It’s that time of year again, when the Black Hills are filled with an incessant, angry rumbling. Distant thunder? Nope: the constant drone of thousands of two-cylinder four-stroke piston engines. The streets are clogged with motorcyclists from near and far, who have descended upon our fair land for the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Rally is a love-it/hate-it proposition for most of us who live here. We love all the money it pumps into the local economy but hate pretty much everything else. The noise, the people, the price-gouging. Our gas prices rose 25 cents a gallon the week before Rally and will stay there until the bikers go home. Restaurants and bars are full, not to mention our favorite parks and other attractions. The speed limit on the interstate has been lowered 10 mph and there are temporary stoplights set up along many of the normally quiet two-lane highways in the Hills.
There are motorcycles everywhere, all day long, packs of them, driven by leather-clad riders sporting all the trappings that accompany the lifestyle. Which, unfortunately, means you see a lot of Confederate flags and pro-Trump bullshit. And very few wear helmets. Masks? Ha! I’m guessing two-thirds are unvaccinated and don’t give a shit. I hate to stereotype people, but I’m pretty sure I’m not too far off the mark here.
To be fair, Rally can be a lot of fun. Tara and I went our first year here and had a great time. In 2019, Tara’s dad and girlfriend (now wife) were visiting and wanted to check it out, so we took them and…again…it was fun. Rally is a feast for the senses and something to experience at least once.
But mostly it’s a pain in the ass, especially if the closest you have ever come to a bike is your 10-speed Huffy. Once you’ve gotten it out of your system, you begin to dread the first two weeks of August. I hate to sound all “bah, humbug,” but…bah, humbug.
I might be a little more tolerant, but with COVID numbers on the rise again, this has all the makings of a super-spreader event. Especially since they’re predicting some 700,000 visitors this year—a record turnout. Some estimates are closer to a million. All of them crammed into a town that has 7,000 year-round residents.
One that we will be avoiding like the plague. Pun intended, but also, not funny.
We did not let all the bikers keep us from kayaking yesterday morning. The trick was leaving the house at 7 a.m. and visiting a lake that’s only accessible via a gravel road. What we did not anticipate was a very chilly start to our adventure…
…especially since we were dressed for summer. Swimming trunks and a t-shirt for me, shorts and a tank top for Tara. Fortunately, it warmed up very quickly. By the time we paddled to shore three hours later, it was well into the 80s.
It actually turned out to be a very productive weekend. We did lots of yardwork; cleaned and organized the garage; even got some stuff cleared out of the basement that had been gathering dust for months. And we still had time to relax with a movie and pizza at one point.
These summer days are winding down (as evidenced by the Halloween display in the At Home store in the mall and the dwindling early morning light) and, while the heat is no fun and mowing the lawn has long since turned into a chore instead of a novelty, we intend to enjoy them as much as possible.
Even if that means putting up with hundreds of thousands of bikers, and all the chaos that accompanies that, for two weeks.