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Born to Be Wild

Community Highlights Road Trips Born to Be Wild

On the list of my favourite things to see you can probably add, 'a biker eating a soft serve ice cream'. There is something ridiculously adorable about a burly, bearded man in leather, a denim cut-off vest and a bandana, licking a melting ice cream cone.

You might wonder why this has even come up, well it’s because I recently found myself taking part in the festivities of the 2013 73rd Annual Sturgis Rally. This merry event is when a whole bunch of motorcycle enthusiasts and bikies hit the road and congregate in a tiny South Dakota town to eat, drink, talk motorbikes and compare beards.

We were westbound from Chicago heading across the country via the wild west and the final frontier. We started to notice an unusual amount of bikers around us. After poking about and making some biker friends at various rest stops we found out the Sturgis Rally was under way and we should expect to see thousands and thousands more.

And we did.

It turns out bikers love leather, bikes AND the scenic natural wonders of South Dakota as much as you or I.

They were cruising through the Badlands with their mobile phones held up filming as they go, posing in assless leather chaps in front of Mount Rushmore, feeling connected to Native American culture at Crazy Horse and generally ruining the serenity of Custer State Park and the Black Hills with their loud Harley Davidson motors.

The amount of bikers is hard to describe. There were thousands on the road. The variety of bikers ranged from scary, tattooed folk, to older grey haired pony-tailed men to your everyday middle-aged couple in matching leather jackets. There was an exciting mix of leather to denim ratio happening on all. Fans of facial hair were in for a real treat, moustaches that flapped in the wind as they rode and beards so long they were plaited and finished with a bead. Some thought shirts were optional and were a fleshy mess of brownish red on wheels. Many had their ‘bitches’ on back who were usually wearing varying denim, rhinestones and leather combinations or were leathery middle-aged women who had favoured a simple studded bikini top.
It was a veritable treat for the eyes at every turn.

People had come to Sturgis from all over the country, and all over the world. I even met a father and son from Australia in Deadwood cemetery who had made the journey. It was a chat with some lovely Canadian bikers in the Badlands who gave us the run down on the place and really talked it up as a not-to-be-missed event.

It wasn't long before we were feeling like we were missing out on something.
It all seemed as if there was a lot of fun happening designed for very specific type of people.
How dare they not invite us?

As it turns out we were camping an hour from Sturgis so we decided the best idea would be for us to go and join in the nation’s largest biker rally. We were sick of missing out quite frankly.

I didn't have time to grow a beard so instead I wore my finest bandana - a silky orange and brown floral 70's design I picked up at a second hand store - and my meanest look.

Sturgis itself is a small town leftover from the Black Hills mining boom. It's population of 6,600 expands significantly, or perhaps they leave town and seek refuge with relatives while a reportedly 500,000 people descend on the small town each year in August. Houses in town rent out their yards to campers, there are bikers and motorcycles as far as the eye can see. There were motorbikes lining three blocks of the main street and the side streets all four rows deep. They were shiny, and big, and expensive looking, and I admit I know nothing about bikes but I understand they were great. They looked pricey and I hoped to hell I wouldn't knock one over and set off a domino chain of destruction and be forced to flee from half a million angry bikers. There were parties and Jack Daniel's sponsored tents. The shops lining the main street of Sturgis are leased out to more-to-the-theme stores, the local newspaper distributor had moved upstairs and was renting their shop front to a tattoo and piercing group from Arizona.

The town was abuzz with people and the sounds of engines being revved. Clearly neither I, nor the people I was with were bikers or could even pass as bikers, upon arrival. But badass was in the air and it was starting to affect the people around me.

I went to the newspaper slash tattoo store to accompany two friends to get piercings.

“What are we doing for you today” one tattooed biker said to me as I browsed the health inspection certificates while they were being punctured.

“Oh, nothing for me” I said.

“Why not?”

He seemed disappointed and I didn't want to offend him and his fine establishment of drop cloths to catch spilled blood and folders of photos of pierced faces. I'm sure people get just a little brow piercing out of politeness all the time.

”oh I can’t pull that off, I'm not badass like these two,’ I lament.

He asked if I was sure, I think he had some spare time to pierce a nipple or etch a quick dolphin jumping over a rainbow on to my lower back all I had to do was ask.

I mean, I didn't mark my body in any way nor did I let rhinestones come near me, but I did go a little cray while in Sturgis.

I did put three different types of barbecue sauce on my brisket sandwich.
Not kidding.
Of Sauce!
So yeah, I live my life on some kind of edge

We wandered up and down the streets people watching, trying to outdo each other with photos in our own competition to get biker bellies, scary
bikers and impressive facial hair snaps.

It turns out Jesus was also super in to bikes and the Christian motorcycle groups were everywhere. I got given a lot of cards along the lines of “heaven is nice, hell is hot, you are going to one whether you like it or not”. I looked savable which was nice as they blatantly gave up on others and wouldn't hand the person next to you a card or a free rag with a tag that says, “use this rag to wipe your hands, use god to wipe your sins”.

Within a few hours the ten people I was with had all transformed into bikers; there were piercings and tattoos, there was new shirts with rhinestones and skulls, there was skull caps with flames and leather jacket patches and studded belts and bandanas.
We really had to get out of there before someone mortgaged their house and bought a Harley.

We survived and were feeling pretty rock and roll, a little bat out of hell. Meatloafish perhaps is the adjective I'm after? We returned to the quiet of a camp ground in the Black Hills and I Googled Sturgis and read that over 400 people ended up in jail at the rally a few years ago, and there is about $250,000 worth of thefts that happen there annually.

And hundreds of soft serves get stuck in beards daily. Adorable.


This featured blog entry was written by The Tipsy Gipsy from the blog The Tipsy Gipsy.
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By The Tipsy Gipsy

Posted Thu, Sep 12, 2013 | USA | Comments