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Carol Perkins: Sturgis, SD

A Carol Perkins Travelogue: An impulsive stop in Sturgis, SD, was a chance ot see one of Patricia Schultz' 10,000 Places to See Before You Dieand to visit the Woodstock of Motorcycles.
The Next earlier Carol Perkins column: Carol Perkins: Driving Fast

By Carol Perkins

As Guy and I were cruising down interstate 90, headed for various parts of the West, a motorcycle group passed us. Then another. For miles we felt as if we were being escorted by a motorcade.

"Those are Harley's," Guy said as he checked out each one as it passed.

"How do you know?

"I can tell by the sound of the engine." I didn't know he was motorcycle savvy.

"There must be something going on somewhere or there wouldn't be so many on the highway at the same time."

Soon we saw a sign for the next town and that town was Sturgis, SD.

That meant nothing to me, but Guy immediately knew what the something going on was.

"Every year there is a big thing in Sturgis for bikers. It is kind of a convention."

"Let's check it out!"

"You want to get in the middle of a traffic nightmare? I bet there are so many people there we won't be able to move the car through it for hours."

The bottom line was that he wanted to keep moving down I-90, but I didn't want to miss seeing what might be happening in Sturgis, so he relented and we took the next exit.

He was right.

You couldn't stir the crowd with a stick. I have never seen so many bikes or people on bikes in my life, and all of them wore leather. If I had been in the leather business, I would have set up in Sturgis!

Although some were young, most of the riders were in their forties and up.

That made sense since the younger people would not likely be able to afford both the bike and the trip or the time off from work.

Most of the men looked like Jesse James (Sandra Bullock's former) with beards and tattoos, and the women were either leathered up or slightly clad.

What I saw was a motley crew of having fun. Could this have been the Woodstock of Motorcycle World?

Engines roared through this small town and cars were scarce. I felt as if we were intruding, but no one seemed to notice. Because this town was so small (around 6,000 people), every inch was taken by bikes, so we almost didn't find a place to park so we could walk among them, but we did.

Then we found the prize of the day; the Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame.

That was worth the exit. Like a little boy with visions of owning his own someday, Guy checked out every inch of the place and longed to sit on the antique motorcycles. This was a motorcycle Mecca, and according to the information provided at the museum, has been listed as one of the 10,000 Places to See Before You Die by author Patricia Schultz.

I was equally impressed with the Freedom Fighters Hall of Fame that "recognizes the sacrifices individuals across the nation, and world, have made to protect the rights of motorcyclists through their efforts in the political arena and in grass roots motorcyclists rights organizations." Among those on the list was a Jay Huber from Kentucky. Only one is inducted per year.

At this museum, I read of the many philanthropic activities of cyclists and especially their dedication to children of fallen riders. I might have once thought of motorcycle riders as a little dangerous and living on the edge (in the 60's our mothers would not have wanted us to ride off on the back of a motorcycle), but I know better. Most of these men and women are servants of the community and professionals who have a passion for riding with the wind just as someone else might enjoy playing golf.

I now know that Sturgis is famous for hosting one of the largest annual motorcycle events in the world. Motorcycle enthusiasts flock to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I have no doubt that some of you have also been.

Contact Carol at

This story was posted on 2011-08-21 11:33:02
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