That’s why ALL the boys, including preacher’s sons, go to Sturgis! On the back of one motorcycle rider’s shirt, “One week of Sturgis makes the other 51 weeks bearable!”
The first weekend of August, Sandi and I strapped the camping gear to the Wing for our journey from Denver, Colorado to Sturgis, South Dakota. We hit I-70 headed east into the soup of Denver just as the sun cracked the horizon. Beautiful strawberry rays lit gray sky banners streaming over the skyscrapers of the city. We dodged traffic on our way to I-76 headed east.
Within 45 minutes, we flew through early morning mist as the traffic lightened on our way onto the multicolored Great Plains of America. One hundred and fifty years ago, we might have seen some of the 60 million buffalo grazing among the wildflowers. But today, windmills for water tanks and thousands of cattle munched on the eternal grasses. Above, a hawk or two sailed on thermals as he looked for his breakfast below.
Once out of the city, the sky opened to its proverbial blue while it rolled all the way to the horizon for 360 degrees.
Something about being on a motorcycle on the Great Plains, riding a modern iron horse under big skies that fill a man’s heart with the pulse of the universe. We passed through cold spots, hot spots and misty clouds hanging low to the earth. We rolled past big 18-wheeler rigs heading eastbound. In some places, the grasses grew so tall, the backs of cattle resembled torpedoes moving slowly toward an unknown target. Again, above, hawks plied the sky with outstretched wings.
Soon, we reached Sterling and headed north along a country road. Big turbines caught the wind to create electricity for farmers and towns along the way. Farmers cut the midsummer grass and big balers rolled it into giant round wheels. In several places, they still baled those 60-pound bales that I threw around as a teenager on the farm.
At I-80 in Nebraska, we stopped at Cabela’s Sporting store to see the sculptors and sports gear offered to travelers from all over the West. After a gas up, we headed north toward Allison. An hour later, we moved through old towns, filled with tractors and cars out of the 50s, silos and railroad terminals.
We stopped at the Stonehenge of North America that recreated Stonehenge in England, but this artist constructed his artwork out of cars.
Recently, archeologists discovered that Stonehenge represented an old burial ground. The remaining pillars formed a vast infrastructure for the rich and the poor to be buried so they might find their way to heaven. Back on the road, we enjoyed trees growing along rolling hills that morphed into rock-strewn hills and small mountains in the distance. Soon, we rolled into big curves with lakes off to the side.
When we hit South Dakota, huge evergreens shot heavenward with a serpentine road turning, diving and climbing through their silent beauty. Off to our right, big columns of gray rock strutted skyward in a vertical display of grandeur. As we traveled, the air freshened, the temperature cooled and the road slipped quietly under the purring motor of the Wing. On a bike, you contemplate interesting perspectives. I felt gratitude for my life.
Thoreau said, “If you advance confidently toward your dreams, and endeavor to live the life, which you have imagined, you will meet with success unexpected in common hours. You will pass through invisible boundaries and live with the license of a higher order of beings.”
On the back of my bike, Sandi, my sparkle sunshine, comes up with ideas and inspiration.
She talks to me and inspires me. She also has written a book and brought two fine young men into the world. She continually moves through life with great joy and tremendous enthusiasm.
And the road, ahead, it calls, it dips, it rises, it shoots straight and cuts left. The Wing moves effortlessly toward our destination in Deadwood. We pass through towns, hamlets and villages on our way. We pass through ‘old’ America of what once was and continues into the 21st century. At some point, much of America will hunger to get back to the ‘old’ America for the ‘new’ America changes too fast, too much and without regard to enduring traditions of this country.
But for a moment in time, for one week, Sturgis represents all of America! It features the grand parade of the Iron Horse and the ‘true grit’ that made this country! It may be a myth and it may be a legend, but for those who power two wheels into the turns, it’s a feeling, a gut reaction to freedom. It’s the sweet spot of cycling that carries the soul to a quiet moment of elation. Some might say that Iron Horse creates a giddiness, ecstasy, euphoria and sheer delight of the soul.
I scanned ahead, watching the road. I cranked the throttle as I headed the big machine along the snaking highway.
In Deadwood, we saw a thousand bikes before turning east toward Sturgis. The road curled through a steep canyon with a river below. Entering Sturgis during the rally can be likened to another world. I can describe it, but it must be lived to understand it. We pulled into the campground. Later, we headed downtown where the “Gauntlet” awaited. What describes the Gauntlet? The entire main street of Sturgis for six blocks gets cordoned off and only motorcycles can drive on the street. They park so as to create a line of bikes on the left and right and in the middle so that only one groove travels both ways. Bikers ride their fancy bikes from $1,000.000 to $70,000.00.
We had seen motorcycles in the shape of the Starship Enterprise, a buffalo, a 57 tri-motorcycle Cadillac, a Barker Lounger bike complete with lamp and beer holder, an old John Deere tractor. That first night, we saw a motorcycle with elk horns on the front and a giant grizzly bear draped over the bike with its head reaching out the back. The bear sported motorcycle goggles. On top of the bear, a fox with goggles also looked back. Draped off to the sides, two stuffed coyotes also featured goggles. They represented some wild bikin’ dudes! I feared for my life if I ran into the owner!
Along the street, tattoo venders inked up peoples’ arms, legs, chests and backs. Eagles soared and snakes curled around their arms and up their necks. At the annual tattoo contest in Sturgis, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the winner. They usually had their bodies covered with hideous figures.
One lady, wearing a bikini, slim and blond, sported “Tony the Tiger” crawling up her back with his paws up the back side of her arms and his legs down her legs.
His tail curled around her right leg all the way down to her ankles. Yes, all in orange and black tattoo! Can you imagine the conversation you might enjoy if you engaged her and what kind of a mind she represented or presented? Carl Yung and Freud might write a whole new book on what goes around in her mind!
Leather! You could smell it in the air, in every shop and you could buy all colors as long as you chose black. Also, in nine days, $12 million changed hands in Sturgis with a whopping crowd of 500,000 cyclists. People from over 100 countries visited the rally and all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces. Each shop caters to folks with food, trinkets, T-shirts, bags, used parts, tires, oil changes, detailing and just about everything under the sun.
Out on the main strip, you could buy $72,000.00 motorcycles, tri-bikes and custom everything.
We decided to turn in early so we traveled back to our campsite. Next morning, we rode down to Mount Rushmore with the four great presidents: Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson. Those great men represent energy, leadership and faith in the American way of life.
We ate lunch at the Broken Spoke Saloon where a band played too loud.
Near the end of the day, we jumped on the bikes for a ride to Deadwood, South Dakota where we saw more cyclists and stopped in at Number 10 Saloon where Wild Bill Hickok suffered a gunshot to the back of the head and died instantly back on August 2, 1876. Aces and eights make up the Dead Man’s Hand from that day to this day. We viewed a wonderful train exhibit in the basement of one of the hotels. Extensive and intricate! Beautiful work!
Later, we toured north along a fantastic canyon toward Spearfish. We stopped in for a quick conversation at the motel and biked over to a Mexican Restaurant for a fabulous meal.
Later, at dusk, we jumped on the bikes for an almost surreal ride back to Sturgis. With the sun setting, the air perfect, and the sky glowing with the last rays of the sun—the four of us riders and mates on the back slipped through the ending of the day and the beginning of the night. Tall mountains on both sides of the expressway guided us toward our destination. Nothing quite like being on a motorcycle when the still air invites every breath and your skin tingles with the magic of racing the wind. Soon, the sun vanished, the stars appeared and the lights of the bikes cut through the darkness. We rolled into Sturgis to watch the evening’s festivities on the “Gauntlet”.
After parking our bikes along the Gauntlet, we stood waiting for all the wild and crazy bikers in costume to make their appearances.
We didn’t find it a great night for watching, but before we left, one gal wore a string teddy with a body stocking and not much else. As with all good times, they must come to an end as we all go back to our busy lives. We gave each other a hug and jumped back on our bikes. Next morning, we cleared camp. Sandi and I broke camp and headed toward Wyoming.
As I headed my bike into the wind, the trees sped past, the road flew under my pegs, the wind refreshed my lungs and the morning sun brightened the day. Sandi and I stopped at an all you can eat restaurant for a great breakfast. Bikers lined the streets of Custer and we even met the guy who looks like General George Armstrong Custer.
No doubt, history rolls across the hills of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado. We headed out with saddlebags full of memories. Yippee ki yo ki yea and away we sped into the morning sun!
Jean Luc Picard Captain of the Starship Enterprise, said, “Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived.”
Read more posts by Frosty Wooldridge here. Frosty is a blogger for JenningsWire Online Magazine.
The online feature magazine, JenningsWire.com, is created by National PR Firm, Annie Jennings PR that specializes in providing book promotion services to self-published and traditionally published authors. Annie Jennings PR books authors, speakers and experts on major high impact radio talk interview shows, on local, regionally syndicated and national TV shows and on influential online media outlets and in prestigious print magazines and newspapers across the country.