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2012 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Report
A weeklong journey into the heart of motorcycledom
Last week, the Project Victory Hard Ball and I made the long haul to South Dakota from Los Angeles for the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis. I’ll tell you more about the build-out and the ride out later, but first I’ve got to tell you about the week in bikerville.
As you might expect, the story is full of booze, boobs and bikes, and it’ll really take being there to understand the scene completely, but I’ll try to bring you the scene right here. Grab a beer and click on through the gallery to relive it with me… or to experience it for the first time.
If you’ve never been there, try to get the time to make it for at least 3 days, but its best to do the full week. If you had to pick a weekend to focus on, take the first as the energy is high and if, you’re lucky, the rains haven’t fallen yet – they do every year.
I arrived on the first Sunday this year and was lucky enough to acquire a rental trailer from Jack’s Campers. And, after check-ins, I walked into a pre-cool air conditioned home; in the 100-degree heat, I could have kissed the man for thinking ahead for us! Unpacked and rested, it was time to grab a cold one and venture out on foot to begin the party. The week ahead was going to be a busy one!
Tonight on stage was the Zac Brown Band, and in between sets, Indian Motorcycles and Jack Daniels unveiled a pair of tricked out customs.
Monday morning came quickly and it was time to get to work – charity work, that is. I took a legendary journey with the guitarist from Journey, Neal Schon, to the Buffalo Chip in the 2012 Legends Ride, and got to see him and play in concert that night.
The Legends ride begins in Deadwood and raises money for the Special Olympics as well as the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. It’s a celebrity-soaked event, both moto-famous and famous-famous, like from TV and film. This is a prime opportunity to give to a special cause, ride with legends in the industry like three generations of the Ness family, Mrs. South Dakota, Robbie Knievel, Motorcycle Nomad Bean’re, the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the list goes on.
And after a spectacular 50-mile ride through the Black Hills and through the Chip, there was dinner and an auction to raise more money for the kids.
Speaking of the kids, last year’s event raised enough money to afford the new bus they needed, so Mr. Buffalo Chip himself, Woody, brought out a group of kids to enjoy the event as well.
Monday night concluded with an ’80s flashback series of concerts beginning with Loverboy and closing with a band everyone hates to love, Journey! You know all the songs, believe me!
Tuesday was my “easy” day with a ride out to Rapid City to the Black Hills H-D dealership, aka the “Destination H-D of Sturgis” where parts reps and vendors filed an 18-acre lot with parts and accessories for your bike, all with installation space to get you rolling home with some new rubber, shiny parts, hard parts or soft goods.
I went out there to test ride the Öhlins-equipped Harley and ride back to the Chip for a tour of this year’s Motorcycles as Art gallery show put on for free to Sturgis attendees – you need not buy a ticket to any concert at the Chip to see this amazing collection of motorcycle and art. Inside was a collection of custom bikes, and art from photographers and painters alike, plus some works from the curator himself, the celebrated Michael Lichter. The gallery next door showcases the works of the David Mann of our time, David Uhl, and his incredibly beautiful oil painting and prints of famous riders, builders and musicians.
From there, stamp that ticket and take the next night’s ride at the Chip with concerts from Buckcherry and a personal favorite classic rock act, Boston!
And in between there were beer-bottle-shaped hot-air balloons, killer sunsets, no rain (so far), stellar riding, seemingly less riding congestion and higher temps. Plus hot tubs on trailers, party buses shaped like pirate ships cruising Lazelle Street, bikini carwashes every half-mile it seems, smiling faces, lots of leather and tons of chrome.
Wednesday was no slouch, either, with no hint of resting for this hump day. With another charity ride from Deadwood to the Chip, the Biker Belles Ride with nearly every influential woman-rider in the industry and a collection of 100 of their closest new friends. If you’re a woman rider, or know one that might be intimidated by the male riders in her group, send her on over to next year’s Belles ride where she’ll not only find inspiration to be the biker we all want to be, but also massages, seminars from the influential, topless male bar-backs and a silent auction filled with stuff girls want – jewelery, tires… even a date with Bean’re!
I had to skip the ride to shoot the award ceremonies for the AMD show downtown. Then it was back to the Biker Belles Ride for dinner, and the HOG rally ride for another dinner, before running back downtown to see a few friends compete in the burnout races at the EasyRiders bar. Then back again to the Chip for the Eric Church concert.
And before I know it, its midnight and the fire dancers are performing to the rocking tunes at the Kinison stage. Michael Holt and the Trophy 500s tore the roof on that little stage! Saturday night they graduated to the main stage as the closing night opening act.
Thursday was the day for me, the Victory owners ride, and while I don’t own one yet, I feel like part of the family after my 2000-mile journey on the Hard Ball. They do a fantastic job of making the attendees feel at home, with not only a larger collection of registered riders than any other group riding this week, but also a dinner and concert at the Chip with another charity auction, giveaways, Playboy Playmates, Sergeant “Gunny” Ermey and even a couple who proposed to each other on stage to commemorate the event. Gunny made the moment when he congratulated the couple after asking the guy, “Son, what have you done?!”
I had the opportunity to ride with Gunny to the event, snap a few pictures and have lunch with the man. And, boy, he has some good stories! Of course I can’t tell you any of them or I’d have to kill you, but just imagine what a man who is the spokesperson for both Glock guns and Victory Motorcycles might say! Not to mention the tours of duty, Purple Hearts and the only marine I know with an IMDB record.
Not much else could make a day better than this one, until the night fell and Sugarland took stage to warm up the crowd for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Me and my 50,000 new friends rocked the night away, And, yes, of course they played “Free Bird.”
Mid-day rain on Friday brings a little reprieve from the dust, and with the anticipation of no less a pace over the second weekend, the wet moments gave me time to download the camera cards, take a shower with better water pressure (now that many RV campers left town this morning) and enjoy the party for a change. Connecting with a few friends, we enjoyed the freedom of our nation’s second amendment and fired a few rounds into the hillside. Not really target practice, but more like pulling the triggers on a grip of automatic weapons. What a way to blow cash quickly!
More rain and this time a downpour, and then its time for Slash to take the stage. Look out, world, it never seems to end!
By now the crowds are thinning and its beginning to feel like the end, and it’s perhaps the best time to snag a deal or two on Main Street before the last night of the week. Sublime took the Chip’s main stage, Victory gave away a Klock Werks Kustom motorcycle and the Ms. Buffalo Chip contest concludes with a boob-tastic display of red, white and blue, and finally it’s time to pack up the ol Vic and hit the road.
Sunday I hit the road and begin to type another story of motorcycling in America. This one’s over, and what a week it’s been! Now go check out the photos below and don't miss our massive photo gallery!
2012 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Pictures
2011 Sturgis Rally Report
2010 Sturgis Rally Report
2009 Sturgis Coverage
2008 Sturgis Coverage