By T.J. and Stephanie Thompson
Photos by Stephanie Thompson
The moment we have been waiting for… on the eighth day we arrived at the biggest motorcycle rally in the world; the 78th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota! First things first, we rolled down main street to check out the crowd and the scene. The streets were already filling up with bikes and folks from all over, ready to party. As we made our way through downtown, we continued on towards Spearfish and stopped at their KFC. Starving and hungry we still had to watch our budget; we decided to share a buffet to reduce our spending. I got the buffet and Stephanie got a $1 chicken sandwich. We spent a total of $9.23 for lunch. We still had plenty of daylight left and took the opportunity to check out Deadwood and Spearfish Canyon.
The town of Deadwood is a quaint little town packed full of history that dates back to the 1800’s. Built along the mountainside, the winding streets are paved with brick and tons of shopping. Stephanie had a blowout in her boot but it wasn’t anything that zip ties could not fix for the time being. The Spearfish Canyon byway loop is close to a twenty-mile ride, full of stunning limestone cliffs and mountain streams, all viewable at an easy 35mph! We stopped along Highway 14 at the Spearfish Canyon Lodge where we were able to grab a drink and check out the vendors that they had set up outside. The lodge was log cabin atmosphere with a cool refreshing bar that was hopping with bikers. We made our way on towards Spearfish where we found a KOA. Total miles for the day: 91 miles and a total of $187.13.
Woke up with Full Throttle Saloon in our sights! Day nine we met up with our buddy John who had a campsite reserved at Full Throttle Saloon. We were directed to meet him at the side gate. This is where we all rolled in together and acted like we knew what we were doing… right past the security gate with a big smile on our face. Sometimes I think the gray in my beard lets me get away with more. Full Throttle Saloon is where we would call home for the next several nights. John helped us set up our tent and get settled in and provided us with some beverages and grilled hamburgers. Free food and free drinks… we are all about it!
The evening of drinking, haircuts, and laughing with friends quickly turned to taking shelter from the storm in the community shower house. As we peered out the shower house doors, we could see tents and pop-ups flying by as the wind picked up and the hail started even heavier. Within thirty minutes the hail stopped and the winds calmed down; this was the perfect lightning show. We made our way back over to our tent and to our surprise, our one pole tent was still standing. We didn’t cover a lot of ground this day as we only rode from Spearfish to Full Throttle Saloon for a total of 32 miles and food/gas $87.43.
After a night of rest and a nice warm shower, (the shower house at Full Throttle was super clean and nice), we grabbed breakfast at the Sturgis Brown High School. Every year, the High School students provide an “All you can eat” breakfast during the Sturgis Rally. All of the proceeds that the school raises go right back into the school for the students. Day ten, Saturday, consisted of lots of walking up and down the main strip with plenty of bikes to look at. The daily traffic count entering Sturgis was close to 60,000 this year! (sturgismotorcyclerally.com) There were merchandise and food vendors all along the strip and neighboring blocks. We walked down towards the end of the strip and ate lunch at the Burger King; which was so much cheaper than the turkey legs on the strip. We only spent $64.89 this day with a mere 21 miles on the bike.
Day eleven we packed our bags and didn’t have a clue where we would end up. Our only plan was to meet new people and see where the day would take us. There was a bike show going on at the Buffalo Chip and we decided to head that way, while we were there we ran into Dazzlin’ from Bling Devas MC. The Buffalo Chip has an awesome outside bar surrounded by vendors and live music. That evening, we ended up at Spur Meadows Campground which was 36 miles from the Buffalo Chip. This is where we called home for the next two additional nights. Thanks to our Quick Throttle family; The Big Cupp, Dazzlin’, and Sage!! We spent $77 on food and drinks. We did spend $120 on souvenirs for the kids which worked perfectly with saving on camping these last two days. Total miles were 94.
Monday morning, day twelve, Shannon cooked everyone breakfast with some amazing prime rib that was leftover from dinner the night before from the Elk Creek Steakhouse. This was a huge day, today was the Legends Ride with some of the most legendary folks that you can only dream about riding with. Not only that but there was free food and free beer after the ride, so we were all in. Total of 133 miles for the day which included the Legends Ride from the historic Franklin Hotel in Deadwood to Buffalo Chip. Total cash spent was $72.55 on lunch and fuel. Breakfast and coffee were ready by the time we woke up on day thirteen! Dazzlin’ had cooked us breakfast burritos and had coffee brewing. As we were packing up this morning… because we never stay anywhere too long; we had discovered that the pole in our one-pole tent had broken during one of the storms. Dazzlin’ had an extra tent that she insisted that we take.
While we were out on the main strip during the day we ran into our friend Lyonel from Law Tigers and he gave us VIP tickets to the flat track races that night at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City. Viewing the flat track races from the VIP seats were incredible but what was even better was viewing the races from inside the pit. Our totals for this day were 83 miles with only $42.85 spent on fuel and $61.89 for camping at Black Hills KOA.
The sweet girls from “A Quest called TriBe, M.T.” was our next host. They put us up at their fort just a few blocks down from all the action on Main Street. Day fourteen and fifteen were both filled with great memories with these ladies. Wednesday night we headed over to Full Throttle and caught the Sons of Speed Vintage Motorcycle Race and the Wall of Death. If you have not had a chance to catch one of their races; do so! The bikes are all pre-1925 1000cc V-Twin engines, such a fun time! We had the privilege of riding with the girls on the Veterans Charity Ride (VCR) along with tons of great inspiring men and women who served and we owe so much to. The ride started at The Lodge at Deadwood and took us to Nemo where we had lunch and wrapped up with a tour through the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. Our total miles for these two days totaled 173 miles and spent a total of $268.12.
This was also a huge day for us personally. Today, we passed our 2-week goal. Our original trip was 2 people, 2 wheels, 2 events, $2,000, and 2 weeks! We have officially made our 2 weeks and still counting!!!
The next day, we decided to start making our way towards Needles Highway and Mount Rushmore. We could not have come all this way and not see Mount Rushmore! Custer State park was beyond what we were told, and seeing Mount Rushmore with our own two eyes was a memory that we will never forget. Somewhere between southern South Dakota and northern Nebraska, we rode through an old Indian reservation. This little town was something out of a documentary of a third world country. The roads were dirt. The kids outside were playing barefoot. The houses were merely considered houses. The siding was torn off and windows were missing from homes, yet people lived in them.
A bit later when we pulled over to grab lunch, we could not help but think about those kids and reflect on how thankful we are to have a warm bed and a roof over our heads. We sat at the table and cried. It hurt to see those families in those conditions. Little did we know this would have a bigger effect on our future than just this day. Day sixteen ended with 472 miles in and with $234.30 for our total ending us at Norfolk, Nebraska. We decided to eat a good meal now that we were out of the rally area. Day seventeen, we stayed with my cousin, Renee in Kansas City. She treated us to dinner and showed us a bit of her town. We even got to visit the Liberty Tower at the WWI memorial, such a unique place! The total miles on this day was 342 and $173.90 for food.
Day eighteen was our last day on the road. To end our Shoestring Budget Road Trip; we made it home with only 260 miles and $39.85 for fuel and a quick snack for the road. Making it home was bitter sweet. We missed our kids and our home but also missed all of our new found friends. We looked back and were so thankful for all the people who took us in, who fed us, who welcomed us to their own… with that, we were under budget! We found a preemie baby in our hometown and the young new family needed an extra hand. We had $200 and some change left from our budget and thought it was the right thing to do. Paying it Forward to them was what our hearts needed! Riding through that Indian reservation on day fifteen was not on our route but we decided to take some back roads and see where we ended up. Not only did it change our hearts that day but it has changed our future. I would like to say, this is the end of our Shoestring Budget Road Trip, but it is only the beginning. You can follow along with our journeys on our website www.theorneryone.com and Facebook/Instagram. We can’t wait to share our next adventures with you. Thank you again for being part of our story.
Total trip miles: 4,049
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