The 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and my first to witness, is in the books, and I have to say, it was exactly and nothing like what I was expecting.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go every day due to an inflamed nerve in my lower back — arch support is so, so important — but what I did see has me excited for next year.
Granted, this year’s rally was different from previous rallies. There was no opening ceremony, no B-1 Bomber flyover, the infamous photo towers were out of commission and there were fewer city sponsored events.
But everyone I met, spoke with and saw seemed happy just to be surrounded by the rumble and roar of motorcycle engines, the Black Hills, and what one woman called her family despite never meeting anyone there in her entire life.
Tammy Lauck is from Nebraska, has been riding motorcycles since 2010 and bought some fashionable leathers that caught my attention on the rally Tuesday.
She and I, along with the Journal’s photographer Grace Pritchett, talked about the comfort of her clothes and how free and open riding makes her feel, but what interested and stuck with me is the familial aspect she talked about.
“Riding with bikers and seeing bikers, everybody is so nice,” she said. “I probably don’t know anybody here, but they’re all my family because bikers take care of bikers.”
It stuck with me.
Although I’m not part of the biker family, much to my mother’s content, I understand the need to be around family.
I’m 23 and have never been closer than maybe 5.5 hours by driving to my family since I started college. My mum says it’s because I have itchy feet like her, so I have to travel, and perhaps she’s right — mother’s typically know what they’re talking about, or at least mine does.
My feet have driven me places as far as Tacoma, Washington, and El Dorado, Arkansas, although the latter is only seven or so hours away, and now Rapid City and the rest of the Northern Hills.
Some people would be thankful for the distance, but in a family as close as ours, the distance is made up in weekly phone calls, daily emails and the occasional card — thank you, U.S. Postal Service. And when we are together, it means so much more than if I saw them every day, although that would be nice, too.
I think it’s the same for this year’s rally. There wasn’t the pomp and circumstance of what the rally has become, but it was still full, much to most people’s surprise, of the people who make it what it is, or at least 460,000 of them.
There was a large handful of people who were there for their first time, but there were also those like Bob Miller who were there for their 20th year and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
Although I won’t be at my 20th year for quite some time, I’m interested to see, and anticipating, what the second will bring.