HILL CITY | As thousands of motorcyclists travel south on scenic U.S. Highway 385 between Deadwood and Custer, they find a small Black Hills town that has rolled out the red carpet for visitors during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Hill City, which has a year-round population of less than 1,000 people, is rich with cozy, mountainesque vistas and is filled with stores, wineries and watering holes. The town is near attractions like Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and three popular lakes — Pactola Reservoir, Sheridan Lake and Deerfield Lake.
During the rally, Hill City closes off Main Street to cars and trucks, allowing only motorcycles to line the street for approximately three blocks.
"It's like a smaller version of Sturgis, without all the craziness and partying," biker Rick Schultz of Phoenix said Thursday.
Schultz and his wife, Gloria, have made the journey to the Black Hills from the desert of Arizona at least 15 times during rally week, Rick said. The couple are staying in Rapid City.
"It's just a great experience and I mean, we love Sturgis and all, but it does get a bit crazy sometimes," he said. "We may hang out in Sturgis twice during rally, but we like the rides in Deadwood, Custer State Park and here in Hill City. It's a lot more laid back and the scenery is really nice too."
The Schultzes aren't alone in that sentiment. On Thursday, Hill City's Main Street was packed with motorcycles from across the country. People lined the patio of the Mangy Moose Saloon enjoying beverages and crowd-watching.
James Croninger was with a group of about 20 bikers from Minnesota at the Mangy Moose Thursday afternoon.
"We started in Rapid City this morning and took Iron Mountain Road through to Custer and then are heading back to Rapid City," Croninger said. "Hill City is a great place to stop and the pace is a bit nicer than Sturgis. We really come here for the ride, not necessarily the party, but that's fun too."
The shops and restaurants along Hill City's Main Street were packed Thursday with people spending money and browsing goods, a needed economic boost for the town.
Jessica Davis and her girlfriend, Megan Causey, made the trek to the rally from Little Rock, Arkansas. It was the couple's first trip together to the Black Hills.
"I've been here before and loved it, but this is my first time in Hill City. It is so beautiful," Davis said. "My favorite thing is that it's so laid back and not as crowded as Sturgis."
Causey just came from The Handbag Store, where she purchased a couple of small purses.
"These will fit in the saddle bag and they are really nice," Causey said. "I've really enjoyed the whole rally and will be back."
Contact Nathan Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.