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Journal: My first trip to Sturgis

by Renee

Friday, Aug. 2nd

After work, Mo & I got the trailer and bikes packed up and ready to go. Both of us were itching to get on the road. We briefly entertained the idea of riding into Wisconsin. We had 575 miles to go the next day to make it to our hotel reservations in Sioux Falls, SD. Mo & I decided to just get a good night's sleep. In retrospect I wish we had headed out!

Saturday, Aug. 3rd

We were up at 7am. Mo & I got the coolers packed, stopped for ice, and went to Kappy's for breakfast at around 8. We were officially on the road around 9am. The first 12 hours of our trip was rather uneventful. We dawdled a bit at our frequent stops. Due to the trailer, Mo's gas mileage was pretty poor, so we had to stop every 75 miles or so. We met an interesting guy at the MN welcome center. He was a local to the area with a very old Panhead. It was all original, and boy did it look it. He was a very cool guy and wished us well on the rest of our journey. About 8pm that night we made it to Albert Lea, MN and stopped for dinner at McDonald's. Come to think of it, Mo & I ate a lot of McDonald's this trip. We really wanted a sit down meal, but we still had 170 miles still to go that night, and it was getting late. Our next gas stop was Blue Earth, MN, the beginning of the adventure.

As we were filling up, a guy came out of the gas station to inform us of an impending storm headed our way. (We later discovered his name was Todd.) It sounded pretty severe, so I checked the local hotels for availability. The woman working let me know that there was absolutely nothing available from Blue Earth on through to Sioux Falls 120 miles away. The sheriff was offering up free camping at the local fairgrounds, but by then it was dark. Todd and his friends decided to wait it out in a restaurant next door to the gas station. After checking the weather a few more times, hearing reports that the Tornado warnings had just ended, and the storm was heading north; Mo & I decided to venture on. The next town was only 15 miles away. Bad call! We only made it 7 miles out of town before we encountered a 60 mph headwind. We pulled off the road under an underpass, and decided to turn around at the next opportunity to head back to Blue Earth. The winds were terrible, but just before we got to the next U-turn the rain and hail began. It was terrifying. Somehow we managed to make it back to our previous underpass intact. The only thing we could do was wait for it to end. It was bad enough that semi-trucks were pulling over. Another guy had pulled over on the other side of the road to wait it out as well. The sad thing is that the only person in a car that stopped as well, was a guy that had to pee. He didn't even ask if we were okay or could do anything to help. We started calling friends that might be able to access the Weather Channel. We learned that the storm wasn't going to pass until about 4am. Finally, the rain died down and we made back to Blue Earth.

We joined Todd and his friends at the restaurant. The workers at the restaurant were very nice and very patient with us. We walked in completely drenched. After a putting on dry clothes and having a cup of coffee, we learned that the restaurant was closing. What to do now. There was nowhere to go, but Sioux Falls (which was still 120 miles away). There was still a light rain, so we geared up as best we could. I swear I will never leave on a long trip again without my leather jacket or before I purchase a set of Frogg Toggs! Mo & I decided to ride with Todd's group. We figured the more lights we had, the better off we would be. That was about 11:30pm. For safety's sake we took it slow. At a gas stop almost 2 hours later the rain finally quit. At 3:30am we made it to the hotel in Sioux Falls. I have never been so happy to see a hotel in my life. A couple of members of our group had filtered in other directions, so all that was left was Mo, Todd, Carol, and myself. Mo & I had a suite and they still had nowhere to stay, so we invited them to stay with us. All of us pretty much crashed as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

Sunday, Aug. 4th

The sky was thankfully pretty clear when we finally got up the next morning. Todd and Carol became our new riding partners. They didn't even mind the frequent stops. Heck, they were even grateful enough for the shelter we had provided them the night before, that they bought us breakfast in Mitchell, SD. We picked up the pace as much as we could. Mo & I had to make it about 450 miles to Gillette, WY that day. When I was checking us out of the hotel that morning, I realized that it would be dark by the time we would make it to Marty's (the SCRC guy that was letting us camp at his place for the week). The idea of riding 450 miles on only a few hours sleep, and then trying to set up a tent in the dark just didn't appeal to me. So, I booked us a room about 30 miles from Marty's house. I figured a good night's sleep would do us some good before we tried to make camp. That one was a good call.

The trip across SD was windy and a bit chilly. Thankfully, there was no rain. We stopped at the Trading Post at the beginning of the Badlands. Todd & Carol made camp there, and we found some fleece lined rain jackets that were a saving grace the rest of the trip. Again, I will never leave home without my leather jacket!

It was getting dark by the time we made it to Rapid City for gas and dinner. Blunder number 2 occurred here. The driveway for the gas station had a steep decline. I stopped quickly with my handlebars turned while going down it to exit the station, and dropped my bike. Nothing was damaged but my pride. I was pretty embarrassed. Oh well. Lesson learned. Make sure your bars are straight when stopping. After dinner, we plugged on. Wyoming was interesting. It was very windy and really dark. I was amazed at the complete nothingness there. No lights in the distance whatsoever. The only thing you could see were stars, which was good because that meant no rain! We made it to the hotel in Gillette at about 10:30pm. What a dump, too, but we didn't care because it was a place to sleep.

Monday, Aug. 5th

First official day of the Sturgis rally. We got up, and went next door to the laundry mat. Many of our clothes were still wet from Saturday night's adventures. Once everything was dry and packed up we headed to the Harley dealership in town. We saw a beautiful Electra Glide there with a really cool Arlen Ness rear fender. Mo was definitely drooling.

After that we attempted to find Marty's house. I followed the directions as best I could, but missed the turn. We ended up at the Carlisle Store. The man there let me use the phone as we had no cell phone service and then helped me find the road we missed. It was gravel. So was the driveway. It was so wonderful that this person had opened his home up to camping, but the environment was not very hospitable. We called the KOA in Spearfish and they still had room. Mo & I packed everything back up and headed there.

Mo was leading. We start pulling out of town right passed all of the gas stations. I pulled up next to him frantically waiving at the gas tank. He nodded a “Yeah, I know I need gas” and continued on. Obviously, he didn’t remember that it was 35 miles to the next town. We already had 65 miles on this tank. There was no way he was going to make it. Too late now! All I could do was following along behind and wait. Sure enough 30 miles later, he pulls off the side of the road. I couldn’t help but laugh. “What’s a matter, honey? Out of gas?” So I unloaded some stuff from my bike, grabbed a cargo net, and headed off for Sundance. The gas station let me use a gas can (with a $5 deposit of course). I filled up, strapped the gas can to the back., and went back to fetch him. All these bikers gave me this knowing smile as I pulled out. By the time I got back, another biker had pulled over by Mo. Not to see if he was okay, but because he wasn’t going to make it to Sundance either. I little additional dig I couldn’t help but enjoy!

Shortly, thereafter, we arrived in Spearfish. We got our tent up after fighting a little wind and decided we were done for the night. The winds were pretty bad that night and it rained a little, but our tent held.

Tuesday, Aug. 6th

After breakfast at the little KOA restaurant, we headed off to Spearfish Canyon. WOW! That is a beautiful road. It made all of our little adventures well worth it. The scenery is absolutely amazing. Mo & I took Spearfish Canyon through Deadwood and went on to Main St. in Sturgis. There were bikes everywhere. Amazingly, we found pretty good parking. We spent the next few hours walking the streets checking out all of the vendors. On our way out, we did a quick ride down Main St., hopefully we
nded up in someone's pictures! We also popped in to see my buddy from Corbin. As soon as I pulled in the parking lot, he walked right up to me and said hello. No introduction necessary, as he recognized the seat immediately. It only sat in his office for 4 months! We took the long way back to the campsite through Bell Fourche. Mo & I dropped off my bike, grabbed the camera, and headed back to Spearfish Canyon. I took pictures and a little mini movie from the back of Mo's bike. After that, we made a quick stop at the Dairy Queen before calling it a night.

Wednesday, Aug. 7th

Mo & I jumped on 85 South through Deadwood again and went to Mt. Rushmore. The ride through the Black Hills was again very beautiful. Mt. Rushmore was pretty cool as well. The sky was nice and clear. We next took 16 through the pigtails down towards Custer State Park. I was not thrilled with all the switchbacks. They are still a little beyond my skill level. It was a very nice ride, but I got a little nervous on some of those really tight turns, especially when there was also a downhill grade. Mo however was getting frustrated with the other bikes and kept catching up to them. When we hit Custer State Park, we decided not to pay the entrance fee. In going the other way, we missed out on Crazy Horse. Next year! We headed up to Rapid City and then over on 44 to the Black Hills Caverns. We had a 16 year old kid that was convinced that he was a comedian as a tour guide. He actually was kind of funny. He even took a picture of us. After touring the cave, we headed back to Rapid City, and then back to Spearfish. We stopped for Chinese right down the street from the campground. We met a very nice local couple while we were eating. Naturally when we walked out of the restaurant, it was pouring and I couldn't remember if all of the tent windows were closed or not. I gave some poor guy that had no rain gear with him my extra rain jacket. We geared up ourselves, and headed back to camp. Neither one of us could see a thing. Mo locked on to the center line, and I locked on to his taillight. Luckily we made it back safely. Since we were wet again and were running out of clean clothes, we decided to spend the rest of the night doing laundry. Not very interesting, but we did encounter a bit of a laundry room soap opera while we were there. Some lady apparently decided to hog all of the dryers. Made for some light amusement. The rain came down a lot harder that night but the tent held again, though it leaked a little around the edges. Oh well.

Thursday, Aug. 8th

Time to head home. It was hot and we really didn't get very far. We only made it to Chamberlain, SD for the night. Made it there to a very expensive hotel room just before the rain hit. (Yes, it pretty much rained every single day!) On the way there we stopped at the World Famous Wall Drug and purchased more stuff including some very yummy fudge! That place is pretty cool! Oh, and we ran into Todd and Carol amazingly right where we left them at the Badland's Trading Post. They were in a Budget Rent a Truck. Poor guy's tranny blew so they had to tow the bike home, which sucks but I was a little jealous of the air conditioning.

Friday, Aug. 9th

Mo & I continued our trek home. We were taking it pretty slow again and only got to Fairmont, MN. It was a much cooler day, so the ride was much more comfortable. Quick tidbit… the western portion of MN smells like manure.

Saturday, Aug. 10th

We made it home. Mo & I stopped for dinner just south of Tomah, WI and we were both a little tired and saddle sore. We almost stopped for the night. We made it a little further to Madison, WI at about 7pm and both decided that we just wanted to go home. It took us several hours because we took side streets once we reached Rt. 31, but time flew by since we were in familiar territory. Mo & I made it home around 10:30-11pm. After unloading, we met a few friends at a pool hall and ended our trip just where we began it… at Kappy's. Couple more tidbits… Eastern MN is very bumpy, WI is a pretty state, and IL has a lot of bugs.

The End!

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About Renee:
Renee is a 26 yr old wife and mom. She's been riding for about 3 years now. Most of her riding is Southern Cruisers. She spends some of her online time in the Women Who Ride (WWR) forum.

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