I Rode Mine to Sturgis – 2008

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      DAY 1 – 872 KMs

      I left Calgary at about 1pm on Thursday, August 7, under sunny skies with only a backpack in tow. Arriving to a twenty-car wait at the border 2.5 hours after setting out, I was relieved to get off the bike and give my rear end a much needed rest.

      ASS PAIN SCALE – 5/10

      Trip Mistake #1: Sometime between stretching and slowly inching the bike forward towards the crossing, I remembered that I had packed a Cuban cigar.

      For those who don't know, the US has had a trade embargo with Cuba since 1961. Bringing any Cuban products into the US is illegal and can result in ridiculous fines and/or imprisonment. With my focus shifting away from my throbbing ass, I began to panic.

      Not wanting to let the cigar go to waste, I decided to smoke as much of it as quickly as I could before reaching the crossing (it was a Cohiba and tasted phenomenal). Ten minutes later and well within eyesight of the US customs agents, light-headedness and nausea kicked in. Against my better judgment, I decided not to dump what was left of the Cuban death stick on the side of the road.

      About to black-out and ready to throw up, I asked a Canadian customs agent who was walking by if he could tell me where to throw away the half-smoked cigar. He suggested that I simply turn it over to the US customs agent when I reached the crossing. Reluctant, and for good reasons that I would soon discover, I regrettably followed his advice…

      …45 minutes after "voluntarily turning in" the half-smoked cigar over to the US customs agent, the interrogation process was in full swing. I was repeatedly asked questions relating to my non-existent involvement with the Hell's Angels motorcycle club. The thought that a full body-cavity search was in the works made me throw up a bit in my mouth and squeeze out a few drops of pee. Luckily, no one noticed.

      After finally convincing US customs that I was just some goofy-looking guy with braces who lacked the intimidating qualities required to represent a world-class motorcycle gang, they set me free (without having to undergo the body-cavity search thank god). I have to admit though; US customs agents sure have the ability to absolutely scare the shit out of you. After switching to a dry, clean pair of underwear, I was back on my bike, tearing South down I-15 towards Great Falls, laughing like a hyena in my helmet at my early misfortunes.

      I stopped in at Jaker's restaurant in Great Falls for dinner. The BBQ burger was kick ass and the Americans hanging out around the bar made for great company! In a city filled with fast food joints and casinos on every corner, Jaker's is an oasis of awesomeness. I highly recommend the place.

      ASS PAIN SCALE – 7/10

      Heading East towards Lewiston, it got dark pretty quick. I refueled at the Hwy 87 / Hwy 191 junction, took a piss, and then engaged in a few minutes of redneck-watching before blasting off away from the sunset. I decided to turn down South on Hwy 191 towards Harlowton where I figured I'd crash for the night.

      Riding down Hwy 191 towards Harlowton offered one of the most amazing sights I'd ever seen. I can't even begin to explain how surreal and epic those red, oscillating Windmill farm lights are in the pitch black. If you ever drive past here at night, look East when you get between 28 to 33 miles south of the junction. Don’t take your eyes off the road for too long though because there are apparently loads of deer in the area.

      I arrived at Harlowton at about midnight and all the motels were fully booked. So much for that idea. I decided to man up, drink five cups of coffee and brave the 146 kms to Billings.

      As I was about to leave the station, I was approached by a trucker name Katt who overheard me telling the attendant I was heading down to Billings. Her and her trucker partner Dave offered to lead me as they were heading that way. Katt came up with an ingenious idea of turning on her turn signal on whichever side she’d spot deer. Over the next hour and a half, I must have seen those signal lights go off a few dozen times but I never saw a deer. Those guys could have pretty much saved my ass from riding my bike up a deer’s ass. And on top of that, they even offered to throw my bike in the back, tie it down, and let me sit in the cab with them all the way to Sturgis that night. My ass immediately accepted the offer but for some reason, I felt like I’d be cheating myself if I didn’t ride all the way down to Sturgis on my own accord so once we reached Billings, off they went… …the damn coolest, most awesome truckers ever.

      I arrived in Billings sometime between 1:30 and 2 in the morning, found a hotel, then immediately passed out. I didn’t sleep too well that night. I kept having re-occurring nightmares of freight trains running me over from behind.

      ASS PAIN SCALE – 8.5/10

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        DAY 2 – 493 KMs

        I woke up at about 7:30a with the previous night’s nightmares still fresh in my mind.  I decided to start off the morning with a bath to relax the muscles.  I’m not a bath person so it was interesting to experience discrimination in the form of modern-day bathtub sizes.  I just about needed a shoe-horn to pry myself out of the tub.

        Trip Mistake #2:  The hotel offered a great breakfast that was included in the room price, so in the spirit of letting nothing go to waste, I helped myself to a hefty serving of cereal, eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, waffles, pancakes, fruit, and muffins.

        ASS PAIN SCALE – 2/10

        I was on the road heading East by 8:30a with a huge grin on my face.  Sturgis was getting closer!  But before I could get too excited, my bowels made it clear that I wasn’t going to get off that easy for surprising them with the mother of all breakfasts.

        In the nick of time, I managed to find a gas station about 100 kms East of Billings at the I-90 / Hwy 212 junction where I decimated their washroom by unloading the mother of all dumps.  I suppose my bowels were enjoying revenge for the punishment I put them through the day before.

        After shedding half my body weight and re-fueling, I was back on Hwy 12 heading East again, passing through towns with interesting names like ‘Busby’ and ‘Lame Deer’. 

        I made routine stops along the way to rest my rear end and gas up.  One particular gas stop, about 70 kms West of Broadus, in Ashland, is worth mentioning.

        Trip Mistake #3:  Eager to make good time, I rushed the whole filling-up process.

        I was ready to saddle up and head out when I looked back at the pump and realized that I had just filled my gas tank with 14 litres of diesel!  I would have shit my pants in horror but my bowels were still empty from the episode at the Mother-of-All-Dumps gas station earlier that morning.

        A biker named Phil who was passing through heading the other way (just having come back from Sturgis himself), offered to help and stuck around to provide moral support during my f-bomb dropping spree.  No children were present at the time of this uncontrolled outburst.

        When my sweaty-ass self calmed down, I was allowed to sift through the gas station’s maintenance room where I managed to find some rubber tubing to siphon the diesel out.  The attendant declined my request for a bucket and insisted that I dump the diesel over the gravel.  I unsuccessfully contested his ruling then figured that dumping the diesel in dirt was better than riding with a tank full of the stuff.

        Sorry Mother Earth, I’ll probably burn in hell now… in a diesel-fueled fire.

        Moment of Intensity:  Watching the diesel crawl up the siphoning tube as I carefully sucked on the end, ingesting the foul-tasting fumes.  I managed to pull the tube away before getting a mouth-full.

        $50 later for the two tanks of gas, a few high-fives and I was off again.  Construction on the way to Broadus made it slow-going but I didn’t notice any difference with the way the bike rode so to say I was relieved would be an understatement.

        In and around Broadus is where I started seeing lots of other bikers.  It was a pretty cool sight and I soon discovered that the biker “wave” was unnecessary due to the overwhelming number of bikes on the road.

        I gassed up in Broadus and finally in Belle Fourche.  It was interesting to see bikers completely take over both of these stations.

        ASS PAIN SCALE – 8/10

        Made it to Sturgis and couldn’t believe how many bikes there were!  I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to rookies who aren’t confident with their riding abilities because you really have to be aware of a lot of things that are going on.  I finally closed in on Lamphere Campground, met up with my parents at about 1:30p and spent the rest of the day cleaning all the bugs of my bike, jacket, helmet and nursing my ass back to health with ice-packs and heavy doses of MGD.  Thank god for lawn chairs and on-site convenience stores!

        ASS PAIN SCALE – 9/10

        Trip Mistake #4: I set up my $25 tent that I bought at the campground without paying much attention to the ground that I was setting it up on.

        Needless to say, my stupid ass spent the rest of the trip sleeping on rock-hard roots because I was either too lazy or too drunk to move the tent.  Not eager to ride any time soon after, we agreed to and planned a laid back, easy 25 kms trip to Deadwood for the following day.  We didn’t go out that night, opting to just hang out at the campsite, drink a few cases of MGD and people watch.

        Imagine dozens of motorcycles with crazy-loud after market pipes passing by your campsite every ten minutes all day and night.  Well that’s what it was like in Sturgis.  If you didn’t bring/buy earplugs or weren’t hammered, you probably wouldn’t be able to get any sleep.  The outhouses, however, smelled surprisingly lovely for this time of year.

        …Day 3 coming soon.

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          THAT WAS GREAT!! ;D Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha…cool, can’t wait for the next installment!!

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            That’s awesome man! Sounds like a blast.
            You’re making me especially sad that I got my bike so late in the season, and now have to wait till next year to go on a multi-day ride  😀

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              now have to wait till next year to go on a multi-day ride

              Bugger that.
              Pick a direction/destination and go. You won’t regret it.
              if anything untoward happens..then it becomes an adventure. ;D

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                DAY 3 – 43 KMs

                To put things into perspective, I never, during my 10k round-trip to Mexico, rode without my helmet on.  Having just gotten my motorcycle license a few months prior to the trip and then riding down through the unknown seemed like an adventure enough at the time and the thought never crossed my mind to ride without DOT-approved head protection.  Well, I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone and experience something new on this trip.

                I got to experience riding without a helmet for my first time ever on this day.  The only way to explain the feeling is to try imagining being a dog with hyperactive disorder riding on the front bumper of a pickup truck.  As it stands, Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota laws don’t require anyone over the age of 18 to wear a helmet. 

                Based on my own personal observation, I’d say that over 95% of riders at the rally didn’t wear any head protection.  What I learned over the course of the trip is that if you wear a bandana and properly set it over your ears you can eliminate virtually all wind noise and actually have a conversation with the person on the motorcycle next to you while you ride.  So on the ride to town for breakfast, my mom (who was sitting on the back of my Dad’s bike) and I would discuss such things as local areas of interest that we’d pass by, the current political drama unfolding in the US, and the upcoming day’s planned ride and activities.  I know my Calgary Safety Council instructors wouldn’t be too impressed to hear this so just forget I said that last part.

                You’d think that with all the booze, testosterone, and almost half a million people riding around without helmets at the Mother-of-All-Sausage-Parties, there’d be a substantial number of fatal crashes during the rally.  I was surprised to find out that only 3 people died that week in motorcycle-related accidents.  Think about that… that’s a 0.0006% fatality rate!  That’s a pretty impressive statistic to say the least.

                “Three people lost their lives in crashes during rally week, compared to five last year. This is from the official Rally toll, which only runs from Monday, Aug. 4, to Sunday, Aug. 10.”

                Breakfast in Sturgis was the same every morning.  We’d hit up a local church or school and for a measly $7, they’d serve you up a plate full of eggs, sausage, pancakes, toast, along with the biker-favourite, artery-clogging buttermilk biscuits covered in black-pepper flavoured white country gravy.  You knew that something this unhealthy was dramatically lowering your life-expectancy but boy did it ever taste good!  When in Rome…

                We headed out West towards Deadwood after breakfast and enjoyed a fun-filled ride full of twisties all the way there.

                It was surreal seeing so many other bikers on the road heading to and from Deadwood.  I couldn’t contain my ear-to-ear grin on this ride because I was so excited, realizing that I was finally here, smelling the roses so to speak!  I was worried, though, that the sunlight reflecting off my braces might blind oncoming riders so I tried my best hide the mouth-bling.

                Arriving onto Deadwood’s brick-covered roads and seeing hundreds of cruisers parked on the side of the road made me realize how extremely rare us sportbike riders were at the rally.   

                Deadwood is notorious for being the town where Wild Bill Hickok was assassinated by some dude named Jack McCall who was later caught and hanged.  We figured that the best way to take in the history of the place would be by enjoying a few drinks just feet away from where the assassination actually took place in Saloon #10.

                Interesting & Useless Tidbit: Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker and holding a pair of Aces and a pair of 8s in his hand when he was shot in the back by Jack McCall.

                The rest of the day was spent walking around town, buying and smoking local cigars, checking out the custom choppers, and eating a wicked lunch buffet at the Gold Dust casino where I began my life-long journey to find the world’s best-tasting pulled pork sandwich.  Who knew a $6.99 casino lunch buffet would yield such tasty fare!

                Once we had explored every nook and cranny that Deadwood had to offer, we headed back to the campsite where we spent the rest of the day relaxing with a bottomless cooler of MGD while watching neighbours of the female variety walk or ride by covered in either artitstic (purposely misspelled by the way) body paint or nothing at all.  It was starting to feel like a good party was in the making.

                Later that evening, we followed the call of the wild and ended up at the world’s largest biker bar called the Full-Throttle Saloon where many other eccentric, topless women were to be seen.  The place was hopping, the booze was flowing and we were having a fantastic time taking it all in.  The house band played some great tunes that kept us entertained for most of the evening.  At the end of the night, we jumped on a old school bus and headed back to the campsite in preparation for the next day’s ride to Mount Rushmore and surrounding area.  On the way into the campsite, I bought a cheap air mattress to sleep on which unfortunately lost all of its air after about half an hour of sleeping on.  Worst $6 I’ve ever spent in my life.  Ear plugs in and half cut, I was soon asleep anyways.

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                  Day 4 – 280 KMs

                  I woke up with the Mother-of-All-Roots jabbing in my thigh.  To make matters worse, my tent had turned into a sauna overnight and I was drenched in sweat.  And would you know it?  It was already Friday!  Ahhhhhhh shit!

                  We started the morning off with breakfast at a local church in Sturgis.  We had the usual to eat, which was followed by high-fives from a few of the local parishioners.  We then prepared for the day’s ride to the Black Hills that would cover the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain road with stops along the way at Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Sylvan Lake for lunch and finally Keystone for beers and ice cream.  Before Jesus could come out and personally thank us for dropping in, we were gone and tearing down on I-90 towards Rapid City.

                  Trip Mistake #5: I brought an extra bandana with me but didn’t bother to use it on the ride to Rapid City.

                  I arrived in Rapid City looking like I had caught some kind of weird infection.  My face was covered in small red bumps and itchier than a Thai hooker’s venereal disease.  Was my hungover shaving adventure’s razor burn acting up?  Or was I suffering from a massive biscuits-and-gravy induced allergic reaction?  Damn you God of whatever church we had breakfast at!  A closer look in the mirror in some shady gas station washroom revealed that bugs were the culprit.  Funny how I had forgotten about the torture those critters put me through on the ride over.  When riding 80 mph on the Interstate, those bugs feel like small plastic machine-gun bullets hitting you in the face.  And the ones that managed find a way in my mouth?  Well, they added to my daily calorie intake and made for a tasty mid-morning snack I guess.

                  Shortly after, I was gassing up at the pump while breathing in those wonderful and intoxicating fumes when I had an epiphany; to go “bandito” using my extra bandana!  …and I never looked back (only figuratively speaking of course – kids, don’t forget those shoulder checks!).

                  For those of you shaking your heads in disbelief at my total lack of interest in self-preservation as evidently displayed in the picture above… …at least I wasn’t wearing my flip-flops?  ATGATT?  What’s that?

                  Our first stop was at a rest-stop just past Mt Rushmore.  Unfortunately, there had been a 2-bike collision at the entrance of the memorial site moments before we arrived, and we were thus required to make a quick detour through the memorial’s parking lot.  I searched the internet hoping to shed light on the fate of the people involved but nothing came up so I hope that the lack of information on this accident indicates that everyone was okay.

                  Now you might be asking why we didn’t just enter the park and get a better view of the monument.  Well, to make a long story short, my Dad doesn’t support government/state-run cash grabs such as Mt Rushmore.  He expressed that he’d much rather donate his Mt Rushmore entrance fee to a private project that supports an area’s local heritage such as the Crazy Horse Memorial and its affiliated Indian Museum and Cultural Center.  With US politics always striving to reach new levels of ridiculousness, who could argue with the guy?  Who wants to pay money to watch rock carvings of old rich dudes who used to own slaves?   We did, however, manage to get a decent, no-cost view of George Washington’s profile from the rest-stop.

                  Our next stop was Crazy Horse where we were lucky enough to witness some blasting.  Although the explosion was anti-climactic, it was still pretty cool to see.  We walked around and read up on the cultural significance of the memorial and then sat down and watched a 20-minute video covering its history.  I suggest that you read about the place if you ever have a few minutes (http://www.crazyhorse.org) and if you’re ever in the area, definitely check it out.  Crazy Horse is going to be one big, crazy, tall motherfucker when he’s done being carved.  Work is slow going though as a result of inadequate funding so it could take another 120 years.

                  As for the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain road, it’s pretty hard to describe the breathtaking views and how much fun the rides are.  You’ll just have to find out for yourself and make your way to Sturgis for next year’s rally.  The following pictures don’t even come close to accurately portraying the feeling one gets riding through the area.

                  Can you pass up a quick stop at a little pub in the countryside that advertises beer for $2 while on one of the most breathtaking rides ever?  Well, we couldn’t!  We found out that we weren’t the only Canadians that lacked willpower and ended up chatting with some friendly folks from Red Deer over a couple of beers.  By this time, my Rider’s Hemorrhoids were flaring up on me pretty bad and only beer could soothe the pain.

                  Ass Pain Scale: 9/10

                  Note to Self: Get a cruiser next year!

                  We stopped in Keystone on the way back for more some ice cream and souvenirs before making the day’s final push back to Sturgis, which to no surprise to anyone, yielded a few interesting views.

                  The evening was spent eating dinner at the campground then drinking at the campsite.  We didn’t get crazy this night, opting to take it easy instead.  We went to bed after planning for the following day to be our Sturgis-Then-Pub-Crawl Day.

                  …stay tuned for more pictures and Day 5

                  Ryan Cavill
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                    You’re an great writer Ryan, your story’s like out of a Rider’s magazine or travel book!  Sturgis sounds like a trip we’re going to have to add to the list, but we’ll definitely be taking your advice on the “cruiser” comment.  Are you still thinking about converting to a cruiser?  8)

                    -Ryan and Saraya

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                      Hey Ry/Saraya!

                      Yeah, I’m still considering getting a cruiser (Yamaha Raider) but I’d have to let go of the Repsol (can’t afford both… because of the recession, haha).  If I can’t get the price I want for the Repsol, I’ll probably keep it for another year or two so we’ll see what happens come Spring time.

                      Wow, I really need to jump back on board here and finish this travel report before my Alzheimers kicks in.  I’ve still got a couple of days left to write about!

                      You guys get your bikes yet?

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                        great read. ive been 6 times and still can say that i had the same ride. less the diesel. pretty funny shit.

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                          I didn’t realize that Sturgis was in the Northern States…for some reason I thought it was way down south…we should plan an Alberta invasion…do the trip as a group…I definately would need to have a cruiser by then, or I would be crippled…


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                            Glad to read your trip.
                            I rode down in 06 and it was a blast.

                            I was amazed at how friendly everyone was. It’s a giant party most of the way down. Things may have changed but in 06 was still getting razed about riding an import…I’ll miss shutting them up by pointing out I rode down and they trailored.

                            Did you hit Yellowstone one the way back?

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                              No Yellowstone, it was a quick trip back up, stopping one night in White Sulphur Springs (which was a big let down by the way).  If I had a cruiser, I would definitely taken my time to ride back up though.  Just couldn’t handle the saddle pain.

                              Ryan Cavill
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                                Read this Blog again today Sauve.  Still great to hear the stories!  I guess its been a few years and you are looking forward to riding a Harley this year! 
                                Have a blast!

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                                  Man…been a member on this site for awhile and I can’t believe I never read this before. Awesome read….and now I want to go to Sturgis !! LOL

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