First, I would head for the Rapid City Convention Center, where the Harley-Davidson company would have their 2010 models displayed for the first time. I would also present my Harley Owner's Group membership card and pick up a free pin commemorating my attendance at the event. I drooled on a bunch of brand new bikes then picked up bike and accessory catalogs for Butch, Mel and I. Again, it was early in the morning and there were hundreds of visiting bikes parked there. During Bike Week, you will find the same large numbers everywhere including Sturgis, Deadwood, Rapid City, Hill City, Keystone and Custer.
Next, heading to visit Butch I took the most direct route... around 40 miles going past Sturgis with the last 10 miles running through the mountains. The contrast of deep greens there and blue sky along with the reddish cliffs was striking. The scattered white and grey clouds gave us the shadows needed to bath every scene in pleasant contrast. The three dimensional panoramas kept unfolding and revealing a new perspective every second. That ride prompted me to later tell my wife Julieann, "Let's make one thing clear, I love the Black Hills." She was lucky enough to have been born and raised there... she remembers the winters so she limits her love of the place to the summers. That would probably be my take on things too.
(photo r: Deadwood during the Rally)
I hung around the hospital long enough to annoy Butch and Judy, then headed into Sturgis to get my figurative radical fanatic rubbernecker card punched. I stopped at JP Cycles at the edge of the Lazelle street... then I walked a mile or so down the street, occasionally criss-crossing to get a closer view of some of the vendors. Along the way, I stopped in the Jack Daniels tent display and had a "Jack and Diet" in honor of my trouper son's favorite stage drink then headed for the other end of the row and the Broken Spoke saloon, "World's Largest Biker Bar."
After that I crossed over to Main street where most Sturgis photos are taken... there you will see bikes parked four wide for many blocks. To get set up that way, they are backed in to each curb and sit nose-to-nose in the middle. I took in the scene, walking past the huge bars and vendor displays there. It's probably worth noting that, during Sturgis bike week, there are enough t-shirts for sale there to clothe every man, woman and child in China... and perhaps a couple of neighboring countries. They have been staging this event for 69 years so you can imagine the sort of stories Lazelle and Main could tell.
(photo r - Main Street Sturgis - four wide)
Finally, I returned to Butch and Judy's home and spent a chunk of the evening on their porch with some Budweiser Lights and a stogie. In recognition of my senior status, I would be in the sack by 10 while hundreds of thousands partied in various Black Hills camp sites and homes. I know they all missed me too.
Sunday, August 2nd: My last day there. I began the day by calling Julie and mentioning that I was thinking of staying another day. She got a little testy at the suggestion and it had me picturing what my ass would look like in a sling so a few minutes later, I called her back again and told her I was starting the trip home the next day as planned. She didn't try to make sense out of the whole thing as she learned many years ago about my skills with making 'non-sense.
On the way to visit Butch at Deadwood again, I stopped at Black Hills Harley-Davidson... again. This was just to be sure there was nothing vital I had missed. Sure enough, I found a terrific seat at the Mustang vendor and was quickly convinced that it would do better on long hauls than the Corbin seat I had made at Hollister, CA last year. One of my purposes in doing this was to perhaps avoid the dreaded "crotch creep" phenomena. This happens to rider's who do not have a proper motorcycle seat and gives the sensation that their jeans are trying to wrap themselves around the rider's neck. While they were installing it, I went into the HD store and bought Butch a t-shirt.
Then, I made the biggest mistake of my trip... I bought the Coyote a t-shirt too. You see, I just couldn't stand the thought of him whimpering and scuffing the floor with his shoes when he realized I hadn't bought him anything. I know, I know... in the first installment of this journey I promised I would make him suffer for not joining me but I guess I am just an old softy.
Later, at the hospital, Butch was doing great. He even refused the nurse's offer to let him don pajama bottoms. I think he was enjoying the idea of mooning all of us periodically. A little while later, the nurse threatened to "kick (Mel's) ass" when he made a wise crack. I think we all lit up the entire ICU with laughter over that one. They sure make them tough in Deadwood...
Back at the house that evening, I cleaned the Hog and packed up then hit the sack early again... cleverly missing hundreds of raucous parties that would have been soooo much better if I had been there...
Monday, August 3rd: I was up at the crack and headed out early for Rock Springs, Wyoming.. around 500 miles down the road. the first 50 miles or so I was riding adjacent to and in the Black Hills so I got to say a long "see you later" to that wonderful land. About half the trip was across Wyoming flat lands... pretty God-forsaken at times and typically with a lot of
headwinds. Rock Springs is adjacent to the Flaming Gorge area though, another magnificent place on Earth you should see at least once in your life time.
(photo r - The Black Queen loaded and ready to leave the Rock Springs Holiday Inn.)
Tuesday, August 4th: Up at the crack again. Destination Elko, Nevada, a little over 400 miles. The day started on a spectacular note with a few panoramas offered up by Flaming Gorge. 400 miles of Interstate. Speed limit, 75. I set the cruise control at eight over. My 100 horse Street Glide just chewed up the highway like it was born to it. Not much wind from any direction so it was a smooth ride and I settled at the Holiday Inn Express pretty early.
I left the hotel in mid-afternoon searching for three things, a Texas hold-em game, a Mexican restaurant and a car wash so I could do a little bug removal work on the bike. First, I went to the Red Lion but found their poker room totally empty. Then, after riding around a while I found the last two in basically the same strip mall area. I washed the bike first then sat down to a fine meal of Carne Asada and one of the largest Cadillac margaritas I have seen. On that evening , hitting two out of three objectives was pretty terrific.
Wednesday, August 5th: The home stretch! Weather... perfect almost all the way. Temperatures in the 50's and 60's had me dressed in comfortable layers for over half the trip. Dressed down to a long sleeved shirt the last half when I found the heat of the Sacramento valley while riding down off Donner Pass .
East of Reno-Sparks, I had noticed a series of signs placed "Burma Shave" style, set in a series so you could take in one thought at a time. They said,
"A Lot Of Pretty Ladies.
To Sit On Your Lap.
Wild Horse Saloon.
Wild Horse Saloon.
Exit 28. Truck access."
I will leave you to figure that one....
Next I decided to name my Harley. I guess out of respect for all we had been through together in the previous couple of weeks. At first I thought of "Black Mariah" but then as I thought through use of the name I had some reservations. For instance, what if I was sitting in mixed company and volunteered that I had to go home to "clean up BM"? That wouldn't work too well right?! So I am tentatively settled on "Black Queen", after the Steven Stills song. I can call her "Queen" for short. I guess that would work eh? Let me know if you have any other suggestions.
The last stretch was one of the most difficult of the 3,000+ mile trip. I had been dreading the run from Reno to Sacramento as Interstate 80 was in such terrible shape. To my surprise, much of it is now being repaved and new lanes are being added in some spots. It was slow and tough negotiating the traffic at times but it will be a good ride when it is done.
End of story. Good to be home. As with most bike tours, I am already anticipating the next one. I would love to do the Rolling Thunder run across the United States for the Memorial Day ride in the Capital honoring our POW/MIA. Who knows?!
AFTERWORD - Tuesday, August 11th: Called Butch last night. He is doing great and, in fact, returned to work yesterday. We discussed the later part of Sturgis bike week too as Sunday was the last day. One rider was killed during the event (I am thinking that would have to be a record). The rider was on an Interstate ramp and had a straight-line accident - got on the shoulder somehow, lost control and that was it.
Sturgis also got some two and a half inches of rain over the weekend so all the sorry bikers probably had to hang out in bars to wait it out - thankfully bikers always have a back up plan though. With all the rain, it is still okay as veterans can tell you when it comes to weather, "we will have some" right?! I know, you remember that.
Also, the Black Hills can get hail that time of year and, at the same time it was raining in Sturgis, they got tennis ball sized hail at the famous Buffalo Chip campground (the place where Steven Tyler of Aerosmith expertly falls off stages). It was knocking out vehicle windshields and damaging gas tanks on motorcycles it was that bad. I got lucky when I left early eh?!