Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Sturgis 2012 - Mike's Trip

Written by  September 1, 2012

A few weeks before heading to Sturgis each year, I start getting that exciting tingle in my stomach, which is an indication that it’s time to ride north. With the intense summer heat and drought we’ve had this year, I assumed this year’s trip was going to be one of our hottest yet; however, we was pleasantly surprised when the heat broke just a couple days before our trip.

Friday, August 3:

One of the things we do each year on the way out of town is to drop off our doggie at my mom’s house in Wathena, Kansas. We normally drop her off on Saturday morning when passing through town; however, this year we decided to ride up to mom’s place Friday evening so we wouldn’t have to get up so early on Saturday. Our good friends and fellow Cycle Connections team members Lonnie and Donna were planning to pull their toy hauler up this year and camp out at Glenco CampResort, so Donna invited Nichole to ride along to help keep her company and to play DJ. Therefore, we invited them to spend the night at mom’s place as well. Stripe normally rides with me to our Saturday morning rendezvous at the rest stop on I-29 between Platte City and St. Joseph, Missouri, so we invited him to ride up and stay with us as well.

Saturday, August 4:

My mom and sister made everyone breakfast the next morning, and when we were getting ready to pack up the bikes, it started raining. Soon thereafter, my cousin Mark pulled into the driveway in the pouring rain. It hadn’t rained in months, and wouldn’t you know that Mother Nature would wait to dump on us until after we’d spent several hours detailing our bikes and were ready to head to Sturgis. Gezzz!!!

Mark came into the house cussing at the rain, and after a while it finally stopped. After wiping off the seats with some of mom’s towels, we climbed on and headed to town to meet up with the rest of our group who would soon be passing through on Highway 36. We normally have anywhere between 20-30 bikes in our group, so we were quite surprised when we saw Bruce, Miles and Lori, Dave, JB and Danny slow down and wave as they passed by. We were wondering where in the hell the rest of the group was, but that question was going to have to wait until our first fuel stop in Seneca, Kansas.

As it turns out, some of our group had headed west earlier in and attempt to beat the heat, which was non-existent, and the plan was to catch up with some of them in Mankato, Kansas where we always stop for fuel and to eat lunch at the city park. The nine of us pulled into the gas station in Mankato, where we ran into several other members of our group, four of which decided to eat lunch and ride with us. The others fueled up and headed on their way.

After lunch we headed on to our first night’s lodging at the Quality Inn in Ogallala, Nebraska. We met up with several others there, which brought our group to around 13, which was still about half of the number of riders we normally have. After grabbing a bite to eat at Denny’s, which is attached to the hotel, we turned in early. Not sure if Stripe is going to mention anything in his article regarding his “less-than-positive” experience with the service and management at Denny’s, but it would surprise me if he didn’t say something about it. The first day was a very pleasant ride, and the temperature reached no higher than the upper 80s.

Sunday, August 5:

Everyone got up early on Sunday and had breakfast at Denny’s (except Stripe). After breakfast, we had our traditional Bloody Mary toast in the parking lot before heading to Boot Hill to pay our respects to our fallen brothers and sisters. For those of you who have followed our yearly Sturgis exploits, you know that Boot Hill is a row of wooden posts just across the street from Ash Hollow Cemetery, where we place one of our deceased brother’s and sister’s boots on a fence post and hold a short ceremony in their memory. We really enjoy the years when we don’t have to place a new boot on the fence; however, we weren’t quite so lucky this year. As it turns out, a friend of JB and Tracie’s who went by the nickname of Polack had been killed on his motorcycle at the Bikes, Blues and BBQ Rally in Fayetteville, Arkansas the previous year, so we placed his boot on a post and held a brief ceremony. As I recall, a friend of Bruce’s named Tommy Dale was also killed at the Bikes, Blues and BBQ Rally back in 2009, and we had placed one of his boots on an adjoining fence post. Kind of makes me wonder if I should ride down to Fayetteville this year, which I’m planning to do. Gezzz!!!

We then mounted back up and headed north to Alliance, Nebraska to fuel up before riding on to Carhenge for lunch. As you may know, this is a tourist attraction where several old vehicles are spray painted gray and placed in the ground and stacked up to resemble Stonehenge. We normally stop there for lunch, and so any newbies have an opportunity to check out the odd display before lining up for our annual Sturgis virgin group photo.

After lunch, we headed north to Chadron, Nebraska for our last fuel stop in Nebraska. After accidently leaving my helmet next to the gas pump where I fueled up, we headed on across the South Dakota border to Rapid City, where we fueled up one more time before heading west into the Black Hills to Nemo Guest Ranch; our annual home away from home. Our good friends Stan (from Colorado), and Kevin and Bonnie (from Minnesota) were already there, and it was great to see them again. After unpacking the bike, and getting the rest of our stuff out of Lonnie and Donna’s SUV, we tossed our things into the room of our cabin and spent the rest of the evening catching up with everyone. Kevin and Bonnie had decided to stay in the living room of our cabin; however, for some reason the electrical receptacles in the living room weren’t working so Miles and I began looking for the breaker box. We found it in a sealed off back room, which we’d never been in before, and were pleasantly surprised to also find a full-size stuffed deer. Later on in the evening, and after a few drinks, Miles and Dave got the bright idea of getting the deer out of the storage room and playing with it a while. There were several photos taken of the deer, and everyone was posing it. There were also a few shots taken of the deer with Danny's bike, before it was put to bed on the couch in our living room. Its head was placed on a pillow and a blanket placed over it with the head sticking out, and it remained on our couch the rest of the week. It seemed that every day, the deer gained new items, including Cajun's video sunglasses, beads, and other odd items. This goes to prove that alcohol and taxidermy doesn't mix! By the way, Danny’s bike took second place in the Stock Class at the Baddest Bagger in Sturgis competition at the Full Throttle Saloon later that week, so it makes me wonder if having your bike photographed with a deer prior to entering it a bike show may be good luck?

Monday, August 6:

On Monday morning, we made breakfast in the cabin before heading to Sturgis for our traditional rendezvous at the Broken Spoke. We were surprised to find that the original Broken Spoke is now called Sickie’s Garage, and is apparently part of the ever-expanding Easyriders Saloon, which has taken up almost the entire block. It looked very similar to the way it had when it was the Broken Spoke; however, I really hate to see the old traditional Sturgis landmarks change. One thing I did like about Sickie’s Garage was the body shot my wife Nichole bought for me for my birthday. Little did I know that Nichole had paid the cute bartender to do her best to embarrass me. While blowing this loud obnoxios whistle, she poured liquor into my mouth directly out of the bottle, followed by a “boobie shot,” in which she placed a shot glass full of alcohol between her breasts and made me drink it without using my hands. There were plenty of cameras flashing during this activity, and Stan even managed to shoot a short video of the escapades. Nice birthday gift! Thanks honey!

From Sickie’s Garage, which I still call the Broken Spoke, we walked past a stunt show on the main drag, where several talented dirt bike riders were performing jumps from one ramp to another. During our visit, Stripe spent some time with the stunt riders and got some awesome shots of them performing their stunts. Stripe also covered several other events throughout the week, so you'll also want to check out his article and photos.

We then continued on to part two of our annual tradition, which is to visit the Dungeon Bar, which is a small dive on the main drag. We had a few drinks and Stripe and I had everyone pose for our traditional group shot in the courtyard out back. This year our group shot included one of the Dungeon’s shot girls as well as a Wild Bill Hickok lookalike, complete with six shooters. As it turns out, Wild Bill wasn’t the only one packing that day. LOL

After leaving The Dungeon, we decided to break tradition and head to Deadwood. After finding a great place to park at the new Deadwood Mountain Grand Hotel – Event Center – Casino, we walked down to Miss Kitty’s to visit with our artist friends Vickie and Gail; owners of the Vormehr & Youngquist Gallery in Lawrence, Kansas. After catching up with Vickie and Gail, we headed down to Saloon #10 for lunch. We normally have buffalo burgers at The Stockade, which is directly across the street from Saloon #10; however, Miles and Lori went there and were told that they no longer serve buffalo burgers in the outdoor bar area because of the high cost of buffalo meat. Apparently, if you want a buffalo burger, you have to eat inside at their sit down restaurant. This didn’t make any sense to anyone, because why wouldn’t they just raise the price of their buffalo burgers a bit to account for the cost increase, but I found out a long time ago that you just can’t fix stupid! Oh well…another old time tradition down the drain. Even though they have a nice balcony, with a great view up and down Main Street, we probably won’t be going back to The Stockade anytime soon.

After dining at Saloon #10 we headed back toward camp, but not before stopping at Boondocks, which is a very cool gas station/restaurant/carnival tourist trap, where you can get 94 octane fuel. We saw several deer in the fields and along the road on the ride back to Nemo, which was a good reminder of why our group always tries to get back to camp before dusk. Especially since several bikers are killed every year during the rally by hitting deer.

Tuesday, August 7:

On Tuesday, we stayed with tradition by heading to the Fort Hays Chuckwagon Supper Club for breakfast, which is where part of Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves movie was filmed. After breakfast our group wandered around the old buildings and movie sets, before heading south. We rode through Keystone, and then up Iron Mountain Road into Custer State Park. After paying to enter the park and having brightly colored orange bands attached to our handlebars, we rode through the park and on into Custer, where we always enjoy shopping and having a drink at the Gold Pan Saloon, complete with swinging bar doors.

From Custer, we rode back into Custer State Park, and took the wildlife loop to see the buffalo. There didn’t seem to be quite as many buffalo along the road this year; however, there were an unusually large congregation of mules, who were hanging out on the road. It was quite apparent they enjoyed being hand fed by the numerous bikers and cagers who had stopped to feed them. After playing with the buffalo, it started raining really hard, with a little hail tossed in just for fun. We all pulled over and walked up into the trees in search of a little protection. Note to self; pine trees with very few limbs provides little to no protection from the rain and hail. Some put on their raingear, but I decided to brave it by getting soaked. During the hardest part of the thunderstorm, a car full of tourists pulled off the side of the road near our bikes, and rolled down their window just enough to take a photo of the stupid wet bikers hiding under the trees. Now we know what the buffalo feel like!

Due to the wet roads, we decided to blow off Needles Highway that day, and instead, rode past Mount Rushmore and back to Keystone. After having a couple drinks at The Ruby House, a few from our group decided to stay for dinner, while the rest of us headed back to camp for the night.

Wednesday, August 8:

On Wednesday, we rode into Deadwood for breakfast at the Silverado Casino, which is the best breakfast place we’ve found in the Sturgis area. This is the largest breakfast buffet you’ll ever find anywhere, complete with prime rib, ham, an omelet bar, and every other type of breakfast item you could ever ask for, including a few things I’ve never heard of before.

After stuffing ourselves, we headed up Spearfish Canyon, which is one of my favorite scenic rides in the Black Hills. We stopped at Bridal Veil Falls so those who felt like hiking could walk down the hill, across the creek, and back up the hill to the base of the falls. This is always a great photo opportunity location; however, this year, the falls were really nothing more than a large trickle due to the drought. After leaving the falls, we continued north on through Spearfish Canyon to Belle Fourche, before heading west on Highway 34 the Stone House Saloon, which really consists of nothing more than a small stone building. Other than encouraging guests to sign their names on the walls inside the building, the real entertainment often comes from the girls who go upstairs in the building and flash everyone from the upstairs windows. Another good photo opportunity if you’re into that kind of thing, which we are. LOL.

After riding through the dust and dirt to get out of the Stone House Saloon’s front yard, we headed back down Spearfish Canyon and into Deadwood, where we once again parked at the Deadwood Mountain Grand. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Club Jack, which is in the courtyard area of the hotel and casino. While there, the bartender told us that a ride led by Jesse James (the custom bike builder who cheated on his wife Sandra Bullock; not the dead outlaw) was due to arrive soon, so we grabbed a frozen Jack Daniels drink and sat down at one of the outdoor tables to seee if anyone showed up, which they didn't. Smart bartender!

While looking around the new hotel and casino, we ran into Brad Hemmah, who is the Deadwood Mountain Grand’s General Manager. Brad is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, and when I told him I was with Cycle Connections Online Motorcycle Magazine, he gave Nichole and I a guided tour of the casino, hotel, and event center, which also contained an impressive display of many of Arlen Ness’ custom bikes.

Brad also introduced me to a gentleman by the name of Tim, who is one of the owners. Brad and Tim were nice enough to let us look inside one of the lavish suites on the top floor of the hotel. These rooms are incredible, and something that caught my eye while checking out the huge bathroom, was a black and white photo that hung on the wall above the toilet, which looked like an old ore cart with a toilet seat on it. Brad explained that each suite has the same photo, which is a photo of an ore cart toilet the miners used while working deep in the mine. The ore car toilet was pulled up the rail and out of the mine from time to time to be dumped, and then rolled back down the rail into the mine, kind of like an outhouse on wheels. Tim also went on to tell us how they’d been trying for some time to purchase an ore cart toilet from a nearby museum, and after several unsuccessful attempts, the museum finally agreed to sell it to them, which they proudly display in the Club Jack courtyard. Unfortunately, most visitors walk right past it without knowing what it is or the history behind this very unique item.

Brad also showed Nichole and I the swimming pool area, and a balcony just outside the pool area, which has the most incredible view of downtown Deadwood. You can also see Mount Mariah from the other side of the hotel, which is where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried. They also gave us a brief history lesson about the land where the Deadwood Mountain Grand now stands, which was once the original location of the Homestake Slime Plant.

During our tour, we had Brad and Tim pose for a couple photos as they told us about the Haulin' for Heroes Charity Ride they were hosting the following day on Thursday, August 9 to benefit Wounded Warriors. We would have loved to have made this ride, but unfortunately, we already had a previous commitment.

After our gracious tour, Miles and I want back inside the casino to check out Arlen Ness’s custom bike display. While taking photos of the bikes, we spoke with a gentleman named Kelly Hardman, who was manning the Arlen Ness booth. As it turns out, Kelly is Arlen's purchasing manager, and he was nice enough to give us a rundown on the display, as well as some good information about Arlen's company.

Thursday, August 9:

On Thursday, we headed out to the new Broken Spoke Saloon. We got there early, so we decided to walk over and check out the campground and pool area. While we were there, we had an opportunity to shop around in one of the large vendor tents. As it turns out, the shop was owned by fellow Missourians with the B&K Trading Company in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Small world!

From the Broken Spoke, we rode back into Sturgis so everyone could get their last minute souvenirs, and to check out more of the vendors. We parked in the Harley-Davidson vendor area and while walking through their display area, caught the tail end of a demonstration on how to pick your bike up by yourself if it falls over.

As we were walking down the main drag, we decided to check out the Indian Motorcycle Company vendor area. While there, we just happened to run into Mike Wolfe from the popular History Channel TV show American Pickers. He was really nice, and was more than happy to chat for a while about his show, the Sturgis Rally, and to pose for some photos. He also told us Frank was running around there somewhere; however, never saw him. Much to our dismay, Mike also told us Danielle wasn’t able to make it to the rally this year. Last year, Stripe ran into Danielle, who made him a very happy man by posing on his bike for a few photos. These guys are so cool!

After leaving the Indian vendor area, Stan and I somehow got on the subject of CCW, and I mentioned that I’d been looking at these sleeveless T-shirts on the Internet that had built-in holsters and clip pockets. I’ve looked at a lot of holsters, and wanted something that was comfortable, and could be worn under a button-up shirt or vest. It just so happened that earlier in the week, Stan had seen a vendor tent just down the street from where we were, selling the same sort of thing. I’d done enough research to know that some of these types of T-shirt holsters were really good, and some were really bad, depending on how they were constructed and what they were made from. I was a bit skeptical; however, I decided it would be worth checking them out.

After walking a few blocks, Stan spotted the Ridge Outdoors vendor area, featuring Ridge Footwear and Packin’ Tee shirts. Nichole’s boots were killing her from all the walking around we had done all week, and one of her feet had several really bad sores on it from rubbing against the inside of her boot. While Nichole was busy getting fitted for a very comfortable pair of new boots called the 9000 Ultimate, I was checking out the Packin’ Tee display, featuring a white sleeveless T-shirt sporting two realistic-looking (and feeling) automatic pistols. A gentleman by the name of Dave Campbell introduced himself and asked if he could be of assistance. I explained to him that I’d been looking at T-shirt holsters on the Internet, and wanted to check out his products. He explained to me why the Packin’ Tee is a superior T-shirt for concealed weapons, and showed me how the back, shoulder and arm holes are re-enforced to prevent sagging, even with larger firearms, such as my full-sized Glock Model 22 .40 caliber.

Dave invited me to step into their trailer and try one on, which fit great. It was a snug, but comfortable fit, and I really liked it. Dave also went on to explain how Packin’ Tees are available in sizes S-4X, are made from 100% pre-shrunk cotton for a compression fit, and available in black or white with an extended length so they stay tucked in. He also showed me how the holster and other accessories are attached to the shirt using commercial grade hook & loop attachment pads (i.e. heavy-duty Velcro), which makes it easy to switch out accessories. Magazine and accessory pouches are available, and the holster pouches are available for large and small caliber handguns. They also come in both left-hand and right-hand carry. In other words, if you’re right-handed, your holster is placed on the left side of your Packin’ Tee, and if you’re left-handed, it’s placed on the right.

I normally wear mine under a button up work shirt, Hawaiian-style shirt or vest, which I leave unbuttoned for quick and easy access; however, if you prefer to button your shirt, I’m sure you’d have no problem unbuttoning it quickly or ripping the buttons off if you need even quicker access. The Packin’ Tee is so versatile; you can wear it with almost any type of clothing. For those of us who ride motorcycles and are right-handed, I suggest that you order both a left-hand and right-hand holster. The reason for this is because when you’re riding, you should carry your firearm on the right side of your torso so you can reach it while keeping your right hand on the throttle. I purchased a white and a black Packin’ Tee, with large caliber holsters and extra magazine pouches. They’re also very easy to keep clean, because all you have to do is remove the Velcro accessories and toss the T-shirt in the washing machine. I was told that you can toss the shirt with accessories attached into the washer; however, it would probably be a better idea to hand wash the accessories for increased longevity.

When it was time to ring up my order, Dave introduced me to Rob Granger, who is the Executive Vice President of Ridge Outdoors. Rob was also a wealth of information, and told me even more about his company and the products they carry. The Packin Tee portion of their website is also very informative, which includes a nice video. I’ve been so impressed with my Packin’ Tees, that if you conceal carry, I’m confident you’ll be equally impressed with their products and should order yours today at www.packintee.com!

While walking back through the Harley-Davidson area, a young lady challenged Danny to a game in which he would receive a nice Harley-Davidson gift certificate if he could remove a part from the Harley they had displayed there in two minutes or less. This included running to the back of the trailer, finding the right tools, and removing the selected part. Danny decided to give it a try, and selected the front fender as the part he would attempt to remove. Danny was in the final stages of removing the fender when the two minute buzzer sounded. Apparently, he was close enough, because they went ahead and gave him the gift certificate, which I’m sure will be spent on some additional parts and accessories for his Road Glide.

After packing my Packin’ Tees in my saddlebag, we made our way down to the Easyriders Saloon. This is one of the newest and largest bars in Sturgis, which we always enjoy visiting. After having a couple drinks there, we went out back to the Hooters stage area to watch Jasmine Cain crank out some great music! Stripe turned me on to Jasmine a few years ago, so I never pass up the chance to watch her perform.

After watching all the guys in the crowd drool over Jasmine, we hopped on our bikes and headed out to the Full Throttle Saloon for Johnny Dare’s remote. Johnny is a popular radio personality in Kansas City on 98.9 The Rock. Johnny also does the voiceover for the Full Throttle Saloon TV series on TruTV. Every year, Johnny interviews several of his fans from Kansas City, which airs the following day on the popular Johnny Dare Morning Show back home. Johnny normally plugs Cycle Connections, and usually interviews me about any crazy things we're up to at the rally. This year I had to tell the story about our antics with the stuffed deer we found in our cabin, and Stan brought up his cell phone to show Johnny a photo of the deer mounting Danny’s bike. In turn, Johnny showed me a disgustingly naked photo of a guy sitting on his Harley. He asked me which photo was more disgusting, and although the deer humping Danny’s bike was awesome, seeing a naked man resting his junk on Jonny’s gas tank and seat took the cake! Not sure if any of my deer story aired the following day, but it was fun hanging out and seeing lots of our fellow Kansas Citians at the Throttle.

After Johnny’s remote was over, we got back on our bikes and rode back to Nemo for the night.

Friday, August 10:

The only thing we had planned for Friday was to hit Hill City for a buffalo burger at the Bumpin Buffalo, ride back to Custer so Bonnie could purchase a ring she’d seen there, and then loop back through Needles Highway since we missed it on Tuesday because of the rain. Because we were in no hurry that day, we slept in, made breakfast in the cabin, and then headed out. Hill City was hopping when we got there, and we found a spot to park right just down the street from the Bumpin Buffalo. One of the things I love about Hill City is that they block off the main drag for bikes only (no cagers), which is what Sturgis needs to do on more of their major streets. I love buffalo meat, and the Bumpin Buffalo has some of the best around. They also have a huge rooftop seating area where you can get some great shots of the main drag.

After tossing down a buffalo burger and a few drinks, we headed south to Custer. After a bit of shopping, we headed east to Custer State Park, and since we’d already paid admission earlier in the week, we were able to ride on through the checkpoint. Needles Highway is one of my two favorite scenic rides in Sturgis, which ranks right up there with Spearfish Canyon. Needles Highway was awesome as usual, and for those who’ve never ridden through there, you have no idea what you’re missing. After a nice ride through the area, we headed back to Nemo.

Saturday, August 11:

Everyone got up Saturday morning, had breakfast in the cabin, and started packing for the long trip home. Soon after we got our things packed, Lonnie and Donna pulled up so we could load our gear back into their RV. After saying goodbye to Stan, Kevin and Bonnie, we mounted up and headed east toward Rapid City, and on toward our overnight destination, which turned out to be a Super 8 in Ainsworth, Nebraska. This place turned out to be a real dive. Between the smelly rooms and the team of immature teenage softball players partying all night and tearing up the room across the hall, we were glad to be exhausted from the days ride so we could pass out and get some sleep. Note to self: Never stay at the Super 8 in Ainsworth, Iowa again.

Sunday, August 12:

We got up early on Sunday, headed east on Highway 20 to Sioux City, and then south on I-29 toward Kansas City. After making several fuel stops, we pulled into the McDonalds in St. Joseph, Missouri so we could pick up Princess; our Lhasa Apso from my mom and sister. After one last fuel stop in St. Joseph, we rode on home to Kansas City.

Between the great weather, great friends, and no mechanical issues with any of the bikes, this has to rank right up there as one of our best trips to Sturgis. Although it took us a few days to recoup from the trip, we’re already looking forward to Sturgis 2013!

Story by Mike Schweder

Photos by Nichole Schweder, Stan Purdy, Kevin Lorensen, Doc Lonnie Blum, and Mike Schweder.

Mike Schweder

Editor-in-Chief - Kansas City, MO

Mike is the original founder of Cycle Connections Online Motorcycle Magazine and an avid motorcycle enthusiast. He has been riding for over 40 years, belongs to several local and national motorcycle organizations and travels to numerous rallies and events throughout the US each year. Mike has been a writer and editor for many years and has a passion for sharing his motorcycling experiences and stories with you. Contact Mike at mikes@cycleconnections.com