Sturgis Black Hills Motor Classic

Sturgis: The Rally

October 2005

For me, Sunday August 14 marked the end of ten days and 5,151 miles in the saddle, passing through three time zones and nine states to take part in the 65th annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally, a.k.a. the Black Hills Motor Classic, a.k.a. STURGIS ( Last month I told you about the ride, so this month let me tell you about the rally:


Sunday (August 6). After eight hours sleep, a hearty breakfast, and a couple of hours compiling my IBA SaddleSore 2000 validation submission, I saddled up and rode the short 29 miles to Sturgis. My first stop was Sturgis Harley-Davidson, where parking is free and the shirts are expensive. I gave a kid 20 bucks to clean the 2,000 miles of crud off my chrome, then headed off to patronize the sea of vendor tents and, ultimately, enjoy a frosty beverage or ten at some of the several famous biker-friendly establishments. My celebrations that evening began at the Broken Spoke and ended…

Monday (August 7). The morning after the night before is never a pleasant experience, but having at least one such morning in Sturgis is obligatory. With mine out of the way, I loaded up Hidalgo (as I have christened my bike) and left Rapid City heading west on I-90. My first stop was in Spearfish, where for eight bucks I gorged on a delicious all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, and drank a very rejuvenating gallon of iced tea. Then it was west to Sundance, Wyoming, and north on US-14/SR-24 to the Devil’s Tower. Best known as the location to meet the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, on this day it was a more a place for bikers to commune with prairie dogs, who seemed totally unphased by the huge H-D flag flying over their town.

Cruising back down SR-24 to US-14, I decided to turn right just to see where the road went, and I ended up in a small town called Moorcroft, where US-14 runs into a stretch of two-lane highway lost in time called Sweet 16, promoted by the locals as “… the shortest, safest, most scenic route from Yellowstone Park to Mount Rushmore.” After buying gas from a kind lady who would not take my money until after I had pumped, and speaking with an old cowboy turned motel clerk who would not let me leave until he found me a room down the road, I headed east on Sweet 16 (US-16) to Upton–population 300–checked in with Joyce at the Weston Inn, and stayed the night.

Tuesday (August 8). My internal clock being two hours ahead, I was at the door of Upton’s Western Cafe just a few minutes after 5:00am/M, but not before the four or five Deere-capped ranchers who made it in ahead of me. I ordered breakfast for one … and got enough food for six. I downed what I could, but the five-inch biscuits were too much for me. As dawn’s first light appeared on the horizon, I left my tip, saddled up and continued riding east. The sun was up by the time I made Newcastle, and the morning chill was gone from the air by the time I crossed back into South Dakota and rolled into Custer. And I kid you not: Somewhere along that stretch of winding road and majestic Black Hills vistas, I actually pinched myself, trying to determine if I had died and somehow made it into Heaven.

From Custer, I headed north on US-385 and stopped to view and photograph the Crazy Horse Memorial, an admirable and ambitious project that has been years in the making, and may take decades more to complete. North of there, I turned east on SR-244 and made my way to Mount Rushmore. Like the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore is an awesome sight, and seeing it in person is a moving experience for which no video or photograph can substitute. I snapped my pictures nonetheless, then weaved my way through the hairpin turns and tunnels of Iron Mountain Road (US-16A) to Custer State Park. There, along the Wildlife Loop, I stopped to shoot into a small herd of about 200 bison–but only with my camera.

My time in the Black Hills was running short, so I made my way back to US-385 and then rode north to Deadwood. Over-commercialized with dozens of new casinos, I barely recognized the Eagle Bar, which is where Saloon #10 used to be, which is where Wild Bill Hickok met his demise in 1876, and where twenty-odd years ago an Ogallala-Sioux chief and I once passed a night away trading shots and telling stories. Saddened by the triumph of hype over heritage, I saddled up and headed north on US-85, connected to I-90, and rode eastward into the Badlands. I stopped for the evening in Wall, South Dakota, a tiny town made famous by the ubiquitous advertising of Wall Drug, an unabashed tourist trap, yet truly an Alice’s Restaurant. Seriously folks, if Wall Drug doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it!

Wednesday-Sunday (August 9-14). All good things must come to and end. I had to be back in Florida by Saturday, so Wednesday morning I began my 2,100 mile journey back to the Sunshine State. My route back was pretty much the same as coming up (see last month’s column), except that from Nashville I took I-65 south to Montgomery, then US-231 south to I-10. I attended an MRO meeting in Bonifay on Saturday, then rode south through the rain to Miami Beach on Sunday.

Ten days… 5,151 miles… An incredible ride… An unforgettable rally. And the Sioux were right: Heaven must be somewhere in the Black Hills.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!