Sturgis 1999




I took a roundabout route. Leaving California on August 1, I rode first to Michigan to visit family, then north across the Mackinac Bridge and west to Minneapolis to visit my daughter. I met Bob and Michael Wagner and their friend Jeanne at Rapid City airport on August 10. Michael and Jeanne drove the truck hauling three bikes from Massachusetts, and Bob flew in to join us in South Dakota.

We camped for five nights in Custer State Park. Bob, Michael, and Jeanne stayed on and camped two more nights after I left to return to California.

We spent our days riding scenic roads of the Black Hills.
We also made a day ride to Badlands National Park.

 Between rides we took in the sights and sounds of Sturgis.

This was my first trip to Sturgis -- the Mecca of American motorcyclists. I have never seen a gathering so wacky and yet civilized. Almost anything goes, it appears. However, politeness abounds, and a good time was had by all. Camping at Custer State Park was the solution to our decision to make the trip only three months earlier, by which time all other lodgings were long since booked. The 50-mile ride south to the campsite, often after dark and scanning for wildlife at the limit of our headlights, was a bit tedious. There is nothing quite so thrilling as the gigantic brown visage of a bull buffalo looming from the edge of a dark roadway in the glow of your headlight. But Custer is a beautiful park -- equal, perhaps superior, to the best US National Parks. Adjacent to our campground was a rustic lodge with delicious meals and excellent friendly service. We partook frequently. Particularly notable are the buffalo sausage at breakfast, and buffalo steaks at dinner. Much leaner and healthier than beef, rumor has it.

One of the best things about touring the Black Hills during Motorcycle Week is the sheer number of two-wheeled vehicles on the roads. Ordinarily a minority, it was great fun to ride with motorcyles the vast majority of vehicles. The locals appear overwhelmingly friendly toward this invasion -- a major annual contributor to the economy, they say.

On Sunday, August 15, we rode together to Devils Tower, in Wyoming. There I split from the group, rode north to Montana, and all the way to Billings before stopping late that night.

The next day, I surprised my former neighbors Joe and Margaret Gans from Telegraph Hill with a visit. Joe grew up in Montana, but worked for many years in the Bay Area. Retired now, he and Margaret spend summers at his family home in Helena and winters in San Francisco. Later I rode on and spent the night in Missoula, a lively college town.

I followed the path of Lewis and Clark across Idaho before turning south to Boise to visit my friends Karen and Andy. Their new house provided a comfortable accommodation for the night -- hospitality much appreciated.

The ride to Burns, Oregon, was peaceful. But the ride south from Burns on US Rt.395 was peppered with thunderstorms in the hills, which I managed to dodge mostly, and road construction, which I did not. The real excitement that day occurred when I unexpectedly rode into a brief dust storm -- visibility near zero, squinting through eyelashes to keep the sand out of my eyes, and gusts like I've never experienced trying to blow my bike right off the road. Thirty seconds later I rode into dead calm air. It was over as fast as it started. Later, I rode in T-shirt through a swarm of honeybees and got stung. That event resulted in a drop of the bike as I pulled off on a soft shoulder intending to remove the remnant of the little culprit from my arm. A friendly motorist in a pickup -- who also turned out to be a BMW rider -- stopped and helped me pick it up. All things considered, I was glad to get back to California that day.

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