Road to Sturgis - Don’t Eat The Road Corn

A Second Bite of Sturgis

By Joe Gresh, Photography by John Flores

There are two kinds of people who make the journey to Sturgis, South Dakota, in August: those who have been there and those who haven’t. I’ve been there. Twice. First time, I rode from Florida on a first-gen V-Max. My wife was not amused. She wanted a visor, gloves, a jacket, all sorts of coochie-coo luxury items that wouldn’t strap onto the Max’s flared-lip rear fender.

The earth was a cooler, moister place last time. Like 40 degrees and raining. We camped in a leaking tent surrounded by mud. The campground bathrooms were rotten plywood pit-outhouses held a foot above the ground on spindly two-by-four legs. Cold wind blew under the raised portion causing a positive pressure wave that drew a pungent slap of alcohol and sick through the splintered wood toilet seat whenever the outhouse door was opened. Standup work was impossible—one hard gust and you’d be wearing your issue. We had one sleeping bag, no fire, no food, no idea how feral human beings conducted themselves at a motorcycle rally.

She took a plane home.

Now Sturgis gets another chance. This time will be different. For one, my wife won’t be along punching my rib cage in a futile attempt to stop the bike. For two, I am on a huge, fully equipped Victory Cross Country Tour super-highway inhaler. And for three, John Flores (Road Runner magazine), Greg Drevenstedt (Rider magazine), Rusty Creed (Allstate insurance) and I are doing the trip in style, cutting into Victory’s profit margin every glorious mile as the company’s PR geniuses are footing our room and board for this epic journey. This is a company that knows how to travel, so forget the outhouses and cold-water shower. I can guess what you’re thinking right now: The world needs more expense-account heroes. Petty jealousy doesn’t look good on you.

It all starts in Vegas, lending this journey the working title Strip-to-Chip. Leaving the Las Vegas Palazzo hotel’s perpetual twilight, confusing corridors and noisy, desperate casino brings us into 100-degree heat and rain. The big metallic-asphalt Victory slithers over roads wet for the first time in months. Manny Pandya, Victory’s PR savant, has laid out a circuitous, 1700-mile route that celebrates the twisting road, eschews the interstate, and promises a good time for our small group. Our first day’s ride is spent playing hopscotch with thunderstorms and scorching sun.

We rumble into The Valley of Fire not to get burned but to use my National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The annual NPFRLP costs around $80 and allows unfettered passage into most of our National Parks. Poor Manny is back there forking out entry fees for the other guys. Later, I make a point of telling him how much money he’s saving by having Motorcyclist along. He remains unconvinced.

You’d think there’d be some sort of writerly competition between moto-magazine flacks but the only thing we really seem to care about is branded swag. Flores has a nice collared shirt embroidered with Road Runner’s logo for every day of the week. I got nothing, not even a Motorcyclist sticker for my helmet. Flores lords it over me constantly.

Riding into Escalante, Utah, Airstream trailers and a drive-in theater perch on the side of a normally dry river. This place is cool. Manny has made the Shooting Star Drive-In our stop for the night. We each are assigned a movie-star themed Airstream. Mine is the Key Largo with buoys, nets and a bunch of Bogart and Bacall stuff. Rusty gets the Marilyn Monroe unit complete with blow-up Marilyn doll. Mark, the owner/creator of the Shooting Star Drive-In cruises the grounds on a vintage three-wheel golf cart wearing a Hawaiian shirt. It’s freaky-deaky, man.

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