Friday, August 14, 2015

75th Sturgis Rally huge no matter how you look at it

It is close to a full week since most of the bikes rolled back home after the 75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Official attendance figures haven't been released yet, but numbers like 600,000 to over 1 million are floating around the rumor mill. Not bad for a town of 6,600 full-time residents. I don't know what will be determined, but I will say from my observation it was likely the biggest rally ever. That would make it by far the largest tourism event ever held in South Dakota, which probably isn't a surprise to a lot of folks.

I spent three days photographing bikes and bikers in Badlands National Park, the full length of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway including Iron Mountain Road and Needles Highway, Sturgis proper and South Dakota's newest city - the Buffalo Chip. In some places the traffic seemed about average for Bike Week and in some it seemed overwhelmingly crazy.

Badlands National Park is one of the scenic drives that draws this kind of crowd to western South Dakota for a week of riding.

Bikers are familiar with the super-scenic byways in the Black Hills. Winding pigtail bridges, tunnels that frame Mount Rushmore and granite spires make for beautiful rides.

Downtown Sturgis is the epicenter of the Rally. Combination bike show and the biggest craziest flea market and food festival you've ever seen, Main Street is the place to be at least once during the weeklong festivities.

Capping off my 75th Rally experience was a world-record motorcycle jump by Massachusetts daredevil Doug Danger. Wearing a replica of Knievel's leather suit and riding one of Evel Knievel's actual 1970's Harley-Davidsons, Danger sped through the center of the Buffalo Chip amphitheater and soared over 22 cars to a successful landing. Knievel had crashed while attempting this same amount of cars on a Harley XR-750 and so had jumper Bubba Blackwell. Despite a crosswind and the bike wanting to go a bit sideways just before landing, Danger pulled off the stunt with apparent ease.

For the Knievel fan in me, this was a pretty big thrill to witness in person.

That's Doug hugging his wife afterwards above. She had to be a bit relieved.

My favorite photo from the Rally is this one - Doug Danger sitting on Evel Knievel's bike contemplating the "Shadow of a Legend" as he prepares to jump. Doug has promised to sign a print for me and it will have a treasured spot on the stunt hall of fame wall in my basement.

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