The Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming has some of the nicest scenery and coolest places to ride as anywhere. When we came through last year, Tony and I didn't have time to really explore much, and so today Andre and I decided to head out to Devils Tower, Wyoming -- about 80 miles from Sturgis. It was very windy this morning, but warm -- Andre ducked out for a smoke and came back saying just that. I asked if the long sleeve t-shirt I was going to wear would be too warm and he said I wouldn't need it and so I changed into a regular t-shirt. We took off up SD-34 towards Belle Fourche into a viscious head wind. It also got cloudy as we headed North East as well as cooler, so when I pulled off for gas I glared at him and said "no need for a long sleeve shirt eh?" I was glad my light leather jacket was still in the sadle bag, so I put it on while the perpetually hungry Andre went into the Kum and Go and got a burrito.
We left Belle Fourche and and started heading East into Wyoming and it sprinkled off and on again as we rode through the Black Hills and past small towns like Alladin (population 15), Alva (population 65) and Hulett (population 97). As we climbed up out of the valley of the Belle Fourche river, there it was standing all alone out in the prarie -- Devils Tower -- looking just like you'd expect it to. I had this strange compulsion to carve a tower out of mashed potatos, but we rode on and went right up to the base of the tower. We stayed and chatted with the rangers and other visitors for a bit before heading back down and towards Sturgis again. We stopped for lunch in Hulett at another tavern that seems to cater to bikers, with lots of bikes parked out in front like horses in an old west movie, and the roast beef sandwich was great. The proprietor overheard us commenting on the pictures we took and how beautiful the Black Hills were and agreed -- saying it was a magical place and he'd first visited 30 years ago and never left.
The sun came back out when we left and we rode along the quiet highway -- virtually no cars, and the occasional group of bikers passed us. YES I'm riding without a helmet. YES I know it's not the safest thing to do. However, virtually NO ONE rides with a helmet here and if you have one on you are very much out of place. And I have to confess that riding without a helmet is nice in weather like this out in the country. Its not something I'm comfortable doing all the time, but I can see the alure of it. The speed limit here is 65, and I was enjoying the sun and empty road a little too much I guess as a very young Wyoming State Policeman pulled me over for doing 70 in a 65 zone. Seventy?!?! They really are emphasizing safety during the rally week, and he was kind enough not to give me a ticket. It turns out he's from Evanston, WY, back in my old stomping grounds, and we chatted about that area as I put away my licesne and registration. I have to say for a cop he was a very nice one.
We got back to Sturgis and spend some more time exploring the endless aray of vendors and shopps -- eating some good food, and just plain people watching. I think people watching is one of the best parts of Sturgis. However, Andre, who is a huge flirt, is having far more fun, but because Sturgis is so overtly heterosexual, I keep thinking he might get his teeth bashed in. How overtly heterosexual is it? Well you can get a bikini bike wash, or even a bikini oil change, and the t-shirts run the gammut from tame to outright obscene. Womens' liberation never made it to Sturgis. I want the jock strap bike wash/oil change -- on second thought, no I don't -- not the guys around here anyway, they all tend to look like me.
Nonetheless, it's a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to running into some friends who are still making their way here. The rally officially starts tomorrow, but it's already packed with bikers and bikes. There is a ton of people, a lot to see, and the constant rumble of motorcycles fills the air, along with the endless roads around the Black Hills to be discovered. It's going to be an experience for sure.