The biggest bike rally in America
By Perry and Traci, Photos by Rusty Childress
To say this years 75th annual Sturgis rally was bigger than last year’s would be an understatement. “Under” by about 300,000 from last year. This years rally had huge crowds, and long lines. But there were ways to get around the crowds and big lines. Traci and I arrived, late Saturday night early Sunday morning (3-4am) the weekend before the Rally officially started. We came in through downtown, on Lazelle st, and the streets were empty. We did notice Lazelle Street was full with Vendors, on both sides of the road. When we got, just out of town, to our Campground (Lamphere) we noticed the camping spots we had for the past few years were full. Soooo; looks like we are going to get our exercise, about a 1/2mile walk or bike-ride to the showers…
Traci and I both lost a few pounds on our Sturgis trip this year partially because of the long walk to the Campground store and showers and partially because of the long walks to where we parked our bike/or trike to whatever event we were attending. Whether it was in town or at a campground event, traffic was gridlock. A 2-mile drive between 8am and11am; from Buffalo Chip, Glencoe, or Lamphere campgrounds to Main Street Sturgis would take an hour to an hour and a half. I’m not sure if you did the math but FYI: that’s less than 2 miles an hour.The solution; Leave early! Between 6-7am, or wait ‘til afternoon. After a couple times of suffering leg burns, frozen clutch hand syndrome, and watching your fellow bikers overheat it’s kind of a no brainer. We did find a dirt road that cut some time off the slow ride to town but you still had to sit in gridlock for a half hour to get to the dirt road… Heading to downtown it’s best to leave early of wait it out. Another choice was to skip Downtown Sturgis and head to Buffalo Chip Campground a mini Sturgis rally in itself; or head 6-miles further opposite of town and hit the Broken Spoke Campground, another mini Sturgis rally. Both Buffalo Chip and Broken Spoke had huge stages set up for big name bands, as did Easyrider, downtown Sturgis, and Full Throttle Saloon(FTS) across the street from our campground.
From the time when motorcycle enthusiasts enter the Sturgis rally to the day they leave they have to make choices on what to do; which bands to see, which events to hit, and what runs to go on etc. It can be a little overwhelming because if you are like us you will want to do everything, but you can’t. Best thing we do when we get there is check in with the Sturgis Community Center and grab a magazine, there are always several to choose from, they contain lists of events throughout bikeweek. Check everything out, pick what you wanna do, and add an hour drive time to everything, the way it was this year you may need to add 2 hours.
For us: 1) Sunday: The Industry Party at The Buffalo Chip, The Michael Lichter (Photographer) Photo Art and Builders Bike Show. 2) Monday: Legends Ride (To benefit Special Olympics) Party and run from Deadwood to Sturgis. 3) Tues: Antique Bike Racing w/ vintage Indian rider Brittney. 4) Wednesday: Tattoo Day @ the Tattoo Cellar with a family and son (with Lou Gehrig’s disease) each getting a Sturgis 75 tattoo. 5) Thursday kicked back, did a lotta nothing but hanging out, talking to our neighbors, and enjoying life. We all need one of these days in Sturgis. 6) Friday: Rapid City for a camera battery charger then Spearfish for the local Walmart AKA “Wally World”. FTS for the “Tech Nine” show. 7) Saturday: Broken Spoke drive through Bar with my SonyaTrike (Trike I built for our disabled Daughter Sonya), Hit the Easyrider for a little dancing, then Adelitas Way Band & WAR at the Buffalo Chip.
Industry Party and Naked Truth at the Buffalo Chip:
A who’s who of the motorcycle industry party. From 91 y.o. Gloria Struck Tramontin, or should I say 91 years young female rider, that rode to Sturgis, and is a original member of the Motor Maids to 21 y.o. Brittney Olsen the youngest female antique bike racer that was showing her restored 1938 Indian Sport Scout with her husband Matt and their 14 month old baby. The same restored 1938 Indian motorcycle that she would race later that week. John Shope and Paul Yaffe were part of a 2- bike give away to help student building. John Shope (DirtyBird), being John Shope, did a burn out that didn’t create any smoke but left a gooey mark on the rubber flooring that was dripping gooo off the back tire of his modified Indian, it was pretty funny. Roland Sands was there with a couple of his modified Indian motorcycles. Next to the Industry party was photographer Michael Lichter, the “David Mann of photography”, who presented a show called Naked Truth: 35 Customs,35years,Motorcycles Exposed. Both parties joined. The Industry party with Bike builders from all over the country showing off their beautiful creations. Bike builders in attendance were: Billy Lane, Brian Klock, Brian Fuller, Jim Nazi, Ken Nagai, Paul Cox, Shinya Kimura, Paul Yaffe, John Shope and many more. All surrounded by photographic artwork by Michael Lichter.
Legends Ride (To benefit Special Olympics)
Starting in Deadwood The Legend Run; for Traci and me, our favorite event of the rally. This huge event benefits The Special Olympics. We rode our “Sonya Trike” to this event, a trike we built for our disabled Daughter Sonya and also to raise awareness to special needs kids and the Special Olympics. Manny (event boss) from The Buffalo Chip saw us coming and hooked us up with a spot in front next to the new Special Olympics Van that was donated last year paid for from money generated from this event. The Stars always come out for this event ; Woody (owner of the Buffalo Chip) was the front man, Sponsors: Kuryakyn Products president Holger Mohr, Co founder of Paul Mitchell; John Paul De Joria, Zack,Cory and Arlen Ness, Dawn and Scot Pollard and Michael Lichter. TV stars Josh Owens from the TV show Moonshiners, and Kristy Swanson from TV’s Buffy the Vampire (and one of our covers), Artist David Uhl ( a bunch of our covers) Dee Snyder (Twisted Sister and house of hair), with builders Shope and Yaffe on hand…and another student bike build from Sturgis Brown High School was auctioned off….. But by far our favorite moment was when we had a few Special kids guard our Sonya Trike, they really took it seriously and Josh (Moonshiners) and Jack Lynass (Black Hills Special Olympic President) didn’t miss a beat, really loved the kids, and jumped right in with them for pictures and Josh even jumped into their van with them and really made the Kids feel…you know…. special.. This was one of many truly heartwarming moments at this years Sturgis Rally. The run was beautiful. Ending at The Buffalo Chip and a Concert with Kid Rock. The Legend Run has raised over $240,000 in it’s first 4 years of operation.
Antique Bike Racing w/ vintage Indian rider Brittney.
On our 3rd day in Sturgis we could kick back a little…after stocking up our supplies at camp we decided to check out the Antique bike races. Racing 90 year old bikes?, I gotta see this. This is where we saw Brittney again, Traci recognized her and her husband at the Industry party from last year’s industry party; at that time, last year, their baby was a newborn. Here’s a small piece by Traci: “ 21yo Brittney had a love for vintage motorcycles in her teens. She became interested in building a 1919 Excelsior Big Valve and with sketches in hand attended the Great Plains AMCA (Antique Motorcycle Club of America) in her hometown of Sioux Falls. It is there she met Matt, her husband, who restores antique and vintage motorcycles. Together they rebuilt their 1938 Sport Scout Indian Motorcycle they displayed at the Buffalo Chip Industrial Party, they had their 14 month old son with them. We actually met the Olsen family at last years Industry Party, but this time we were able to watch Brittney race several Indians including her Sport Scout at the Sturgis Vintage Motorcycle Races. We met up with Rick Petko, fabricator for OCC was working with a vintage HD team.” Note to readers: these bikes have no brakes, no clutch, no transmission, and most take a good push to start. There was a crazy fury of racers getting their bikes ready to race and onto the track, but once they were off it was amazing seeing these motorcycles fly with speed and grace!!! and then fly by trying to stop when the race was over. It was a blast and definitely one of our highlights of the rally.” We did have to keep on our toes in the pit area because the bikes that came off the track really didn’t have any brakes…The vintage HD team had a 1950 Panhead and in 1950 they were all hard-tail with spring seats. To start their Panhead they used what looked like a car battery and a starter that you could carry like a small suitcase it had a shaft sticking out of it that actually plugged into the crankcase to start the bike then they take it out and the bike is started ready to race…the whole experience was very surreal like we were in some kind of time capsule. Too fun.
Tattoo Day @ the Tattoo Cellar
Traci and I got our Tattoos done and emotions were high, Tattoo John from 81 Maryland did my Tattoo and Glen did Traci’s. As we were waiting for our artists I met a guy in a Wheel chair, I’m gonna call him Eric. Eric had his 76 y.o. father, mother and sister with him, they were all checking out tattoos. That’s when Eric told me he had Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), a terminal illness, and that he had about 5 more years to live. I was floored. “Why are you here?” I asked. Eric answered: “it was on my bucket list to go to Sturgis and get a Sturgis Tattoo, and when I told my mom and Dad, and they said they wanted to go and get one too, then my sister came along”. I said…”All four of you?” Eric said; “yes we are all 4 getting a 75th Anniversary Sturgis Tattoo”. Eric’s father mother and sister have never had tattoos before…Eric showed me pictures of him from last year and he looked healthy. I can’t imagine what they are going through, but I could definitely feel the love that Wednesday morning in Sturgis South Dakota, and I was not alone, word spread in that small tattoo shop and Eric and his family were true celebrities. When they were all tattooed I wanted to get a picture of them together and Tattoo John and Glen offered to take the bandages off the new tattoos and rebandage to get a better picture…I don’t know that much about Lou Gehrig’s Disease(ALS) but I do know that Eric is one of my Heroes who I will never forget. It is my opinion that a higher power touched everybody in that tattoo shop that day. We were truly not prepared for that much emotion in the Tattoo Cellar that Wednesday in Sturgis South Dakota.
Kick backed did nothing on Thursday. Everyone needs a day in Sturgis to do nothing, listen to the rumbling of motorcycles… in the words Elmer Fudd: “west and wewaxation at wast.”
Rapid City, Spearfish, FTS for the “Tech Nine” show
Rapid City HD; If you are not planning on spending the day here then keep riding. Traci said lets stop by the Rapid City HD Dealership on our way to Rapid City. It had to be noon and as soon as we exited the freeway we were dead stopped in a traffic Jam…the way they (parking attendants) direct you into the event you are sent to the very back 1/2mile Northwest of the event and only one way out… the same way you came in… another one of those clutch “hand breakers” ugh 1hour later averaging 1-2mph we were back out the same way we came in. it was horrible. Like I said If you are going to spend the day fine, If you want to pick up a part from the HD Dealership forget about it…you are gonna sit in traffic for an hour. We went to the Walmart in Spearfish, 40 miles the other direction, just to cool off. That night (Friday) we saw a band called Tech Nine. Its been a while since I saw a band with that much bass, I would say The Cure in 1990 to be exact, I swear the ground shook, a lot of younger folks, high energy. I just couldn’t get past the Rap Band at Sturgis thing. There was a fight in the crowd that was interesting…some celebritie’s personal bouncer was pushing some kid around… a little upsetting. But hey it’s a Rap Band at Sturgis.
Saturday: Broken Spoke, Easyrider, Adelitas Way Band & WAR We hit the Broken Spoke Campground, cool pool, and a drive-through Bar… had to do it with the Trike. We got yelled at for revving up the motor, really?. When we hit Easyrider all hell broke loose. It was raining but we made it back to camp before the lightning and Hail storm hit. We weathered the storm. We decided earlier in the week that we wanted to stay for the band WAR at the BuffaloChip.
We headed up and found out when we got to the concert that thousands of people had already left for home…It was a heck of a storm and a lotta folks just didn’t stick it out…the Lead singer of the band that played before WAR (Adelitas Way) was pretty upset at the low turnout, only like 500 people, and told the crowd: “we are going to kick ass and I want all of you to tell the people that left early that they really missed out” He said a couple other things that I’m not going to repeat. We knew right then that we were going to see a really special concert…I was not familiar with Adelitas Way Band but I wanna buy their album now… they were great people were dancing and bikes that were left were revving up… Then came WAR The straight up coolest set of old funky jazz rockers I Have ever seen The lead singer got very personal with the audience and handed a few people the mike and…. nobody new the words…he’s like ok ok give me the mike back. Ok just for the record Cisco Kid : the second line is: “He drank whiskey Poncho drank the wine” , and another song is: “Spill the wine take that pearl”. And their most famous song “Lowrider” had the whole place singing. In between the bands Miss Buffalo Chip was chosen, Doug Danger was there too the guy that broke Evil Knievel’s jump record, Using Evil’s Original Harley he used to attempt the jump years ago.
All in all this years rally was packed, but nothing that couldn’t be managed we wouldn’t miss Sturgis 2016 for the world…