We’ve never been motorcyclists. Bert says he rode once, but I’m at dead zero on motorcycle rides or even sitting on a Hog, an Indian, or a Yamaha.
So, when we left Deadwood, South Dakota, I wanted to at least pass through Sturgis, home of the now-famous rally that began in 1938 and, in 2019, attracted over 500,000 riders to this town of about 6,900 residents.
After all, I can appreciate something I’ve never done, right?
We rode through town, looking at venues and places that might hold that many people. And to this day, we can’t figure out how. Videos on YouTube show the main drag lined with cycles, bunched tightly together, waiting for action. And since then, we’ve heard about campgrounds that fill up fast like Buffalo Chip and Pappy Hoel Campground reminding us another big gathering in Tennessee: Bonnaroo.
But on this day, we saw little action. After all, we were there in May, and the rally happens the first week of August . . . if there’s not a coronavirus or something that might put a crimp in this gotta-be-there event.
What we did see was something we’d only heard about in the movies: legendary Indian Motorcycles (The World’s Fastest Indian)!
That’s right — the headquarters, no less, of Indian Motorcycles came to Sturgis in 1936 courtesy of C.F. “Pappy” Hoel, a founder of the Jackpine Gypsies motor club and founder of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
And so it was, that with an unplanned, spur-of-the-moment decision to go see this place (that’s the best way, sometimes), we marched into what we thought would be an ordinary showroom only to find that this one was first class, all the way. From helmets, to leather jackets, shot glasses, tote bags, and yes, motorcycles, this showroom would be a showstopper even on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. It was somethin’ else.
Now you might be thinking that salespeople wouldn’t give us, the non-riders of the world, the time of day. But we were treated like royalty. And we got the full treatment: information about the quality of the cycles, what happens at the Sturgis Rally, and what merchandise sells best.
To top it all off, I asked if I could just sit on one, expecting to hear that sitting wasn’t allowed on these finest of fine Indian specimens. But, lo and behold, the salesman helped me up on one of the most deluxe models (sticker shock: well over $97,000) in the showroom. And that’s how I became an Indian fan, as I imagined myself driving through Spearfish Canyon with the wind in my face!
Truth is, it was the people of Sturgis that made the best impressions during our half day in town. From the riders we met standing in the check-out line at the grocery store to the girl serving coffee, we found people who talked to Southerners just like we’d be welcome any time in Sturgis — rally or not.
Since then, we’ve looked up information on this year’s 80th Anniversary Sturgis Rally. The verdict from the June 16, 2020, meeting of the Sturgis City Council reveals that there will be a rally, but a modified one — as safe as they can make it — from Friday, August 7 through Sunday, August 16. For more discussions and information on what you can and cannot do, here are some sources you may want to check out.
- Official website of City of Sturgis, SD
- Bob & Tam’s Excellent Adventures YouTube page
- Riding in the Ozarks YouTube video
- Top 10 Things to Do at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
- Indian Motorcycles website
- Full Throttle Saloon
- Twitter for City of Sturgis, SD
So, if you’re road tripping through the Black Hills of South Dakota, Sturgis is worth a pass through, at the very least. Or stay a while and dine, check out the goods at Indian Motorcycles, and cruise the streets imagining the vroom, vroom you’d hear during rally week.
It’s good times . . . rally or not.
Wishing you safe travels,
The temporarily cool duo of Rusha & Bert