When I turned 21, I began taking birthday vacations to random cities I’d never been. I’d look at a map of the U.S., settle on a city that had a direct flight from Salt Lake, pack my BMX bike, and forget about everything for a week. At that time I thought alone was the only way to travel. I didn’t have to wait on anyone, or make concessions on what places I’d see or what hotel I stayed in. I would leave it to chance if I met anyone to hang out with, and if not, fuck it. I’d ride my bike around and drink heavily at the quaint little Irish Pubs I would inevitably find. I did that for about five years until I felt that my responsibilities at home or work were too great to completely check out for a week at a time.
“A trip isn’t an adventure until something goes wrong.”
I have no idea where this quote comes from, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t accurate. Take a look at that picture above. 30 minutes after I snapped it at that idyllic place, I lost my wallet… In a stream… In the mountains. I’d stopped on the way out to take a picture of a snake, and when I got back to my bike at the bottom…. Fuuuuck.
I spent 3 hours walking up and down this mountain stream in search of it, only to come up empty handed. When you are traveling, keeping your wallet on your person is kind of a big deal, and I fucked that up.
It took me a few days to nail down what I would call the defining characteristics of the South Dakotans I met in Sturgis. I feel this is mostly because when you talk with them, you can’t really peg them as being from South Dakota immediately. North Dakotans are easily distinguished, as they speak a language that is a mix of stereotypical Canadian and unintelligible mumbling. After a couple cocktails, understanding a tipsy North Dakotan is like putting a puzzle together with missing pieces, it takes serious trial and error to get the whole picture. More than once I’d give up the fight, claim I couldn’t hear over the music, and just ask them to point at what they wanted.
South Dakotans, having little to no accent, are extremely easy to understand. Taking away the easy target of language as a way to describe them left me having to think harder about what these folks are actually like. Then one morning it hit me. Pragmatic. That’s what they are. When I would hear them talk about the fact that this Rally, the 75th anniversary, was expecting nearly a million people to descend on Sturgis like a mad, drunken, tornado of exhaust pipes and no morals, the most typical response would be “Yep. That’s Rally. They will all be here and gone in 10 days.” No emotion, just a confirming response wearing matter-of-fact from head to toe.
When I tell someone, “I spent the last few weeks in Sturgis,” I expect to get one of two reactions. The first is a blank stare from those who have no idea what or where Sturgis is. They may have heard something about it at some point, but can’t quite remember what. The second reaction is the one I like. The one where the person’s eyes widen, their head tilts back a few degrees, and they say something like, “Whoa dude. How was THAT?”
Now that it’s over and I can reflect a bit, I can honestly answer that the 2015 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was one big fucking mess. It was a mess of motorcycles, of bodies, of weather, of piss-soaked alleys and of adults behaving poorly. A mess of pop-up retail tents, of puked-on shoes, of wet cardboard and “lost” clothing. A mess that stretched out either side of town, from the Buffalo Chip campground to the east where thousands called home for a week, west to Spearfish, and south into the Black Hills town of Deadwood. I guess this is what one would expect when trying to run close to a million people through a town with a normal population of just under seven thousand, and those who came did not fail to meet that messy expectation. Continue reading Sturgis Is a Mess