With only a few days left before the roar and rumble of motorcycles overcome the normal rattle and hum of the Black Hills, it seems like a good time to offer up some suggestions for rally goers and non rally goers alike. If you are a regular "rallier" I suggest you take a break this year from the usual hangouts like Full Throttle Saloon and Buffalo Chip Campground. I'm not saying not to go to those places, because they ARE fun if you like that sort of thing (and I do like that sort of thing on occasion), just don't make them your final or only destinations. There are so many other "hidden treasures" out there that most people completely overlook or don't give a chance. And if you are not a "rallier" maybe this year you should consider getting out of your comfort zone and try something different. Expand your horizons. Live a little. These are all places where you can be a pirate but not worry about ending up with an eye patch, a hook or a peg leg. So go ahead and dig up some treasure!
First stop - Stone House Saloon. Located about 5 miles west of Belle Fourche, or about 30 miles west of Sturgis, this is actually an old stone farmhouse that is only open during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
You'll find beer, burgers and quite an eclectic and diverse clientele. Bikers, cowboys, local businessmen and women, students, even a few Canadians passing through who think they've discovered some tourist attraction that wasn't on the map they picked up at that truck stop in Wyoming. I'm pretty sure there are more than a few tourists who pull in and end up having more fun here than at the Cosmos Mystery Area or Flinstones Village. AND...back again this year it's Pee Wee Moore and the Awful Dreadful Snakes playing some of the best hillbilly rock and country music you'll ever hear around these parts.
Get there early. They only play during the day from Noon to 5.
Not much further west off I-90 between Spearfish and Sundance is Beulah,Wyoming, home of the Sand Creek Trading Post. Last year they had a makeshift pool bar set up outside with some fun waitresses with great attitudes serving cold beer and smiles. I'm hoping it will be the same thing this year. This is another place where you'll find a slightly strange mix of locals and visiting bikers all getting along and having a good time.
Another "bar" experience you may want to consider is a trip to the Moonshine Gulch Saloon in Rochford, approximately 25 miles south of Deadwood via Highway 385 or follow the Rochford Road out of Lead. To give you an idea of what to expect - a few years ago I stopped in to grab a beer and a burger, and wanting to know exactly what I was getting, I asked the rather shaky old-timer behind the counter what they put on their cheeseburgers. He raised an eyebrow and said in a very authoritative tone "Cheese!" But don't mistake anyone's demeanor for rudeness. That's just the way it is at the Moonshine.
By now you might be wondering if I have any suggestions other than bars. As a matter of fact I do. It is amazing how many people come to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally & Races, but never attend an actual motorcycle race. You should consider taking in a Jackpine Gypsies sponsored Short Track Race or Hill Climb. They are held every day during rally week right off I-90 between Sturgis exits 30 and 32.
Whether you are into motorcycles or not, think about seeing an actual custom bike show or builder's exhibit. The combination of art, engineering and design is something almost anyone can appreciate. Check out the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building in downtown Sturgis August 7th - 10th. You will also find many custom bike builder exhibits at various locations around town.
And finally - go to a Biker Breakfast. You'll find them at churches and senior citizen's centers throughout the Black Hills, and you don't have to be a biker to attend. I've been told one of the best is offered up by members of the Spearfish Senior Center on 10th Street. It goes from August 7th through the 13th, starting at 7 a.m. each day. You may find something more than just breakfast there...like friendly and interesting people who truly are glad to see you, and appreciate the fact that you showed up. I plan on making the rounds. Hope I run into you some morning. Not too early, though. I mean...after all... it is Rally Week.