I guess the best way to describe Sturgis and the Bike Week is that it is like Spring Break in Florida for middle-aged folks. Its a huge excuse for people to let their hair -- for those that have it -- (and their clothes) down, drink, party, listen to loud music, and ride around on motorcycles for a week. It's a chance for respectable 40 to 60 year-olds to party like they were in college, for men to ogle women in a town and a culture that women's liberation bypassed. Tonite will be my last night here, I'll leave in the morning and make my way back to Seattle. I've been on my own for a couple of days -- Andre had to get back to Seattle after he discovered he was going to be a dad after insemnating a lesbian friend using the turkey-baster method. And not only was he happy about that, the Rapid City Journal took his picture as he was lounging on his bike on Main Street and named him "Biker Dude of the Day" on Sunday. I've enjoyed riding and hanging out and over the couse of the last few days I've made some notes and some random observations and thoughts to describe what really can't be described.
There are more motorcycles here than you can imagine. They are lined up on Main street four deep. Single rows on the curb, double rows down the center. Cars are not allowed. At times it feels like the entire output of the Harley-Davidson factory is on the streets and roads here. It makes for a constant rumble in the background, not unlike living next to a railroad yard and the rumble of the idling locomotives, which it reminded me of (and caused me to look out the window often thinking a train on the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern which runs behind the hotel was going by.) There is a four-way stop sign in front of my hotel, which not only causes a backup, but adds to the rumble as folks wait their turn. A four way stop here is pretty meaningless anyway as any biker worth their salt will be able to get through it without "stopping" or putting their feet down, even if it means sort of cheating. The four-ways here are akin to Italian traffic circles where it's everyone for themselves.
Every town in the Black Hills is like this -- bikes lined up as far as you can see, and no cars allowed. Indeed cars are very rare on the roads around here this week.
Most everyone comes here to ride. The Black Hills have some amazing roads and are very pretty, and I'll get to that in a moment. The second major sport here is people watching. I have to ask myself exactly how many "Willie Nelson" lookalikes can there be? Most of the men are 40-60 years old, somewhat stocky, shaved head, bearded, with tattoos (I think I just described me), or are rail thin, long beards, wearing headbands. The women -- well, lets just say that there are a lot of tan turkey necks, and women in bikini tops who should not be wearing them. Most of them ride behind boyfriends or husbands on their bikes, and their boyfriends tend to be rather neanderthal cavemen like, so I sort of picture some of these platinum blonds being clubbed and dragged home on the back of the bike. And there are those who dress up, and dress their bikes up too. And I have to confess, I actually enjoyed getting my picture taken after I bought a helmet that I told folks was roadkill that I hit on the way into town and couldn't get off my head. I dare say I got quite a few thumbs up and posed for more than a handful of pictures. I also realized that the human ear, when not covered by helmet straps, and after riding all day tends to catch a lot of dirt! But that's another story.
And in addition to people watching, there is some "pet" watching as well. I've seen a number of dogs here -- each with their own motorcycle vest, and sometimes riding with their people, but when I went riding with some friends yesterday, one chap took the cake. His dog rode on the tank with him -- wearing his doggie goggles, and vest, and enjoying what had to be the ultimate "head out the window" rush -- even at 70mph down I-90. The dog rode up from Arkansas that way too. There is no way I could see Lucy and Abby doing that, as fun as it might be. Lucy would insist on laying in my lap, and Tony says Abbey could ride "bitch" (back seat) with her paws on my shoulders. Maybe if we gave her enough doggie prozac yes.
Like I said earlier, the Black Hills are a beautiful area, and the roads are truly fun to ride on the motorcycle. It is part of the alure of Sturgis Bike Week. The rides up from Sturgis to Deadwood, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and out to Devil's Tower are gorgeous and curvy and made it seems for a motorcycle. The only drawback is that all of these places charge you bucks to get in, and because motorcycles can kind of sqeeze into places, they take great pain to make sure you HAVE to go through and pay. Well, I refused to do so. Despite the orange cones and "no stoping or standing" signs, we all did it anyway. They can't chase away 200,000 bikers -- there aren't enough rent-a-cops in the world to do that.
So one day we went up and visited both Rushmore and Crazy Horse -- and were able to take pictures and look for a bit witout giving anyone a dime. And I think the best view was this hidden little side view of George Washington that I glanced at as we were riding by -- I don't think I would have noticed it in a car.
And I swear the road designers here were either on drugs, or they were fired from the roller-coaster factory. There is a stretch of US-16A near Rushmore that has three "pigtails". That is the road actually comes out of a tunel, then loops over itself to lose or gain elevation. It's really amazing, and you'd think was designed just for the joy of driving it.
Just like Spring Break for college kids, there is an ubelieveable amount of booze comsumed here and the bars and venues are absoulutely enormous. The Full Throttle bills itslef as the "Worlds Largest Biker Bar". It must cover a square mile, and hosts some big name concerts. And there is so much drinking that when I went to demo drive a bike at 1030am, they made everyone take a brethalyzer test before being allowed to test drive.So after a week of being here, and the sun sets on Sturgis, I've driven some fun roads, seen some great scenery, test driven a few new rides, made a few friends, bought too many t-shirts and gadgets for the bike, got two new tattoos, and a very dark biker tan. It's time to head back to Seattle. Back West again, back home to the real world. Away from Spring Break for Adults -- for at least another year.I've posted a large album of photos with captions on my Facebook page -- even if you do not have a Facebook membership you can view it: