Monday, August 17, 2009

Getting to the Sturgis rally

Getting to the Sturgis Rally

Like I wrote earlier, it takes a certain kind of spirit to handle an event such as the world’s greatest motorcycle rally, the Black Hills Motorcycle Classic, otherwise known as the Sturgis Rally. Flexible. Above all ya gotta be flexible.

Just to get to the rally, you have to have a spirit of adventure, self-reliance, flexibility, and a fair amount of stamina. I guess that’s why so many people trailer their bikes to the rally. They don’t have what it takes to cover the highways on two wheels.

For most of us, though, the rally is a destination, a reason and a chance to ride through uncluttered territory such as southern North Dakota and north central South Dakota.

Uncluttered. I’ve ridden through a lot of desolate regions of the U.S, such as Wyoming, Nevada and Utah. The twin-state region of the Dakotas isn’t desolate, it is uncluttered. Few farms, few towns and nearly zero traffic. Yeah, you encounter a few traffic challenges. This year, on the way down, we had to slow down once for traffic -- a herd of horses crossing the road. On the way back had to slow down once for traffic -- a cow crossing the highway. (I tried using my pocket camera to get a shot to show you, but dang it, no such luck.)

Generally, I like to ride from Mandan south on Highway 6 down to either McIntosh, SD or McLaughlin, SD. Like most years, keeping an eye on the sky will prompt a decision which way go to. It was raining in McIntosh, so we headed down to McLaughlin.

(Of course it wasn’t nearly as bad as last year when we hit THIS!! Winds blew me from my lane across the center lane, over to the shoulder of the oncoming lane. The only traffic out there was us two bikers. Cage drivers had the sense to stay out of the storm.)

That was last year. Now back to this year’s ride. The terrain is pretty rugged and bare. Only a few spots will you find trees like this. Mostly it’s wide open. It’s an tempting to speed, but why speed? We like to just cruise a moderate speed to enjoy the openness.

There are no convenience stores, bathrooms, eateries for miles and miles. So, stops are as you need them, along the highway, even outside of Timberlake, SD. (I’ve always wanted to stop there and call someone so when they ask where I am, I can say, “I’m just in Timberlake.”) So, gasoline is an issue. You get gas every chance you can because you don't know when you'll get the chance again. Sure there may be a town up the road 50 miles, but does it have a gas station? If you're a stickler for high-octane fuel -- good luck. You better carry a good supply of octane enhancers.

The closer you get to the rally, the busier the roads get, mostly motorcycles. We went down the first weekend of the rally, so there wasn’t much traffic headed away. It pretty much means the highway is ours.

On the way home mid-week, there’s considerably more traffic. Still, you get the chance to ride back roads and stop at places you might otherwise miss if you were following the main thoroughfares. That means from roadside stops like this one that asks you not to leave carcasses laying around.

But there are also those ma-and-pa stops I wrote about, such as this steakhouse in Bowman, Hawk's Landing. It's one reason I believe the back roads are the best roads. A great steak in a white tablecloth supper club in an uncluttered community - a perfect way to end a ride. I guess that’s why I write these installments – the freedom to ride the back roads. No hassles, no confinement, no pressures, just the open road. It's a photographer's dream, and a biker's fantasy.

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  1. Great blog! Ya, us up here in the Dakotas are pretty lucky to have the freedom of the wide open spaces. It is a great ride - one that I encourage everyone to take. Stopping at the quaint out-of-the-way places makes it even more special.

  2. That photo of Kat watching the storm from her bike is stunningly beautiful. I can smell the rain in the air just looking at it. Nice work Mike.

  3. Thanks -- it's fun to shoot while riding, but mighty dangerous. Those little pocket sized point and shoot cameras are nice for that tricky kind of shooting.