I had plans to go to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Early August this year with a few friends of mine. Back in December, I paid in full for a reservation where I was going to camp in a tent for 5 days at “Camp Rush No More” which is located just South of the Town of Sturgis. Then the Covid- 19 Pandemic hit with the fury of the titans of old. There were a ton of questions regarding if the Rally was even going to take place. I decided that it was not worth going given the large crowds associated with the event and decided to move my reservation to early June. My friends kept their original reservations which is great, I respect their decision and hope they have a great time. My 15-year-old son often rides with me, and we have done a few motorcycling camping trips in the past. Given his school ended early this year, he decided he wanted to head up to Sturgis for a few days’ worth of riding and camping along with me.
The good folks at Camp Rush No More let me transfer my payment for the Rally for a few Nights in one of their Cabins. Let me just say, that if you want a clean, fun, visually pleasing and inexpensive camping experience then check out this Camp and RV Park. Its strategically placed in some of the best riding the country has to offer. There is a reason why the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is one of the most popular motorcycling destinations and its all about the gorgeous routes that surround this small South Dakota Community. Normally we don’t do cabins, but we took our Royal Enfield Himalayan which is only 410 CCs, and we did not have room for the tent and additional camping equipment needed for the both of us. Before you judge, please remember that we were driving 8 hours to get to Sturgis from our home in Colorado. Try driving that distance two up on a small bike. Trust me, there was just no room for our tent, sleeping bags and pads on this trip. We also have a Yamaha SCR 950 which we could have brought, but we have less room on that bike for storage compared to the Royal Enfield, plus we wanted an off-road option that the Himalayan provides.
We started our adventure in early June and headed North towards South Dakota. I have traveled this route previously and knew that once we got into Wyoming from Colorado, there are vast tracks of land without civilization and services. In fact, a few years ago, I ran out of gas in the middle of no where on the same route. Normally I would be carrying an external fuel can but with a passenger and all our riding gear, the gas can was off the table. Our strategy was simple, in Wyoming and rural South Dakota, when we passed a gas station, we filled up. For all of you touring aficionados, this must seem rather tedious but honestly, it gave us a nice opportunity to hydrate along the route and rest our bodies from the frequent wind gusts that are a normal part of riding in the open rolling plains. The weather on our first day was perfect, partly cloudy and around 68 degrees. We missed rain along the entire route which we were thankful.
Once we arrived at the camp site, we were greeted by a Live Band that plays in the Camp’s open restaurant every Sunday which was awesome. We drank Cokes and dined on MRE’s while listening to live music. For my son, it was his first time listening to live music in this type of environment, it was a great experience. Last year, I found that having a few MRE’s is a mandatory part of my motorcycle pack list. The pre-packaged meals are water proof, critter proof (for the most part), have their own heaters, and are very good to eat. On every trip, we normally have at least one MRE Meal. It was funny watching everyone get a laugh at us preparing to feast upon our MRE Meal.
Our cabin was small but for the money, beyond value. It was so nice after about 8 hours of riding, to sleep in a real bed. It started to rain that evening, so we turned in early to prepare for our Monday riding adventure. Our second day we headed from the City of Sturgis to Custer State Park. As long as you stay of the Interstate Highway, its hard to find a road that is not gorgeous. My suggestion is just a pick up a free motorcycle tourism map which are spread throughout the area. The maps do a phenomenal job of pointing you to recommended routes that are a biker’s delight. We took the Needles Highway into Custer State Park which was filled with amazing views. There are a few one lane tunnels built through these gigantic rock formations which are stunning to ride through. What was so cool is the lack of traffic and tourist in the area. During the Motorcycle Cycle Rally this area can be inundated with both two wheel and automobile traffic, not so in Post Covid-19 early summer. Custer State Park is hands down the most picturesque State Park that I have visited. It seems to be more in line with a National Park, given its size and sublime landscape. The cost was 20 dollars to get into the park which is rather high, but that pass is also good for 6 days. If I could do it again, I would have planned my routes from Sturgis to make Custer State Park a multiple day visit. Don’t miss the Wild Life Loop, its filled with Bison and Donkeys. The views in this area were less about jagged peaks and more about open hilly landscape.
Throughout the park are all these dirt roads that serve as a call to arms for an adventure bike rider. One such route was a dirt road that escorted us out of the State Park and into the Wind Cave National Park. This trail was desolate beyond measure and we traveled upon hard pack dirt for many miles. Once we left pavement, the only man-made item we saw was a sign that said, “Beware of Bison”. The pathway seemed to go as far as the eye could see. We wanted to explore this mystery trail for a longer duration, but storm clouds were rolling in and our gas reserves were low, so we made a strategic withdrawal and headed back towards civilization to find gas. We rode from 8am and did not arrive home till 8pm that evening.
The next day, we slept in till about 9:30am. Honestly after two days of hard riding we needed the additional rest. Our first stop was Deadwood, SD which was rather disappointing. The historic town just wreaked of a tourist trap but what made me aggravated was that there was no place to park one’s motorcycle for free. I don’t mind folks paying for premium parking, that is capitalism but there should be a place where someone can park for free. I guess walking the historic Main Street was cool, so it’s something I guess that everyone should do once.
From Deadwood we headed down the gorgeous Spear Fish Canyon to enjoy a curvaceous route and mountain views. We stopped at a trail head called the “The Devil’s Bathtub” and did a little hike. The walk along the river was perfect but the fact that our motorcycle would not start once we were ready to depart was disheartening. When traveling far from home on a motorcycle, you must expect some adversity along the way, there is risk with any such adventure. We were prepared for such hardship, but the broken-down bike was a definitive fun killer. We got the motorcycle started after checking the fluids, cables and usual suspects but the yellow engine light was burning hot yellow, shouting Danger, Danger. We nursed the motorcycle back into our camp site and after that I could not get the cycle back started. We were officially dead in the water in South Dakota.
Honestly, we were very lucky, the bike broke down on what was going to be our very last ride of our trip before we departed back home. If your motorcycle is going to break down, its best it happens at the end of one’s trip and not the beginning. Given I ride a Royal Enfield, we planned for such an occasion. My oldest son who is 17 got our pickup truck and took a road trip to rescue us. My thoughts were on the fact, that we were about 14 miles out in the back country only a day before; if the motorcycle broke down at that juncture, the situation could have been life threatening. We trailered the motorcycle back home feeling lucky for the opportunity to ride and thankful for family support to get us back home.