My First Husband and I own a cruiser. For those of you who do not know what that is, allow me to explain. A cruiser is usually a large motorcycle that can be used for traveling on long road trips in comfort. They are usually very heavy. Ours is that sort of a motorcycle. It weighs almost 900 pounds without us being on it. Our motorcycle has two saddlebags and a trunk which is large enough to hold our helmets. I, of course, am the passenger and I sit on what I lovingly call the couch. Believe it or not, this is so comfortable to travel on, I actually have fallen asleep. It is also a place that I often times meditate while watching the beauty around me.
In 2009, my First Husband and I decided we were going to fulfill a dream. Every year in Sturgis, South Dakota there is a huge motorcycle rally. Tens of thousands of motorcyclists travel to be there usually the first week of August. Sturgis normally is a small quiet town, but not during this period of time. I believe over 100,000 people descend on this little western town during this time. I have heard that the town residents usually try to book their vacations during this time. I am sure you can understand why.
Of course, this motorcycle rally means money for Sturgis. There are police there monitoring the partiers and crowds of people. There are vendors selling their goods, from all over the country. The tourists purchase many mementos of the events from T-shirts, to tattoos. It all is about spending money.
My First Husband and I only had eight days to go out to the Bike week and be back home, because at the time I was still working in a school district and I needed to report back for the new school year to begin the second week of August. Unfortunately, the timing was bad, because we could have stayed longer and enjoyed this beautiful area of our country if I had not had my responsibilities in the school district.
These are the items I had to somehow pack into our motorcycle, and I did not mention we were camping. One 9 X 7 dome tent, two twin air mattresses, two sleeping bags, one small propane stove, one small cast iron griddle, plastic utensils and cups, two water thermoses, two leather jackets, two jean jackets, and bath towels. A container of essentials with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant. Small inflatable pillows and many bungee cords. Also two changes of clothing. A collapsible cooler to hold some frozen foods for breakfast items. I know I have forgotten something, but those are the basic things I packed. To say that I had to pack light was an understatement, but I would say that I did very well. We knew there should be laundromats along the way.
Invariably, my First Husband would ask for an item buried deep into the saddlebags. I eventually learned to keep those items closer for easier access but admittedly I was grumbling under my breath in search of whatever he needed.
The first day we headed out and made it to Williams Iowa, which is very near to the border of Iowa and Minnesota. We were on I-80 and stopped at the largest truck stop in the country. We had never seen anything like it. It was basically a shopping center for truckers. It gave us a good stretch of the legs. At the end of this first day, we had ridden 800 miles. We decided to spend the night at a hotel since we were both exhausted. We knew that the next few days were going to probably be much rougher. We were tired, but not really sore. I do recall FH’s legs shaking when we got off the bike. We have found that when riding for long distances, it is good practice to stop and stretch the legs every 90 to 120 minutes. Of course, there was also the issue of needing gasoline. Our motorcycle can hold seven gallons of gas and we averaged 40 miles to the gallon on the open road.
The next day we headed out and drove north through Minnesota. We caught I-35 to head north to locate I-90. I believe one of the most memorable sites we saw that day was when we reached Chamberlin, South Dakota. We crossed the Missouri River which is so wide it looked as though it really was a lake when we rode over it. We have a friend who lives near the border of South Dakota and North Dakota who frequently goes salmon fishing there. Now we were headed for Wall, South Dakota where we camped. We were at the entrance to the Badlands State Park. I had never seen anything like that before. It was gorgeous and after we had been so fortunate to have had cooler temperatures for that summer of 2009, however on that day it eventually reached 100 degrees. I was constantly drinking water. We wound up riding on a gravel road which is never easy when holding up such a huge bike as we have. It is especially concerning for the passenger. There were many other motorcyclists riding through the Badlands the day we were there. Of course, everyone was headed for Sturgis and the surrounding towns. South Dakota is a motorcyclists dream.
Wall, South Dakota is located at the east entrance of the Badlands National Park. All along the I -90 route, there were constant signs of advertising for the infamous Wall Drugs. The main theme of this constant advertisement was that they had a $0.05 cup of coffee. Of course, this sounded inviting to me, except I had no idea at the time that the doughnut that went with this inexpensive cup of coffee was $5.00. We toured the town of Wall which is a wonderful touristy place to spend some time. We camped in the Wall campground too. It was a very nice place with showers which we were happy to use. I was able to make us our breakfast, which is always enjoyable to eat enjoying the fresh air.
After repacking the motorcycle we were headed for Rapid City. South Dakota which is closing in our destination. On the route, we actually had an encounter with a motorcycle gang. To say that I never thought it was possible on this little adventure, I would have had to of said no way, but it truly did happen to us. We were stopped at a rest area. We happen to notice this group of motorcyclist standing around in a group. They were all dressed in their leather vests, and we really did not notice the logo on their back since with motorcycling many wear leather vests. In fact, both my First Husband and I both had on our own vests. They actually serve a purpose by keeping our t-shirts from flying up into our faces. While we were riding out on I-90 we were basically alone. The crosswind was very strong. So strong in fact that it was hard to turn our heads. Trucks and trailers loaded with motorcycles were a common sight. As we were riding we heard the sound of a large group of motorcycles coming from behind. We were probably cruising at 80 m.p.h. at this time on the open road. Gradually this group of motorcycles came up two abreast riding alongside us. I did not even try to turn my head. They rode alongside us for probably 10 minutes, then gradually started to pull ahead of us. I had no idea that I should be afraid at this point. As I said, I had no idea this was a bad group to fear. Two by two they rode by and then at the end, there was one lone motorcyclist. He was very grungy looking. He suddenly without warning cut in front of our bike practically clipping our front wheel. It was very close to knocking us off the road. Of course, there would have been nothing left of us if that had of happened. We had no idea how fortunate we were. After this, we were basically thankful to be alive and confused about why this had happened.
The next town was Custer. A wonderful place where the townspeople were dressed up in old western attire. They were very friendly people. After our ordeal, we decided to sit on a bench on the front porch of a store. We were still badly shaken about what had happened to us. Suddenly a deputy sheriff walked by and I decided to tell him about our experience on the open road. He informed us that the gang we had encountered were a very dangerous group of people and that we were very fortunate to have survived. They evidently had a history of drugs and prostitution among other illegal activities. The Deputy mentioned we were very lucky to have survived.
We did not have reservations but we were lucky enough to have found a primitive campsite in Spearfish a town very close to Sturgis. We were able to camp there and could ride from there to Sturgis and the surrounding areas without having to lug our heavy camping equipment as we saw the sites. We rushed to put our tent up in the dark, out in the huge field without any light other than the moon. The prairie wind was blowing hard and we had no idea what was to lie ahead. All we knew was we were exhausted and needed to sleep. So as we laid in our little tent I heard the wind picking up. Somehow my First Husband stayed asleep. Me, on the other hand, felt that our tent was going to blow us away much like a windsurfer on the open sea. I wound up straddling each corner of our tent trying to keep up from blowing into the western sky. I believe this was the first of four sleepless night for me. Another issue was a group of campers next to us. They immediately did not like us because we were older and also we did not have a Harley motorcycle. Our motorcycle is a Yamaha. For some reason they hated us. Of course, they were also drinking heavily, which did not help.
As I laid there in much fear and admittedly anger, one of the campers took his motorcycle and backed it up to the side of our tent. He roared his engine sending the fumes into the side of our tent. This continued for 10 minutes as the other campers laughed and made fun of us. I was very afraid that they were going to damage our bike. As I said, I was angry and I was scared. Obviously, these people were crazy and mean. If I had been younger I may have gotten up and confronted them. I had to act as though I was not aware of their existence as my First Husband slept on. I did not sleep at all that night.
The day we finally got to ride into Sturgis started out very well. It was a beautiful day, but as we learned the weather in South Dakota is not a certainty. We rode into the town of Sturgis. The constant roar of the two cylinder motorcycles was almost deafening. I believe I heard that sounds for days after we left. There were motorcycles and people everywhere. Motorcycles were parked in huge lines on both sides of the street and due to a large number of motorcycles, they were also parked in the center of the streets.
There were vendors in the storefronts and in booths all over the town. To say that my First Husband was excited was an understatement. There was no stopping him. We had trouble finding a place to park the bike. We found a field with a little tree and we decided to park the bike under this little tree. Then we started to walk around and see the sites. There was much police directing the constant traffic. My First Husband wanted to walk everywhere. Since I had not had any sleep for several days, I would have preferred to sit down and people watch. As we were walking, and I say that in jest. My First Husband’s 6’2″ frame is hard to keep up with when he gets excited. As I was following him I was trying not to lose him. I happened to see one of the strangest sites I had ever seen in my life. There was a dog which I believe may have been a border collie. On the back of the dog was a cat and on the back of the cat was a rat. I could not believe what I saw. My First Husband saw nothing, he was erratically tracking through Sturgis with a mission of which I was not quite sure what it was. As I was trying not to lose him, I noticed the sky was becoming very dark. I heard the sound of thunder and saw lightning in the sky. The air raid sirens started to blast. The strong winds started to blow. I said we need to find shelter. We just happened to be near the Expo center. We ran inside there. As we were looking at the customized motorcycles in this building the storm was getting worse. An announcer told us to head for the auditorium and stay in there. In the meantime, large hail was hitting the roof of the building. I truly thought we were going to die in Sturgis, South Dakota.
When the storm was over Sturgis had been hit hard. There was evidence of golf ball size hail on the ground. The worst damage was to the motorcycles at the Buffalo Chip campground. Many expensive motorcycles were damaged from the hail. All in all, we were lucky that we had parked our bike under that little tree because it saved our motorcycle from hail damage. After this long day, we headed back to our campsite in Spearfish. I was hoping I got to sleep that night.
The next day we decided we just wanted to ride and tour the Black Hills. We were riding on some very winding roads and we came upon a single lane tunnel that was cut through a rock tunnel. As we rode through this tunnel suddenly the sunlight was shining into our eyes as we rode through the opening, I turned to my right and there was Mt. Rushmore in the distance. The sun shining on the four faces. It was like a spiritual experience. We headed to Keystone and road to Mt. Rushmore. We rode around the Needles highway where we actually could see the back of George Washington’s head on the mountain monument. I different experience to say the least.
We had another bad experience there in Keystone because we got stuck in a severe thunderstorm. We were soaking wet and it was another pretty miserable night. I knew not to complain because we should have made reservations at a hotel room. My FH is not that sort of a man who plans ahead. That is why I called this an adventure. The Black Hills are beautiful and I would love to ride there again. I know there was much more to see but we basically ran out of time. As we rode home we wound up in a long span of road construction in Minnesota. As we rode along we were basically running on fumes we were so low on gas. All of the exits were closed due to the construction. It was starting to get very concerning because there was no place for us to pull off the road if we did run out of gas. The Lord was with us once again as we finally got to an exit and we rolled into a gas station. It was a very close call.
Our Little Adventure to the Sturgis Bike Week was all in all a great trip. This was in 2009 and I was ten years younger. I am not sure I could do it again but I will always remember our trip with many fond memories.