The first full week of August the tiny town of Sturgis (population 6,400) increases to a population of over 500,000. Every summer this rural location of South Dakota hosts the largest motorcycle rally in America. In 2003, with our small tent and sleeping bags strapped to the back of the bike, we rode our Harley Heritage Softtail over 1,000 miles to attend the rally which hit an attendance level of 750,000 bikers that year. We met bikers of every age, more than one over 80 years old, with young babes draped around the old guys and the older grand dames holding their own!
If you are around Harleys, you know the pipes are loud. With so many riders, it is not surprising to learn I lost my hearing for two days. Seriously.
This wild rally started in 1938 and up until the late 1980’s the adult party was attended by gangs and “outlaws”. Although the wild element still exists, the event has become somewhat more civilized. We stayed in the Glencoe campground with close to 100,000 campers. Only two rules were posted—you have to pay to camp (wearing a colored plastic bracelet as proof) and you cannot discharge your firearm. Everything else is fair game. Located across the street from the campground was the enormous Full Throttle biker bar with a concert held every night (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts played while we were there).
Each day during the rally, thousands and thousands of bikers head out to ride through South Dakota—Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Custer State Park (unnerving to ride so close to free range bison). Rarely do you see a car this week in South Dakota. The roads are ruled by the thunderous roar of motorcycles!
24/7 it was crazy and we had a blast! Out of our normal comfort zone, and something we will certainly remember for the rest of our lives.