Billy’s final days at Sturgis were filled with trips to the various bike shows. At the Legends Top 50 show the Hardlife class featured this entry from Twisted Choppers (foreground) and the winner of the class (background).Wrappin it Up
Billy’s final days at Sturgis were filled with trips to the various bike shows. At the Legends Top 50 show the Hardlife class featured this entry from (foreground) and the winner of the class (background).Billy’s final days at Sturgis were filled with trips to the various bike shows. At the Legends Top 50 show the Hardlife class featured this entry from Billy’s final days at Sturgis were filled with trips to the various bike shows. At the Legends Top 50 show the Hardlife class featured this entry from Billy’s final days at Sturgis were filled with trips to the various bike shows. At the Legends Top 50 show the Hardlife class featured this entry from Billy’s final days at Sturgis were filled with trips to the various bike shows. At the Legends Top 50 show the Hardlife class featured this entry from Billy’s final days at Sturgis were filled with trips to the various bike shows. At the Legends Top 50 show the Hardlife class featured this entry from Wrappin it Up
Sorry for the late filing of this report. My last day in town, I had connectivity issues. Then, the next morning, I hopped in the motorhome to head for home. Yea, without anyone to ride home with, I figured motorhomin’ it was preferable to riding solo through the desert.
My last few days were rather eventful, dashing from one bike show to another to catch all the best bikes in their shining glory. The Legends Top 50 show was first up on Wednesday, followed by the Harley-Davidson Ride-In show and the Biker Penthouse show on Thursday, and the Rat’s Hole on Friday. To top it all off, on my last afternoon, I got to shoot a Biker Build-Off bike for a magazine cover. You could say I’ve embraced destiny.
The Top 50 show was its usual assortment of very original and very clean machines. Most were actually worthy of riding around on, not just getting shown at shows. This year, they added a class for classic hot rod cars as well. Unique to this show, is that it gives special consideration to those who use event-organizer Independent Cycles frames, with special classes (with big payouts) for builders who use Independent’s Hardlife rigid frame and Lowlife softail-style frame.
The last-minute cleaning is one of the rituals of a bike show. and the mark of a successful builder. Frenchman Nicholas Chauvin is an old hand at the American shows, Billy first saw one of his bikes at Daytona Bike Week 1999.
The Harley-Davidson show usually is known for its blend of everyone from guys who slapped some Genuine Accessories on, to full-on garage builders all working with mostly H-D-based equipment. Last year it was a rather disappointing showing with only about 50 entries and nothing particularly special. This year was a whole different event. Harley’s Steve Piehl said that between more promotion, moving it to the front parking lot, and providing daylong entertainment, the event doubled the entry total from last year. The quality was up as well, with a number of very special Harley customs entered in the various classes.
I only stopped briefly at the Biker and Rat’s Hole shows. There were a number of the same bikes as the Top 50 and Metzeler shows in the Biker show, but most seemed very high-quality. The Rat’s show seems to bring out not only the most outrageous customs, but also the real freaks. If you want to see some truly original machines, this is always the show to do it at. Conservative bikes never seem to flourish in this one.
On my way from one end of the Rallyzone to the other, I decided to try to hit some different back roads, and found some pleasant surprises. One is the Bear Butte State Park Education Center. Education aside, it offers a magnificent view of the Butte, which is a sacred Native American site.
One of the truly unique things you get at the H-D show is a dizzying array of vintage H-D’s restored to somewhere near showroom condition.
Also, while rediscovering a few Black Hills routes, I found one of my favorite BBQ joints in the world, and I really like barbecue. I’ve stated at least twice (between this year and last) how much I like taking Vanocker Canyon to Nemo Road to get to Rapid City. When you get to the top of Vanocker, left takes you to Rapid, while right carries you to US385, which is the main north/south scenic route through the hills. Turning right will also take you past Jon’s BBQ (at least during Rally Week). Jon is an enterprising Bed n Breakfast owner who takes his culinary expertise out to the roadside with a custom 300-gallon smoker. He serves up pork loin and ribs. The loin is good and ribs are divine. Can you tell I like barbecue almost as much as motorcycles?
And as I sit here typing in Central Utah, praying for a strong wireless signal to Shanghai at one of our stops, that is pretty much where the story ends. I’ve stated in both of my first two rally reports with Motorcycle-USA.com, my week seems to pick up crazy speed as it goes along, with more to do, and less time to do it in (or sleep). I’ll post a full recap of all the important things I need to follow up on once I get home and everyone’s official press releases get issued. Thanks for following along!
Day 1 – Temptation
Today I was tempted with something that’s never even occurred to me before. I had the opportunity to put a touring bike on a trailer and ride in the air-conditioned comfort of a motorhome.
Since Sturgis is located in South Dakota, traveling to the famed rally is half the experience. For our correspondent, lots of miles on the superslab through the Mojave Desert made up Day-1 of his 2006 Sturgis adventure.
Disgusting, I know. And I have made fun of just such an act on many occasions. But here was my reasoning: 1) I did this trip last year (so I have nothing to prove); 2) There’s nothing to see in the (very hot) Mojave that I haven’t seen scores of times before; 3) I have work to do that will not get done otherwise.
But really, in the end, the absurdity of putting a perfectly good, 2007 six-speed H-D FLHS on a trailer kept me from doing so. Do not take this as anything like a real review, but Harley’s new 96-inch motor is really good. Very torquey. Passing trucks no longer takes any forethought.
So most of today’s ride was just a hump up the interstate. Lots of highway miles. And lots of standing around waiting for other people to finish a cigarette or take a leak. This year I’m traveling with a blend of magazine staff members (mostly of the H-D mag variety) and various aftermarketeers. And, my goodness, can these folks spend time at a gas stop.
I was asking about all of the various routes to choose from, and all I’m getting back is, “we’re taking the interstate.” I think I have a few adventuresome souls talked into taking a little side trip to Moab, Utah, tomorrow that I missed last year. The next day, I’m going to do what I can to avoid the interstate in Colorado and actually get out on some fun roads.
Today, my one extracurricular activity was a side trip to the Valley of Fire, just outside Las Vegas. Leaving the group caused a bit of a tizzy, with cellphones lighting up the switchboard to find out where I went. I make fun of their concern now, but tomorrow, stranded in central Utah, and out of cellphone battery, I might come to appreciate it.
On my return trip last year I made a quick dash down the Valley of Fire, and it turned out to be my one chance to snap any photos more interesting than a Baker gas station. Enjoy.
Long time readers may remember my run-in with the Wyoming State Police last year. I was bored out of my skull on a road that drifted through cattle country, and wanted to see how fast my Street Rod would go. I ran out of arm strength on the windshield-less bike long before the power gave out, somewhere around 140 (indicated). Right after that, I slowed as a town was approaching, but saw my group (whom I had lost while taking pictures) just up ahead. So in my one last squirt of speed, an oncoming cop got me on radar at 90 in a 65. I was actually relieved to only be getting a ticket. The end result of that little piece of folly is that I can no longer afford the insurance on my ‘Rod, and am selling it.
So, I’d like to think I am justified if I’m a little leery of riding in Wyoming. And, really, most of the roads are kind of boring if you’re not deep in the triple digits. So I gave in, and parked the Electra Glide in the trailer. I thought it would be nice to just kick it, and get some work done in our chase motorhome as the miles spooled by. I reasoned that I’d rather be comfortable and productive than bored, dehydrated and in pain out on the road. Isn’t it my duty as a journalist to see how the other half lives? In the end, it was a huge miscalculation.
See what happens when you tempt the Motorcycle Gods? Billy snapped this shot during the second stop, when the slow-leaking tire rolled off the rim. After patching, the crew at Big O tires in Estes Park declared this tire roadworthy… it exploded 100 miles later.
I missed out on two very important things today. The first was the ride out of Estes Park. Rt34 east out of the mountains is fabulous with a sweet, freshly paved winding road, that follows the Big Thompson River down out of the mountains through spectacular canyons. The second was that there is nothing like entering the Black Hills during the Rally on a bike. On top of that, today I was “that guy” with the touring bike on a frickin’ trailer!
As if to punish me for my lack of dedication, the Motorcycle Gods visited their wrath upon our trailer today. We had three flats (all the same one, due to a crappy repair job), and spent much of the day jacking up the trailer and getting tires fixed. After the final blowout, we purchased a spare, which, naturally, ensured that there were no more problems.
With the intercession of the MotoGods, I actually got no writing done, but I did manage to take some pics of our journey, out of the Rockies, through the Wyoming prairies and up the west side of the Black Hills. I’ll be back tomorrow with my first pics of the wackiness at the rally.
Note, please excuse the bug guts on the scenic photos from Wyoming, that is just one more reason I don’t particularly enjoy riding there.
Okay, so I’m finally here. Reports of the Rally’s demise seem to be a bit exaggerated, as this place is bumpin.’ However this is a weekend day, so maybe we’ll see things mellow tomorrow. As I did last year, I started my Black Hills odyssey with a trip to downtown Sturgis. I did a bit of walking around the central area of Lazelle St and Main St, two parallel byways that have the bulk of the Rally traffic. This is party central, with a very high density of bars, eateries, and trinket sales.
Lazelle is the main route through town, open to all traffic but no parking, if you continue to the east you’ll soon come to the outlying areas where the campgrounds are (we’ll explore them later). Main is right next to it and open only to motorcycles, with free parking. Most of the your classic Sturgis photos are from here, including the “official” shot that is taken from one of the towers every day at 2.
Lazelle is home to most of the aftermarket companies downtown, so if you want to see the coolest stuff for souping-up your ride, or building one, this is the place to be. Main is mostly home to drinking and eating establishments, and what long time rallygoers refer to as “trinkets and trash” (aka t-shirts, and other biker apparel). There is also some crossover, with some very big and well known bars on Lazelle as well, like the Broken Spoke, Firehouse, and Panhead Saloons.
Hard Bikes had a pair of hard bodies posing with their bikes for tips. This man’s name is Derek and he does not want his girlfriend to see this picture… but he does want it to appear in a magazine.
I walked the streets today with a pair of guys who were on the prowl for hot chicks, and my photos probably reflect that, as they never failed to point them out to me. History being any indication, readers of this magazine share their sentiments. Sturgis has a bad reputation for being less of a looker’s rally than Daytona, but in fact there are plenty of good-looking women to oogle, you just may have to tip them to do so.
While many of the Main Street establishments are permanent businesses, several more are converted for the event, a beauty salon may become a tattoo parlor. I was turned on to a good roast beef sandwich served out of the Town and Country Plumbing store.
On a side note all the way here the weather has been almost perfect. It was no more than a dry 90’s in the deserts, and no more than a smattering of rain has dropped on me at any given time. If the ominous sounds in the distance are any indication, that is about to change tonight.
Tomorrow, either riding in the hinterlands or checking out a new vendor area or both. Or maybe something completely different.
Billy’s favorite side road, Vanocker Canyon, is no longer the path less traveled now that the one-time quarter-mile gravel entrance has been paved over.
My favorite ride has been ruined by progress. Okay, not ruined, more like damaged. It used to be (as recently as last year) that Vanocker Canyon was accessible only to motorcyclists willing to traverse about a quarter mile of gravel. Now there’s a big sign at the Junction exit to Sturgis that directs people to Vanocker Canyon over some fresh new blacktop.
So when I set out on my long “shortcut” to Rapid City I was faced with more bikes that I had ever seen on Vanocker before. However, perhaps because it’s still off of most people’s radar, riders were going about the speed limit, not 5 to 10 under like most other roads. For more info on Vanocker, check out last year’s report.
One thing I noticed in the hills is that something I said years ago is coming true: the sportbike crowd is discovering Sturgis. I always wondered why Daytona was such a mixed event when the riding flat-out sucks. Sure there’s the racing, but for riding fun, safe roads, that turn left and right, you can’t beat the Black Hills. So, while still a small minority, there are more sport-oriented machines than ever. The next crowd that should really dig in to this event are dual-sport guys, especially the guys with the bigger bikes. There are a ton of very uncrowded graded dirt roads all through the Black Hills that can take you to places most people will ride right by and never see. Maybe I’ll try to score a Buell Ulysses for next year and show you a few.
There’s just something about a bikini bike wash that invigorates the spirit. And that is one hell of a lot of bikes in the background. What you’re seeing is not even a tenth of the parking lot at the Black Hills H-D.
My first real stop today was Black Hills H-D. The dealer is host to a slew of what I like to call “interactive” vendors. Most of the exhibitionists will install your purchase while you wait. The biggest installer is the shop itself, with a huge outdoor service area strictly to install all the riders’ new doo-dads. There was also the first bikini bike wash that I’ve laid eyes on this time around. This area was packed. The bike parking alone went into the overflow lot, it was nuts. There is definitely nothing wrong with this event’s attendance.
My next destination is a new vendor area called the Top 50 Rally Park. The folks at Legend Air Suspension used to host a bike show (called the Top 50) at their facility near Rapid City, but swiftly outgrew the smallish confines of the space. So owner Jesse Jurrens purchased some land on the interstate between Sturgis and Rapid City and made a nice little vendor park. Many premier bike builders have taken up residence here including Jim Nasi, Dynamic Choppers, Vegas City Choppers, Leroy Thompson, and more.
While there I accidentally ran into my second Biker Build-Off this year. This time it was Dave Perewitz vs. Paul Yaffe in a Hamster on Hamster duel. These may be the only guys in the world talented enough to make yellow look this bad ass. For those of you who do not know what a Hamster is, that’s what Google is for. After tallying the crowd’s votes Perewitz was crowned the champ. Personally, I liked Yaffe’s bike better, but the 20-inch rear wheel, 23-inch front and some sweet smoothed components made the Perewitz bike quite a looker.
Bartels has developed a knack at stumbling upon Discovery Channel Biker Build-Offs in progress. This yellow creation from Dave Perewitz beat out its competition, a machine fabricated by fellow Hamster Paul Yaffe.
Between the large Hamster presence at the Build-Off, and builder-centricity of the vendors in the Top 50 area, there were a slew of awesome customs, of which I only have the space and time to share a couple. Some even look like they’ve been ridden. I’ll send more when I do the wrap up in a couple weeks.
As the Build-Off was drawing to a close, the skies opened up. The rain is my fault. I tempted the Motorcycle Gods once more with my proclamations of perfect weather. Luckily, the folks at the Top 50 area were feeding journalists during the deluge, others were not so lucky. The rain was coming down so hard at one point that there was a sheet, one inch thick, of water running down the paved hillside. If it wasn’t for the asphalt, we’d all have been standing in a giant mud pit.
My next update will involve tonight’s festivities in which I sacrifice my liver to bring you a tour off all of downtown Sturgis’ bars. Tomorrow will see me head out to campgroundland in search of more cool bikes and other insanity.
Lightning streaks across the Sturgis skyline as Billy gets ready to sample the wares of various Saloons dotting the main drags.
Sporadic, but torrential, rain forced everyone inside to the big bars. Some were bigger beneficiaries than others as the crowds varied widely from one drinking establishment to the other. On a mission to hit most of the bars on Main and Lazelle, I braved the rain with some very expensive camera equipment strapped around my neck.
In the past I had only hung out near the front and enjoyed a beer or two (while not riding, of course). This year was different. I went in deep. We (that would be some friends and I) started at One Eyed Jacks, one of the larger colleges of drinking enlightenment, on Main, between 4th and 3rd. This place is so big (covering nearly a block) that I had previously thought it to be two bars. The place is like a maze, with a series of connected rooms, balconies, and tucked away spaces on multiple floors. The deeper in you go, the raunchier it gets, with a contortionist go-go dancer the pinnacle of their achievement.
Our next stop (right across Main) was the Loud American Roadhouse. The place was packed. And, really, no place for a guy with a 30-pound backpack, as I kept whacking big grizzly tattooed dudes with it. Sure, most of them were probably accountants, but it’s the one that isn’t that I worry about. The band did play a nice rendition of a Guns ‘n’ Roses song.
Venturing out to Lazelle, we made our way down to the Knucklehead Saloon. Unlike our first two stops, the Knuck was dead. No more than 50 people in the whole place. However, we were stuck as the drizzling rain became a downpour. While there, I did get some nice shots of the lightning.
Um, excuse me! Excuse me, sir… Yes, I don’t mean to be a fuss, but I don’t think that pelt is DOT approved, and also I’m pretty certain those horns could pose a hazard if… What? What do you mean you’ll stomp my guts?
After the rain let up, we bounced quickly through the Sidehack Saloon (dead, more of a day place) on our way to the Broken Spoke. The Spoke was moderately full with the inside getting far more traffic than the outside. When we got there, most of the crowd was glued to the screen watching the season premiere of Biker Build-Off. I simply cannot escape this show! A bike-builder friend described watching Billy Lane’s bike burn while he was forced to just stand there as, “eerie.”
Our last stop was back at the Dungeon on Main. The Dungeon is that same bar where I shot the guy with the “God tells me you need a beer” sign a couple days ago. Predictably, it’s in a basement. It was medium-crowded, but it doesn’t take many to make a party in the tight little bar. They have a charming tradition of letting women enshrine themselves for all eternity by removing and signing a piece of lingerie and hanging it on the ceiling.
After stepping outside and discovering no precipitation, we scooted for home. My updates are now a little askew as this was two nights ago and I’ve already shot a whole other day of stuff, but I’m sure I’ll catch up at some point. I can say with the certainty of someone living in the future, that the next update will involve heading out to Sturgis’ outlying campground bars.
Sturgis Day 7.5 – One Happy Camper
Everyone knows you shouldn’t drink and ride, but at the County Line bar you have to ride through the actual bar to find a parking spot.
Out on the prairie east and northeast of Sturgis are the big campgrounds. While there are a slew of campgrounds to choose from, a few of them really try to stand out with big name concerts and other entertainment, and a round-the-clock party atmosphere (lewd conduct enforcement is pretty lax) that really attempts to make the campground itself a destination. With all the traffic out in the campgrounds, it is only natural that some of the traditional Rally events move out the same direction. Out among the campgrounds are vendor areas and gigantic bike bars also seeking to become destinations. These massive edifices must look somewhat odd in the off-season, standing lonely out on the prairie land.
The newest (and farthest) is the Broken Spoke’s new branch office known as County Line. The new facility is contained in a big barn-like structure that you are actually directed to ride through before parking. The patrons of the bar are still getting used to the arrangement (and probably drunk) so they tend to be a little slow to clear the “road.” There was a sparsely-populated vendor area that nevertheless had a couple of talented bike builders: Chica and Wide Open Cycles. Out in the far end of the parking lot, there was what looks like a set up for some kind of Xtreme fighting match.
For riders not averse to gravel, there are plenty of side roads surrounding Sturgis to beat the traffic.
There are a ton of roads crisscrossing the fields out here, which makes it pretty easy to avoid traffic and get around. The problem for (heavy) bikes is that most are not paved. So while most take hwy34 (lazelle St) out east of town (then 79 North if going to County Line) adventuresome sorts can dodge that bullet and ride the gravel out to the more northerly spots like Broken Spoke County Line. Also out this way is a rather singular hill known as Bear Butte. There is also a recreation area at Bear Butte Lake.
Heading back in towards town I stopped at Thunder Road and the Thunder Dome. Thunder Road comprises a vendor area, the Dome show area, and a gas station. This area was pretty packed, and it’s not surprising considering that it hosts a major bike show every day of the week, some very talented builders in the vendor area, and lots of booth bunnies. While I was there, the Metzeler Bike Show was in full swing. It’s a bike show like any other, with classes for choppers, bobbers, “consumer-level” customs, etc. The only rule is that they must wear Metzelers.
Although the crowds weren’t as big as last year, the Full Throttle Saloon had free music every night.
Out in the vendor area I came upon the Bunny Ranch booth. While I can fully understand the draw of pretty girls walking around in their underwear, I’m not sure I understand the product. If you’re a girl, do you want your message to be, “I’m a whore!”? If you’re a guy, do you want girls to know you are into whores?
Right across the street is the Full Throttle Saloon. The full throttle is a giant circular venue with a massive stage, a boardwalk with trinket vendors, a burnout pit, and more bars than you can accurately count, most of which have a theme of some sort. Every night of the Rally, the ‘Throttle has big-name bands for the whopping price of free. It seemed like there was less going on than when I stopped there last year. No girl setting her butt on people’s heads, fewer (and smaller) burnouts, but very friendly beer booth girls.
Sturgis is so big the state of South Dakota can’t hold it all. On Wednesday many rallygoers make the 100-mile ride over the border to Wyoming for the Hulett Ham ‘n’ Jam, where in the past enforcement of some Sturgis prohibitions are more lax.
For my last two reports (three if you’re lucky) I’m going to deviate from my usual day-by-day format and base the content on themes. In my messy reality I’ve been jamming in a couple hundred miles a day trying to get in all the good stuff that gets packed into the final days of the Rally, but for these reports, I’m going to simplify a bit. Today, the fiction will be a lazy trip out to Hulett, WY, followed by a Kid Rock concert at the Buffalo Chip Campground. Instead of the reality of a mad dash 100 miles each way to catch the end of a bike show, which I’ll post tomorrow, with even more bike show coverage.
As I mentioned in Last year’s missive, Wednesday is the day of the infamous Hulett Ham ‘n’ Jam, aka No Panty Wednesday, or Panty Drop Wednesday. These days it should be called Pasty ‘n’ Thong Wednesday, but I’m not complaining. It started off years ago (I think I saw a shirt that said it was 17 years ago) as an escape from what was seen as an increasingly intrusive police presence in Sturgis. Just 100 miles away and over the border from the SD police, it was, for awhile a haven of the old-school rally. Now it’s a bit more tame, with a sign listing all the things that the police will fine you for at the entrance of town. It includes an ordinance banning “incitement to public nudity,” which carries a $750 fine and up to six months in jail.
Despite the crackdown it’s still less corporate and very fun. Bikes lined the sides and centers of the roads into town, and every main block of the town (six in all). It wouldn’t be unreasonable to guess that there might have been 50,000 packing into this town about a thousand. On Wednesday, this is no longer the sideshow to Sturgis, this is the Rally.
It is a picture-taker’s and exhibitionist’s paradise. Unlike just about every other rally, you don’ have to gauge or ask if someone wearing something outrageous wants their picture taken: It’s Hulett! Of course they want their picture taken! The day was blazingly hot, which helped fuel the clothing deficit. The town thoughtfully set up a cooling station with misters pumping water onto happy rallygoers.
Devil’s Tower looks even cooler in its original, non-mashed-potato form. Bikers were present at every lookout point to take a gander at the iconic landmark.
The other draw out here in Wyoming is Devil’s Tower, just Southwest of Hulett, as made famous in Close Encounters. There was no lack of bikes choking every inch of every turnoff at the places with good views of the tower. I could have spent an hour or more taking pics of the Tower, but I had a date with the Devil Without a Cause, Kid Rock.
The Kid is about the perfect mix of musical styles to suit a Rally crowd. With his blend of Southern Rock, Hip Hop, and classic Metal, the crowd on its feet and feelin’ rowdy. Unlike out in Hulett, there was little incentive to pay any attention to decency laws, and it showed. The crowd was an interesting blend of local teens and twenty-somethings, old crusty types, and everything in-between. A good time was had by all, the only weirdness occurring when the local girls got called upon to, um, show some flesh.
Tomorrow: Bike show mania, and the end of the road, Check out here in the 2006 Sturgis wrap-up
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