For one week every summer, the small town of Sturgis (pop. 6,400) hosts the largest motorcycle rally in America, these days attracting well over half a million people. Begun in 1938 by the local Jackpine Gypsies and about 200 friends they invited for flat track races, the Black Hills Motor Classic (a.k.a. simply “Sturgis”) grew over the years into a wild bacchanal that drew gangs of self-styled outlaws and caused locals to lock their doors for the duration.
In the late 1980s the city partnered with the Jackpine Gypsies to civilize the event, and today law, order, and organization prevail – there’s even a $90 fine for indecent exposure. Baby strollers are now a not uncommon sight and a good number of leather-clad CEOs and lawyers are in evidence among the hardcore rebels and their biker chicks.
Wannabe or diehard, everyone partakes in the hill climbs and concerts, and notches up who knows how many hours admiring each other’s gleaming bikes. Slightly sanitized or no, the saloons and tattoo parlors still do a brisk business. Main Street is the place to be – every bike buff should check out the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame, then head on over to the Roadkill Café for some Chicken That Didn’t Quite Cross the Road or the daily special, Guess That Mess.