- They say, "Good girls go to heaven and bad girls
go to Sturgis!"
- That's why ALL the boys, including preacher's sons, go
to Sturgis! Let's ride!
- On the back of one motorcycle rider's shirt, "One
week of Sturgis makes the other 51 weeks bearable!" Further down the
road, another rider sported a T-shirt that read, "If you can read
this, the bitch fell off!" A few miles down the road, a female rider's
T-shirt read, "I'm the bitch that fell off so I bought my own bike;
besides Viagra couldn't help him so I fell off on purpose!"
- Three weeks previous to the granddaddy of motorcycle
rallies, Sturgis, South Dakota, my brother Howard and sister Linda said,
"Hey, let's meet in Sturgis!" I said, "Go for it! I'll
meet you at Hog Heaven campground!"
- The first weekend of August, Sandi and I strapped the
camping gear to the Wing for our journey from Denver, Colorado to Sturgis,
South Dakota. We hit I-70 headed east into the soup of Denver just as
the sun cracked the horizon. Beautiful strawberry rays lit gray sky banners
streaming over the skyscrapers of the city. We dodged traffic on our way
to I-76 headed east.
- Within 45 minutes, we flew through early morning mist
as the traffic lightened on our way onto the multicolored Great Plains
- One hundred and fifty years ago, we might have seen some
of the 60 million buffalo grazing among the wildflowers. But today, windmills
for water tanks and thousands of cattle munched on the eternal grasses.
Above, a hawk or two sailed on thermals as he looked for his breakfast
- Once out of the city, the sky opened to its proverbial
blue while it rolled all the way to the horizon for 360 degrees. Something
about being on a motorcycle on the Great Plains, riding a modern iron horse
under big skies that fill a man's heart with the beat of the universe.
We passed through cold spots, hot spots and misty clouds hanging low to
the earth. We rolled past big 18-wheeler rigs heading eastbound.
- In some places, the grasses grew so tall, the backs of
cattle resembled torpedoes moving slowly toward an unknown target. Again,
above, hawks plied the sky with outstretched wings.
- Soon, we reached Sterling and headed north along a country
- Big turbines caught the wind to create electricity for
farmers and towns along the way. Farmers cut the midsummer grass and big
balers rolled it into giant round wheels. In several places, they still
baled those 60 pound bales that I threw around as a teenager on the farm.
- At I-80 in Nebraska, we stopped at Cabela's Sporting
store to see the sculptors and sports gear offered to travelers from all
over the West. After a gas up, we headed north toward Allison. An hour
later, we move through old town, filled with tractors and cars out of the
50s, silos and railroad terminals.
- We stopped at the Stonehenge of North America that recreated
Stonehenge in England, but this artist constructed his artwork out of cars.
Recently, archeologists discovered that Stonehenge represented an old burial
ground. The remaining pillars formed a vast infrastructure for the rich
and the poor to be buried so they might find their way to heaven.
- Back on the road, we enjoyed trees growing along rolling
hills that morphed into rock strewn hills and small mountains in the distance.
Soon, we rolled into big curves with lakes off to the side.
- When we hit South Dakota, huge evergreens shot heavenward
with a serpentine road turning, diving and climbing through their silent
beauty. Off to our right, big columns of gray rock strutted skyward in
a vertical display of grandeur.
- As we traveled, the air freshened, the temperature cooled
and the road slipped quietly under the purring motor of the Wing. I thought
about how much fun to see my sister Linda after three years and my brother
Howard, and all of us together for such a grand event. We had traveled
to Alaska, 10,000 miles in two months, back in 2003.
- We had ridden from Michigan to California back in 1980.
Quite a feat for siblings with different lifestyles and connections!
- I thought about my brother Howard and how he had made
a new life with Karen in Washington, DC. I thought about how he had created
a new career and lived it with gusto. I thought about how he changed the
face of the War on Drugs with his superb speaking and writing.
- I felt great pride in his accomplishments. He had ridden
Misty across the United States. He authored a superb book. He made our
dad and mom proud for his incredible contributions in the world. I felt
a tear run down my cheek as I thought about what a privilege I enjoyed
to not only be his longest friend, but his brother and to know him for
a lifetime. He lived what Thoreau said, ""If you advance confidently
toward your dreams, and endeavor to live the life, which you have imagined,
you will meet with success unexpected in common hours. You will pass through
invisible boundaries and live with the license of a higher order of beings."
- And my sister, I am so proud of her. She endured much
in the past 10 years. But, she kept her spirit skyward. She gained her
MBA at Wisconsin. She's working on a new book. She found a great man
in Orrin and she brought two great kids into the world. She offers life
her best and life has offered its best to her. She's a woman of many
talents whether playing a guitar or painting the dance floor. Jean Luc
Picard Captain of the Starship Enterprise, said, "Time is a companion
that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment,
because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important
as how we have lived."
- On the back of my bike, Sandi, my sparkle sunshine, comes
up with ideas and inspiration. She talks to me and inspires me. She also
has written a book and brought two fine young men into the world.
- She continually moves through life with great joy and
tremendous enthusiasm. I feel blessed beyond all measure to share my life
- And the road, ahead, it calls, it dips, it rises, it
shoots straight and cuts left. The Wing moves effortlessly toward our
destination in Deadwood. We pass through towns, hamlets and villages on
our way. We pass through 'old' America of what once was and continues into
the 21st century. At some point, much of America will hunger to get back
to the 'old' America for the 'new' America changes too fast, too much and
without regard to enduring traditions of this country.
- But for a moment in time, for one week, Sturgis represents
all of America! It features the grand parade of the Iron Horse and the
'true grit' that made this country! It may be a myth and it may be a legend,
but for those who power two wheels into the turns, it's a feeling, a gut
reaction to freedom. It's the sweet spot of cycling that carries the soul
to a quiet moment of elation. Some might say that Iron Horse creates a
giddiness, ecstasy, euphoria and sheer delight of the soul.
- I scanned ahead, watching the road. I cranked the throttle
as I headed the big machine along the snaking highway. In Deadwood, we
saw a thousand bikes before turning east toward Sturgis. The road curled
through a steep canyon with a river below.
- Entering Sturgis during the rally can be likened to another
- I can describe it, but it must be lived to understand
it. We pulled into the campground. Later, we headed downtown where the
"Gauntlett" awaited. What describes the Gauntlett? The entire
main street of Sturgis for six blocks gets cordoned off and only motorcycles
can drive on the street. They park so as to create a line of bikes on the
left and right and in the middle so that only one groove travels both ways.
Bikers ride their fancy bikes from $1,000.000 to $100,000.00.
- We had seen motorcycles in the shape of the Starship
Enterprise, a buffalo, a 57 tri-motorcycle Cadillac, a Barker Lounger bike
complete with lamp and beer holder, an old John Deere tractor. That first
night, we saw a motorcycle with elk horns on the front and a giant grizzly
beat draped over the bike with its head reaching out the back. The bear
sported motorcycle goggles. On top of the bear, a fox with goggles also
looked back. Draped off to the sides, two stuffed coyotes also featured
goggles. They represented some wild bikin' dudes! I feared for my life
to run into the owner!
- Along the street, tattoo venders inked up peoples' arms,
legs, chests and backs. Eagles soared and snakes curled around their arms
and up their necks. At the annual tattoo contest in Sturgis, you couldn't
help but feel sorry for the winner. They usually had their bodies covered
with hideous figures. One lady, wearing a bikini, slim and blond, sported
"Tony the Tiger" crawling up her back with his paws up the back
side of her arms and his legs down her legs.
- His tail curled around her right leg all the way down
to her ankles. Yes, all in orange and black tattoo! Can you imagine the
conversation you might enjoy if you engaged her and what kind of a mind
she represented or presented? Carl Yung and Freud might write a whole
new book on what goes around in her mind!
- Leather! You could smell it in the air, in every shop
and you could buy all colors as long as you chose black. Also, in nine
days, $12 million changed hands in Sturgis with a whopping crowd of 400,000
cyclists. People from over 100 countries visited the rally and all 50
states and 10 Canadian provinces. Each shop caters to folks with food,
trinkets, T-shirts, bags, used parts, tires, oil changes, detailing and
just about everything under the sun.
- Out on the main strip, you could buy $72,000.00 motorcycles,
tri-bikes and custom everything.
- We decided to turn in early so we traveled back to our
- Next morning, I called Howard. He and Karen spent the
a.m. riding down to Mount Rushmore with the four great presidents: Teddy
Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Washington and Jefferson. Those great
men represent energy, leadership and faith in the American way of life.
- Howard, Karen, Linda, Orrin, Scott, Sandi and I met on
the main street of Sturgis. We toured the city and spent the morning talking
about the sights, sounds and people walking around Sturgis. Scott, Linda's
son found himself in new surroundings. Much different than Madison, Wisconsin!
- We ate lunch at the Broken Spoke Saloon where a band
played too loud and Scott got too close to a woman's belly button as he
tried to eat a slab of whipped cream. Too funny as she shoved his nose
into her navel. All in great fun! Near the end of the day, we jumped
on the bikes for a ride to Deadwood, South Dakota where we saw more cyclists
and stopped in at Number 10 Saloon where Wild Bill Hickok suffered a gunshot
to the back of the head and died instantly back on August 2, 1876. Aces
and eights make up the Dead Man's Hand from that day to this day. We viewed
a wonderful train exhibit in the basement of one of the hotels. Extensive
and intricate! Beautiful work!
- Later, we toured north along a fantastic canyon toward
- We stopped in for a quick conversation at the motel and
biked over to a Mexican Restaurant for a fabulous meal. Stories, laughter
and jokes all around from our wild and crazy crew.
- Later, at dusk, we jumped on the bikes for an almost
surreal ride back to Sturgis. With the sun setting, the air perfect, and
the sky glowing with the last rays of the sun-the four of us riders and
mates on the back slipped through the ending of the day and the beginning
of the night. Tall mountains on both sides of the expressway guided us
toward our destination. Sandi took shots of Orrin, Linda, Howard and Karen.
Nothing quite like being on a motorcycle when the still air invites every
breath and your skin tingles with the magic of racing the wind. The moment
reminded me of riding with my siblings to Alaska and those magic moments
and great pictures for our scrapbooks. Soon, the sun vanished, the stars
appeared and the lights of the bikes cut through the darkness. We rolled
into Sturgis to watch the evening's festivities on the "Gauntlet".
- After parking our bikes along the Gauntlet, we stood
waiting for all the wild and crazy bikers in costume to make their appearances.
We didn't find it a great night for watching, but before we left, one
gal wore a string teddy with a body stocking and not much else.
- As with all good times, they must come to an end as we
all go back to our busy lives. We gave each other a hug and jumped back
on our bikes. Scott, Sandi and I rode back to our campground in the woods.
Next morning, we cleared camp. Scott took off early to eat breakfast
with his mom. Sandi and I broke camp and headed toward Wyoming.
- Sturgis! A wild moment, a good time and a shared memory
for Linda, Orrin, Howard, Karen, Scott, Frosty and Sandi.
- As I headed my bike into the wind, the trees sped past,
the road flew under my pegs, the wind refreshed my lungs and the morning
sun brightened the day. Sandi and I stopped at an all you can eat restaurant
for a great breakfast. Bikers lined the streets of Custer and we even
met the guy who looks like General George Armstrong Custer. Sandi had taken
a picture with him the year before.
- No doubt, history rolls across the hills of South Dakota,
Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado. We headed south with saddle bags full
of memories. Yippee ki yea and away we sped into the morning sun!
- Wooldridge is the author of: Motorcycle Adventure to
Alaska: Into the Wind at www.amazon.com; www.barnesandnoble.com ; copies
1 888 280 7715