They talked a lot about riding to Sturgis. It was a dream, but what with drugs and alcohol, and the couch, they'd never got round to taking the ride. We all listened to the Doobie Brothers and talked about riding to Sturgi, though. At the time it was just another pipe dream.
I'd crashed my Norton Motorcycle. I didn't think that drinking and drugging and riding too fast on a gravel road a while before had anything to do with it. I tried to blame the motorcycle. It didn't stop me drinking and smoking dope though. It did stop me riding motorcycles.
Later that year I stopped drinking and smoking dope altogether. I joined a group started by Bill and Bob where I met a Sober Rider who'd just got back from Sturgis. He'd ridden with some other sober guys the thousands of kms and miles there and back. We were sitting in a cafe where he showed us his gold ring he'd got to commemorate the ride. I figured then I'd like to ride to Sturgis myself.
Laura and I drove up to the first Sturgis North. I didn't take my Harley because I had the RV. I brought along the Honda 230 in the back of the Ford HD edition 350 truck. I enjoyed riding on the Veteran's ride, the smallest bike there. The guys called my bike was a 'trouble maker'. I kept up with them on that ride, somehow.
I'd had the IDAA conference to attend at Keystone Colorado so figured it wouldn't be that far out of the way, maybe 750 km, to swing by Sturgis on the way home. That's what I did.
I got away on Sunday afternoon and drove up to Wheatland seeing some of the world's most beautiful country. In the morning I talked to another biker because he was wearing a Friend of Bill patch. He told me there were lots of meetings in Sturgiss. I felt good about meeting him, talking with him, and learning that this bad biker rally was really good. I'd had some misgivings about the motives behind the motives.
That morning though, I'd put on my RCMP shirt my friend Art had bought. It seemed to make it clear which gang I was riding with.
From Wheatland the bikes began to appear individually and in groups. It was like an annual Harley Davidson migration.
By the time I was on the I90 at Gillette the roads were full of big bikes. I turned into the Gillette HD dealership. There I met a Black Sheep, from the Christian Biker Ministry. I'd been listening to Third Day on the stereo as I pulled in enjoying their song " Tell me If I'm going too fast". Invariably that tune came round when I was going too fast. Thanks, Third Day!
On the approach to Sturgis the road was chock full of bikes. Herds and herds of Harleys.The bikes were all colours, some really loaded up like they were coming along way like me. Lots of trikes and spiders to. Every shape and size. Heading for the famed motorcycle town of Sturgis, South Dakota.
At the last gas station I tanked up at, the biker ahead of me at the pump was wearing a vest with big insignia, Manitoba H.O.G. Winnipeg Chapter. We got to talking to as we filled up the bikes and I reminisced about years living in Fort Gary and Riverheights. He was from St. James. I told him I'd had a girlfriend there.
"Do you still have her number? I could look her up." he asked. We laughed. I was sixteen and she would be a grandmother today if she was still alive. Two old biker dudes laughing together about Winnipeg and the passage of time.
I didn't have a motel reservation for Sturgis, not knowing when or even if I'd get there. I pulled off at the full Best Western and didn't even know where the rally was. A White pick up truck with an "Easy Does It' bumper sticker was ahead of me so I took that as a sign and followed my Chevy angel. He took me right into the rally. It was loud and huge. A half dozen city blocks going off in both directions with thousands of bikes lined up on the streets. I saw a sign "tenting" as the truck turned off.
I'd brought my tent so I pulled into this driveway. For $20 a homeowner was letting folk tent on his lawn. He had a couple of porto potties out back too. He said there were showers at the Convention centre. I set up my old blue biker pup tent I'd used with Laura when we took the HD Roadster motorcycle up to Powell River. I'll never forget phoning my dad on the cell phone, talking to him from the tent just outside the town, waiting for the rain to let up. Dad was so happy to have that call. I reminded of all the camping we'd done as a family.
Now here I was putting the same tent up again after several years, my RV offering a cozier alternative. I still figured out how to erect it thanks to it being almost idiot proof though first try the I put the "fly" on backwards, as usual. I had the new Mountain Coop sleeping bag too. It turned out to be warm and cozy but it's main selling feature had been it's ability to reduce to the size of a mellon.
With the tent up and the bike locked up, I went off to explore the Sturgis rally. First thing I ran into was the "Music of the Soul" stage with various ministers playing the hottest rhythm and blues. The Reverend Jimmie Bratcher music was awesome. I loved the Tony Loeffler Band. So was the Glen Kaiser Band, (www.streetlevel.org). As I listened to their rocking music I thanked Jesus for bringing me here safe. It was a dream come true after so many years with so many twists and turns. I never know why my faith falters given how well God has cared for me all these years. I teared up listening to the music, looking around at bikers wearing crosses and glad to be a part of a spiritual revival. My Sturgis Rally was pure and holy!
Next thing I see are a couple of "Indians for Sobriety". Wow!. God's fingerprints were all over my experiences. After sharing with the Christian biker how I'd come into town blasting Third Day having heard them first when I attended West Coast Biker Church, here I was shaking hands and talking with a couple of incredible native guys. Dr. Carl Jung called the 4th dimension, sacred and synchronistic. I certainly felt I was rocketed into the 4th dimension here. It was loud enough. A thousands of bikes or more were playing their celestial pipes. It would be non stop for a day and a night..
I'd meet with Soldiers for Christ, Freedom Bikers and more Sober Riders. I'd been talking with Tommie at IDAA before I left. She was a member of Sober Riders United. I didn't see any of her chapter there or meet Sober Rider Guy I'd met in Bute on the way down. I did talk with some Vietnam Vet riders and enjoyed seeing a woman who was wearing a jacket saying she'd served in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were a few criminal biker gangs but the vast majority of people there were from regular biker chapters. The police were present but reserved and on guard. Really competent young men wanting to make sure this whole thing remained friendly. If wasn't quite a family affair, though there were some children there. Lots of single guys. Lots of hot looking women. Lots of old couples. Leather, tattoos and individuality. It seemed most of the people I met were in their 40's to 70's. Here and there I'd see a 20 year old but they stood out, looking s young and innocent. A lot of experience was gathered. A lot of life had been lived. I met Bikers from all over the US, Florida, California, New England, Tennessee, Missouri, all over. Every state must have been represented. Besides the Manitoba biker I met Albertans. Lots of creative engineering had gone into some of the bikes too. The guys from the California television chopper show were there too.
At the famous Easy Rider Saloon and Steakhouse I heard ZZ3, great band. The waitress was dressed in a pink bikini with a lovely fox tail and painted whiskers. She got a good tip from me for the Pepsi and I expect she got a lot of good tips with that creative costume. I got my temporary Sturgis tattoo at the H.O.G. tent.
When I had a steak at the Loud Saloon the guys next to me were speaking German. There were Harley Rentals at the surrounding Harley Dealers so I expected some Europeans and Asians had come in just for the rally, I saw the Indian and Victory exhibits and saw some big Goldwings there as well. By far the Harleys were the vast majority of bikes but there were even scooters and some Kawasaki and Suzuki crotch rockets.
I liked the girls outfits. Alot of bikinis on the street. There's a raw sexuality in biker world and lots of styling on the part of the girls making the most of their leathers and tank tops. No helmut laws locally, so some beautiful minimally dressed and elegantly tattooed babes were riding hair flying on the backs of bikes. At times the main street looked like the set Sons of Anarchy. There were Sons of Anarchy art exhibits there too. High end and low end Sturgis paraphernalia. I got my hats and tshirts and even some new biker luggage to carry my increasing hoard of travel t shirts home.
It was all I could do to resist getting a trailer. There were large dog pet trailers and trailers that turned into tents too. I just like the little black one with a bar I could put a little dog carrier one. They'd have had the hitch and harness installed while I waited. There were all sorts of bike accessorizing going on. Fancy exhausts and whole new loud state of the art speaker systems were available for installation while you waited. Harley Owners Group had a tent and I enjoyed the air conditioning and iced water there.
At night I was just lucky to learn that the Doobie Brothers were playing at the Buffalo Chip. It turned out that the Buffalo Chip was 3 miles out of two. It was a hell of a ride to get to the grounds with everyone else doing the same thing. Then parking the bike in the dirt and gravel, standing in line for tickets, being in line hearing the Doobie Brothers set begin. I made it into the grounds/ People and bikes were a hundred rows thick. Still I actually got close enough to enjoy the show. All the great songs I'd heard in my youth and then heard 16 years ago all over again. It came back. What memories. Wow!!
A powerfully concert. The roar of Harley pipes sounded with each applause every great song. It was a whole lot better than the couch experience. This was live and real in technicolor. What an incredible experience!
Kid Rock came on after that. He was younger, louder and brasher. All around me the younger crowd had moved in, many coming just for Kid Rock, I heard them say. He was slick and the crowd roared as he belted out his machine gun rapid Detroit Rebel Tour songs. The rain began then. I was quickly moving out of there though knowing the younger folk would stay on. Kid Rock was saying he wasn't bothered by a little rain and they were shouting their agreement. Meanwhile I was thinking of my big heavy motorcycle in a mud parking lot. I glad to get there while I still had some solid ground.
The lightning lit of the skies as many of us exited slipping and sliding. I remember the "as like" Canadian Woodstock concerts I'd attended the Woodstock year, how they'd be rained ou,t and how I mostly thought of outdoor concerts as mud slicks. It was good to get to the highway. All around me bikes were riding 4 side by side on two lanes. It was a feat of maneuvering and bikemanship, dark, down pouring rain, and everyone hustling. I was glad to get through the town were lots of folk who'd decided to attend the concerts , not having to drive, were already happily impaired. There was a potential for disaster but everyone amazingly respectful I was still certainly glad to get my motorcycle back to the yard where my tent was. I hauled my wet self and gear into the wonderful dry retreat of my little biker pup tent.
I couldn't sleep though. Too many thoughts of what a full day and tremendous evening I'd had . Praying and gratitude didn't do it. Bikes were roaring all night long. Eventually I fell asleep only to waking at 6 am light. I was up with a half dozen of the Vet bikers and enjoyed sharing with them. Good guys, comfortable with camping, comfortable around each other, pleasant with me. There's a mutual appreciation of competence. Shared tales of distances and journeys.
I could have stayed. If I'd had room, maybe. But I'd been to Sturgis, had an unbelievable experience and was now glad to pack up and head back. I've got a lot of miles to go and if I stayed longer I might get that tattoo the pretty girl had been offering. I liked her painted friend who said it was okay that people photographed her. The truth is I like the ride. Sturgis is a great destination but it's for me it was all about the journey. That and the people I meet.
Mostly it was the synchronicity, nostalgia and feeling of completing a sober dream. Another gift of sobriety. I'd been to Sturgis. It was worth it. What a world class biker experience. Maybe another year I'll get to the Daytona Bike Week. For now I'm thanking God for getting me to Sturgis. I feel really blessed by all the ministers and sober riders I met too.