A First-Timer Rides To Sturgis

I don’t often accept guest posts but when Chris Ward approached me I decided to give him a shot. Here’s Chris’s story.

Chris Ward on his Harley

Chris Ward

The Best Things About Sturgis

As an avid rider who decided to take off from my office parking lot in Aptos, California, and head to Sturgis for the first time ever this summer, I can tell you quite a bit about the ride north, the people I met along the way and the exciting things I saw once I arrived at the biggest motorcycle rally in the United States. You can read an itinerary on any biking site to see a list of things to do from one day to the next while at Sturgis, but those lists don’t tell you anything about the raw experience you’ll have and the memories you’ll hold for years to come.

First, I was determined to take the 1500+ miles ride alone and I mapped out a ride going through California as well as parts of Nevada and parts of Utah and Wyoming as I rode into South Dakota. I know there are some who will have their motorcycle shipped to get to Sturgis fast and not have the excess wear and tear on the bike, but for me, the ride was half of the fun and this was one trip I needed to take to relax, enjoy the scenery and feel like I was living life fully.

My Ride
The ride to Sturgis was long, dusty at times and extremely hot most of the way. I love to experience rides on the best roads in the U.S. I stopped at almost every roadside café, junk shop and convenience store along the way so I could grab a cold water, stretch my legs and see parts of the country I had never seen before. Oddly enough, I’ve travelled the world but have yet to see some of very heartland of America in person.

In Utah, just outside of St. George, I met up with a small group of bikers who were headed to Sturgis as well and as luck would have it, I was able to spend the rest of my road time riding alongside them. This gave me people to sit and chat with when we stopped to eat and fuel up along the way. It turned out, they were all students from Cabrillo College, a small community college right in Aptos where I live. Apparently, the world truly is small. These college kids were a hoot and I had some great laughs during the times we stopped.

We spent the night at a Marriott Hotel in Provo, Utah, and had dinner at a local steak restaurant before retiring for the night. After some much-needed rest, we headed out before dawn to continue the last leg of the ride through Wyoming and into South Dakota to get to Sturgis by nightfall.

Entering Sturgis and Plans Gone Awry
Entering the actual grounds of Sturgis Motorcycle Festival was intriguing to me. Since this was my first year, I planned to go by a schedule of events I found online and I wanted to stick with the plan so I wouldn’t miss anything. As most things in life however, plans go awry and nothing goes as a person plans. Well, when it comes to sticking to a set itinerary, I blew it. When it comes to having the time of my life, it was incredible!

First, since I rode in with the guys I met on the highway, I decided to forego the first music show and I ended up hitting the campgrounds with them to check out the scenery and meet up with some of their friends who were already at Sturgis. From there, we decided to go bar hopping the first night. Word to the wise on bar hopping: Pace yourself if you indulge in a few drinks during the time spent at bars. This is a huge event and you won’t want to miss it by drinking too much and blurring your time at the rally.

A great thing about bar hopping is that every bar had a different band playing and each had great food. Whether you like traditional bar food including chips, burgers or fries or you like a good steak or a chicken dish, the bars have it all. They also have the coolest people from all over the U.S. and Canada and I even met a couple from France who came over just for Sturgis. I spent many hours my first day listening to bands playing everything from hillbilly Vegas style music to country, rock n’ roll, bluegrass, alternative and more. One of my personal favorites was seeing David Allen Coe and Bush play at the Iron Horse Saloon.

Road Trips Galore
When you decide to toss your itinerary, and go with the flow, you’ll find so much to do at Sturgis both inside the event and even down the road a little way. Every day after I arrived, some of the Cabrilo gang (that’s what I started calling them) and I would head down the road to see the sights near Sturgis. Did you know you can get to Mt. Rushmore and take a scenic cruise through the Badlands? I found some of the most amazing scenery in the country and it was all within 50 miles of Sturgis.

Advice to Heed
If you have never been to Sturgis, I urge you to start making plans now to attend the 78th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August 2018. This event is one for the record books and it’s one that I wish I had taken time to check out years ago. After the fun that I had and the new friends I met on the way to Sturgis as well as at the rally itself, it would take a lot to cause me to miss another one in the coming years. I have a few short tips for anyone who is thinking about going to Sturgis this coming year.

  1. Go. Don’t delay and don’t second guess! Pack a small bag, book a campsite or a hotel room and ride like the wind to get there. (Or drive your car or truck and have your bike hauled so you can ride it when you’re in Sturgis)
  2. Forget planning a schedule. The best way to enjoy Sturgis (in my opinion) is to just wander around, meet new people and try new things. If you want to see a musician that you love or specific show, stick to a schedule so you won’t miss your favs!
  3. Leave the rally and check out the roads beyond the event.

There’s so much to do at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and when it comes around next year, be sure to have plans to attend so you won’t miss out on all the fun. This is the one rally where no matter what kind of motorcycle you own, or even if you don’t have one at all, you’ll meet exciting people and will absolutely have the time of your life.

Biker Quote for Today

Five things I like almost as much as riding my motorcycle:
1. Looking at my motorcycle
2. Talking about my motorcycle
3. Watching TV programs that have people riding motorcycles
4. Websites about motorcycles
5. Beer


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