If you read last month’s Publisher’s Letter, we recapped the basics about our trip and Sturgis overall. You may have noticed that we tried to be professional, but really didn’t hide the fact that selfishly, as riders, we enjoyed the hell out of an event that continues to lose vendors, sponsors and those big “mainstream” dollars that were thrown around so freely only a few years ago. I guess you could say that Sturgis is like our national economy in microcosm – less people came to the party, and the ones who did didn’t spend as much. They cut back on rooms, some choosing to camp, others hunting down the last-minute deals that were abundant in a town not accustomed to available rooms on day one of the rally. Deadwood was often busy with riders coming in for t-shirts, or for a beer at Saloon #10, but many of the casinos that make their home in the old hotels on Main St. never got the crowds or the high rollers they’ve enjoyed in the past. I’ll admit that occasionally the lack of a crowd made the excitement level a little weak, but that was more than offset by the freedom of movement, both around town and especially on the roads. But make no mistake, you could still find a party, in Deadwood, in Sturgis and at the campgrounds.
While some concerts drew well, like KISS, others didn’t fair so well. And in fact, the KISS tix were dropped in half prior to the rally, and then rumor had it, again that day. Other shows were cancelled due to the big rain storm that hit rather suddenly Tuesday night. We were at a rooftop restaurant, watching the ominous clouds gather and the lightning strike, grateful that we’d just made it back in time. Some didn’t, and there were actually injuries at the Glencoe ticket booth, where lightning actually hit the ground. For one campground promoter that night, the storm was actually a blessing – we heard word that they contacted one of the big acts, and told him no fee would be paid, due to having way undersold the event. That performer turned around before the venue, and between that and safety concerns, the event was cancelled. As for riders actually staying at the campgrounds, those were actually down this year too, due to the availability of cheaper rooms. We didn’t hear much about the new “Biker pool” at one campground, but when we saw it one morning it was rather dead. That’s not to say it didn’t pick up later in the afternoons, but given that the weather this year really never got hot, but remained damn near perfect, I doubt most bikers used it. I love the idea though, and hope to get there in future years, when the needle will undoubtedly get back up into the triple digits.
AHHH, THE RIDE
And speaking of “needles,” we rode everywhere from Needles Hwy to Spearfish Canyon to Deadwood to Rushmore to Custer State Park, and to points (bars, restaurants, t-shirt shops) in between. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: when you have heard so much about one place on earth, one that all riders revere as being a Biker Mecca, and then you finally, finally get there, and you’re actually not disappointed? Why that’s the very definition of happiness. It exceeds expectations. And I’ll go ya one better – now that we’ve been returning for years, we are still entranced, still in love, still finding new roads to ride and adventures to be had.
Let me start with Spearfish Canyon – last year we rode it from Deadwood, then Lead, so basically from the top – this year we rode it from the bottom, and got a completely different view of things, and a different (and most said better) riding experience. You’ll pass streams, ride countless sweeping curves and mild twisties, and you (or better yet, your passenger) will want to look up to enjoy the beautiful, high canyon walls you’re riding through.
CAN YOU SAY, “RIDER TRAINING?”
I have to digress for a minute, because the only thing that made this ride less than perfect were the nimrods we were following, or rather were stuck behind. Good Lord what has happened to rider ability? I don’t want to generalize, because I certainly saw plenty of good riders, both men and women, but we saw more of the same stupid riding that we saw last year. It’s getting worse, particularly the foot dragging when in slow-moving traffic. Now I’m not talking about coming to a stop and putting your feet down, and I’m not even faulting the guy who drags the feet while moving 5 mph, for the obvious reason that he’s gonna be putting them down again very soon while in stop-and-go traffic. I’m referring to people moving along well after traffic has begun to flow, at a speed that would snap your ankle in half if you’re unlucky enough to catch that size 12 sneaker under your floorboard. I just don’t get it – do they think this looks cool? Do they think they have better control of the bike in this position? In truth, they do not. Any decent bike is designed with the rider in the riding position, and the balance is thrown OFF when the feet are down and legs are extended.
Folks, I even saw guys dragging their feet and watched as their boots bounced over the cobblestone road in downtown Deadwood. Even other riders, who were now on the sidewalk and watching this, commented about what they were seeing. By now you’ve figured out that this was somewhat of a pet peeve with me, and my staff and family who rode with me all week started pointing it out to get a rise out of me. Look, I’m no expert rider, but I’m sure not afraid of leaning my bike into the curves on a rider’s road like Spearfish Canyon, and I sure as hell know where to put my feet, my eyes, and my tires on the road. Hell I was on a chopper, and still coming out of the curves too fast for the sheep ahead of me. Look, there’s nothing wrong with constant awareness, but if you’re in constant fear, then it’s time for a refresher. As one guy riding with us said, after completing Needles Highway, “Man, I got to take a class. I handled that ALL wrong.” Now this person is an experienced rider, and I applaud him for coldly and unemotionally assessing his capabilities. He knew what he did wrong and will make changes. If everyone thought that way, we’d make riding Sturgis the reward it should be, not just a yuppie notch in the belt.
OK, less caffeine for me.
Oh yeah, if you want to ride on some advanced twisties, try Needles Hwy, on the way into Custer State Park. As a buddy of mine once said, this is a road where your front end will meet your back end on a regular basis. Scenic, yes, but you won’t be able to look much – you’re too busy negotiating low-speed, super-tight turns, switchbacks that would make a Grand Canyon trail donkey nervous, and even some portions of road where only one lane of bikes can go through at a time. Talk about white-knuckle fun. Now this is a patch you could wear proudly, “I rode Needles Highway, and didn’t cry like a little girl!”
This challenging and fun road took us right into Custer State Park, where the roads once again start to sweep in gentle, scenic curves, and wildlife fill the plains and hillsides. The absolute highlight though, and the reason most folks pay to get in, is that you will ride right up to a group of buffalo. No fence, no guardrail, no protection whatsoever, unless you count the ranger who patrols the road and tries to keep these huge animals from actually blocking the road, which they will do on occasion. Why would you need protection? Well these beasts can jump six feet vertically, and run about 30 mph. Oh, and they do sometimes charge. You don’t want to pull up next to them and rev the engine. I knew this, and still almost tweaked a big one who was starting to paw the ground, three feet from me, like I was waving a red flag. That was a good time to drop the camera and head up the road. Very exciting, very cool.
Back in Deadwood, David Uhl was painting his latest masterpiece, in the window of the Gold Dust Hotel and Casino, for all passing admirers to enjoy. I brought David a poster-sized version of the August issue cover we did, using his incredible piece, “An August to remember.” If you don’t know about David, he is one of a very select few Harley-Davidson-authorized artists, and he does commemorative pieces that to me, really capture the essence of “The Biker” and V-Twin motorcycling in general. He’s also a very nice guy and truly loves the world he illustrates.
We had dinner in town most nights, and I have to say that while the food was good, some places have fallen off a bit in quality. One restaurant actually didn’t open this year, and too bad because they had the best value on good steaks. Chalk it up to the lower Sturgis attendance again, but don’t misunderstand – we still had a wait most nights at most restaurants. And the bars, thankfully, were still pouring strong, for those of us who had dropped the kickstand for the last time that night.
Even if you go to the Black Hills primarily for the riding, you’ll end up in Sturgis, at least a few times. Most manufacturers displays are there, all the “4 for $25” t-shirt vendors are there, and the great Biker Super- Bars are there. You got the Full Throttle Saloon, the Broken Spoke, and my new personal favorite, One-Eyed Jack’s. We went for an hour and stayed for five. Brothers and Sisters, let me tell you, the girls are the hottest, sexiest, coolest, and most talented bartenders/dancers I’ve ever had the pleasure of lusting after. My cousin and I ended up fighting over one in particular, both us professing our love for her, openly. Sure, we made fools of ourselves, but who cares?
The place was packed with bikers, even some with their wives and girlfriends, and they were all enjoying the vibe. The girls are all decent bartenders, and indecently dressed, and when their song comes on they’ll climb up on the bar and shake what they have with reckless abandon. They have fun and make sure you do to. When you leave, you’ll buy a t-shirt just to support a good cause – what cause? Haven’t you been paying attention?
NEMO CAMPGROUNDS AND QT PARTY!
If you were looking for the road less traveled, you might have found your way to Nemo, who’s road wasn’t even paved until last year. Consequently, you have another beautiful ride through the countryside of So. Dakota, and deer literally jumping in front of your bike as you motor through. Thankfully they usually don’t jump too close – just don’t ride through there at night, or they’ll freeze in your headlight.
Our Rocky Mountain Editor, Scott May, learned this and shared both this info and this cool place called Nemo Campground, with us last year. We loved it so much we made plans for a Quick Throttle Reader Party there this year, and if you came you had some great BBQ, very cold beer and a relaxing, fun time hanging out with QT staff from CA, the Southwest, the Northwest, the Midwest and the Rockies. We’ll be there again next year, so come on out and party with us.
I want to give a special thanks to my Dad, Northwest Editor, Mike Dalgaard. He loaned me his beautiful ’03 Vintage Indian Chief for the entire week, and I sure enjoyed riding it. Despite the t-shirt he made me wear (see pic). Not only does it turn many heads, but it runs strong and handles every surface well. Pops tried to hang with me on his Heritage Springer in the curves, and actually earned much respect on Needles Hwy., but he had a new, beautiful paint job so I think that held him back. Speaking of which, my Big Dog Chopper is in paint, and coming back soon!
If you haven’t done Sturgis yet, this time you’ve got to put it at the top of your list. Remember, all things change, and not always for the best.
Don’t save too many fun times for your “bucket list.”
Photos by CD, MD, Scott May, Lori McCammon, Diana Olmstead, Abel