For me, for two nights, a quiet neighborhood existed on Boulevard St. in Sturgis – in recovery from lyme disease that was a pleasure. But that’s not what the rally was about. Four blocks away, national and global riders converged with a controlled force, thanks to the Sturgis PD, on Main Street. Hundreds of thousands parked, rode, and strolled; drank, ate, and gaped; vendors filled every gap with T’s, patches, and anything else one could pin or bolt to a bike. The action reached to Deadwood, Hill City, Lead, and every other watering hole through the hills. Sunshine grace the mountains and riders between sprinkles and powerful downpours.

The Black Hills H-D jammed with inventory and acres of vendors. Bike parking held enough room for 4,500 bikes, which turned over four times each day. Jim Burgess, the owner, gave me a tour and spoke of preparations for next years 75th Rally Anniversary. Expansions will work through the year in expectation for up to double attendance. Jim was generous to offer me a few days in his store next year for a Harley Tracks: In the Spirit of Freedom book signing. I’ll follow up with signings I Deadwood, Sturgis, and the Buffalo Chip Campground.

After two peaceful nights, I joined Hack at The Chip – over one hundred acres of tents and RV’s. A stage sat in a natural amphitheater and rocked with the largest crowds through music, zip lines, and an endless party.  The Field of Flags stood near the entrance. A respected display of history and for those who sacrificed for freedom. It was like a homecoming to bring the Fat Boy to its traveling Wall – a scaled model of the Vietnam War Memorial. In the silence on the field, I was honored to meet JT, a veteran, whose cousin’s name cut into the first center panel on the East Wing.

Saturday night, a storm packed winds in excess of 60 mph. Rain hammered the hills, and my little North Face tent on the hill held against its wrath, however, covered and broadside to the wind, it blew Hack’s bike over – I thought I smelled gas. When I peeked out, neighbors had already righted it. We left Sunday morning at 10 for a 16 hour ride to Mpls – stops, lunch, and coincidental meeting with JT, rain, and a blown fuse on Hack’s bike extended the ride. After Hack turned off 35 W for his last blocks home, I rolled into one more storm for my final miles.

Look forward to next year.

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About Mike Rinowski

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