Since 1938 motorcyclist have been making their way to Sturgis, South Dakota for the first week in August. It’s as if someone from Harley Davidson turned on a magnet and every bike they have ever created has to make the trek to the centre of the continent. Other bikes do get wrapped up within the vortex but truly this is a cruiser parade dominated by Harley’s. There isn’t really any surprise as to why they pick this location, the Black Hills National Forest is full of amazing scenery and long twisting roads. On top of all this the history of the area does contribute to the bad boy image of the wild west.
Two days ago I made the trip in from Sheridan, Wyoming and through the west side of the Black Hills. The ride was mostly without note as it was dominated by boring Interstate miles. After getting off the highway and heading south things got a little more interesting. On long trips I usually tend to try and avoid dirt. Mostly because I am not prepared for it (Road tires instead of dirt capable) and if you go down it tends to be expensive. Once you get off the interstate and go for long enough you are bound to run into construction. Every time you do it is a bit of a crap shoot as to the composition of the road you are left with. For the most part the dirt you come across is hard packed with gravel. As long as you stay in a tire track things are ok. At the moment highway 16 on the west side of the Black Hills. As I waited in the line of cars for our turn to go through I would usually have just waved at the bikes as they come through. This time though I became a little worried as bike after bike seemed to signal that I should turn around…. not a good sign. The section was about 4 miles long and was mostly loose sand (not fun) or large pebbles. For added fun the road was on the side of a small mountain so there were drop offs all along the section. Made it through fine through with only a few ground down teeth.
The other interesting aspect of the Black Hills other than the natural areas and the outlaw past is the desire for people to carve faces on the sides of mountains. Mt. Rushmore is a strange American phenomena which is extremely patriotic. I think that the area around the monument is a little over the top but it is interesting to see what went into carving the faces into the hills. Something that I found interesting is that while they are finished the original plan was for more to be done but as they blasted away more rock the sculptors began to worry about the structure and had to stop.
On my first day I went off to see Mt. Rushmore and this morning as I left I visited another unfinished sculpture, Crazy Horse. I am fairly sure that if the presidents had not been in the process of being carved the Lakota of the area would not have chosen this way to honour one of their legends but that isn’t how history evolved. This monument is an active construction site with some very interesting ambitions. First of all the face is completed (I think… mostly) but the pointed hand and horse head are still being blasted out of the rock. Work is done as the funds become available through donations from visitors. It is amazing to think that it is mostly the work of one family at the request of the local Lakota of the area. If (hopefully when) the project is complete it will not only be a mountain sculpture but also a native university/learning centre as well which sounds amazing. My time here has inspired me to learn more about Crazy Horse, time for more reading.
Yesterday was spent riding around the area, exploring the twisting roads and the town of Deadwood. Eventually I made my way into Sturgis to see what the town is like. With the rally coming up in a couple of days the town is in full set up mode. Manufacture trucks from all over are setting up displays, oil changes and tire replacement is available all over and bikini clad women are promoting bike washing for $20. Bikes are everywhere as well. It is hard to believe that there are more to come but I am sure their are. Sturgis has not yet closed down the center lane of town so that there is extra parking but according to pictures they will. All during the day the other towns in the area have already been setting up with preferred parking for bikes along the main downtown drags. It is very much like being in the Isle of Man where if you are driving a car…. good luck finding anywhere to park.
As I left Crazy Horse today storms had rolled in. I rode up to Rapid City as fast as I could and only got a little wet. As I turned onto I90 it was dry but storms were all around. With all of the weather and of course it being the plains the wind was bad. It got bad enough that I began to pull off every few exits (Honestly every 40 miles or so) in the hope that I could out wait the winds but eventually only made it to Wall, site of the world famous Wall Drug. I wasn’t getting anywhere at this rate and wasn’t in the mode to go and explore the Badlands National Park so instead of missing it I have decided to stay here for the night. Sturgis profiteering is in full effect so getting a motel room for the night is pricy but there is no other choice.