Like the 8 years prior, my journey to the black hills started hours before the sun came up. This year with the intense heat we have had in Dallas Texas, a 2 am departure headed northwest on highway 287 provided the perfect start too my trip. With cooler temps and a mostly empty highway besides the occasional 18 wheeler, I was able to cover ground and put Amarillo on the horizon by sunrise.. .
Back in 2020 on a similar ride up to Sturgis I stumbled across a rad little ran down filling station covered in graffiti from the countless travelers leaving their mark on anything left standing on route 66. Unlike many other abandoned structures you will find off 66 and I 40 west of Oklahoma this spot was unique, next to the deteriorating filling station was a row of half buried Volkswagen beetle’s similar to the Cadillac ranch only 30 miles further west on I-40. With perfect golden hour light and my Lowrider ST not caked in bug guts yet, I set out to capture some photos and see if I could find some unique compositions..
As the sun got higher I got back on the highway this time interstate 40 headed west. I laid into the throttle pretty solid to keep a steady pace above the average flow of traffic. A bit of personal preference, I don’t like being passed by 18 wheelers especially on major highways, riding faster then traffic tends to eliminate the majority of potential threats from behind. Not too far west of Amarillo the route would take me off the main highway once again and onto 385 and eventually 87.
Crossing into New Mexico, gaining an hour and seeing some faint mountains on the horizon provided a small dose of adrenalin. I have always had a fascination with geography and one of the few cool things about the route I had been on was seeing the land change. The further west I traveled from Dallas the shorter and less abundant the trees were. Opening up the sky and distant landscapes to some kick ass views.
Raton was my next and only gas stop in New Mexico. In years passed I have rarely made it over the raton pass into Colorado with out getting drenched. Luckily this year the rain spared me, well at least for now.
On this first day on my Sturgis trip, other then the planned 850 miles from Dallas to Boulder Colorado, I was to stop in Pueblo and record a podcast with the Barela Brothers. Joey and Rueben attended my campout (the Fast Life Campout) back in 2021 and brought some amazing energy, enthusiasm and over all great vibes to the event! All though I didn’t immediately jump at the chance to podcast with them, in the years since FLC 4 (2021) both Joey and Rueben got into FXR’s and as of this year Joey completed a frame up restoration on his FXR, followed by a semi cross country ride to the West Coast FXR Jam.
After a 12pack of bud lights split between the three of us we wrapped up the podcast, and Rueben hopped on his FXR and escorted me out of Pueblo, north on interstate 25. If you have never ridden this highway which runs parallel to the rocky mountains, it provides absolutely amazing views and equally insane weather conditions. There always seems to be something brewing weather wise in the mountains along I-25, and once it hits the foot hills headed east, violent is the word I would use to describe them.
Needless to say I had a hotel booked in Boulder, but this storm wouldn’t allow me to get north of Colorado Springs. I waited for hours in soaked shoes to see if there would be a break in the storm providing me an opportunity to slip passed, but as luck would have it my day was cut short, and I spent the next few hours trying to blow dry the inside of my shoes at an Econolodge about 100 miles short of my already booked and paid for hotel in Boulder.
Day 2 of my trip was equally exciting as it was nerve-racking. Not because of weather or anything mother nature may of had in store that day.. but 100 miles north of me was Michael Lichter one of the most famous and important photographers over the last 40 years within the motorcycle world. Michael and I had been trying to link up and do a podcast for about 3 years at this point. With his schedule it can be next to impossible to nail this guy down for a day to record. As fate would have it this year was the first time in the last 22 years the Michale was not curating his show “Motorcycles as art” at the buffalo chip. Which typically would have had him already in Sturgis setting up the exhibits and shooting photographs of the custom bikes.
The ride up from Colorado Springs was riddled with slow downs. I tried to filter my way through Denver, managing to ruin a few commuters lives with my lane splitting, or at least that was the reactions I got from them as I slid past them. All in all I was in a great mood but nervous to spend the majority of the day with Michael. As a aspiring photographer myself, this opportunity to be around him and absorb as much as I could was priceless.
When I pulled up to Michels home/ studio, he was just loading up a collection of his iconic photos that were to be displayed at the buffalo chip throughout the rally. As the courier drove off his attention was directed towards me and he began to give me a tour of his studio and home.
I can only describe The Lichter residence as a place of inspiration and appreciation. Every wall in his home had a photograph a painting or some memorabilia from our rich motorcycle culture. As he gave me the tour, we talked photography past present and future. Honestly I should have had him mic’ed up from the jump, but when you converse with ppl over the years you learn that not every conversation is meant for the world. One thing that has really stuck out since my visit was his motto which is inscribed in a hand made bench in his foyer “Go out for adventure come home for Love”.
Our day together included a ride up boulder canyon to Nederland for lunch and a beer along with more talk of photography and motorcycles. The ride back to his home was through left hand canyon drive which did not disappoint, a fair amount of curves and endless amount of beauty. The route dropped us out of the mountains just north of bolder. Michael had a prior meeting on his books so while he fulfilled his obligation I set up the microphones for our podcast together..
After a few hours, we wrapped up around 7pm and originally my plan was to ride 15 miles north too podcast and crash with “Charlie the traveling chopper” and wife Kayla at their home in longmont Colorado. Charlie is a avid motorcycle traveler, writer and photographer, who has been an inspiration of mine over the last year with his travels and blog. Kayla whom I met officially on this trip is an artist writer and traveler. They both run a website called www.roadsareforjourneys.com where you can find a collection of blogs from many travelers of all sorts!
While I was in my podcast with Michael, a couple from Australia was having bike trouble after attempting to leave Charlie’s house. They had spent the last few days with Charlie and Kayla regrouping and preparing to head back out on their American journey Grounded with battery issues by the time Charlie and the Aussie (who you can follow on IG @thepacktrack ) made it back to his home, I figured a podcast with him was off the table.
I met Charlie in 2022 when he made a stop in Dallas as he embarked on his ride around the world. Yes! Around the world! I had hoped to bring some of his experiences and stories from that trip to our listeners, but I spent the remainder of the evening listening to the Aussies talk about their last almost 10 years traveling the world on their motorcycles. Get this.. with their three dogs! All in all I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing evening with truly inspiring passionate people.
Day three got off to a smooth start I departed from Longmont Colorado with my sights set on the black hills. 350 miles until I was officially in Sturgis. Now back on i-25 just in time to catch the sun rise. I found my self at times looking east and taking in the golden hour light while forgetting about the north bound highway I was traveling. As I Crossed into Wyoming I made a point to fill up in Cheyenne, due to the vast gas-less stretches between towns. A lesson learned in one of my earlier Sturgis journeys.
The plateau’s and valleys of eastern Wyoming can seem mundane compared to the towering Rockies I was just riding along side, but as a frequent traveler of the great plains I’ve learned to appreciate the terrain for its beauty and history. As I ride along side the ridges and within the valleys, I can’t help but imagine pioneers and settlers making the trek west for new opportunity over 150 years ago. In a way my yearly pilgrimage to Sturgis is in search of new opportunities.
Sturgis is the Mecca for American v-twin culture. The congregation of enthusiasts and industry leaders make it a melting pot of opportunities for someone like me. You can simply have an amazing vacation on two wheels, content creators of all sorts can live and capture the Sturgis experience for their audiences, builders can show off the latest creations to motorcyclists from all over the world, and manufacturers can get their products seen by hundreds of thousands of potential customers. Its the Mecca, killer roads historic places, beautiful machines and the best riding weather.. Well maybe not the weather. this year..
All Photos Were Shot with ( Digital-Canon R5) Film (canon A1 & Minolta Freedom point and shoot)