More Than Bikers, Babes and Beer
Story by Ray Seidel, photos by Ray Seidel and courtesy of the Buffalo Chip
Well, I’ve never been to Sturgis and wanted to find out what it’s all about, so this year I made the trip. Of course I’ve seen bits here and there on TV, but I was in for a big surprise when I actually arrived. I was late getting started, waiting for some mailorder travel gear that never arrived on time, so piled travel bags on each of my saddle bags, plus a back pack, and a tent and sleeping bag since I’d be camping for a week at the Buffalo Chip, and rode off. Wanting to make up some time I skipped any scenic route going up to Sturgis and took the magic carpet ride from Riverside, CA up I-15 to Salt Lake City, east across the bottom of Wyoming on I-80 (boring), then up the east side of WY on State 85 (slightly less boring). Lots of farm land in WY. Lots of Ethanol in the gasoline I was buying. At the NE end of the 85 in WY the road goes through Deadwood and into Sturgis via State 14A. Important note if going to the Buffalo Chip from the WEST: going east on the 34 from Sturgis will take you right there. I’d take that road even if coming from the east, just to avoid the unpaved dirt road off exit 37. Though it’s a shortcut, can be hard on your bike. Everything I needed to know about staying in Sturgis I found out AFTER I got there. Unexpected was WEATHER! Yep, and plenty of it. Now, I packed for everything…rain gear, heavy leather jacket, as well as light clothing. I did not expect heat, humidity; rain ALMOST every day, and winds. Winds on day #2 snapped my tent like a twig. As it happens, if you stay at the Buffalo Chip, they stock just about everything under the sun you might need, including a new (albeit small) tent. And camping at the Chip certainly has its advantages. From 2:00pm to 2:00am this is where the action is, including the top talent for the week. When you’re done for the day, it’s pretty convenient to walk a few minutes over to your bed rather than do a commute to lodging elsewhere. Also, showers and laundry can be done there. I was really scratching my head over that one, but worked out just fine. There are free showers available, but I tried the “pay” showers first ($8 for all day), largely because it was close to where I pitched my tent. No line, always hot water, SUPER clean. Private showers with a small sit down bench, hooks on the wall, and plenty of sinks w/ mirrors to shave and whatnot. You can buy a week pass and save some coin. Next to the pay showers there is pick up laundry service, $27 a load, comes back the following day. I tried that too, recommended. MAPS. You’ll need maps. Luckily all the maps you’ll need will be free at the Buffalo Chip, plus motorcycle dealers around Sturgis will have some. The Chip has food aplenty, and of all sorts. You won’t starve.
Sturgis Buffalo Chip Events
Motorcycles as Art. Over 30 masters of the motorcycle industry accepted the challenge to build a bike befitting the tattoo inspired theme for the exhibit. Each of these rolling metal sculptures had theater lights focused on them as they were displayed atop elevated pedestals to better give guests an open view from every angle. Ran all week.
Mon. Aug 8 – Buffalo Chip’s Legend’s Ride
starting in Deadwood. For almost a decade the Legends ride has brought together rally goers with stars from TV and movies, which this year included John Paul DeJoria, Tom Berenger, Carmine Cangialosi, Keith David, Josh Owens, Corey Ness, Zach Ness, Carey Hart, Roland Sands and more. Since 2008 it has raised over $420,000 for charity. A fully customized Victory Cross Country and a 2015 Indian Chief Classic were auctioned off. And, all registered riders got a FREE pair of Wrangler jeans. This year it raised $30,000 for the Special Olympics and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame.
Tues. Aug. 9 – Buffalo Chip’s Biker Belles
This was the 8th annual Sturgis Buffalo Chip’s Biker Belles event. Largely created to raise awareness of women in motorcycling, it also raises funds for worthy charities. Riders met at the Chip’s CrossRoads for a scenic ride through the Black Hills, plus food and fun, open to both men and women. Said program organizer Toni Woodruff “When we created the Biker Belles ride in 2009 we hoped it would change people’s lives for the better. It’s amazing to see nearly a decade later how much it truly has.
Wed. Aug 10 – MOTO STAMPEDE – Flat Track Races Presented by Indian Motorcycle
This was the inaugural year of the Buffalo Chips new dirt track, right in front of the Wolfman Jack stage inside the amphitheater. This was a bit different for the racers as while turns are USUALLY left only, this time there was a right turn to avoid a building. It was ALMOST a mud track because of light showers during the day, but work crews got out and worked it over, and with a little moister in the dirt (rather than dust) the track was actually faster. All manner of bikes took to the track, with Indian’s long awaited return to racing. Even a chopper had a go at it. Classes included Vintage, Hand-shifter, Pro, Hooligan, and Run What Ya Brung.
The Sporty is Harley’s most versatile bike, and easy to handle. (I know, I’ve owned one myself). It’s also easy to customize and will not break the bank. To show just what can be done to the Sportster, the Buffalo Chip had a great bike show in the free access area at the CrossRoads in front of the Chip’s big engine bar, with awards for best chopper, tracker, vintage, and café customs. The other half was the after party at Bikini Beach, with music, beer, and tons o’ fun.
Easyriders Magazine bike show at the CrossRoads and original art created by David Mann for the pages of the magazine were auctioned. Entry was free and classes included Best Old School, Modified Stock, Custom Bagger, Street Custom, Radical Custom, Editor’s Choice, and Best of Show.
This was the 3rd annual Freedom Celebration Ride benefiting wounded vets and their families. 100% of the ride donations went to Warrior Dog Foundation, Combat Wounded Coalition, and America’s Mighty Warriors. Ride departed Spearfish Main Street for the Buffalo Chip’s CrossRoads for a catered reception and meet and greet. That evening there were the Hanson Distinguished Service Awards at the Wolfman Jack Main Stage followed by a concert performance by Miranda Lambert. Bob Hanson, 95 years old, was there in his WWII Army Cavalry uniform to help with the celebration.
At the CrossRoads was another bike show – perhaps a Masterpiece, maybe not so much, but everything interesting to look at. The best bikes in the world show up, and this was the 27th annual Rat’s Hole Show on the Chip’s 35th anniversary. Personally, these are the BEST looking bikes I have ever seen.
Buffalo Chip concerts. Okay, here’s the talent that appeared. Note, if you don’t care for what’s at any particular stage, there are a number of others with something very different going on. You can easily find a list of times and days.
- Aug 5 – Willie Nelson • Drake White and the Big Fire • Jimmie Bratcher
- Aug 6 – 3 Doors Down • ONE – The Only Tribute to Metallica • Midnight Mob
- Aug 7 – Kid Rock • Leon Russell • Tim Montana and the Shrednecks
- Aug 8 – Lynyrd Skynyrd • Elle King Mothership
- Aug 9 – Cheap Trick • Texas Hippie Coalition • The Grizzled Mighty
- Aug 10 – Five Finger Death Punch • Reverend Horton Heat • Low Volts
- Aug 11 – Miranda Lambert • RATT • Stolen Rhodes
- Aug 12 – Buckcherry • Pop Evil • Sweet Cyanide
- Aug 13 – “Weird Al” Yankovic • Reformed Whores • The Flaunt Girls
Weird Al said he did some homework before coming to The Chip, and just what is it bikers want to hear most? POLKA MUSIC! Thus began a string of his parodies. Buckcherry looked like it might be canceled due to rain (and I was sure soaked) but there was a break and the show went on. Lynyrd Skynyrd put on a great patriotic performance, dedicated to our military, vets, and first responders.
Attendance was down from the 75th anniversary of last year, but sill busy enough. Though some spots were charging for parking, there was plenty of free parking on Main St. and cross streets. I parked my Gilroy era Indian at the Indian demo area, which got some curious looks. Of course Indian had on display the new 2017 models, and what caught my eye was the explosion of new paint schemes for the year. I was a bit crestfallen at the dearth of colors in the 2015 lineup, but they made up for it 2016. On display was the Spirit of Munro land speed racer. Also one could see the new Indian FTR 750 racer, an all-new, ground up race bike powered by a proprietary liquid cooled V-Twin engine that will hit the circuit next year.
Over at the Victory area a demo was put on to show the low speed handling of these bikes, this particular one dressed up as a police bike. The claim is the low center of gravity makes these really easy to handle, especially at low speeds. To demonstrate this it was pointed out you do NOT use your front brakes at low speed to make a turn – you can very well lose control and go down, rather you use the REAR brake and little or no throttle. Just going at idle speed the rider switched from using the handlebars to the mirrors only, turning until touching the floorboards, then down to the crashbars. But wait! The Victory is not on its side, it’s resting on the swept wing crashbar. He remarks it took a hundred years to figure this design out?
Over at the Harley area there was a display of their bikes (replicas) used in TV (SONS OF ANARCHY) and motion pictures (Captain America). Also THE WALL OF DEATH with regular shows through the day.
Something different: Being in South Dakota, one of the vendors was promoting the submarine USS SOUTH DAKOTA. Will launch in 2018, and missiles can reach any target anywhere in the world!
STURGIS MOTORCYCLE MUSEUM & HALL OF FAME.
Though not overly large, the bikes they had were excellent examples of motorcycling history. By that I mean the collection of British, Japanese, American bikes were noted milestones. One bike that caught my eye was a 1999 Excelsior-Henderson motorcycle. As with Indian motorcycle during the same period, it was undercapitalized, and would fold in two years, five for Indian. Reviews of the bike put fit & finish above the other two American bikes, and overall a high rating. Less than 2000 made, so pretty scarce outside the museum. It may not be well known to outsiders, but about the best BBQ in Sturgis is found at a seemingly very unlikely place. While most people were buying from the carpetbagger vendors, those in the know stopped in at “TOWN – n – COUNTRY PLUMBING.” Yes, that’s right, a plumbing store since 1986, BUT with the BEST BBQ big roast beef, pulled pork sandwiches ($6), plus Indian tacos ($9). And, they serve ice cream. Yum! Myself, I stopped for dessert at “Weimer’s Diner & Donuts,” there for 76 years. Pies are made right there, and I prefer to support the locals.
Getting around Sturgis for sight seeing
While in Sturgis you’ll probably have time to do some sight-seeing. My “neighbors” at the Buffalo Chip campsite came out on their pair of 883 Sportsters from KY. They rode out to the “BADLANDS” which took most of a day. Another destination for a day trip is DEVIL’S TOWER. Only $5 for motorcycles. Note if you have a tiny 3 gallon gas tank, don’t push your luck – there’s only one brand X filling station nearby coming in from the north. Again, action at the Chip is from about 2pm to 2am, so don’t think you’re going to miss anything.
Wrapping it up
Lastly, there are a number of route options to and from Sturgis that have jaw dropping scenery and vistas. Highways 16 and 20 in WY are a good choice, but check you maps for what may appeal to you. I met lots of interesting people on the road. In just one stop pulling into a motel I encountered 25 Kiwis on a tour group from New Zealand with rented Harleys and Indians. Another couple at the same motel were here from South Africa, touring the USA for several weeks. All they carried with them were in the bikes saddlebags and rear luggage trunk; they knew how to travel lean. So, plan on making new friends, see the sights, enjoy the rides and entertainment, and we’ll see you there next year!