Rain Rally 2023
I made the decision long ago to do everything in my power to attend the Sturgis motorcycle rally every year for the rest of my days. Why? I feel as though Sturgis is the Mecca of all things Vtwin, the gathering of so many different types of bikers and motorcycles alike and of course the amazing rides riddled all over the southwest area of South Dakota. Lastly the rich history of the event dating back to 1938. As you approach the black hills (hopefully on your motorcycle) from nearly any direction, your greeted with “Sturgis vibes” in some cases over 100 miles away. Even if these small towns are simply trying to capitalize on the 1000s of bikers passing down their main streets, as a biker myself it adds to the excitement and anticipation. Which further drives home my point of Sturgis’ being a staple in our motorcycle culture.
!Click on the photos to see the full resolution image!
On day 3 (Wednesday) of my trip to Sturgis I pulled into South Dakota by way of highway 85. Which brought me in from the south west directly into Lead and then the historic town of deadwood (probably my favorite place in the Black Hills).
I have done Sturgis a few different ways over my last 9 visits. From a hotel my first year to camping 3 years and finally renting house’s all the other stays. This time around I was invited to stay with some good friends from our Dallas bike scene Jake and his wife Lauren, ( @swandive.28 & @lo.swan) Jake went in on a house capable of hosting around 20 guests, In what I consider a prime location tucked in-between Sturgis and Deadwood off 14A.
As I pulled up to the house Jake and the rest of the guests were out on a ride enjoying what would be one of the few days we saw the sun. I took advantage of the water hose and some cleaning supplies and got my Lowrider st back to a presentable condition. I unloaded my bike, found my room, got situated, showered and prepared to head to Black Hills Harley to link up with my friends Jake and Millhouse from Thunder-max USA.
Coming in too Black Hills HD I headed straight to the Thunder-max tent which is located on what a lot of us consider to be “Performance Row” . Performance Row consists of brands like Trask performance, Hoffman designs, SBC Performance and D & D exhaust to name a few. I proceeded to make my rounds saying hi and catching up with as many as I could. Plans were made prior to Sturgis to stay with the Thunder-max team at their house on my first night so we could recored an episode for the podcast.
The T-max crew and I pulled out of Black Hills HD around 6pm with our sights set on home cooked steaks courtesy of Millhouse and endless vodka red bulls, which I would come to completely regret the following morning. After dinner Jake, Millhouse and I recorded an episode then hit the hot tub for some off air conversations. Thunder-max has been a sponsor of mine for many years now our relationship actually began in Sturgis 2019 at a drunken night at buffalo wild wings. Although I had ran their products for many years prior to knowing them. Since then we have worked together on many projects and events. Now these guys feel more like family then anything else.
Day 4 kicked off with a foggy daze and headache to remind me for hours to come on last nights decisions. After some hugs and good bye’s, I headed out on one of the black hills main veins 385 which would take me from my current location in Hill City back into Deadwood. It was early morning and the Thursday before the rally officially started, so very few bikes on the road and South Dakota had not shipped in all the additional law enforcement yet. So I got to open up the lowrider and have a bit of fun.
I pulled into downtown Deadwood and headed to the Starbucks to fill this new itch I developed this past June, Coffee. As Luck would have it as I pulled up and was completely oblivious to the fact that my good friend Kyle ( @foreverrad) was hanging out front having his morning fix. It took a minute for me to realize his presence but soon after we were catching up over some latte’s.
Our brief conversation was a great start to my day and start to what would be my only opportunity to ride any of the black hills this trip. I pulled back up to the house and was able to to meet all the roommates I would be staying with over the next 5 days. With the bulk of my obligations being Saturday and Sunday I was wide open to have some fun this Thursday and Friday. The Crew had intended on riding Spearfish Canyon today, with a stop at the Boars nest for some beers.
I decided to tag along as it gave way to a great opportunity to snap some riding shots of some of the homies. As well as a chance to meet some of the other guests I had not met before. The ride was comfortable although we did get hit with some light rain and wet roads. I managed to keep my shoes dry and the Boars nest had Guinness which was a perfect thick beer to reset my pallet from the regrettable red bull vodkas. Although my enthusiasm was pretty hight my body was worn out so I headed back to the house took a shower and crashed out. 5 pm ish to be exact.
Friday morning started around 430 am for me, allowing me to get my bearings going well before the house woke up. Later that morning I rode a street over within our neighborhood, linking up with some great friends. Wenton and Scott have been big supporters of my brand and probably have collected the most custom painted Simpson helmets from me over the years. Needless to say their friendship has been an added bonus to the paint opportunities they have provided me over the years.
Every year these guys host a big party at their house and have always encouraged me to invite anyone I felt would bring good vibes. More on this later. Friday called for rain all day, with short breaks long enough to allow the ground to dry, only to dump again if you attempt to get out on you’re bike. Lunch came around and they took me to their favorite spot up on the hill in deadwood “the Lodge”. This spot was a welcomed meal that I felt I had been lacking the last few days. A couple more Guinness’s a proper French dip and I was full of energy and ready to let loose.
Once I got back to the house the rain picked back up and was draining me of any and all enthusiasm. Fortunately Tre’ (@tourqeduptre) and Zack two more Dallas natives wanted to drive to downtown Sturgis hit one eyed jacks and bar hop for the night. Eventually the majority of the guests in the house found their way to one eyed jacks to party with us. We also linked up with many other friends from all over the country (honestly too many to list) the night ended in the legendary dungeon bar I had a great time and managed to stay fairly sober through the chaos. Mainly due to the inflated beer and alcohol prices commonly found on Main Street during the rally. I didn’t take hardly any photos this evening just wasn’t feeling it.
Saturday began around 2 pm for me, I didn’t have a hang over it was just raining non stop and with the window cracked in my room it created a soothing sound so I just slept the morning away. By the time I came down stairs I was surprised to see more close friends from Dallas at the house hanging out. Marcus ( @drkhrs) and Cory (@maindrivecycle) had stopped by in their truck trying to make the best of the rainy day in South Dakota. I had an obligation that afternoon to attend the Motorcycles as art show at the buffalo chip. Trying to figure out how I was going to make the trip in the rain, when Cory and Marcus offered to drop me off. I took them up on the offer, in hopes that Tre’ or someone could come scoop me up once the show was over.
Motorcycles as art show for the last 22 years was put on and curated by Michael Lichter, as I stated in my last blog this was his first year attending as a featured artist. This Year the invited artists: photography and paintings were curated by Savannah (@themouseandthemoto) and the custom motorcycles were curated by @dunworth_ . Saturday is the industry party for this event, the first day where its invite only before being open to the public for the remaining days of the rally. You’re literally rubbing elbows with the biggest names in the motorcycle industry, I found myself meeting some fellow photographers I admire too some industry friends I haven’t seen in a few years.
I found Lichter and he took me under his wing, introducing me to many people from around the industry. At one point I was introduced to legendary Sugar Bear, then I was speaking with the team behind Progressive insurance, next thing I knew I was hearing stories from Dozer a builder from Kentucky as he spoke on some behind the scenes stories from the upcoming Movie The Bikeriders. An adaptation of the famous book from Danny Lyons. We also walked together looking at the photography on the walls. Which tuned into more or less, lessons on composition, lighting and overall artistic expression. The talks with Michael as I said before are priceless and as someone who talks for a living, I know when to shut the fuck up and listen. Overall the experience at this event was great especially as a major networking event. There is a chance I will be able to exhibit some of my photography in years to come..
As the Night winded down I started to contemplated my ride home. With less then 20% battery on my phone I was getting a bit worried. Tre and the guys decided not to get out in Sturgis but rather go to deadwood, forcing me too relying on uber, which is not very common at the rally. Fortunately after about 30 mins a driver confirmed and was in route. I was a bit worried but it worked out, I got home just in time to catch the Jake Paul & Nate Diaz fight with a few of the guys who decided not to go out that night. Chuck and Zee from Georgia, as well As Beth and Josh from the UK! we had an awesome time and chat throughout the evening.
Sunday we finally had day of sunshine and honestly perfect weather. The annual FXR show held at the big engine bar at the buffalo chip is another event I haven’t missed since my first go around in 2017. Big Joe the Show producer over the years has asked me and a handful of other FXR aficionado’s to be judges. With that honor I do my best to help provide a positive experience for the show goers. Check out all the pics I snapped at the FXR Show.
Sunday evening kicks off the annual house party put on by my friends Wenton and Scott who I mentioned earlier. Every year they load the house with BBQ endless liquor and margaritas all in the name of a good time. I attended my first party with them in 2019 and haven’t missed one since. I invited so many friends that evening I lost count, the night was truly amazing with amazing ppl. At one point one late in the evening when we thought the party was winding down Kory Souza a builder from Florida kicked on a stereo from one of his builds and gave the party a second wind. Creating a dance party in the garage, everyone was letting loose. This was probably my first time at one of these parties where 2 am things were still jumping. Part of me felt like it was pent up energy that the rain forced us all to keep in over the last few days, regardless the night was amazing to say the least.
As we all pealed ourselves outta bed Monday, I considered heading home as most of what I came to Sturgis for had taken place. A quick glance at the radar forced me to spend one more day in the black hills. Nebraska and Oklahoma was getting pounded with storms, leaving me with no other option but to stay and attend a few more shows. Jake, Lauren and I wiped down the bikes and headed to Harley Davidson square in downtown Sturgis, for the V-Twin Visionary Performance Bike show.
We pulled up early parked the bikes and b-lined it to breakfast. Which was an $18 each breakfast buffet with very little food left before they transitioned to lunch. I scraped down what I could then hit up the HD dealership a few blocks away to find my wife a shirt or two. Upon returning to the show, bikes filled up the parking area with a ton of really cool customs.
Im not one to enter my personal bikes into shows. Mainly because my bikes are not show bikes they are go bikes, today I wanted a good parking spot so I played the game. Jeff Holt the man behind the V-twin visionary brand had an award for a guy like me, a traveler. I was honored with the kind words Jeff said about me and my work ethic within the moto scene. I hoped on stage to accept the award just as the clouds began to dump on us once again. Both Jake and Lauren walked away with some awards for their bikes as well. This show brought a few friends out I haven’t seen in a while, Brian @HomieHimself on instagram has been a big supporter of my paint work over the years and has become a solid friend in the process we got a chance to catch up as we crossed paths during this show.
On down the road was one more show we decided to attend, the hard core cycles show. We pulled up in the light rain only to just miss a heavier downpour moments later. This weather and the lack of participants at this event (due to weather) made the rest of the afternoon drag. As soon as the rain stopped and I felt the sun on my skin I hopped back on the bike and headed east on 34 into the rolling hills trying to soak up the sun and find a good vista of Bear Butte mountain.
I pulled off on a dirt road hoping to find a less seen vista, about a mile in the road carved around a small hill opening to some amazing views of Bear Butte. I went to work shooting some shots of the filthy lowrider with the iconic mountain in the background! soon after a rad dude on a killer vintage panhead rolled up in search of similar views to shoot his bike, I snapped a photo with my film camera, and the guy offered to snap a photo of me with my bike.
The ride back home to dead wood through Sturgis was some what peaceful, the sun setting with some cloud coverage made for a visually dramatic evening . As soon as I crossed interstate 90 and began carving the canyons in route to deadwood the temp dropped to what seem like a low 50 degrees. My intentions were to get home, pack and crash asap too hopefully get up around 2/3 am and hit the road home.
As we were all winding down at the house I found out that Jake and Lauren had space on their trailer, It was close to 10 pm and the temps were going to be in the low 40s most of the morning, at this point I knew I wasn’t gonna get the sleep I needed and I also didn’t have the cold riding gear for the cold morning ahead. So fuck it we threw the bike on the trailer and that was a wrap on my Sturgis 2023 experience.
Over the years I have said a lot of things in regards to trailering motorcycles. Most of which will lead you to believe I am not a fan of it. To be honest I am not, but obviously I understand why a number of people trailer, maybe its time off of work, maybe its the convenience of having more then one bike on the trailer and splitting gas amongst a few others. My recent take on this is you do you. While I try my best to keep my bike on the concrete I can’t deny, when it just makes sense to load it up and make time, Ultimately I understand that at some point we all find ourselves on a trailer. I think my point has always been to push individuals to try and experience the ride. The highs and the lows and everything that comes with it. With this blog I hope my stories as they get converted to words help inspire you to get out and travel on your motorcycle. In doing so maybe you will meet a similar conclusion that I have in my time on two wheels, that it’s about the journey not so much the destination.
Hear are a few more shots from the trip!
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