Sturgis, SD is recognized around the world as the home of the largest motorcycle rally event of its kind and I have wanted to go there for a while. We are about three weeks early for their annual 10-day rally, but the town always has the feel of a motorcycle town. It's exciting to be here!
A couple of months ago, we had an "All Roads Lead To Memphis" post in the blog but according to this, all roads lead to Sturgis!
"All roads" would certainly include those from Athens, AL, so we added a pin on the map to document that at one of the restaurants. (There have certainly been others from Athens before me, including some from our FAITH Riders group, but there was no pin!)
The Sturgis Rally began in 1938 with a small group of riders on Indian motorcycles and has since grown to an attendance of around 1 million, yes, that's 1 million. The rally generates 95% of Sturgis's annual income at $800 million dollars for a city of about 7000 residents. (My brain's thinking now - If I could make 95% of my business income in 10 days, I probably would just take the other 355 days of the year off! Don't you think?)
Imagine 1 million people on motorcycles in a small town for ten days. Rhonda and I were on Galveston Island, TX a few years ago during their rally which hosts 400,000 bikers - it seemed like the entire island rumbled, and Galveston is lots bigger than Sturgis!
This will give you a little bit of an idea.
Rumor has it that the rally can get a little rough (actually, that's probably not a rumor). There's a larger-than-life 44 Magnum on display at a gun dealer location right behind the city's "Welcome To Sturgis" sign, and a "Bikes, Booze, and Bullets" thought came to our minds as we entered the town - not a good combination.
When we checked in at the RV Park just a block away from downtown, "Kentucky Girl" at the desk went through the park rules with us - you know, pets on a leash, trash disposal, etc.. She closed with "and if you decide to get naked outside, please do that after midnight. Before midnight is only allowed during the rally!" She seemed serious??? We also read somewhere how much beer is trucked in for the rally - a lot! Well, we don't drink and the naked rule in public was not an issue for us! Things were nice and quiet at the McManus RV. Truth is, we were expecting sort of a Bourbon Street, New Orleans atmosphere. As it turns out, Sturgis is a very nicely kept and clean city, everyone was friendly, no trouble stirring of any kind while we were there. Of course, put a million folks on motorcycles and a lot of booze together in a small area and I guess most anything can happen!
If in fact the rumors of the rally are true, one odd thing that we saw might come in handy. Sturgis has very large trash cans along the side of the road to handle all of the beer bottles and cans! (You notice these things when in a new area.)
The other thing to do while in Sturgis is, you guessed it - ride motorcycles. Rhonda does not ride, so we have come up with a great way to take pictures of the bike routes - we ride the route together and take photos from the truck. It's much easier that way, Rhonda enjoys the routes and scenery also, and the bike ride itself for me is not interrupted with lots of stops for pictures!
The favorite route is through the town of Deadwood and Spearfish Canyon. Deadwood is a typical tourist town and there is not much there except saloons, gift shops, and small gambling/casino stops.
Their "claim to fame" is.....
..........and killed. Wild Bill Hickok (yes, there is no "c" before the second "k") had quite a reputation as a drover, wagon master, soldier, spy, scout, lawman, gunfighter, gambler, showman, and actor. The card hand he was holding when he was shot (2 black 8s, 2 black aces, and an unknown fifth card) is still known as the "deadman's hand." Hickok was only 39 when he was killed and is buried in Mt. Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood. The city wanted $6 each for us to see that so we passed. You always hear of "Calamity Jane" paired with Wild Bill, but according to historical records (you know, Wikipedia) Wild Bill actually did not care much for her. However, she requested to be, and is buried beside Wild Bill, allowed by two of Wild Bill's friends as a posthumous joke.
The ride after Deadwood and through Spearfish Canyon is beautiful.
There are three waterfalls on the route. Only one does not require a hike to see it, so that's the one we have pictures of! (It was almost 100 degrees that day, so the air conditioned truck won over the hike.) Bridal Veil Falls below, right alongside the road.
The second favorite ride out of Sturgis takes you into Wyoming to see "Devils Tower."
Devils Tower is a magma outflow which cooled underground and was later exposed by erosion. The tower is 867 feet tall. The diameter at the base is 1000 feet. At first site below about 15 miles away.
Five miles away.
From the entrance.
Up close at the base.
Devils Tower and Bear Butte near Sturgis are considered sacred to the Lakota tribes. According to one legend, two Sioux boys wandered away from their village. A large bear thought they would make a good breakfast. The boys prayed to the Creator who caused a large rock to rise up carrying them out of the bear's reach. The bear clawed the sides of the rock trying to reach them, forming the tower's grooves. The bear then went over to Sturgis to take a rest and became Bear Butte. (Today the large hexagonal columns of the Devils Tower make it one of the finest traditional crack climbing areas in North America. No, I did not go climbing!) Here's Bear Butte a few miles outside of Sturgis.
So, we enjoyed our stay in Sturgis, attended church at First Baptist Church (ironically the pastor is from Alabama) on Sunday morning......
...........and headed for our next stop - the southern Black Hills around Hermosa, SD, Mt. Rushmore, buffalo, and the top motorcycle rides in SD - The Needle and Iron Mountain Road.