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.
How I ended up in Sturgis for three weeks surrounding the Rally was the result of a random conversation I had in Austin a few months before. I had gone there to research another writing project, and had made the retro-but-hip blue and white tiled counter at Starseeds Cafe my home base to eat and organize every morning. Through this I met Kira, a tall, heavily tattooed, edgy-type woman who worked behind the counter. She’s the one who put it in my head to go to Sturgis. We had been talking about our past bartending experiences at large events, and the theoretical possibility of being a travelling bartender as an occupation. She painted her time bartending at the Rally in an interesting light, and I’ve always loved being behind a bar. The social perks are great, such as making new friends nightly, and being able to watch from a safe distance the questionable choices people make just before closing time.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt it would be stupid not to go to Sturgis. With that in mind I shot off a dozen or so applications for temporary work. My bartending resumé got the attention of half a dozen bars, one of which was the Loud American Roadhouse where Kira had worked before. Given its location on Main Street in the heart of downtown Sturgis, I signed on, and realized that this was going to end up being much more of an adventure than a work trip. It now had become an excuse to spend a month on my motorcycle, working, camping, and exploring places I’d only seen through a car windshield previously.
There are so many odd facets to this event that it would take a writer much more talented than myself to really dive into the quirky nuances that is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Hell, I could go on all day about the bizarre interactions I had while camping for the 19 days I was in South Dakota. I won’t though, and it’s better that way.
What you’ll notice if you begin to peruse the little drop-down links for Sturgis is, at first glance, random titles. My hope is after you read what first interests you, maybe you’ll want to know a bit more, then read the rest. In the end, if I’ve done my job right, you will have a pretty clear picture of what the Rally is like.