July 28 2009 by Jason Fogelson
The 69th Annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally takes place from August 3rd to 9th in Sturgis, South Dakota.
For many motorcyclists, especially Harley-Davidson riders, a trip to Sturgis during the Rally is a lifetime goal. For others, it's an annual rite, and no year is complete without it.
If you're headed to Sturgis for the first time this year, or for the 69th time, here are a few tips to make your trip even better.
Plan ahead. Even though spontaneity is one of the great hallmarks of a motorcycle trip, if you think that you'll be able to show up at Sturgis without any reservations or plans for accommodations, you're going to have a disappointing time. Use the Ride Planner on the Harley-Davidson website, and you'll be able to find Best Western Hotels along your route to the Rally.
Leave the kids at home. Sturgis is a rally for adults. The wild stuff that you've heard about from the past still happens. Do yourself and your kids a favor - make this a trip for the grownups, and treat the kids to Science Camp.
Obey the law. Contrary to popular belief, Sturgis does not become a lawless zone during the first week of August. Local and state officials will be lurking, and traffic tickets are a great source of revenue. South Dakota does not have a helmet law for riders over 18, but riders are required to wear eye protection or ride behind a windscreen. And don't go all Corey Hart, either - no sunglasses at night, no matter how cool you want to look. Ape hangers can't be any higher than shoulder-height. No riding on the sidewalk or bike paths. No open containers in public. Indecent exposure will get you a $111 ticket, so keep those tops on ladies, or carry some cash.
Explore the area. The events in Sturgis can be so captivating that some riders forget that they're in middle of some of the best riding in the country. Add some time on at the beginning or end of your trip to discover Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Spearfish Canyon, Custer, Deadwood, Hot Springs and the Badlands. Several organized day rides are conducted during the Rally, and can also be lots of fun if you enjoy group rides.
Watch the skies. Weather moves quickly in the Black Hills. Be sure to pack your rain gear, and be prepared to take cover if a thunderstorm develops while you are riding.
Make a pit stop. Thirteen Best Western Hotels have been designated as "Sturgis Pit Stops" along various routes to the Rally. From July 27 on, these "Rider-Friendly" hotels will welcome motorcyclists with complimentary bottled water, lip balm and access to a washroom, even if you're not staying the night. Check out www.bestwestern.com/pitstop for locations and details.
Have fun and ride safe. I can't make it to Sturgis during the Rally this year, so I'd love to hear from you if you decide to go. Stop back here and tell us about your experience. Was it the trip of a lifetime? Will you go back for the 70th?