South Dakota – Easyrider on a Grand Scale

Thursday 6 to Saturday 8 August

As we left Washington State heading east we were amazed at the number of bikers on the road. Don’t confuse bikers who ride motor bikes with bikies and their reputation of the drug dealing, stand over thugs that we see in Australia.

We’d already met a few bikers on our travels but we started to see them on the freeway by the hundreds.

There were more bikes than cars at the motels we were booked into. They were mostly Harley Davidson big bikes with matching big noise. They were often well decorated with chrome and leather tails.  There were even a few three wheelers. Along the freeways, some bikes were hauling trailers. Some were carrying pillion passengers and a few had a dog in the pillion seat.

There was a large number of women riding bikes.

We also noticed a lot of pickup trucks along the freeways, hauling trailers that contained bikes.

We soon learned that there was a big bike rally on. Not only is this one of the biggest bikers event in the world, but for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, it was their 75th anniversary.

Sturgis is located in South Dakota in the same area as Black Hills and the Little Bighorn.

We didn’t go to Sturgis. We would have been very out of place there in our sparkling white Kia. But if we had been there we would have seen some of the track, hill climb, Motocross and field events that the rally is famous for.

But the spectators that come in their hundreds of thousands also come to experience the land. In 2015 an estimated 1 million bikers attended the rally.

There are so many wonderful sights in this area. Little Bighorn – a defining moment in the war between the American army and the Lakote Indians; Devils Tower – the famous monolith of Close Encounters of a Third Kind; Mount Rushmore – famous marker of earlier presidents and the more contemporary Crazy Horse – still a Work In Progress; Badlands – the amazing moving, sculptured rock of the plains.

Then there was Wall Drug – a town built on marketing or was it a test of faith in Jesus?  And finally, Mitchell – the home of the Corn Palace.

The bikers were visiting them all as part of the pilgrimage. We saw plates from Utah, Arizona and from Quebec. We heard French, Italian, Spanish, German and even Australian accents. We noticed Indonesian and Japanese bikers.

Most of the bikers looked the same, greying hair, substantial beer pot, scarf tied around their head, goatee or at least an under the chin beard.

And the ladies looked as weathered.

They wore a uniform, T-shirts from the current or past meetings and jeans or shorts.  There were no leathers and few helmets.  Unfortunately not everyone got to go home.  There were 13 related deaths at and around the rally in 2015. A total of 152 injury accidents were reported during the rally week.