The Future Looks Bright From What We Saw This Year
Article By: Chris Callen
Photos By: Repor Photography
Originally Published In The November 2017 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
The big news from Sturgis this year was apparently the anniversary of the Black Hills Rally last year. At least that was all anyone seemed to talk about. The numbers were down this year which is typically the norm in a post anniversary event but this was the one after the 75th and last years record crowds seemed to have left it all on the table. Well, that’s not exactly the case. You see, from our perspective the off years are some of the best years to be in South Dakota. A little less hustle and bustle, a little more convenience and overall a better sense of what we are all there to do… RIDE MOTORCYLES! Well, all that and more was at hand for the 76th running of the Black Hills Classic, but more importantly you could see big changes that were taking place, foundations being laid to set up what will be happening for the next ten years at this age old rally. I mean the drag strip was hopping again, the Buffalo Chip had Hooligan Races and flashlight style drags right through the center of the midway. There were unbelievable bands, old and new, and you could have heard a pin drop when Lynard Skynard took the stage at the Chip and said “You know us, we’re the Buffalo Chip house band.” The chip was celebrating their 35th anniversary this year as well so they came with all guns blazing.
Other headlines would read: “Full Throttle Saloon – Out Of The Ashes.” While on one hand so many of us were bummed to see the end o fthe Broken Spoke Campground at the County Line, it does our heart good to report that Michael Ballard and his crew picked up the torch in grand fashion. Under the name “The Pappy Hoel Campground” they have set down the beginning of building what could quite possible by a destination within a destination for rally goers. But wait, I’m way, way ahead of myself on this one. Let me tell you my crazy ass Sturgis adventure and a tale of how we almost didn’t make it out alive. This year’s adventure would begin a month out when they gave me the green light on the Grease & Gears Garage stage for the Iron Horse. I was so busy getting the lineup scheduled for who would be on the stage I had hardly considered how the tools would get from my shop to South Dakota. It was probably overkill that I hadn’t left a single screwdriver unpacked but as it sat there in a pile I realized more and more how daunting the task would be to transport it. Good thing that with just a day or two to spare found me in the company of our buddy Ron Ryder. Ron has a humongous trailer he takes bikes to events and we were lucky enough to get the first half of it for our tooling. While Ron started out ahead of us, me, Mark and the girls set our GPS to Louisville where we were to pick up Will Ramsey’s frame jig.
At Wills shop many hours later we hung out after the frame jig was loaded and it had begun to rain. Just like anytime you hang out in the garage we were all standing by the garage door and noticed this man in a little car stopping in front of the shop every two or three minutes. He finally got out of his car and notified us that a trailer behind Will’s shop was on fire. We all raced around to find that in fact there was a small shed that was a blaze and right next to it a mobile home was fast catching. Outside stood neighbors, gawkers and one woman who begged us to please save her husband that was still in the trailer. We asked if there were any weapons in the house, just to be safe, and then Mark and I proceeded to rush the door. Once inside we expected to find a person that was bed ridden, or even in a wheel chair. Instead we went from room to room calling the man’s name and found nothing, until the last room at the end of the hall, the bathroom. I swung open the door and less than a foot away from me was a man hiding with what appeared to be a sawed off shotgun. He immediately informed me that he was not leaving and I abided by his request and left explaining that he was going to burn to death. By now the trailer was well on it’s way to becoming a blaze of its own. Once we got back outside the man locked the trailer door behind us and I thought for sure we would sit helplessly and watch him die. Kekoa and Buck had decided to not let the man burn to death and broke the door down to pull him out. There must have been some struggle because the next thing we knew Kekoa was backing his way out of the house with his pistol drawn yelling “Drop the weapon” and I could tell the man was still not willing to leave. At this point the fire and police forces showed up and over the next hour we witnessed a standoff that eventually saw the man leave in cuffs. Apparently, he was protecting more than his castle. Anyway, the reason I tell you strange tale of our trip to Sturgis is because it’s part of what traveling across the country is all about; you never know just what you will get. Now, this is probably one of the most extreme cases of that an example and after twenty minutes of a silent drive down the road we all simultaneously asked “Did that really just happen?” before continuing on.
We’ve always had great adventures on the way to Sturgis but this is one for the history books. So the entire week of the Black Hills Rally was filled with historical happenings, far less crazy than our time in Louisville, but each one important to the future of this historic gathering. The racing, the good times, the new and the old all molded itself into the beginning of the next decade for the world’s largest rally. Rather than try and pack it all into on quick overview we have decided to truly make this the Sturgis Rally Edition and in the pages to follow we have broken down some of our favorite highlights of this event. I hope you enjoy them and it inspires you to make your own pilgrimage next year, just avoid Louisville maybe…. Or maybe not!