Chris Ward has spent most his life in California. Growing up he raced motor cross but his older age and bad knees turned him on to buying a Harley. He enjoys a few good road trips riding with the boys and with his wife if he is lucky enough.
When Chris contacted Faster Than My Mind earlier this year he was very excited about his upcoming road trip to attend Sturgis with some friends. He said they were just as excited about the ride as they were about Sturgis. Here is Chris's story and I'm sure you will enjoy reading about their experience as much as we did.
The Ride to Sturgis
This summer was one of opportunity for me as I was finally, after years of listening to friends talk about it, able to make the ride to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and get a clear picture of what the rally was about. This was a summer to remember and thanks to the brilliance of those who organize this event, I’m already working on plans to make sure I can break away and attend the coming 2018 Sturgis rally as well.
In my line of work, I’m able to travel the world, but to be honest, while I frequently travel to coastal towns to check out the sand and surf around the world, I seldom ever get a chance to take my motorcycle out and ride through the U.S. as often as I would like. Friends have tried to persuade me for the last few years to check out the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and this year, I decided to break free from sitting at my desk at A1AutoTransport.com and load up my motorcycle and go to Sturgis. I must admit, the ride was long and at times it was lonely, but it was probably the best ride I’ve ever taken and I can’t wait to take it again next year.
I could have had my Harley shipped and just met a driver to pick it up so I could ride it while in Sturgis, but I needed the ride time to get back into the swing of riding. This was no time to worry about racing up the highway as I needed to have a relaxed ride. My bike had been garaged for at least 9 months before the trip, and it was time to let her loose and enjoy the scenery between Santa Cruz and Sturgis.
Here’s a brief glimpse into my ride to Sturgis and why I wish 2018 would hurry and roll around so next year’s rally would be here already.
First, I loaded my motorcycle up with only 3 changes of clothing to make sure my load was as light as possible, a small tent and a sleeping bag as well as a small tool kit for emergencies just in case I needed it along the way. I also packed a rain poncho, but thankfully, I never had to use it during the long ride. I skipped packing toiletries because they take up space, albeit a small amount of space, but I knew I could buy a toothbrush and soap when I got to the rally.
I hit I-80 from I-680 N and headed towards Wyoming. This leg of the trip was the longest by far and while Google Maps told me it would take roughly 15 hours to ride, it took me a little over 25. I stopped in Reno for the night on my first night and spent a little time checking out the casinos and food along the strip. I decided to grab a room at a casino and chose Circus Circus Hotel and Casino because I had been before and I generally liked the rooms as well as the Blackjack tables on the casino floor. It had been a long day however, so I only played a few hands before heading to the room and retiring for the night.
I got up, showered and stopped at the buffet for breakfast before gearing up and heading out. In the parking lot of Circus Circus, I met a few guys who were heading to Sturgis as well and we all kind of decided to pack up and ride together through Nevada. We made stops in Elko, Nevada for a late lunch and to fuel up and then rode into Salt Lake City, Utah in the early evening.
Rainbow caught just south of Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City is a big area but we found a great little pub downtown on Poplar Street where we had plenty of food and a few drinks before hitting the pillows that night to rest for the last leg of the ride the next day. From what I could see, there’s a lot to do in the city and I hope to head back one day to check things out a little better.
Riding out of Salt Lake City didn’t go as well as planned. One of the guys had a flat when we got to the hotel parking lot and had to find a tire shop to get it replaced. Luckily, he caught it before we hit the road because there were many miles where there was no phone signal and no place to find a tire repair shop between Salt Lake City and Sturgis.
With another 10 hours to go, a bad tire could be a dangerous thing to have when you’re on a motorcycle. Once the tire was replaced, we all headed back to the wide-open road with a few quick stops for fuel and food along the way to Sturgis. The last 9 hours of the ride seemed to go by quickly and before we knew it, we zipped through Wyoming and arrived in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Things to Do in Sturgis
Iron Horse Campground/Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
Fun, food and plenty of excitement. That’s what I found when I got to the rally. I also found souvenir stands a plenty, contests including a beard contest that I personally entered to have a little fun and lots of music and friendly people. It didn’t matter to anyone whether I had a Harley Davidson, which is of course what Sturgis is known for, or if I had owned a Honda or Yamaha, we were all brothers when we got to Sturgis and if you loved the open road and long rides, it was like you had known everyone for years.
I checked in at the Iron Horse Campground and pitched my tent to settle in for the rally. Rates for tent camping are reasonable but if you like long, hot showers and a more pampered sleep, there are tons of local hotels that offer great rates during the rally. As for me, I like sleeping under the stars and sitting around a good campfire listening to some of the old timers tell their ride stories. They’re kind of like the fisherman tales of the one that got away, only these guys talk about the winding roads that almost did them in. Good stories and great times are to be had as a campfire glows in the night at Sturgis.
Bar hopping is probably the numero uno fun thing to do in Sturgis. Whether you drink or not, the music is loud, the people are fun and air conditioning feels great. I got to see bands like Bush, David Allen Coe and some AC/DC tribute bands that rocked just as hard as the original band.
I mentioned entering a beard contest, and while it was fun, I enjoyed checking out the other contests held daily at the rally. From car and motorcycle shows to custom built vehicle contests, you don’t want to miss the excitement in the air when people start to compete at Sturgis.
Inside the gates at Sturgis, you’ll see some of the best as well as most unique motorcycles ever built. You can also cruise around all day long checking out local shopping and places to eat and hang out with others. For me however, I found some of my best, and most memorable times outside the rally gates. It was easy to hook up with other riders to take off on daily rides through the Badlands and to enjoy cruising down the long, winding roads leading to and from the rally.
The People of Sturgis
I must say that the people, not only those in attendance, but those who live in Sturgis year-round, are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. For a town of less than 7000 people to pull off a rally as big as Sturgis year after year, they truly deserve some credit for their talent and organization. This event is huge and the whole town seems to be part of it.
Thanks to the many things to do, the outstanding scenery during ride time and the friendly people in the local area, I’m already planning for the 2018 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and counting down the days until I can load up and take the long ride again. I’ve been to quite a few motorcycle rally’s, but none yet have come close to offering the entertainment that I found in Sturgis, SD.