A Sturgis Pay It Forward

By T.J. and Stephanie Thompson

At the beginning of each year we plan our riding schedule that includes rallies, meet n’ greets, poker runs and our Pay It Forward events. We thought this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally would be the perfect place to help a fellow biker and complete our Pay It Forward experience.

Months before the event, Stephanie and I posted to our social media and website that we were taking nominations for the Sturgis Pay It Forward. Stories started to flood our email inbox shortly after it was announced. After reading several recountments of families and individuals with heartache and troubled situations, there was one story that really stood out to us, a nomination that was actually submitted on her friend’s behalf. We wanted to know more about her history.

Tia Van Pelt’s Story 

Tia Van Pelt had learned about our Pay It Forward event online and quickly knew she needed to write to us. She wanted to nominate her friend. A friend that had helped her during a very difficult time just last year. You see, Tia lost her husband, Tom, on Mother’s Day 2018 in a tragic motorcycle accident. We were so thankful to hear the story of Tia’s friend. A friend that was so selfless and made herself available to Tia and their children.

Tia explained: “Marcy has been an amazing support and friend since I lost my husband in a motorcycle accident last year. She has been here for me every day and asks for nothing in return. She has an amazing kind heart and huge passion for helping others… Tia”

It warms our hearts to know that there are individuals in this world that step up and ask for nothing in return. Stephanie and I have seen this first-hand so many times within the motorcycle community.

There was something about Tia that pulled on our hearts and also our desire to know more about her own situation.

This is what Tia said: “Tom and I LOVE Sturgis! It was our vacation and yearly getaway. We were able to spend time together and see friends from all over the country as well as make new ones. We have been attending the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally together since 2003; he also attended a few before we met. It was always his dream to live in the Black Hills, near Sturgis was even better.

We were married August 4th, 2007 in Mitchell then headed to Sturgis to celebrate with friends. Memories were made that year!

Tom was an amazing father. He has two daughters from his first marriage; Aliyah is twenty-two and a new mom of Alma, and Hannah is twenty and attending college at Black Hills State University in Spearfish. I am extremely lucky that I am able to co-parent with their mom. They are great kids and their dad would be proud. We have two children together Tessa is thirteen and Levi is nine. Tom instilled such great values in both of them and taught them so much in their short lives. Our kids attend school in Piedmont which is part of Meade County (Sturgis).

We moved to the Sturgis area in December of 2014, found our dream home and loved our cabin in the woods and laid-back life. We made amazing friends who are more like family. After I lost Tom I could not imagine being anywhere else; this is our home and this is where we were happiest. This is also why I chose to lay him to rest in Sturgis. He has a great view of Sturgis and is always here for the party.

As for me, this is home; this is where I’m happy and where my kids are happy. I couldn’t imagine raising them anywhere else. We have found such great support, help, love, and friends here. I love helping others and doing what I can for them. I struggle some days but I have so much to keep me going and so much to be thankful for, which I am.”

Tia and Tom loved Sturgis. They loved the atmosphere and the motorcycle community, and the thrill of meeting like-minded riders and enthusiasts. What better way to celebrate a Pay It Forward in Sturgis than to celebrate Tom’s life and love for the area!

We moved ahead with our Pay It Forward by setting a date and locations during the rally. We planned on August 8th, 2019 at the Law Tigers tent right outside of the

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame. Our event was to take place from 4pm-6pm. It allowed time to gather and mingle before we handed over Tia the Pay It Forward collection.

Months prior to the Sturgis rally, Stephanie and I sold our Ornery One shirts along with accepting tax-deductible donations for Tia and the children. We were so excited to share that Custom Dynamics, Denney’s Harley-Davidson in Springfield Missouri, RickRak, and Sena also contributed towards Tia. Quick Throttle Magazine donated space to run our Sturgis flyer and Law Tigers provided the location to hold the event. On this day, we were able to raise more funds and hand her over a little Pay It Forward. We had several individuals that follow our story and adventures online who contributed as well. We appreciate everyone that helped make this event so grand and memorable.

The rest of  Sturgis 2019

Attending such a large event like Sturgis can be overwhelming and costly for first-timers. We are going to break down some of the most expensive items and give you a better look at how to plan for such a long stay of riding, activities, attractions and entertainment!

We headed out of Arkansas on Tuesday, July 30th in order to meet up with some other riders along Interstate 90, right outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We traveled west to attend the Pre-Sturgis Party on August 1st in Mitchell, South Dakota. The pre-party is hosted by Klock Werks and is planned to be an annual event for Mitchell and the Corn Palace. If you can catch the pre-party, it is definitely worth going! It had music, stunts, food, vendors, and the perfect atmosphere. We then rode on into Sturgis on August 2nd. This is where we would call ‘home’ for the next week and a half.

The month kicked off with ten days of pure adrenaline for any motorcycle enthusiast and we were there for all of the action! It does not matter which highway or interstate you travel on in South Dakota, you can hear the rumble of motorcycles all around. The event is annual and is usually held for an entire week at the beginning of August.

Affordable Lodging

The Rally is so spread out that we took advantage of staying away from the main town of Sturgis. Mainly for the cost-benefit but also for some shut-eye. Some of the surrounding towns include; Spearfish, Deadwood, Piedmont, Rapid City, Belle Fourche, and more. The hotel lodging options are unlimited but be sure to plan ahead and reserve your room in advance. Some prices will increase closer to the date of the event. If you would rather camp and have that authentic rally experience during your stay, you have even more options. Just to name a few: Full Throttle Saloon and Pappy Hoel Campground, Glencoe Camp Resort, Creekside Campground, Iron Horse Campground, Chris’s Campground, Steel Pony and several more. Keep in mind that several of these campgrounds offer deals for you to get the most bang for your buck. The longer you stay the better the deal. Another tip that we have learned in the past, get all of your buddies together and just pile in a room.

We were able to stay the entire ten days but we know several people that came for just a few. If this is you, no need to worry! There are several lodging options for just a weekend package or a three-day pass.

This year, we stayed at the Mineral Palace in Deadwood. The hotel is a little dated but holds so much history and contemporary accommodations. In our opinion, we would so much rather stay out of downtown Sturgis because of the crowds and noise. Deadwood has shopping and bars as well as some amazing food. Mineral Palace also offers secure parking that is extremely convenient.

The Rides

The traffic in and around Sturgis increases as early as two weeks before the official start date of the rally and will usually continue for as late as two weeks after the rally’s end date. This is because a lot of riders come before and after the actual event to ride the Black Hills. Some of our favorite rides that we try and explore every year are: Custer State Park, Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, and Badlands.

Sights And Attractions 

Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood is the resting place for several wild west legends including Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. We take advantage of these attractions that are free or have a very low attendance cost. The Mt. Moriah Cemetery is only $1 admission. We have not explored the Mining Museum of the Black Hills but it is on our to-do list. The museum is in Lead and is only a $5 admission fee. The Motorcycles As Art Exhibit is an awesome event that is completely free and open to the public. The exhibit is curated by Michael Lichter and has a different theme each year.

Food And Entertainment

Where do we even start? If you want to catch some live music you will not have to go very far! Concerts will be going on throughout the Sturgis Rally and in almost every bar and campground.

We try and limit the amount of food that we buy on the main street of the rally. There are several restaurants around town that offer great food at affordable prices. Are you from the South or love sweet tea? Jambonz Grill and Pub in downtown Sturgis will be the only place to find sweet tea! If you are looking for a cheap cold beer, the VFW is your place. Also, we go to the grocery store to buy water and a few essentials such as breakfast bars or small snacks that will fit in our saddlebag.

Be Prepared

Do not forget to pack sunscreen for sure! Rain gear is also a must because the weather in Sturgis is very unpredictable. There is too much beauty not to snap a few pictures, so make sure you have a camera or your phone to record.

The jam packed outrageous party will continue! The 80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will be August 7th-16th, 2020!

Paying It Forward has been one of our signature events and has a very special place in our hearts. If you are not familiar with our Pay It Forward events or our back story, we encourage you to check out our website, YouTube channel and our social media to learn more. Check out our YouTube channel The Ornery One to see all of our travels, other Pay It Forwards & even when we had our bike stolen this year at Daytona Bike Week in Florida!