“If you don’t have fun it’s your own damn fault”
Story by Geri Cidot; Photos-GC & as noted*
That was the message another solo female rider I met at Sturgis received in response to her text to a friend the morning after arriving. When the surrealism of being at this huge event alone was overwhelming, she starting crying at breakfast. When she was sharing with me about her private “girl” moment I could instantly relate. Although I have been riding cross county solo since I got my motorcycle license two years ago the Sturgis Rally is in a category all of its own. When I arrived in Keystone Saturday night soaking wet from rain, the reality of where I was still did not kick in. It wasn’t until the next day when I rode into the town of Sturgis walking the streets, the thought hit me like a ton of bricks, “Holy crap, I really am at THE Sturgis Rally….ALONE!” In one bundle of emotions I felt excited, overwhelmed, anxious and for once in my life a little scared. This was followed by my next thought of “Who the hell do I think I am?” I very well may have left the event after that thought but my promise to Randy Twells and Quick Throttle kept me focused on the ton of events and agenda I needed to cover. For that, I am thankful because my next week was an experience I would never trade anything for and would relive it a thousand times over– even the moments of rain and hail. I had the unique opportunity to experience Sturgis in its totality and although the entire rally may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there is something there for all. I pondered how I would write this article to give this Rally the glory it deserves so I decided to break it up into sections to clearly justify why I believe that statement told to my friend was the perfect way to describe the Sturgis Rally.
Group Rides and Charity Events. Let me start by saying hats off to the Buffalo Chip for all the charity rides they help organize and support. I knew the Buffalo Chip was a huge part of Sturgis Rally but not the full extent was I aware. I would also like to take this moment to recognize Nyla Griffith who seems to be in the center of all the hustle and bustle of every event coordinating the celebrities, media, press and patrons. Seeing all she did had me in amazement and a big Thank You is due for all her hard work.
Carey Hart’s Good Ride. The freestyle motocross legend and RCH Factory Suzuki race team owner led the inaugural Good Ride that benefited the Sturgis Brown High School welding class. This was close to my heart because not only am I a USW union steward but also my son welds. The beautiful welded artwork on display at the ride starting point of the Indian Dealership in Sturgis was over the top amazing. These students have unbelievable talent and the money raised helps fund the education and supplies needed to support the future of the trade. Carey was out with everyone taking pictures and freely speaking to all. From the dealership we went on a ride through the Black Hills and ended in Belle Fourche for lunch. The registered riders were given a swag bag with items from Indian motorcycle and of course ride T-Shirts. This event is planned to become annual and if you want to meet and speak to Carey Hart or support this cause I encourage you to sign up if you are at the Rally next year.
Legends Ride. This is the Buffalo Chip’s ninth annual year for this ride that starts in Deadwood on historic Main Street and kicks off with auctions including custom motorcycles built by Rusty Jones and John Shope. This ride is known to bring out top celebrities all for a good cause. This year was no different with a huge line up of celebrities including actor Tom Berenger; Writer/Director/Producer/Actor Carmine Cangialosi; Entrepreneur & Philanthropist John Paul DeJoria; Freestyle Motocross Rider Carey Hart; The Arlen Ness Enterprises entire generation was there including Cory and Zach Ness; Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners Josh Owens and of course Sturgis Buffalo Chip’s own Rod Woodruff. On top of all of that throw in some bikini models and free Red Bull and you have a classic event you can’t miss. This year the money was raised for Special Olympics. The best feeling I had was when the bikes all turned on their motors, and rolled out one by one passing the kids, for whom the monies were raised, cheering and clapping. As I rode by I gave them hand slaps and fist bumps. The honor and joy in their faces gave me a warm feeling. I would sign up for this event again to just do that one moment. The self-guided ride takes you through the Black Hills and back to the Buffalo Chip where you have more festivities, food and drinks.
Biker Belles. This ride celebrates women riders while supporting organizations benefiting women’s causes. This year it started at the Buffalo Chip and ended at The Lodge at Deadwood with a fabulous lunch. As if riding with a group of powerful female riders through the Black Hills isn’t inspirational enough they had female icons attending and speaking that included BMW Motorrad’s Sarah Schilke, moto-journalist and Iron Lilies cofounder Leticia Cline, Perewitz Cycle Fab’s and the first woman to go over 200 MPH on a V-Twin Jody Perewitz, and Klock Werks’ Karlee Cobb. Also on the scene was Gloria Struck, original Motor Maid & one of the pioneering women in motorcycling, along with Laura Klock. At the Lodge, Team Diva pampered the Biker Belles at the Comfort Zone and there were auctions for items to help raise more funds. All the female riders had their own unique story and all are inspirational and incredible. I was honored to have had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with two ladies from the ride, whom I can say are my very good friends now. This ride was the catalyst that kicked off my most memorable moments of Sturgis Rally.
Freedom Celebration Ride. This ride honors the past and present members of our military and the Chip dedicates an entire day to recognize these brave men and women. The event starts in Spearfish with live music from SGT ROCK. This is a US Military rock n roll band from South Dakota that knows how entertain! The speakers and performers moved me to tears on the stage in Spearfish. Although it was over 80 degrees outside I literally had goose bumps. Of all the charity rides I attended to me this was the most emotionally driven event. As we rode from Spearfish to the Buffalo Chip it started raining very heavily at times. Not one person stopped or pulled over due to rain. I am quite certain that their thoughts were the same as mine, this is the LEAST I can do for these men and women who fight for our country and I would ride in the rain all day everyday to honor their service.
Events. This year the Buffalo Chip had Motorcycles as Art Exhibit “Skin and Bones” created by Michael Lichter. This exhibit celebrated Motorcycles, Tattoos and Rock n Roll by inviting over 30 masters of the motorcycle industry take the challenge to build a motorcycle masterpiece that celebrates the theme. It was awesome to read what inspired the creative builds that were demonstrated at the event. Ranging from songs to movies to iconic images. If you were at the Chip but missed this or perhaps did not go to the Rally this year, look up even more images captured of these masterpieces.
Another must-see event is the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club Hill Climb event. For those of you who may not know, “Pappy Hoel” started the club in 1936 and this was the start of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in 1938. It was a weekend race sanctioned by the AMA. Nine racers competed in this first year for $750 in prize money while about 200 spectators cheered them on. The crowd was also entertained between races with a number of challenges. The hill climb event is still very popular today and the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club has many through the week.
Wednesday. I feel the need to put Wednesday down as an event all of its own. Thousands of riders participate in the “no panties Wednesday ride” that consists of a giant loop hitting key bars and towns with various festivities. It starts in Sturgis and the first stop is the Stone House Bar just west of Belle Fourche. As you approach this spot there are hundreds of bikes lined up in the dirt and on grass in front of a stone house that is condemned. The house walls from top to bottom is marked and signed by bikers who have visited. It reminded me of a house the teenagers would hang out at when I was growing up so I found it nostalgic and fascinating. As you walk through the house you are doing two things, reading some of the antics written and looking for a space of your own. Since I did this ride with two females I met from the Belles ride you can imagine three females roaming Sturgis solo can tend to create attention; I also have a knack of stirring attention up from time to time. As I walked into the front room there was a male bent over on his hands and knees writing on a baseboard of the wall. This gave the perfect opportunity to stir it up…
I gave my friend my phone and posed for pictures. This set the mood for the day and really the rest of the rally. I will leave most of it up to your imagination and possibly some pictures if they choose to include them. From the Stone House you ride to Hulett for free pork sandwiches and more music and entertainment. The bike parking continued for miles down the streets. This town is where they used to do the “no panties Wednesdays” — If a man said that to you and you were wearing underwear you had to take them off. Of course the girls and I posed for a selfie and a gentleman offered to take the picture. It reminded us of that history by replacing “say cheese” to “no panty Wednesday”. After we made our mark in that town we rode past Devils Tower to Sundance where you will be entertained by burnouts and infamous wet t-shirt contest. Some bikers will say that this Wednesday ritual isn’t as fun as it was in the past. All I can say is I had no complaints of the amount of entertainment and fun the three of us had.
Music. If Charity rides and exhibits aren’t your cup of tea perhaps music gets your blood pumping. Every place you go and corner you turn you’ll hear and see bands playing on stages. There are free concerts and concerts with admissions. If you read my last Hollister article you’ll know I am a fan of music, this Rally has more than you can even think about seeing in one week. The Iron Horse had the Fryed Brothers that I absolutely LOVED. I tried to get to the Iron Horse to see them again because once was not enough. If it is headliners you’re looking for then the Buffalo Chip is the place to be. Every year they have a long list of the best and this year included Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cheap Trick, Five Finger Death Punch, Ratt, Buckcherry and a ton more.
Bike Shows. Besides the thousands of bikes that line the streets of not only the town of Sturgis but every outlying town around Sturgis there are Bike Shows, tons of Bike shows. More customs than anyone can see in one day. Every vendor you can imagine will be set up out there and know that they bring all the best to this Rally. With all the Charity rides I covered I didn’t have time to get to all the vendors there.
Rides. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the Black hills has the most beautiful riding you can imagine. In your spare time you have a plethora of rides to choose from and sights to see. Mount Rushmore, Iron Mountain Road, Spearfish Canyon, Deadwood, The Badlands, Custer, just to name a few. The People. The best part of the entire Sturgis Rally is the amazing people you will meet. Thousands of people with hundreds of differences from many states and countries coming together for one purpose, the love of motorcycles and the freedom you feel when riding one. I met people who have been coming to the Rally for years and have brought their kids and now their grandkids to the Rally. I met fellow riders who, like me, were experiencing the Rally for the first time. The inspirations, the bonds, the memories that are created at Sturgis make it impossible to say you’ll only go once. I now know what it means to have a Sturgis family and once a year when you go back to the Rally, just like the Buffalo Chip sign says, Welcome Home.
Geri Cidot ~FeistyRed~
I hope to encourage other riders to get out there and live your dreams. In two and a half years since I got my license I have ridden over 100k miles and 20 states mostly solo. Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have at FeistyRedQT@Hotmail.com
*Lynyrd Skynyrd photo by Gerrit Van de Streek