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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sturgis 2012

** This is a post I started at Sturgis, worked on a little coming home, and I'm finishing it up now after being home a day or so. The narrative probably changes tense here and there where I missed editing to make it seem like I wrote it all at once. So forgive all the fuck-ups, 'cause I just haven't cleared my eyes from all the sights and sounds at Sturgis!
There's probably not a single thing I can write about Sturgis that hasn't already been written elsewhere, and in a far more entertaining format. I was there for over a week, and the 2012 Black Hills Motorcycle Rally, aka Sturgis, didn't disappoint me. It was worth all the time, money, and preparation, if for no other reason, I can say "I rode mine!", LOL. And that's 4,940.9 miles through 15 different states and the District of Columbia, hitting Indiana, Illinois, and West Virginia twice.
Truthfully, going to Sturgis is just a thing a biker simply has to do, or at least THIS biker. I've wanted to go to Sturgis all my riding career.....over 40 years. I just had to stop finding reasons I couldn't go and just put up the kickstand and do it. If I waited for a convenient time, or until I retired, or until I could really afford it, it'd be a damn long wait. Fuck it, I put the family issues on the back burner, crossed my fingers about the job, and took off. I'll have to give extra props to my boss who agreed to let me have the extra time off. Let's hear it for Joe!!!!
And I arrived!
This was my "Home" for the duration, but if you think all this space was going to last, this open landscape turned into a congested city in a matter of days!


I wasn't alone at Sturgis. My long-time Bro and riding buddy, John, was there with his wife Bev. Good friends Charlie and Linda were there also, and all these guys trailered up, deciding to do their commuting in comfort. In hindsight, given how boring some of the ride is, that ain't necessarily a bad idea.

Due to adjusted departure dates, I ended up getting there 4 days earlier than originally planned. This change turned out to be a blessing. I was able to do all the local scenic rides before the masses of motorcycles jammed the narrow roads through the parks and towns. I even had time to do some rides twice, including Needles Highway and 16A.

To say the scenery is breathtaking sounds a little like a travel brochure, but the adjective is appropriate, and I saw things that literally made me stop in the middle of the road and just take it in. And maybe even take a picture, much to the dismay of people on the road behind me.

And wildlife too! Buffalo, antelope, wild burros, and the occasional wandering cow.

It's interesting that the buffalo, cows, and burros don't much care that roads are made for vehicles. You come around a bend in the road and there they are, right in the middle, just hanging out. Folks, this will keep you on your toes with one foot or hand on the brakes! The burros actually bum snacks from passing vehicles, but they shy away from a noisy Harley.

There's also the wildlife of another flavor. Though East Coast Sturgis may still hold the #1 spot for utter depravity, Sturgis certainly holds a similar spot for partial nudity within city limits! Apparently the normal rules are suspended, and topless is OK if the girls wear pasties, and thongs are just fine. They're just fine with me too, by the way!

Things ratchet up a notch or two within the confines of the Buffalo Chip if you keep your eyes open. Just look for a crowd of people pointing cameras.

The Chip also wins top honors for entertainment. Great bands...Journey, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Loverboy, Sugerland, Zac Brown, etc., plus you can ride your motorcycle to the show and sit on it. If you're inclined, fire up the Harley and rev it up instead of applaud, LOL. Perfectly acceptable.

At this point of my stay in 8.......aside from a few bands, there's almost nothing I hadn't seen or done, and I began thinking about leaving a day or two earlier. And I decided to skip the Colorado Rockies part of the itinerary. I got far more riding in around Sturgis than I ever expected, so the idea of riding through the Rocky Mountains seemed almost redundant. Maybe I'll save that for anther time. I still wanted to hit Wyoming and the Devils Tower, and then I could choose a route home from there, taking my time. I damn sure don't want to push myself like the ride to Sturgis.

I left Sturgis on August 10th, rolling to Devil's Tower to see the sights and visit a friend. From there, I overnighted in Sundance. Cool places and stunning scenery, especially at Devil's Tower. No wonder my friend Frank bought the Devil's Tower Lodge and calls it home!

 In Sundance, after visiting all the local watering holes, I started thinking about the ride home. I spent fucking hours going over maps and using Google Maps to find an interesting way to get there. I didn't want to go back the way I came, through Iowa and Nebraska, figuring on seeing some new territory and adding a little new scenery to the ride home.

Wrong. Well, mostly wrong.

I rode south through Wyoming to Cheyenne. Talk about wide open spaces! Wow! And don't even forget to get gas every frickin' chance you get. Gas stops can stretch more than 80 miles apart!

From Cheyenne, I rolled down to Denver, looking at the Rockies over my right shoulder, but also noting building thunderstorms over there too. The threat of storms killed an idea I had to detour a little into the mountains, so instead I reluctantly....and finally....turned back east. I soon found myself on Interstate 70, eastbound, and beginning the longest, most boring ride I've ever taken. Between Denver and Kansas City, the route is flat, featureless, and the view is of endless fields of corn and grain. As far as the eye can see. So much for planning a more scenic route.

And Kansas? Jesus Christ, I was in Kansas FOREVER! Took damn near a whole day to ride across, and seeing Kansas City was like seeing an oasis. I'd finally made it to Missouri!!! Of course, the highway planners did their worst work in KC, and negotiating I70 through that city is tough, to say the least. It's like a fucking maze, even going down to one lane in a spot. Damn. I guess they want peeps to stay in Kansas.

From there, I hit it hard, looking forward to a little R&R. I made it to Columbia, Missouri, before a much needed break for refreshments and rest. A charming lady named Kasey was happy to help me out!

And from Columbia, I rolled into Kentucky, and finally began that scenic route I'd hoped for. Kentucky horse farms are just gorgeous. From Kentucky I rode into West Virginia, which was even more scenic. Mountains and valleys galore! Plus I79, between Charleston and Buckhannon, is a high-speed version of Tail of the Dragon. At 80mph, it's a blast, even on a touring Harley. It's worth doing.

I got off I79 at Buckhannon, taking the opportunity to ride east on US 33, a much talked about local road that's also compared to the Dragon. It didn't measure up on the west end, but as I neared Harrisonburg, Virginia, on the east end, the corners got tight and frequent, and if you were lazy, you'd be in big trouble. Check that route out too! It's sure closer than the Dragon if you're located around DC or Baltimore.

On my ride out there, I added a few more roads to the all-time Top 10, each of which rival the Tail of the Dragon: There's Needles Highway, 16A (near Mt Rushmore), 14A (through Spearfish Canyon), and closer to home, as I just mentioned, there's US 33 between Buckhannon, WV and Harrisonburg, VA. Each of these are "don't miss" roads if you get closeby.

When the fun was over, I turned onto I81 to I66, and eventually to my home in Alexandria, Virginia. Big Blue, my trusty Road King, and I needed a break. The bike is easily as dirty as a motorcycle can get, and it's still dirty as of this writing. But every speck of dirt is a memory, and a damn good one.

Big Blue and it's former owner, Paul, deserve a lot of credit. The bike ran like a dream, and the only issues were an 8-dollar saddlebag mount pin that broke, plus the fairing loosened up, pushing back against the bars. And I added a half quart of oil.

I did put a new set of tires on before leaving, and the True-Track stabilizer I installed seems to have taken 99% of the wobble out of the bike. No issues in hard sweepers at 80+mph carrying a lot of weight. So the Road King purchase was well worth my investment, and my Softail Custom got a well-earned break and stayed at home keeping Joker company.

Another shout-out has to go to my buddy Leesa, who kept me entertained with little fun texts during my entire ride. Nothing but smiles coming outa that lady! Thanks, Leesa!

I've now got Sturgis checked off my bucket list, but I'm not so sure I won't go back. Maybe next year!

I've enclosed several pix here in this post, but a full Sturgis album can be found HERE. There's over 1,200 photos, so open a beer (or a 6-pack), start a slide show, and you'll see what I saw. Hey, that's even where all the custom motorcycle pix are. I damn near forgot about those! It is about motorcycles, right? LOL