Sturgis Journey 2011 – Part 5

WARNING: There are two photos in this article that some might consider NSFW. If you have any concerns about viewing PG13 rated pictures DO NOT SCROLL DOWN.

Five posts and we’re only just now getting to Sturgis itself???

Yeah. But it took a looong time to get there.

We woke up Tuesday morning and ambled down to the KOA office area for a breakfast of all you can eat pancakes, scrabled eggs, bacon and sausage. The pancakes were cooked on a griddle outside by an old fart named Jim. Jim seems to be a constant fixture at the Rapid City KOA, because every time I went to the office he was nearby, either sitting at a table chatting with the bikers or cooking breakfast or “pitchfork steaks”. More about the pitchfork steaks later.

Jim was a funny guy, full of stories and quick to make a joke, or to light up your smoke…oops, I drifted into a Billy Joel song.

After filling up on the Rapid City KOA “Breaksfast Deal” for $6.23 a head, we loaded up on the bikes and pointed the forks toward Sturgis.

Biker Mecca was only 30 miles away, and we covered the rolling black hills between Rapid City and the rally site quickly, passing and being passed by hundreds of other bikers.

We passed numerous campgrounds and what-not shops, but quickly arrived at the exit to the Sturgis just past the city limits sign that proudly boasted ~6,000 residents. Within two blocks the streets were covered in motorcycles, both moving and parked, and we rode the “Sturgis Parade Route” for three full circuits before we finally were lucky enough to come upon two bikes pulling out from their parking spaces at the same time. Mike and I quickly backed our cruisers into those spaces and we dismounted, glad to be out of the river of wobbling inexperienced bikers.

The most difficult thing about riding in Sturgis during rally week is the art of slow riding. At one or two miles per hour, every green-horn and squid stood out like a sore thumb as they duck-walked their bikes along the streets. I felt truly sorry for those who had not learned the art of balance, tail braking, and friction zone control as I watched them precariously muscle their bikes and partners along, trying in vain to find a place to park.

That brings me to my number one tip for attending Sturgis: If you don’t know how to ride a straight line with your feet off the ground at less than five miles per hour without falling over, park your bike on the outskirts and walk into downtown. Otherwise you’re going to be worn out from the struggle (both mentally and physically) by the time you find a parking space. Plus you’ll be embarrassed from thousands of spectators pointing and laughing at you.

Once we’d dismounted Mike and I had an opportunity to see the interesting sights that Robin and Shelby had been observing from their pillion perches as we’d ridden around town. There were some very interesting and artful bikes, trikes, and contraptions, but even more interesting and artful people.

Despite the common perception (which I shared prior to arrival), Sturgis Bike Week is not an “anything goes” atmosphere. While people may push the spirit and intent of the law close to the breaking point a lot more than any other time of year, the law is still enforced and nudity is not tolerated. Nudity as defined by the law, that is. We saw a few gals wearing the bare minimum, which consisted of pasties covering the nipples accompanied by bikini bottoms under chaps, but the majority of the crowd was tastefully dressed and I only saw one instance of outright law breaking when a female passenger on a bike whistled to the crowd as she passed the Easy Rider Saloon and flashed her ample, wrinkly, and better left covered breasts. I couldn’t imagine anyone actually enjoying seeing them, and momentarily considered putting my own eyes out in case she flashed them again.

As far as the commercial attractions at Sturgis, I was sorely dissapointed. The Sturgis branded items were overpriced and of dubious quality. A small iron-on patch had been price-fixed at every booth for $6.00, and that was about the cheapest item for sale anywhere inside the city limits with the word “Sturgis” on it. I found a set of four soft-ties for $12.00, which seemed to be a bargain until I found the same set online for $8.00 with $3.00 shipping later.

The Rivco booth merchandise was all standard retail priced, and the vast majority of items for sale were either priced at or above retail compared to what you’ll find at your local Cycle Gear store. Perhaps the Harley Davidson branded stuff was priced better, but I didn’t pay much attention to it, being less of a Harley fan than most folks at the rally.

The Sturgis bike rally might be biker paradise for some, but for me it was an item to mark off the bucket list and I was glad afterward that I only devoted one day of our vacation to it. I wasn’t disappointed that we spent the better part of a day there, the colorful people and bikes made it worth the time, but a second day would have been monotonous.

Despite the concerns of some of my friends and family, we didn’t run into anyone itching for a fight and the few identifiable one-per-centers we crossed paths with were well behaved and didn’t bother us in return for us not bothering them. There was an incident widely reported in the news the following day where a couple of Mongol members alledgedly crossed the threshold of the Hells Angels’ Sturgis club house, resulting in a “shots fired” call and a couple of folks going to the hospital with stab wounds, but we were long gone by then.

The only thing close to an incident involving myself was when I was browsing merchandise in a store next to the “Red & White” store. A guy was leaning on the shelving in front of some gremlin bells and I was standing a couple feet behind him trying to get a closer look at the merchandise. Out of the blue the guy growled, “Step AWAY, man.”

Since I was the only person within earshot I replied with my usual, “Excuse me?”

He turned and looked surprised at me and my voice and said, “Oh, sorry, dude. Thought you were somebody else.”

Upon seeing his bloodshot eyes with their dilated pupils I decided to high-tail it out of that shop and look at Gremlin bells elsewhere.

By far the funniest thing we saw at the Sturgis Bike Rally was a guy riding pillion behind his wife/girlfriend holding up a sign stating he’d lost a bet. That gal was an excellent rider, and she navigated the slow ride route with feet off the ground and nary a wobble or weave. She made most of the male bike riders look like rank amateurs.

And as far as people went, we saw plenty of creative and artful individuals, in and near Sturgis, and I took plenty of pictures, some of which I was pinched by Robin for. You’ll know which one got me in trouble when you see it below.

Mount Rushmore
Crazy Horse Native American Memorial

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