A detail of the graffiti art in Graffiti Alley in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota, a local attraction worth seeing any time of year. Rapid City sits in the heart of the Sioux Nation, just north of Wounded Knee where hundreds were massacred late in the 19th Century, so there is a healthy population of Native Americans in the city and a healthy amount of political art expressing modern concerns and controversies. This unnamed Sioux chief I’m standing next to is likely Sitting Bull or Red Cloud, the first who defeated General Custer, the second who closed the Bozeman Trail and retook Montana…for a time. ]
Culturally, emotionally, in a biker’s soul, the Sturgis motorcycle rally doesn’t begin and end on published dates in the streets of this South Dakota city; it begins and ends in your driveway, wherever that might be, as you swing a leg over your motorcycle to begin, and then end, the journey. So, those trailering their bike to the event only get half of the experience.
I rode to Sturgis from Hendersonville, North Carolina. It’s about 1,595-mile journey. I did it alone. I did it as one should, on a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic. It’s the 100-degree heat, the rain, the miles passing, the smells of America, the strange skies, the chance places to stop along the way, it’s all of these things that shape the journey. Sturgis, in some measure, is just an excuse to ride.
On the journey up, I stopped in Metropolis, Illinois for lunch, home to Superman. I’d always wanted to go there and see the “Giant Statue”. The thing is though, Metropolis isn’t a metropolis. It’s definitely a small ville. But in the mix of this town’s battle between fact and fiction, it is where Lois Lane lives. Well, Noel Neill, anyway, the actor most remembered as Lois Lane in the 50’s TV series, lives in Metropolis, or so the woman at the Chamber of Commerce claimed.
Another new experience for me on this trip was riding up the Missouri River Valley from St. Josephs, Missouri to Sioux City, Iowa. Even on Interstates, maybe more so for large-scale geography, the flow of the land expresses itself if you’re open to it. The valley is a wide flood plain with high bluffs on each side, sometimes a few miles wide, sometimes 30-miles wide. The area was first mapped by Lewis and Clark, whose trail is exceptionally interpreted today, for hundreds of miles up the Missouri. They didn’t use a map to find their course, they made their own as the went. They also didn’t put their ride on a trailer.
[ Wrong. Very wrong. Ride the damn bike. I mean, unless you’re towing what will be your home for a week, ride. ]