Posts Tagged ‘Rapid City’

2015 Sturgis Rally Stats

2015 Sturgis Rally Stats

Stat pushers.

Not a day goes by that we’re not confronted with or overwhelmed with statistics or key metrics and the 75th Sturgis Rally is no exception.

But, what’s the one item we didn’t see at Sturgis this year?  Nada.  Not one.  Tickets issued for ape-hangers!  Thank South Dakota ABATE.

Starting July 1st, there are no longer regulations about where to hang your hands!  Ape-hangers are now legal in South Dakota and the $20 fine for riding with your hands too high was wiped off the books as governor Dennis Daugaard signed Senate Bill 85, effectively abolishing South Dakota law that prohibited such handlebars.

In previous years it was a petty offense in South Dakota if you rode a motorcycle on a public street or highway with the handlebar grips positioned at or above shoulder height.  For law enforcement it was almost an automatic excuse to pull over a motorcyclist.

sturgis_infographic_2_0And then there were the daily public safety reports.  The number of people in attendance, the number of vendor permits, the tons of garbage recycled, the number of arrests, the number of accidents, the number of DUI’s and the motorcycle deaths.  An endless parade of daily stats.  Some of it confusing as the stats didn’t match day-to-day in the media given the spaghetti architecture that makes up the western South Dakota tracking system.

Maybe the City of Sturgis can contract with Booz Allen who recently won the healthcare.gov contract to coordinate and manage the various agency’s reporting data.  How about an infographic at the conclusion of the event so that we can all tweet and share on social media!

It turns out that in previous years, the State Police counted arrests and traffic crashes in and near Sturgis, as well as in the Rapid City Patrol district which is most of western South Dakota, beginning the Saturday before the Rally’s official start on Monday and going through early Sunday morning, on the final day.

That made for eight days of data.

However, this year because it was the 75th anniversary, the Patrol began counting on Tuesday, July 28. So the totals reported each day for DUI arrests and injury accidents didn’t compare exactly, with previous years’ reporting.  They release a special comparative statistics for Saturday Aug. 1 through Saturday Aug. 8, – actually until 6 a.m. Sunday – to compare with previous years.

That means instead of 220 DUI arrests this year as previously reported, the eight-day total was 195 DUI arrests for the Rapid City district, which includes Sturgis and most of western South Dakota.  Even the Puddle of Mudd singer (Wes Scantlin) was charged with DUI.  City managers can now point to the report and state that stats were well below the 244 DUI arrests related to the Sturgis rally last year for the same eight days.

Felony drug arrests this year were at 80 during the eight days, compared with 90 for the same period in 2014. The 12-day total previously reported was 99 felony drug arrests this year, if counted from July 28.  But who’s counting?

Sadly, the traffic fatalities remain well above last year independent of which metric (8 day vs. 12 day period) used.  The total of 12 this year for the eight days; previously the Patrol had been reporting 13 fatalities connected to the Sturgis rally this year, counting from July 28.

Why?  More people, more crashes seems to be the prevailing answer.  That answer seems too simplistic and certainly doesn’t root cause how to have a fatality-free rally.

The Department of Transportation counted vehicles entering Sturgis, as it has been done since 1990.  Final numbers weren’t available, but is projected to be in the 500,000 and 600,000 range.  More than the previous two years, but not as many as the record year of 2000.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles dominate the rally, but was a lot of other breaking news this year.  For example, the underwear world record attempt, failed.  Given all these side shows being reported by the media, the opening of an Indian Dealer in Sturgis and lots of foreign motorcycles in attendance the Harley dominance might be reduced.

Photo courtesy of South Dakota State News  |  Infographic courtesy of Lancetdatasciences.com 

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DRONE-GUYKnown as “remotely piloted aircraft” or “RPAs” in military parlance, drones may well have a coming out party at this years 75th Sturgis rally.

Ellsworth Air Force Base is located approximately 10 miles northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota and about 30 miles from Sturgis. The 432nd Attack Squadron has 195 personnel dedicated to piloting drones to conduct surveillance.  It’s primarily focused on flying in foreign countries, but there are many different drones in the Air Force’s inventory and the question about use as a law enforcement tool during the Sturgis motorcycle rally was recently floated.

Drone_cover_imageI’m talking about something less threatening than the MQ-9 Reaper in the Sturgis sky, but something that will include live-feed video cameras, heat sensors and radar.

Advocates claim they can be used to quickly respond and solve medical problems, help untangle vandalism incidents, protect the hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash that transact each night with vendors, catch illegal behavior, and provide documentation for law enforcement.

Is 2015 the year of aerial drone surveillance during the Sturgis Rally?

20130515_drone2_33Well consider the fact that Arial land survey by drone is already in process in South Dakota.  The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is training students to use drones for rescue and hostage situations and South Dakota currently has no Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Legislation preventing the skies from being used for drone flight.

And then if you look just across the state border to North Dakota, a family was arrested with the assistance of a Predator drone.  Rodney Brossart was sentenced to three years in prison, of which all but six months was suspended, for a June 2011 incident in which police attempted to arrest him over his failure to return three cows from a neighboring farm that had strayed on to his property.  Mr. Brossart’s sons were located by a border-surveillance Predator borrowed from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which enabled local police to safely apprehend them, according to local newspapers or as reported by the LA Times.

Still skeptical?  Here are some additional drone facts:

  • Between 2005 and 2012, the amount in contracts the federal government awarded for drones: at least $12 billion.
  • Number of companies that are now in the drone business: more than 1,000.
  • Number of private-sector and government requests to fly drones that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved since 2007: 1,428.
  • Number of police departments that have asked the FAA for permits to fly drones: 12.
  • Number of commercial drones that the FAA predicts will be flying in domestic airspace by 2017: 10,000.
  • Price of a drone-proof hoodie being sold by the British company Stealth Wear, which also offers drone-proof scarves and burqas: $481

The question of whether aerial surveillance requires a warrant is ambiguous, with some court rulings ­including a 1986 Supreme Court decision ­allowing warrantless surveillance, while other rulings have found it to be unconstitutional.

Unmanned-aircraft-Coming-to-a-sky-near-youThere was a time when aerial surveillance was so expensive that privacy was a minor issue. But now drones are relatively cheap and can be equipped with sophisticated sensors, so they can vacuum up large amounts of camera imagery and other data, in the same way that advances in computers and communications enable the NSA to collect huge amounts of data from telephones and the Internet.

Law enforcement will clearly advocate that drones support most all of the “unobjectionable” police raids.  However, how long will it be before networks of linked drones and computers “gain the ability to automatically track multiple motorcycles and bodies as they move around a city,” much as the cell phone network hands calls from one tower to the next. The authorities would then combine drone video and cell phone tracking to build up databases of people’s routine comings and goings—databases they can then mine for suspicious behavior.

drones-shropshire-gettyv2And here I thought states using federal highway safety grants to fund discriminatory Motorcycle-only checkpoints was government over reach.

Most people who ride and stay in Sturgis know they are being financially exploited and that today’s “hard-core” Sturgis rider is grayer, and is much better behaved.  None of this is new.  What is new, is the potential use of drone surveillance which is teetering on a privacy razor’s edge.

Note: Oregon’s HB 2710 defines a drone as an unmanned flying machine, not including model aircraft. The law allows a law enforcement agency to operate a drone if it has a warrant and for enumerated exceptions including for training purposes. It also requires that a drone operated by a public body be registered with the Oregon Department of Aviation (DOA), which shall keep a registry of drones operated by public bodies. The law grants the DOA rulemaking authority to implement these provisions. It also creates new crimes and civil penalties for mounting weapons on drones and interfering with or gaining unauthorized access to public drones. Under certain conditions a landowner can bring an action against someone flying a drone lower than 400 feet over their property.  In addition, Oregon was chosen as one of six UAS test sites by the FAA.   More UAS information HERE.

Photos courtesy of internet.

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HD-CrowdMany riders are on the road and in route to the Sturgis Rally.

If you rushed out of the garage before finalizing a list of things to do while in S.D., below is a list of activities Harley-Davidson will be rolling out for rally attendees.

The 2015 models will not be launched at Sturgis.  Last year the motor company started a new trend of  introducing the new model line up during the 3rd week of August after all the press/media noise subsides post-Sturgis and they can garner more mind share.

3rd & Lazelle Street, Downtown Sturgis, SD
Saturday through Saturday, August 2-9, 9am – 5pm

  • Stunt Show – 3 times daily (10am, 1pm, & 4pm) Produced by Ill Conduct Team
  • H.O.G. Rally Point – Join Tina, Thor and other H-D staff in the H.O.G. area. Pick up your FREE event Pin, join the club or renew your membership.  Plus, August 2-8 all H.O.G.® members + one guest are welcome to join us in the H.O.G area  from 3:00pm – 5:00pm for live entertainment, complimentary samples of our new H-D Road House Meats and beer samples.
  • Willie G. ® and H.O.G.® Commemorative Merchandise – You can’t buy it at home! Stop by to purchase exclusive Sturgis 2014 clothing.
  • Genuine Harley-Davidson® Parts & Accessories Display – the latest Harley® models equipped with the full line of custom Parts & Accessories. Check out our 12 fully accessorized bikes!
  • 2014 H-D® Motorcyle LineupCheck out the 2014 bikes, including NEW customized Street motorcycles, RUSHMORE bikes, the Low Rider® and the SuperLow®1200T.
  • Women’s Area – Rebel One hosts the JUMPSTART® Rider Experience and Bike Lift Seminars on how to properly lift a dropped motorcycle. Enter the sweepstakes to win a FREE Riding Academy course or Rental.
  • Weber® Mobile Grill Academy – Get a first-hand look at Weber grills and accessories; Weber Experts will be there to answer any questions you may have about grills, grilling techniques, recipes, and all things grilling!  Join the Weber Family by signing up for Weber Nation and you will be entered to win a Weber Genesis gas grill.
  • Craftsman® Garage Station – Come for a free oil fill-up and tire pressure check! Stay and watch our artists sculpt, paint, and engrave. Take home a cool new design on your bike helmet or a personalized engraving on a free Craftsman cap wrench.
  • Free Bike Wash – Wash away all the Black Hills dust and dirt at the free bike wash from 9am – 4pm. Just bring a dirty bike and a little elbow grease.
  • MDA will sell event pins and host a bike raffle. Enter to win a black 2014 Street Glide!
  • Visa will offer Visa Card membership application and free giveaways to all applicants!

Black Hills Harley-Davidson
2820 Harley Dr.
I-90 Exit 55, Rapid City, SD
Saturday through Saturday, August 2-9, 9am – 5pm

  • Harley-Davidson ® Motorcycle Test Rides – Take a FREE test ride on a 2014 Harley-Davidson® motorcycle, including our new RUSHMORE bikes, LowRider® and SuperLow® 1200T. Come early and ride as many bikes as you want. All riders must have a valid motorcycle license and adhere to riding gear requirements and safety rules.  Demo registration will close at 4:00pm daily.
  • 2014 H-D® Motorcycle Lineup – Check out the 2014 bikes
  • Harley-Davidson® Motorclothes® – Try on our new jackets – even take them for a test ride! All items will be available for immediate purchase.
  • H-D1 Fit Shop – Come experience the feel of a more comfortable, safer ride. Stop by the H-D1 Fit Shop and find your perfect seat and handlebar combination.

Featured Activities:

  • Sunday, August 3 – “Weber® Big Burger Battle Cook-Off” competition. Come to the Weber® display at 3rd and Lazelle St. to watch pre-selected finalists compete in a cook-off!
  • Tuesday, August 5 – The 6th Annual Women’s Biker Belles Ride and celebration sponsored by Harley-Davidson®. Visit www.bikerbelles.com to register and for more information.
  • Wednesday, August 6 – “Weber® How to Grill a Perfect Burger” hands-on grilling class exclusively for H.O.G members led by Weber® Grill Expert, Kelsey Heidikamp.  Classes offered at the Weber® display at 3rd and Lazelle St. at 11:45am, 1:30pm, and 3:15pm. To participate, please send your name, cell phone number, H.O.G. number and preferred class time to HandsOnGrilling@harley-davidson.com. Space is limited so sign up soon! Sign up ends Friday, August 1.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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Brake Line Failure on the 2013 CVO Road King

Brake Line Failure on the 2013 CVO Road King

Over dinner the previous night in Gillette one of the guys (JR) in the group was discussing how the rear brake wasn’t working correctly on his bike and that he hadn’t noticed it before, but the ABS light was always on.  After settling the tab (and much ribbing about pushing the correct pedal), we set off to look over the bike.

It’s a new, bone-stock 2013 CVO Road King that was purchased about 9 months ago.  The bike had about 3000 miles on the odometer.  And sure enough, the brake fluid line and the ABS electrical line had been incorrectly routed, were rubbing up against the rear tire and had completely worn through.   When pushing on the rear brake pedal the brake fluid would discharged onto the ground.  We re-routed the lines and taped up the wires thinking a front brake was good enough to get to the H-D dealer.

South Dakota view looking back

South Dakota view looking backward.

The next morning we stopped at the Black Hills H-D dealer in Rapid City, S.D.  They didn’t have the rear brake line parts and would need to order them from Milwaukee.  Since we were going that direction we elected to wait until we arrived and then get it repaired.  It turned out that no dealer in the Milwaukee area had the parts either and they would need to order it from the factory.  Just in time inventory really doesn’t work when you’re on the road.  Nice quality control H-D!

There’s no question about it… It’s extremely flat and a long ways across South Dakota!

Billboards are everywhere, lining the Interstate trying to distract drivers for hundreds of miles.  In fact, Wall Drug who spends over $300K annually on billboards must have the Guinness record because you can see their advertisements for more than two hundred miles.

South Dakota view looking forward.

South Dakota view looking forward.

On Interstate 90 between Wyoming and Minnesota the expansive view is mostly sunflowers with the occasional corn field thrown in to mix it up.  It was a 410 mile ride on silky smooth Interstate that was peppered with billboard adverts, across a hot and humid prairie with large juicy bugs!  Quite the pilgrimage across that state and when a rest stop did arrive you really do need to pull off, wet down your t-shirt and head band because the long hot road does get long and did I say hot?!

Pano of Clear Lake

Pano of Clear Lake, MN

As I rode along for hours on the flat concrete surface my mind had a tendency to wander.  I found myself thinking about the lack of radio stations or irrigation in S.D.  Over the entire day I never saw any irrigation being applied to a corn, wheat or sunflower field.  Coming from the Northwest where the farmers in the valley or in Eastern Oregon are always using water to irrigate their fields this seemed rather odd to me.

Crossing the Mississippi River

Crossing the Mississippi River

It had been a hot and high humidity riding day!  After what seemed like just shy of forever we finally arrived near the end of the state and overnighted at a Best Western in Sioux Falls.  Air conditioning never felt so nice.

The next morning one of the riders in our group peeled off to see family in Iowa as the rest of the group rolled quickly through Minnesota on I-90 hoping that the scenery would change.  However, the major change was how poor the road quality seemed to get with the cracks and ruts.  Did you know we sent a man to the moon?  Yes, we did!  They even shipped a little car with him and they drove it around on the planet.  You’d think we’d know how to fix a concrete Interstate!

At the Best Western in La Crosse, WI.

At the Best Western in La Crosse, WI.

It was a shorter riding day as we crossed the bridge over the Mississippi River and stayed at a Best Western Plus Riverfront Hotel in La Crosse, WI.  Unknown at the time, was we were staying on the Black River and this Best Western had a nice riverside resort feel with beach accommodations.  The hotel had a terrific acoustic band on the riverside deck where we had a casual dinner while enjoying the refreshments and entertainment.

Dinner at Jack's

Dinner at Jack’s – La Crosse, WI

Over the previous couple of days we were shadowed by a large group of riders from Brazil.  They flew into and rented motorcycles in Las Vegas and were riding to the 110th celebration.  For a couple nights in a row we happen to overnight at the same hotels.  The group of approximately 20 riders had rented a U-Haul truck to carry all their luggage and it was quite the chaotic scene at check-in/out!  We got to know a couple of them.  A nice group.

In La Crosse, there was a noticeable increase in the number of motorcycles traveling east.  Many more on the Interstate and by the time we arrived in Madison there was a constant flow of bikes.

Arrival at Brookfield Inn

Arrival at Brookfield Inn

We arrived in Milwaukee around 1pm and unloaded the bikes and checked in to the Brookfield Suites Hotel and Convention Center.  Another member of our group actually rode out several days early to MN to visit family and then met us at the Brookfield.

In 2008 for the 105th celebration, we stayed at the Hampton Inn Express in Delafield which was 20+ miles from downtown Milwaukee.  The Brookfield Suites Hotel was a much nicer place and about 7 miles to downtown.  We were within walking distance to Hal’s Harley-Davidson.  We liked this location much better and the hotel staff was awesome!

Arrived at the 110th Anniversary Celebration

Arrived at the 110th Anniversary Celebration

We had arrived on Thursday (August 29), the start of the celebrations and later that day we headed down to Summerfest/Maier Festival Park to take in the 30th Anniversary celebration of H.O.G.  We all wanted to get the unique pin for this event so we put on our 110th and H.O.G. identification and arrived in time to get a pin and watch Lynyrd Skynyrd headline the Harley-Davidson Roadhouse stage.

At the HOG 30th Anniversary Celebration

At the HOG 30th Anniversary Celebration

In what seemed like a bit of irony, there was Rickey Medlocke on guitar… he was rocking out and being displayed on the large jumbo-tron monitors which included his trademark “Indian” tat and custom guitar with inlaid “Indian” spelled out on the fret board.  It had nothing to do with Indian Motorcycles, but it would have made for an interesting photo given they were playing on the H-D main stage with bar and shield brand logos everywhere.

After several days of being on the road with just the motorcycle, the festival was a bit of a sensory overload.  There was a lot going on at Summerfest and it took awhile to absorb and sync up with all the Harley “noisemakers.”  Riders and enthusiasts literally travelled from all over the globe to attend the festivities and over the next few days of the birthday celebration there would be more than 66-band performances.

I was starting to wondered if that rumbling coming down the road might be the roar of music vs. a V-twin!

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 3 (HERE) or Part 1 (HERE)

Photos taken by author

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4-Corners By Harley-Davidson – Part 2

Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

This is a continuation of Part-1 HERE, of our 4000-mile journey to 4-Corners that led us through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota/Sturgis, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington and then back to Oregon.

Cortez to Meeker, CO – When we plotted our original route to 4-Corners, I don’t think any of us imagined riding in such dry, scorching heat through unimaginably desolate terrain.  It seemed like the buzzards were the only thing alive and they were circling patiently overhead for a couple days.  As a result, we decided it was time to head north for some cooler weather.

Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass – 10,708 Feet

On this morning’s departure the buzzards had taken the day off. We headed east on Highway 160 toward historic Durango and the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. We stopped at the Durango Harley-Davidson dealer and picked up a t-shirt and exchanged some information about where to ride with other motorcyclists.  We then headed north on Highway 550 toward Silverton and then Highway 110, over what is also called the “Million Dollar Highway” toward the little the town of Ouray — “The Switzerland of America.”  We allowed for plenty of time to ride this route as the winding roads go through mountains and we knew there would be stops for photos and time to enjoy the vistas, waterfalls, deserted mining towns.

Looking down onto Silverton, Colorado

Looking down onto Silverton, Colorado

The GPS displayed 10,708 feet when we crossed over the summit and started to descend into Silverton.  I’m not sure what the town is like in the winter with its 300+ inches of snow that falls each year. We stopped for fuel and a soda break then rolled onto the main part of the Million Dollar Highway – north from Silverton to Ouray.  I’ve heard a couple  different reasons about why it has its name. It is either because it cost a million dollars a mile to build, or because the fill they used to make up the road has traces of gold and silver contained within it. Whichever is true, it is still a great name for a road.  The road itself is a terrific ride, but there are some parts where you have to pay close attention with steep drop-offs and no guard rails. In other places the road hugs the side of a steep slope of a mountain and in others, it has great bends which are ideal for motorcycling.

Outside Ouray and the gully washer and hail were on the way!

Outside Ouray and the gully washer and hail were on the way!

About 20 miles from Ouray after going around a mountain switch back the weather changed quickly.  We could see dark clouds rolling up the mountain valley, the temperature dropped 15 degrees and it started to spit some moisture.  We pulled over and hunted for rain gear which somehow had relocated to a deeper part of the hard bags in the days of searing heat.  It was a good call, because in less than 15 mins there came lightening and a gully washer.  As we rolled through Ouray it was hailing BB sized hail and the road was literally flowing with a mud/water mix.  We could see blue sky and kept rolling through the weather.  By the time we arrive in Ridgeway it stopped.

In Meeker, CO. washing the dried mud off the bikes.

In Meeker, CO. washing the dried mud off the bikes.

We finally arrived in Meeker and overnighted at the Elk Mountain Inn.  We ate a Mexican dinner at Ma Famiglia which was an extremely satisfying meal with great service.  We discussed riding to Sturgis since we were headed north and needed to start thinking about our return route.  The next morning coffee was on early and the hosts were very pleasant.  We wanted to clean the motorcycles after riding in the mud flow outside Ouray the previous day and they offered us a hose, buckets and cleaning soap.

On Wyoming Highway 70

On Wyoming Highway 70

Meeker to Torrington, WY – We were up early to clean the mud residue off the motorcycles.  Afterward we rolled north toward Craig on Highway 13/789.  Once we passed into Wyoming we headed east on Highway 70 where it passes over the Continental Divide and then descending onto the junction for Highway 230 north.  We picked up Highway 130 east and rode by Lake Marie and Mirror Lake while crossing through the Medicine Bow National Forest.

Highway 130 - Medicine Bow National Forest.

Highway 130 – Medicine Bow National Forest.

In Centennial we stopped for fuel at the Trading Post and then continued east on Highway 130.  At Laramie we got on I-80 east and headed toward Cheyenne.  It was a quick trip to Cheyenne and then we headed north on I-25 and then at Exit 17 is where US Highway 85 (Torrington Road) branches off to the northeast.

We arrived in Torrington fairly late in the day and tried a couple of motels which were full of bikers before ending up at the Motel 6.   It was the only place with vacancy and that should have been a red flag.  It was being renovated or had closed and then sort of reopened, but didn’t know what it was going to be in final form?

The Motel 6 door decal was duck taped over...

The Motel 6 door decal was duck taped over…

All the signs were removed from the building and significant remodeling was stalled.  We were fortunate to have A/C and a bed/shower, but I can honestly say don’t stay at this place until they get it finished.  We ate dinner at Deacons Restaurant and the hearty steak meal helped offset the strange motel situation.

Torrington to Rapid City, SD – On this morning we got up early and traveled the 8+ miles for a photo op on the Nebraska state line.  We did a U-turn and headed back onto the route that is known as the “Traditional” way for riders to get from northern Colorado to Sturgis.

We started to notice a lot more motorcyclist as if the NO vacancy signs weren’t a clue the night before.

On Highway 18 going to Custer, SD.

On Highway 18 going to Custer, SD.

We continued on Highway 85 north and headed to the town of Lusk.  Lusk was full of Bikers, and coincidently was having a big parade.  We had planned to get fuel there, there was a long wait at the gas station and one of the law enforcement officers who had traffic block mentioned that we should just head to the next town.

This stretch of road is heavily patrolled, but despite that we witnessed a number of bikers running near 90mph, though I don’t recommend it.  In fact, we came up on the first accident of the trip on this road.  It looked like an overloaded motorcycle dumped their load and skidded off into the ditch.  If anyone had been hurt they were already gone by the time we rolled past as the tow vehicle was picking up the motorcycle.

Crazy Horse Mountain Monument

Crazy Horse Mountain Monument

About halfway between Lusk and Newcastle is Mule Creek Junction with a nice rest area and it’s possible to head east on Highway 18 from there into Custer, SD which is what we did.

We rolled through Custer and past the Crazy Horse Mountain Monument and stopped in Rapid City.  We paid double the going rate for a room at the Best Western Ramkota Hotel and spent the remainder of the day and evening enjoying the typical Sturgis activity.

Knuckle-8We were only in town for 24 hours, but managed to hit The Knuckle Saloon for refreshments, One-Eyed Jacks Saloon for dinner, and see plenty of billboards, souvenirs, belt buckles, t-shirts, music and people watching on Main Street well into the evening.

Rapid City to Billings, MT – The next morning was another early rise.  It was a beautiful sun-drenched morning.

Sturgis S.D. at dusk

Sturgis S.D. at dusk

There was a quick sausage biscuit (yeah, we eat well on the road!) at Burger King and it was on the road again.  It was going to be an “Interstate Day” – all the miles would be on the freeway.  We motored west on I-90 toward Sundance then Gillette and Sheridan.

As the miles clicked by I gazed out over the landscape, it was not hard to imagine the challenges faced by those who struggled to forge a living from this land 150 years ago. It says something about the human spirit that they even tried.  When you’re rolling along on the freeway you soon learn to really hate semi-trucks and RVs.

Buffalo Country

Buffalo Country

These behemoth’s create their own wind patterns and take no issue with trying to out run motorcycles cruising above the speed limit!

Much of this route is prairie with long stretches of straight road.  Just outside Hardin we rolled past the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument at the Highway 212 junction.  We’ve ridden Hwy 212 a couple of times when returning from Sturgis, but this time we needed to make up some miles.

Rest stop in route to Billings, MT.

Rest stop in route to Billings, MT.

Passing by Little Big Horn I remember seeing the 135th anniversary signs of the battle.  It was late 1875, Sioux and Cheyenne Indians left their reservations, outraged over the continued intrusions of “whites” into their sacred lands in the Black Hills.   They gathered in Montana with Sitting Bull to fight for their lands.  The following spring, two victories over the US Calvary emboldened them to fight on in the summer of 1876 – the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Dusk at Holiday Inn Express

Dusk at Holiday Inn Express

A couple years ago I blogged about the Guidon, an artifact found/auctioned off from that battle.

It had been another hot day and we arrived in Billings at the Holiday Inn Express on the edge of town.  It was a new hotel and had all the amenities.  We headed to the pool and then I remember having dinner at a Subway shop up the road followed by some DQ ice cream.  There were a number of bikers returning from Sturgis who overnighted at the hotel and we made some new friends.

This is a multi-part blog post.  Part -1 HERE and Part – 3 HERE.

Photos by author.

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Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally - 2010

Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally – 2010

At the 2012 Sturgis Rally attendance was up 7% (official est. at 450K) and in all, the city of Sturgis spent approximately $960K to host the 6-day event which generated nearly $1.4M in revenue.  Nearly $400K profit for the city which has more than double the net profit from the 2011 rally at $197K.  There were 1,012 vendors registered vs. 976 in 2011 and gross sales by vendors were $13.1M compared to $12.6M in 2011.

sturgis-flagAnd the man who made Sturgis?  There are several who come to mind, but one near the top of the list would be Steven Piehl, the Harley executive who invented the Harley Owners Group (HOG).  In 1983, Mr. Piehl worked under Harley’s General Sales Manager, Clyde Fessler, and was given 3 months to launch the program.  They promoted the rally to hundreds of thousands of HOG members and is at least in part responsible for the transformation of Sturgis from a biker party into a profit center.  Mr. Piehl was inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame last year and received the JC “Pappy” Hoel Outstanding Achievement Award for establishing HOG.

HD-Sturgis3Motoring USA is the consultant group that essentially coordinates the Sturgis rally for the city as they help line-up sponsors (Harley-Davidson, Dodge, Jack Daniels, Geico etc.), vendors and publish the official rally magazine.  For their 2012 services they were paid more than $308K ($163K commissions/fees and $145K to publish the official guide).  Ironically, the city of Sturgis paid the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., $26,944 in licensing fees to use the “Sturgis” name!  Clearly corporate America has found the motorcyclist market and made the profit driven transformation.


Main Street Sturgis at Dusk

Those are a few of the financial aspects of the motorcycle rally.  Sadly, 9 people died at last year’s rally-related accidents and collisions.  In 2011 there were 4 deaths.  And you might have been one of the unlucky riders trapped on the freeway in 2010 after a semi-trailer caught fire (video HERE) and closed the interstate (see above photo)?

It’s also well known that at the Sturgis Rally large numbers of law enforcement descend on the area to make sure those 450,000+ bikers don’t get out of hand.  On any typical week the city has 15 officers to keep the community of 6700 safe.  During rally week it pays a hefty amount for law enforcement hiring people from nine different states.  The city police budget in August is estimated to be in excess of $300K to cover salaries, equipment and other expenses for the event.  Visiting officers are housed and receive two meals a day.  In addition, there are also significant numbers of federal agents (FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, the National Guard, the Bureau of Land Management and even the National Forest Service) on hand.


Loud American Roadhouse (L)

However, budget cuts known as sequestration have stalled the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives attendance and for 2013 there will be fewer federal agents available to keep an eye on things for the first time in 10 years.  The value of announcing this information to the public prior to the rally is interesting.  Is it to alarm the public?  Is it an open invitation for the motorcycle clubs to restart some of the “wild times” prevalent in years past?  Historically, more than 20 ATF agents patrol Sturgis during the Rally.  This year there will one agent in Rapid City who will be on call when the rally officially starts on August 5th.

Remember the 2006 rally shootout between the Outlaws and Hells Angels at Custer?  How about back in 2008 when Sturgis ended with the first shooting in over 20-years where the Iron Pigs (off-duty Seattle LEO – Ronald Smith) had a confrontation with the Hell’s Angels (Joseph McGuire) at the Loud American Roadhouse?  Anytime there is a large gathering of people, there is a potential for an incident, but I would anticipate if any intelligence or threat hits the radar we’ll see it rain law enforcement personnel sequestration or not.

It wasn’t too long ago, the rough, anti-materialistic, anti-authoritarian attitudes showed up on motorcycles en-masse at Sturgis.  The motor company that helped put Sturgis on the map and was once so revered that men tattooed its name on their arms, is now more about demographics, international expansion in China and India and tapping female consumer spending.  For example, Claudia Garber, Harley’s Director of Women’s Marketing Outreach, worked the 2012 rally to convince affluent, professional women that Harleys are really fun to ride.

Yes, the transformation of Sturgis from a quaint biker party into an enormous profit center is fully complete.  Stay classy Sturgis!

Interstate photo courtesy of Renegade Wheels, other photos taken by author at 2012 Sturgis Rally.  The 2012 Sturgis stats are HERE (.pdf).

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If you’re a numbers person there is plenty to analyze about the 2010 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Even more so if you’re somehow impacted by the largest death tally in over 10 years.  These tragedies will reverberate throughout the tri-state area for months, and will undoubtedly affect future events.  My sympathies go out to the friends and families.   Even the Cowboy State (WY) has lawmakers reviewing the lack of a helmet law and are considering revisions based on this year’s tally which reversed a downward trend in that state.

Unknown Wedding Couple at Broken Spoke Saloon

Whether you have interest in the amount of tax revenue, the number of weddings, the number of drug arrests, the number of Regional Health System emergency department visits or the amount of trash the rally produced, there are stat’s for everyone.

First off is the tax revenue; the South Dakota Department of Revenue and Regulation stated that revenues at the 2010 Rally increased ($127,804) from last year. Sales and tourism taxes collected so far from temporary vendors totaled $989,911 in the northern Black Hills, which includes Sturgis and communities in Meade and Lawrence counties.  There were 1,207 vendors at the 2010 rally and the gross vendor sales totaled $13.6 MILLION in the Northern Hills, $1.7M more than last year. In the Southern Hills, which includes Pennington County and Rapid City, Custer, Hill City and Keystone, sales were $2.8 MILLION, up from last year’s $2.5M.  Another indicator of attendance came from the city of Sturgis public works director, Randy Nohava, who stated that the rally generated nearly 9-tons of trash per day!

But, there is one stat we won’t get and that is the exact number of law enforcement agents who worked the rally or the costs.  It’s double-top secret.  However, law enforcement is quick to point to the: 1,442 citations issued, including 209 arrests for driving under the influence; 46 felony drug arrests and 183 misdemeanor drug arrests as a result of their extensive presence.

And while I’m on the law enforcement topic, there is one statistic which was very odd. The arrival of a Blackhawk helicopter, courtesy of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with their extensive support team. Supposedly the Blackhawk was there to provide additional surveillance of criminals and better mobility for ICE agents.  There has been NO word yet on how many illegal immigrants were apprehended at the 2010 rally.  It turns out that the Blackhawk support was never requested according to local law enforcement and in fact their arrival created almost as much controversy as the May 2010 incident where 3-Blackhawks from the Colorado National Guard descended over Wounded Knee and touch off a flurry of protests.

In terms of attendance, the methodology suggests that estimates are always inflated.  In fact, an article in the Rapid City Journal stated that 2009 numbers were rounded down to 477,000 and that the early estimate number for 2010 is 450,000.  The exact number doesn’t really matter as the bean counters really focus on the tax revenue data as a key indicator.

There were some other interesting capitalism mass-marketing stats.  Ford used the Rally to launch its new 2011 H-D “bling” filled F-150 truck and the U.S. Postal Service unveiled the “American Motorcycles” commemorative set of four stamps featuring classic motorcycles and a 1970’s era chopper.  And there are statistics for a good cause too; the 50-mile Legends Ride which raised $52,000, and was split by the Sky Ranch for Boys and the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame and Museum. And finally were the Hamsters MC, who helped raise more than $257,000 for therapies and services at the Rapid City Children’s Care Hospital for children who couldn’t otherwise afford treatment there.

Yep, the rally has lots of protestations and an industry trumpeting its success…

Statistics courtesy of Rapid City Journal.  Photos courtesy of Army/web.

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