Sturgis and More
I returned the end of May from a motorcycle trip to Nepal and Tibet with Asian Experience, and on checking my emails saw a group from Sydney was going to Sturgis in August and they had three bikes available. Opened the email and was interested enough to show it to Margaret . We had been thinking of travelling to the US for the past few years, but there was always some event (generally an AGM) taking precedence.
The planned route went through 8 states, through some of the most famous national parks and best motorbike roads to Sturgis, South Dakota for the BIG rally. Margaret looked at the itinerary and said lets go. Within a week we were booked.
Now I ride a BMW (R1100R) and these were Harley Davison machines that we hired in Las Vegas. The pillion was happy in her armchair and I got the hang of an Electraglide, twice as heavy as mine, without too much trouble.
Our flight from Melbourne was cancelled after we had left for the airport, so with some difficulty we managed to get on another carrier and made it late into Las Vegas for an early pickup of the bikes the next morning. There were 13 bikes and a support vehicle with a group called Full Throttle Tours run by Rod Kelly (Hills branch) and Andy Wells from Sydney. Nearly all Harley riders, we were a mix mostly from Sydney and Melbourne from all backgrounds as is usual for motorbike riders. A great group with a wicked sense of humour that made the trip all the better.
We left in 100+F deg from Vegas and even with jet lag were all excited to start off on Route 66 towards Hoover Dam. We stopped for lunch at a great retro route 66 diner and then stayed the night at Williams, Arizona, an interesting western town that has a gun fight each evening at 7 in the main street and the best bbq ribs ever at a saloon called the Singing Pig.
Sunday we headed north to the Grand Canyon and then through Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in Utah. Amazing red rock formations, canyons and mesas .
Monday we stopped at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado to look at the Indian Cliff Dwellings.
The next few days we stopped at great little towns like Silverton and Leadville with so much western character and friendly people. One of the highlights was riding across the Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado (12183 ft) where we crossed the highest pass in the mainland US and saw elk and deer.
Monument Valley Mesa Verde
Grand Canyon Custer State Park
We stopped in Cheyenne, Wyoming before riding across the Black Hills in South Dakota arriving at our destination, Sturgis . How can I describe Sturgis! The most amazing experience. Half a million motorbikes take over a small town for a few weeks each year and it is one big party. We stayed a few k out of the town at the Full Throttle Saloon, the worlds largest biker bar. This temporary (only operating for the rally fortnight) saloon is the size of a football field, packed with bars, food outlets, shops, entertainment, music and thousands of people having a good time. Tattoos and body paint very popular (see last pic).
We had four days in Sturgis and did some day trips to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse memorials, Spearfish Canyon and Deadwood. One of our best days was riding through Custer State Park, South Dakota where a herd of buffalo was coming down a hill and wandered along the road beside us.
Deadwood Needles H'wy, Custer State Park
On leaving Sturgis we headed west to Devils Tower monument through Big Horn National Forest to stay the night in Cody, Wyoming. That evening we went to a rodeo which was a lot of fun.
Next day was a great ride over and back across Beartooth Mountain Pass Montana before reaching Yellowstone where we stayed at the Old Faithful Inn.
After this we started heading south past the Grand Tetons National Park to Jackson, Wyoming, a real touristy western town where some of our group spent up big on cowboy boots.
Then it was heading back to Vegas. We stayed a night at the Hotel Nevada, one of the areas famous old western hotels with much of the original fittings, full of character and fun. The next day was long and hot riding through the Salt Flats in Utah, a dead flat salt pan 80miles long where we pushed the bikes to match other traffic at 90 - 100 mph and stinking hot. The miles sure take a lot longer than k’s. Some of us went to Bonneville Speedway, we just wanted to hit the swimming pool at our casino/hotel in Wendover. Two days later we were back in Las Vegas.
Full Throttle Saloon, Sturgis
Kellys Roadhouse, Morgan, Utah
John and NOT Margaret
The next day a couple with the tour, Pauline and Dave were married at the Elvis Chapel in Vegas. Everyone was invited, there was a lot of dressing up and hilarity in keeping with the occasion, and what a fabulous fun day! We had one last night at a Vegas show and the group went their separate ways home.
Most states do not have helmet laws so it was normal to see riders only in T shirts and jeans, some of the women even less. We were in the minority in continuing to wear our helmets and summer jackets even though it was hot. Other vehicles on the road were invariably courteous and would wave us through even when they had right of way. We got used to the four way stop at intersections, first vehicle in goes through first. It all worked.
What we both loved were the western bars, taverns and hotels we had meals in or stayed at. Everyone we met was friendly and welcoming. Rod and Andy have done this trip a number of times before and showed us the back roads and small towns that we would not have found on our own.
We spent another 10 days driving down the California coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles, stopping at Monterey, Santa Barbara (wonderful sea food at the end of the pier), San Simeon to see Hearst Castle and then a day for Margaret at one of the big outlet malls, flying home the end of August.
A fabulous trip, magnificent bike roads and great company. One off the bucket list!