: Did you buy any souvenirs?
Smokey: We bought a few t-shirts. Ours didn’t sell very well. It’ really competitive and I was told that no one was having much luck selling t-shirts this year.

CC: Any closing thoughts about the Sturgis Rally?
Smokey: It was an experience I will never forget! The first few days after I got home, I was really missing being in Sturgis. It was just so exciting.

Interview by Stripe

Photos by Stripe and Wayne Thompson