The Road To
It was a tradition my Dad started. . .Sturgis
rally every two years. This year was our
first to join the group. Making this trip isn’t
for the faint of heart, therefore Dad's riding
group changed almost every time he and Mom made the trip. In 2004 my
sister, Cindy and her husband, Ross, joined Mom and Dad on the journey to
Sturgis and would also be on the ’06 trip. Our group would be complete,
Dad and Mom on a '97 Harley-Davidson Road King, Ross and Cindy on a
'03 Harley-Davidson Low Rider, and my husband, Tom, and I on a '95
Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic.
Dad had warned us in the spring that “the only bad thing about Sturgis
year is you wish your summer away, because you can’t wait for the
trip”. He was right, it became an obsession, and I hadn’t even experienced it
yet. Everybody talks about it endlessly so you think you know what to expect.
But I learned this is not possible because there is just no way to express this
experience with words. And believe me, Dad was very animated when he
told his stories.
Day 1 – August 4th, 2006
sharp Friday morning. This was Dad’s gig, so you
want to be sure you follow the plan. It’s 6:00 a.m.
exactly and Tom and I are half a block away stuck at a
red light, shit, we’re late, the newbies, not good.
Arrival time would be 6:04, they could hear us waiting
for the light so the intentions to be on time were
acknowledged, all was forgiven. Tradition dictated
breakfast at the Waffle House before hitting the road.
Dad was hardcore biker, so when Dad says after breakfast “no stopping ‘til
Indy (about 2 1/2 hours), if you have to go to the bathroom do it now”, you
believed it. Twenty minutes into the ride Dad’s saddle bag pops open while
riding down the interstate, mild panic sets in as Tom and I envision the
contents that were bouncing up and down inside the saddle bag
blowing right into our path. We all pull over, secure the load and head off.
Ten minutes later Ross and Cindy start to lose part of their load. Since we are
the tail bike we see yet another potential for camping gear coming our way. At
this point Tom and I are a little concerned, if these seasoned travelers are
losing their shit, what are WE going to lose? Dad and Mom were so focused
on making ground, they were way up the road and didn’t realize that two of our
three bikes had pulled over to fix the cargo and kept on riding. They didn’t
get too far however, and motorcyclists heading the other direction on the
interstate were motioning to us that one of our group were indeed pulled
over ahead waiting for us.
Cargo is secure and ready to roll! We have some time to make up. After
all, two stops within twenty miles of leaving town was not good. Twenty
minutes later... our road captain, Dad, is motioning to get off the exit ramp.
He’s busting, and needs a bathroom break. Although the rest of us were
grateful for the stop, after filling up on oj & coffee, we were even more
grateful that we weren’t the ones who asked for it! Now we're ready. This
time, no stopping 'til Indy!
We finally reach our first gas stop. Fill up, stretch the legs, swig of Jack,
ready to roll. The trip is uneventful after our first stop, skies are clear, traffic
heavy but running smooth, and cargo on all three bikes remains secure.
We reach our second gas stop somewhere near Danville, Illinois. We are
getting around 100 miles per tank. At this stop, desperate to stretch my legs,
I make the comment “thank God these bikes don’t have 20 gallon
tanks” (little did I know this comment would go into the road journal my sister
would soon start keeping). Ready for lunch, we decide on the Steak and
Shake we see near the gas station for lunch. Dad and Tom order chili and
milkshakes for lunch. Really? We can’t help but wonder where this decision
may lead later in the day.
Our third gas stop was near Morton, Illinois. Coincidently the same gas
station they stopped at on the ‘04 journey. After 300 miles, this was a much
anticipated and needed stop. We were all ready to get off the bikes, pack
the leather away, and re-hydrate. This is also the stop that the pepto was
purchased, the lunch choice had come to haunt Dad. Cindy also purchased
the notebook that would serve as ‘road journal’. Strangely, they didn’t sell
pens here, Cindy had to beg the station attendant to give her a pen.
We are now thundering by the vast corn fields of eastern Illinois, traffic very
light, unlike I75 and I70. Around 3:30 in the afternoon we start seeing a few
other bikes making their way to Sturgis. Feeling part of something exciting,
this is helping to re-energize us in our journey. We make a stop at a rest
area in between gas stops for the first time, as we are feeling the weariness
creep in. Back on the road after a very brief stop and another swig of Jack
the scenery starts to get a little more appealing. Changing from flat terrain,
the corn fields begin to roll up and down on the hillsides they were planted.
Around 5:00 we cross the beautiful Mississippi River and celebrate with
hands in the air as we reach another milestone and are now in Iowa.
Having made a rest stop in between gas stops, (we were using gas stops
as an opportunity to get off the bikes) we were now desperate to fill up.
We stop for gas at an Iowa 80 truck stop in Walcott. A man tells Mom
reports from Sturgis are of massive construction, and of forest
and grass fires, with smoke being visible from Sturgis. Disappointing
news to all of us.
With our first overnight stop planned to be a KOA campground in West
Liberty, Iowa, we knew we only had about 30 miles left in the days travel.
By this point I am regretting the decision to wear my pointy toed cowboy
boots, which under normal conditions are very comfortable, these were not
normal conditions and my feet were throbbing in pain. On the ’04 journey,
they discovered a pizza joint delivers to this campground, so we were all
looking forward to setting up camp and enjoying pizza and cold beer. With a
tired, road-weary mind, Ross also makes the road journal by suggesting the
three couples split the cost of the three pizzas, three ways. This leads to a
fit of laughter no doubt fueled by the long, hot ride.
The first leg of travel was a good one, 500 miles down, great weather,
beautiful skies, traffic very manageable. With full stomachs & hot showers,
we crashed before 10 that night. We slept like babies & none of us heard
the raccoons that raided our pizza boxes in the night.
The Road To Sturgis....Day 2 – August 5th, 2006
agrees it was a great night’s sleep. We have camp packed up and our gear
back on the bikes by 7:30 a.m. By now, we have covered some ground
starting out in Ohio heading south on I-75 to I-70 east through to Indiana. In
Indiana we continue onto I-74 to carry us through Illinois to I-80 on the
Illinois/Iowa border. Today our first milestone would be reaching I-29, where
we finally get to head north. This stretch of road is going to bring us into
South Dakota to our final stretch of highway: I-90 west toward our coveted
Mom had pointed out the night before, while I was complaining about my
aching feet, that “self-inflicted pain is pointless.” Point taken, I decided to
not wear my boots for this day’s travel, even if not thrilled with my only
alternative; sandals I had packed for the shower houses at the various
camps. Worrying about the lack of protection from the stones that inevitably
come your way from passing vehicles, I decided socks would help. You can
imagine I was looking very cool with my leather jacket, chaps, socks
and sandals. After a swig of Jack to get the blood flowing, we are in our
usual formation and back on the road 8:00 a.m.
We traveled for a little while before stopping for breakfast. After another
swig of Jack in the parking lot “to get the dust out of our throats” (Jack
seems to be making more frequent appearances), we eat at the Amanda
Colonies, a German style restaurant. Upon leaving the restaurant we notice
the skies have darkened considerably. Always optimistic, we continue our
westward journey on I-80.
We managed to get about thirty minutes of travel in before we caught up with
the rain. We pulled into a gas station for coffee and water and notice a
Christian biker club had a tent set up in the parking lot. We took shelter under
the tent briefly feeling antsy about not making any headway so early in the
day. We made the determination that the rain wasn’t going to let up and that
we needed to get back on the road. The rain turned out to be just an
inconvenience until we get closer to Des Moines. In time for the busy city
traffic on I-80, the clouds release their fury and we are in the midst of a
serious downpour. Riding in the rain is seldom pleasant, but watching my
parents, sister and brother-in-law, disappear right before our eyes every time
we passed a semi (due to the massive amount of spray they threw from their
tires), was more than a little unnerving. It wasn’t the abilities of our group that
concerned me; it was the acknowledgement of our presence to every other
vehicle around us I was concerned about. I was thankful we were behind my
family and they were safe from the rapid moving traffic behind us. It took
about a second for the thought to hit me. SHIT we are the tail bike; we
are ALSO vanishing from sight in the tire sprays! This is when I
started praying for the rain to stop, or at least, for the multi-lane section of
highway to taper down to a less busy good ‘ole four lane interstate.
We stopped for gas at the Kum and Go, next
door to Rubes, a great restaurant the seasoned
travelers ate at on the ‘04 journey. The restaurant
was now closed permanently: sad news for us as
we were looking forward to the steaks that received
high acclaim from the group. We took a very short
break from the rain under the awning outside the
About 15 miles outside of Des Moines the rain quits and ridiculously high
winds begin. Great, now I have a front row seat to the view of our group riding
80-85 miles per hour sideways, literally. I believe we were at, at least, a 60
degree angle, packed with 10 days worth of clothing and camping gear! As
awkward as it feels, it is even more disturbing to watch.
Everyone is worn out, heads are rattled, and our hair is tangled between every
opening on our helmets. We stop at a primitive rest area for a break from the
wind. No worries about my soaking wet socks, the high winds would help to
dry everything that was soaked. There is no mention of Jack coming out at
this rest stop in the road journal, but I can’t believe that we didn’t share a swig
of old number seven after our exhausting ride.
had complemented Tom and I
on our travel abilities, having not
complained about anything. I am
pretty sure she was referring to
the previous day, because by this
point, even the gum I stepped on
at our current stop annoyed the
hell out of me.
We hit I-29 N around 2:00 p.m., our first milestone for this day’s travel, yeah!!
We stopped for lunch at the Bluegrass Café, where, according to the sign
“the food’s so good; a rabbit would smack a bear to get some”.
There were a lot of bikes here; it is always a boost to our adrenaline when we
run into bikes heading to Sturgis. Tom and Cindy’s leather gloves had bled
on their hands from the rain, leaving their hands stained in black. The wait-
ress waiting our table called Tom out on his hands in a rather dramatic tone:
he was a little more than embarrassed. We all share a laugh; did we just
discover what might have help coin the phrase “dirty biker”?
Back on the road the skies become cloudless at last, but the air becomes
HOT! With the wind to our backs, we are anticipating the ride to Sioux City will
be less harrowing. Our next gas stop is filled with bikes. Christian groups
are handing out bottled water to everyone due to the extreme heat. Wow,
these Christian groups are awesome! Rumor in the parking lot was that
there is an 8” drop in pavement somewhere ahead. With reports of bikes
going down, we keep our eyes out for the “drop”. Several miles later, we rode
over a little bump in the pavement; was that supposed to be the monster that
was dropping bikes? We didn’t see any evidence of any issues or anyone
having issues. Feeling more relaxed and enjoying the warm air, we thundered
down the highway.
I-29 is D-E-S-O-L-A-T-E!! I was amazed at the lack of traffic on the interstate.
As someone originating from a town that is split by I-75, this isn’t the norm.
We crossed the South Dakota line at 4:45 p.m. Finally! This day with all its
elements, felt much longer than day one. In day one we were in four states
and felt like some serious ground was covered. On day two, we spent the
entire day in one state, IOWA. Without the ‘milestones’ to look forward to, it
really dragged on.
We stopped for gas and water about
40 miles south of Sioux Falls. We took
a long break to cool down. Dad, ever
eager to get the show on the road, fires
up his Road King, motions the rest of us
on, and heads out. Umm, Dad, have
you forgotten something? The look
on Mom’s face was priceless as she
watched her ride to Sturgis tooling down
the road without her. She stood there
shaking her head while the rest of us
holler, whistle, and wave our arms in
the air to get Dad’s attention. It was likely Cindy’s two fingers between the
teeth, shrill whistle (taught to her by Dad years earlier), that got his attention.
To quote the road journal, “Dad sheepishly returns”. We all share a good
laugh along with several witnessing bikers.
Back on the road, the skies are ominous. Please, Gods of the Road to
Sturgis, no more rain! The rain held off but the scorching heat was
becoming unbearable. Already stripped down to our last layer of clothing; the
cover of gray clouds lessened our misery only slightly.
We reach I-90, the road into Sturgis!!! Excitement abounds. Our overnight
stop in Mitchell, 63 miles away, has become a reality. I-90 is littered with bikes
heading to Sturgis. We are really getting pumped. After the day we had, we
were especially enjoying the t-shirts we are reading on bikers passing by. . .
“Nice Trailer... Pussy”; ill repute to those trailering their bikes to the rally.
a beautiful campground with a huge campsite
looking out to the pristine, shimmering Lake
Mitchell. Another successful 500 miles down,
we shared a celebratory swig of Jack. We got
camp set up; got back on the bikes and found
a restaurant across the road from camp called
“The Brig”. The skies were clear and it was
very warm and humid. Sitting in the air
conditioning, drinking cold beer, filling our
bellies, we felt perfectly amazing.
We got back to camp and enjoyed the scenery for a little while before heading
off to our tents for the night. We woke to a sunny day and to all of our surprise,
a campground filled with neighboring bikers. It’s astonishing, but after a day on
the road you are engulfed in a sleep so deep that even the roar of dozens of
Harleys pulling into the campground and people engaged in setting up camp
doesn’t stir you.
The Road To Sturgis ... Day 3, August 6, 2006
anticipation, as this is the last leg of our trip to Sturgis. We had traveled 500
miles each day so far – 300 would be seemingly easy.
We skipped breakfast eager to get rolling. At about 9:30 a.m. we were back
on I-90; the scenery is rapidly changing with the lush corn fields changing to
dry, withered crops. Grass fields and wheat fields become the newest
attraction. We are all enjoying the change of scenery; as Iowa REALLY has a
lot of corn! With less than 70 miles between camp at Lake Mitchell and the
Missouri River we are quickly approaching our first stop; the rest area at the
Missouri River crossing. We make it to the rest stop in good time despite the
sudden spitting and sputtering coming from Dad’s Road King.
We are taken back by the stark change in
geography. The landscape we were just
enjoying on the east side of the river was
green with grass, scattered with crops, and
evergreens. As we stand on the overlook,
our sights toward the western portion
of the state, we see an arid, brown land-
scape that reveals little plant life. We are
intrigued with what awaits us immediately
on the other side of the river. The scene lived up to everything our riding
partners had told us it would be. With this magnificent overlook being a
planned stop in our journey. We spent time at the rest area absorbing in the
beautiful view of the river and surrounding terrain.
As we stood here we watched dozens of motorcycles heading across the
Missouri on their way to Sturgis. Dad looked over his bike, suspecting a fuel
obstruction. After a quick carburetor inspection he finds no problems.
Perhaps whatever had caused the bike to sputter has worked its way out.
Anxious to resume our journey, Dad leads his brood across the river and
We are getting closer to the Plains now as the infamous winds are starting to
bully us. The traffic on I-90 is mostly motorcycles and those trailering their
motorcycles. I am still fascinated with the lack of traffic on yet another stretch
of interstate. We are all longing for a cold beverage to replenish our hydration
the winds have taken and lunch as we had skipped breakfast.
Our first gas stop is in Kennebec. Bikes were lined up at every gas pump and
waiting in every direction. In all the congestion of bikers and bikes we lost
Ross. We found Ross, but we soon hear what became a common refrain from
Dad; “where’s Pat?” After finally finding Mom, we grab lunch at the restaurant
inside the gas station called Hot Rod’s. The restaurant was packed with bikers
heading to Sturgis. If you didn’t already feel like you were a part of something
really big, you did now. Unified with people from all over the country; all of us
thundering our way to the Granddaddy of all rallies.
miles to go; the scenery kept getting
more intriguing with prairie grasses, tills,
and pheasant. Tom describes the
pheasant as ‘looking like wild turkeys
being shot out by canons’ as they were
propelled by the prairie wind. One
pheasant came particularly close as it
flew rapidly in front of us, crossing all
lanes of interstate, Tom and I both
the quail that briefly got caught up in wind turbulent between him and the
windshield on the bike. I found it to be rather amusing; however, my moment
of “oh shit” would come soon after. We were approaching a manufactured
house being transported on the highway. The siding on the entire side
of this house was peeling off, pieces flapping and smacking in the
wind, hanging onto the house by only a fraction of its original length.
We had to pass this house and pass it quick! I literally held my breath during
the entire pass, bracing for what seemed to be imminent; pieces of siding to
the face. We passed without incident; a BIG sigh of relief.
Today’s travels have been relatively uneventful, an appreciated reprieve
from the day prior. The scenery provided a perfect backdrop to the sounds
of thunder our bikes were singing. As we were getting closer to Sturgis; and
getting even more pumped, we recall the information Mom had received
earlier in our trip; ‘reports from Sturgis are of massive construction, and of
forest and grass fires, with smoke being visible from Sturgis’. We all dismiss
that rumor to be of the same caliber as the 8” drop that was claiming victims.
Between Rapid City and Sturgis people are lined up on the overpasses
holding signs with welcome greetings for all the bikers heading to the rally.
Wow, this is awesome! Even the locals, who deal with this every year, still
come out to enjoy the sights and sounds of the bikes and WELCOME you
We get within 18 miles of Sturgis and the rain starts. The rain was very brief,
besides any amount of rain could not have put a damper on how we were
feeling. At 4:30 pm, we arrive in Sturgis, celebrating with hands in the air
and smiles from ear to ear! We make
our way to our campsite, Lamphere
Ranch. We anxiously get all the gear
off the bikes. Finally! We all agreed
freeing the bikes of all our equipment
felt liberating to all of us. It was as if
we were hauling the immense load on
our own backs. After getting the tents
set up, we get on the bikes and eagerly
head to town.
We are welcomed to Sturgis with the incredible sight of the thousands of
motorcycles lined on both sides of the streets and down the middle - two rows
deep; neatly parked side by side, providing open lanes for an endless
downtown. Greeted with the goose-
bump-provoking sounds of thunder that
constantly rumbled. There are more
than 450,000 people sharing this
passion, understanding, experience,
and appreciation. This is the one place
on this planet, at this moment,
where you don’t have to explain.
This party, this is for the bikers that put their passion to the test. And
will again and again and again.
With that being said, it’s time to party!
We parked our bikes at a parking lot
near the Broken Spoke. There is a
bar with live bands on every corner
and everywhere in between. Vendors
rent entire store fronts for the week.
People are walking shoulder to shoulder;
everyone is happy, partying, friendly,
and respectful of each others space.
Our first order of business was to find the liquor store, as we were out of
Jack. Having a whole week and a journey back home, this was a must-make
purchase. After this purchase we continued to walk the streets of downtown
checking out the goods being offered for sale by many vendors. I immediately
purchased a new pair of boots for the week, but more importantly, for the ride
At the The Broken Spoke they displayed a US map and a World map.
Patrons stuck push pins on the maps representing where they traveled from,
it was quite remarkable to see. People from all over the world are represented.
We made quick stops at The Knuckle & One-Eyed Jacks, with the intentions
of returning later in the week to explore more. We stop at a very unique bar
called The Dungeon. The Dungeon was in the basement of a t-shirt shop or
possibly a tattoo parlor. The walls and pipes were covered in bare insulation
that people had signed over the years, and of course, we too signed the walls.
What made this place even more interesting were the panties and bras
hanging from the ceiling.
When we emerged from the dungeon it was raining and getting pretty late.
We were all starved and grabbed some food at the BBQ Pork Heaven tent
then walked back to the parking lot where our bikes were parked. We rode
back to the campground; which was only a few miles outside of town.
Still pumped and excited about our arrival and our adventures yet to unfold
this week, we discussed plans to wake early the next morning and eat break-
fast at the campground kitchen. Our Road Captain had a full day planned with
our rides the next day to include Keystone, Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and
sunny day. We stake our place in line at the shower house, and
prepare for a new day’s adventure.
The Road To Sturgis
Dedicated In Memory of Dad
We Return to Sturgis for the
2011 Rally. Meet our Crew
and read about our journey to
the 2011 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
RidersInfo 03/2011, 04/2011
All Rights Reserved
Part 3 Revised 04/11/11
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