Part 5. Things to do around Sturgis - Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
On Monday morning I ride into Sturgis. Parking is harder to find than in prior years as there are hundreds of trailers parked along the side streets where motorcycles used to park. I find a spot and lock up my bike. Bike theft is the most serious crime one encounters during the rally. I am sure that if I forget to lock my bike just once, it will be gone. I walk around to the vendorís tents. The theme this year is definitely the Year of the Chopper. There are choppers everywhere. The Orange County Choppers are in attendance, as are every other custom bike maker in existence. It seems no one is making anything unique, everything looks like the choppers made by Orange County. I eat lunch at the Broken Spoke Saloon and admire the many old bike used as decoration there. After lunch Iím feeling claustrophobic and continue out of town toward Deadwood. Parking at Deadwood is easier than in Sturgis as there are fewer trailers. I go into the Number 10 Saloon (the one where Wild Bill Hickock was shot) and sit down to play live poker. It takes me about 90 minutes to lose $100 and the other players are sad to see me go. The weather is perfect, the low 90ís with low humidity. I ride home in just a T-shirt and no jacket.
Choppers, Choppers, Choppers
The biggest problem with the location of the Buffalo Chip campground is that one must go through Sturgis to leave or enter. It is now dusk and the inflow of attendees is in full swing. It takes me 2 Ĺ hours to transit Sturgis this time. My engine gets hotter than itís ever been and the inside of my right leg is burning. I turn off the engine and walk the bike until I get to the intersection and fire it up only to ride across the side street. I have to find a better way.
On the way back to camp I see a huge new temporary building I have never noticed before, the Full Throttle Saloon, so I follow the hundreds of bikers in. This is a complex of bars even bigger than the Broken Spoke. There are nine different bars, including one huge one. There is live entertainment and biker games going on at all times. Still more vendors and I buy a pretty good hand rolled cigar for later that night. This is the one place I can visit without going through Sturgis, and I vow to return when I have more time to explore.
Full Throttle Saloon
Back at camp all my equipment is still there. Theft in camp is no problem, security is pretty good and they check everyone coming or going. The concert goers are not allowed into camp unless they are registered campers. No one remembers a theft from camp. I fill up a couple of flasks with bourbon, grab a camp chair, and make my way to the concert. I am called over to campfires 4 or 5 times for a drink and a joke and get to concert while the opening act already on. The opener, a 60ís retro group, is not memorable. The headliner is Credence Clearwater Revisited, a group made up of two original CCR members with younger musicians filling in for the departed members. Since John Forgerty has left the group, a new lead singer takes his place. If anything, he sings better than Forgerty and the concert is a big success.
The next day I canít stand the thought of riding through Sturgis again, so I break down and consult a map. I learn that there is a 60-mile bypass around Sturgis to Deadwood and the other Black Hills destinations. You leave the Buffalo Chip, turn left toward Sturgis. Then you take the first right, onto highway 79 north, you make left on Bighorn Road (about 5 miles) and another left on Whitewood Valley Road (another 5 miles). You continue on until you hit I-90 at Whitewood. From here you can head west to exit 17 and go south to Deadwood, Lead, Keystone and Custer. Spearfish and Belle Fourche and further west, and definitely worth the ride. The are nice little towns with fewer crowds and lots of good restaurants and coffeehouses. A very nice day ride is south on highway 385, stopping in Hill City, Keystone, and then Custer. Between Keystone and Custer is Custer State Park. This is a beautiful ride, but you have to watch out for wild buffalo wandering the roads. And I mean herds that stop traffic while they cross. The road is not crowded by Sturgis standards and is what the Black Hills is all about.
To see Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse monument one doesnít have to take this long detour. These are accessed by taking Alkaline Road 8 miles to Midde Alkaline Road. Turn right and go another 8 miles to Tilford Road. Turn right again and 8 miles to I-90 at Tilford. From here you get on I-90 Southeast to Rapid City. From Rapid City Mount Rushmore is well-marked and easy to find. The Crazy Horse Monument is on the same road, and even more impressive.
After 4 days of riding, drinking, gambling, socializing, concert going, and eating, Iíve had about all the fun I can stand. I pack up and ride back to Salt Lake City. This time I take I-90 west past Sheridan and get off at route 14 west. This scenic route passes through Cody and Yellowstone National Park. From Cody you can take a side trip north and ride the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway to the Beartooth Highway to Red Lodge. These are the two most beautiful and perfect motorcycle roads I know, but this article is already too long, so that description will be for another time.