Sturgis, SD – 2012

Since I am filled with utter jealousy of all those riders attending the 2013 Sturgis, SD bike rally, I have decided to document the experiences I had last year. I would like to note that this was quite an adventurous trip that has left me with many fond memories. This posting is to document my fun times!

Early in 2012, my best friend Russell and I had decided to book tickets to the Buffalo Chip. If you know anything about camping in Sturgis for the bike rally, then you know that the most notorious place to camp is at the Buffalo Chip. With our entrance fee paid we were guaranteed a spot to set up shop for the week and were allowed admission to their nightly concert lineup.

As the rally drew ever closer our preparations needed to get more solidified. In the last month leading up to Sturgis, Russell and I were going through a period where we really weren’t getting along. This happens from time to time with best friends, but it works its way out when the time is right. So therefore, I was on my own when it came to organizing the trip and getting myself out there. I was to start this trip solo, Jake style – which was nice for a change!

Quickly, I had made the decision to trailer my bike NASTY out to Sturgis. I figured it wouldn’t be much fun riding on a sport bike for 11 hours straight and i am so glad that i did. This allowed me to pack a couple of coolers full of food and drinks to last me the week which probably saved me a few bucks! Thankfully my awesome brother-in-law Joel borrowed me a screened-in canopy, a tent and an air mattress. With enough clothes packed I hit the road that Saturday night at about 5PM and expected to arrive at the Chip at 6AM the next morning. The trip out there was beautiful (I love driving at night when I am able to see the stars!), besides the crazy construction and a couple of off-road detours, I made it.

One of the early birds to get to the bike rally!  Super Excited!

One of the early birds to get to the bike rally! Super Excited!

I was exhausted and passed out at the entrance of the Chip until they opened the gates at like 7:30AM. Super stoked, I was about to enjoy a ‘stress-free week’ full of riding, concerts and tipping a few back! Next step, selecting my campsite. I chose a spot far off to the side and unknown to me at the moment, it was pretty far from the shower area or the pond where most folks would go and cool off during the afternoon. Next time around I will position myself a bit closer to the action. I finally got my digs set up. You always forget something, and this was no exception. I was to be without pillows and blankets for the week, oh well. You couldn’t put me in a bad mood if you tried.

This was to be my home for the next week! Pretty sweet setup if you ask me!

This was to be my home for the next week! Pretty sweet setup if you ask me!

Once I was settled, I began trying to hit Russell up to see if he made it. We ended up reconnecting later that day and squashed any ill feelings we had towards each other. It was to be a balanced trip of time kicking it together and also having some time to independently roam on my own.  Russ was staying at the Chip with his cousin Alyssa and her husband which worked out very conveniently for him. He had connected with them before leaving the cities and was able to get them to haul most of his things up in their trailer.  He decided to iron-seat all the way to Sturgis, both brave and crazy, but obviously that didn’t leave him much space to bring his gear so it was good to leverage his cousin.

On Russell’s way up, something happened with the bearings in his front tire that caused the bike’s front end to shake significantly. Thankfully he quickly ordered the needed parts and was able to get his bike to his uncle’s home (not far from Sturgis). He got it fixed and was finally ride ready after a couple missed riding days. In the meantime we stayed at the Chip.  It was really hot and dusty in the Chip grounds and so we went down to the ‘pond’ and took center stage on the rope swing. We eventually became more brave with our acrobatics, probably due to the liquid encouragement from each time we finished a beer.

Wow I miss running and jumping off the dock to grab the rope to do some awesome flips!

Wow, I miss running and jumping off the dock to grab the rope to do some awesome flips!

Pond lounging by day quickly turned into drunken concerts at the band stands after dusk. The first couple of nights were bad lol, but then I found my balance and limited myself to a more healthy level of drinking. You know what they say, ‘work hard – party hard’!  Russell was more of a night walker when he was out there and wouldn’t pass out until the sun was peaking over the horizon, which meant he wasn’t going to be moving until at least noon. I was cool with that because I would get up early enough to hit the showers and to jump on a bike to enjoy some significant riding.

Watching Boston perform at the Buffalo Chip main grandstand!

Watching Boston perform at the Buffalo Chip main grandstand!

The next couple of days I wanted to make sure I got some serious riding in and was able to see the glory of the Black Hills.  It had been since I was a young child since I was in South Dakota sight-seeing.  That morning I jumped on NASTY and took her out and topped the tank off and we had a busy agenda for the day; 1) see Mount Rushmore; 2) See Devil’s Peak; and finally make it out to see Crazy Horse. Mount Rushmore is quite an impressive sight and I remember viewing it many years ago.  I stopped several times upon approaching, but eventually went in and got some really cool pictures. Here is a collage of what I experienced.

Few photos of me sight seeing at Mt. Rushmore!

Few photos of me sight-seeing at Mt. Rushmore!

Devils Peak was next on my bucketlist for the day.  It was a straight shot out into Wyoming to get a look at this natural rock formation.  Here again is another collage of what I saw!

Sweet picture collage of my trip out to Devil's Peak!

Sweet picture collage of my trip out to Devil’s Peak!

Last but not least was my trip out to Crazy Horse, and I knew that this was going to be really cool as I was able to learn more about the Native people and their culture.  The afternoon that I went they actually had a blast scheduled to clear away rock.  One blast at a time and this monument comes more to life. Check this out!

Learning something new and I got to see an actual blast to help clear some of the mountain away!

Learning something new and I got to see an actual blast to help clear some of the mountain away!

After I had done my sightseeing at Crazy Horse, I waited for Russell to rendezvous with me.  So I sat back and enjoyed a cigar till he arrived. Happy to see my friend we hungout for a second and then headed off to ride Needles Highway.  This next adventure was really the icing on the cake for this crazy awesome day.  There is nothing that can describe riding on such a windy road through the jagged hills of this region. It literally left me breathless and I will be back once again on two wheels just to relive this experience.

When we got out there we didn’t really know what to expect but it was seriously like preserved / untouched land that God made for every biker’s enjoyment.  Needles Highway was very curvy and narrow and required you to really pay attention as you ride, meanwhile, of course, you are looking all around trying to take in the beautiful surroundings. The area is an enormous nature preserve that rests on a national park.  We even ran into some native wildlife when we were out there.  Here is a few pictures of our ride out there.

Some of the action that was going out along Needles Highway!  Crazy we were maybe 20 feet from this huge buffalo!

Some of the action that was going out along Needles Highway! Crazy we were maybe 50 feet from this huge buffalo!

Just a few more for your enjoyment!

Jagged rock formations all around us as we rode the twists and turns on Needles Highway!

Jagged rock formations all around us as we rode the twists and turns on Needles Highway!

After this we ended up stopping in a local town on our way back to the Buffalo Chip, it had begun down pouring, so it only made sense to stop grab a bite to eat and wait it out. Eventually we made it back to the chip.  The next several days were now going to be spent in downtown Sturgis and at the Chip enjoying more of the lineup.

When it comes to the Sturgis Bike Rally, there really is no mistaking it.  During one of my remaining afternoons I decided to head to the main drag and see what there was to offer as well as to check out some souvenirs for my family. When you get down there you are immediately hit with the excitement that comes with thousands of motorcycles and the hustle and bustle of a town that hasn’t seen this much action since the previous year’s rally.  There were so many bikes it left my mouth hanging open.  I spent plenty of time looking at the many different makes and models as well as paying particular attention to the custom bikes that were out there. Here is a couple of pics to give you an idea of the Sturgis experience!

Some very awesome bikes out there that people have put their heart and soul into!  We are a nation of riders!

Some very awesome bikes out there that people have put their heart and soul into! We are a nation of riders!

After I picked up a few t-shirts for my girls and a couple of shot glasses, I made my way back to the Chip and Russ and I made dinner. During one of our evenings out there, Russell and I met a very cool couple (Kevin and Shelley); they ended up being some of the most down to earth folks that I have ever met.  They rode all the way from New York on their new Harley, super jealous! They camped out and had dinner and drinks with Russell and myself for a few nights, that is a couple that is living life the right way, loving each other.  I still do my best to stay in touch and look forward to another Sturgis and seeing them.

On one of our last nights in SD, Russell and I had made it a point to go do a bit of cliff jumping / diving in a lake that he had been to with some of his family on a previous trip.  Well just our fortune, his bike broke down at a place that we stopped to get gas.  Life happens, but that did not stop us from completing this leg of our trip.  It must have looked hilarious, and I think that there might be a video floating around of Russell getting on the back of my bike.  Eventually we got there and it was a pretty amazing sight to see.  When on a daily basis I am surrounded by concrete building and the hustle and bustle of downtown Minneapolis, it is nice to get away from it all and drink in nature.  I did just that.  Here is a cool shot of me at the lake.

Pretty cool to be out here, after this shot I got to first hand find out how cold the water was... by jumping in!

Pretty cool to be out here, after this shot I got to first hand find out how cold the water was… by jumping in!

Next Russell and I did some jumping from about twenty feet above the water, trust me that was plenty of a rush!  We jumped several time and then we climbed out of the brisk water and made our way back out of the woods.  We then road (together – awkward) to his Uncle Ross’s place where we were to enjoy a home cooked meal.  They were gracious hosts and allowed us to shower up and even stay the night.  But before the night was over, we all had decided to make our way out to Sturgis and head to the Full Throttle Saloon and enjoy a few rounds and really catch up.  These are really great people and I am glad that we were able to spend some time with them.

Our last night, we made it count! Good times with good company!  Till next time Sturgis, SD!

Our last night, we made it count! Good times with good company! Till next time Sturgis, SD!

The next morning Ross helped us out by taking his truck out to pick up Russell’s bike.  We then took it back to our camp site.  Together we decided it would be best for us to get his bike to the trailer I rented and we would load both bikes up side by side.  They fit perfectly and when we were all packed and ready to hit the road we said our goodbyes to the place and took all these memories with us!  I absolutely had a blast and got reconnected with my bro; God is good! Amen!

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Meet NASTY

Hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy posting to it!

Immediately after I saw her, sat on her and heard her deep-bass exhaust I knew she had to be mine. I speak of none other than my beautiful motorcycle, NASTY! Meet her for yourself…

Sitting on my bike nasty as I look out over Devils Peak, SD. BEAUTIFUL!!!

Sitting on my bike nasty as I look out over Devils Peak, SD. BEAUTIFUL!!!

After recently getting in an accident and having Epiphany temporarily out of commission, I was just a little heart-broken. So, just for S&Gs, I scooped up my daughter Madison and stopped by Hitching Post to see their inventory. Upon walking on the showroom floor I quickly fell in love with an all-black monster of a bike. It was a 2008 Suzuki GSX-R 1000. I was quick to get some assistance from their on hand staff in answering some questions. Come to find out it recently had come in on trade. I wanted it!

This particular bike had a few things going for it that really appealed to me.

  • It had StompGrip on both sides of the tank (which helps conveniently hold you in place).
  • The bike had a nice set of black frame sliders on the bike; a must if you want to reasonably protect your fairings if the bike is laid down or is tipped over.
  • It had the stock foot shift lever and bracket fitted with a nice aftermarket piece which is easily adjusted for the comfort of the rider.
  • And my favorite, it was fitted with an aftermarket M4 exhaust system which eliminated the catalytic converter box under the bike (making it look sleek and sound like a pissed-off diesel truck).

With every upside there was probably an equal and opposite downside right? Well in this case, kinda. A couple of things to note:

  • The sticker asking price was a bit higher than what I wanted to spend (around $8,200).
  • The bike was only 2 years old and had about 12K miles on it (which was kinda high for how new it was at the time), so I knew it had been broken in.

Madison was too funny, she was like yeah dad you should buy it… hahaha! Beyond her approval, I felt that since the bike had fresh meat (new tires) and had been looked over and serviced recently that it would be a decent purchase. I just had to negotiate and provide a down payment. Luckily for me, I still had majority of my payout from the insurance claim on Epiphany and was able to roll that into this note. So once a good financing (i.e. low APR) arrangement was settled she was mine.

Here is my little girl pretending to be like Dad!

Here is my little girl pretending to be like Dad!

Over the course of the next couple of riding seasons I was able to do my little tweaks to add a bit of flare and functionality to her. Beyond a regimented maintenance plan the add-ons included: a smoke windscreen, a new reaper tank pad, some silver rim tape, an installed phone charger under the rear seat, matching silver Suzuki or skull/reaper decals, a RAM mount (to conveniently hold my cellphone), rear passenger footpeg brackets were powder coated gloss black, rear license plate bracket, and my favorite flare – LED lights that make her brightly glow (purchased from Joe Florida and self installed.

Looking nice with some LED lights installed!

Looking nice with some LED lights installed!

The coolest thing about my bike is the nice inner city functionality. I can quickly get from A to B and have fun doing it. NASTY has become a normal way to get to the office, the gym, or to the lake to train. She has also seen many fun sites (of which I will blog about soon) and she now has 35K+ miles… Now that’s riding!

Never the less, I wanted to formally introduce her in all of her glory. I will do my very best to keep the shiny side up so I can blog much more about our adventures!

Riding Is Part of Me

Right around Christmas time in 2006 I had decided that I think it would be fun to get a motorcycle (aka bike).  I am not sure why that idea resonated with me at the time but I know that I had always been fascinated with them.  My father ‘Bob’ had been a rider on and off for years mostly a Harley guy from what I can recall.  It always made me feel special when he would pull it out and take me for a ride.  Perhaps it was the nice crackle of the pipes or maybe the comfortable vibrations from the engine but whatever it was I had remembered it and was ready to experience it for myself as a young man. For the next few weeks I waited for my taxes money to come through and while I was broke, I was eagerly searching Craigslist for something decent that I could afford.

Eventually I came across a beautiful 1994 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6E.  After some initial haggling with the owner over the phone/text the original price for $2,300 was brought down to 2K flat and I had not even seen the bike. When I was funded, I went with my best friend Russell to check the bike out.  I had no idea at the time how to ride, so me getting on it and testing it was not going to happen, but he gladly took it around the inside of his apartment complex.  It looked decent enough, but I had no idea how to tell mechanically sound the bike was so I took his word for it.  I told him that I could give him $1,800 and he agreed.  We then exchanged and then we had the interesting task of loading the bike into the back of Russ’s van.  I remember peeling out of that complex with me in the back holding the new bike, I was so excited.

'Schooly' - 1994 Kawasaki ZX6E

‘Schooly’ – 1994 Kawasaki ZX6E

The bummer was that I had no idea how to ride and it was still just the end of February.  Now Russ had a little bit of experience as a rider and kinda went through the basics with me.  He was confident and a little overzealous and took it down the block and of course he just has to dump it, oh I was like Oh NOOOOOOOOO, but stuff happens.  We applied bondo and proceeded to learn how to ride.  I had already registered for the course in May to get my license but I was bit by the bug and was going to learn on my own until then.  I remember at that time I had just began bouncing at Barfly downtown and one night I decided to take it downtown.  I had never even gone past the third gear or been off a side street, partly because I only had my permit and also wasn’t supposed to ride at night but I went for it.  I can still remember that ride like it was yesterday.  Simply put, it made me feel free. Since that day I have been hooked.

Since my early days of riding I have learned many valuable lessons.  The Kawasaki was dubbed ‘Schooly’ as it was an old school starter bike.  It was a really fun bike with a nice sounding Muzzy exhaust.  I took great pride in fixing the bike up. While I was living on Russell’s couch that summer, I sanded the whole thing down and repainted it and made it look really sharp.  Applied all the decals I wanted and got lots of complements.  Not only that, but I must have given over 1000 girls rides on it that Summer.  I remember back how much fun it was.  The natural progression then was to learn how to do some tricks.

So by this time Russ and I both had bikes and would ride together and try to pop some wheelies. Yup not the best idea I have ever had.  Eventually I felt that I got the hang of it, but my arrogance caught up with me  later that season.  This also marks something that I can remember just as vividly as my first ride on Schooly.  I brought the bike up a little too high and tight and she came back so hard. Before I knew it I was thrown from the bike landed on my back and my head took a nice crack on the concrete.  I saw the white flash that almost guarantees a concussion.  I was able to tuck and roll for a bit and then quickly I came together and popped up on my feet quickly.  Immediately I looked to see if there were cars coming from behind me and then ran over to my bike.  It was badly mangled and spewing out oil, antifreeze and gasoline.  By this time Russ who was riding with me had turned around and was there to help me move it out of the road.

Onlookers were staring at us and someone must have called the police and soon an ambulance and cops were on the scene.  They grilled me a new one (which I rightfully deserved for doing something stupid), but the ambulance crew looked me over and suggested that I go to the hospital and of course I deny treatment.  Mind you, I was not wearing a helmet or a jacket when I went down; I was wearing a pair of cargo shorts and had shoes on.  So you can imagine that there was a lot of road rash on my legs, arms, back and stomach.  Luckily, I have the friend that I do and Russ helped me to get on my feet.  He really was there for me in my time of need. I mean he took a mesh pad and scrapped the rocks out of my knees and arms.  Not only that, but he took my mangled bike and dropped it off at Jordan’s Sportwheel.  What I bought, fixed up and made mine; I parted ways and received $400 for what was left of Schooly.  It was a low point for me for a couple of weeks.

The healing of my body took a little while, but I got past it all with only a few scars.  Less than two weeks after the accident I went back to Russell’s sat down at his kitchen table and it just hit me.  I had an epiphany!  I was going to buy another bike. By the end of the week I had a found the one that I wanted and took out a loan to purchase it. The next bike soon was named ‘Epiphany’, she was a Suzuki GSXR – 750.  It was a beautiful bike and had a bigger engine than the last.  That might sound like a bad idea, new bike and it’s faster, but I had a new-found respect for riding and for my safety. I felt like I had a mission for the remainder of that summer and fall to make a bunch of cash running security and staying on my grind in the night scene to pay it off.  It took a lot of work but I did it.

'Epiphany' my great idea!

‘Epiphany’ my great idea!

I really learned how to ride well on Epiphany and I took great pride in the maintenance of her.  I installed some LED lights on her and even put in a car charger so that I could plug my phone.  When I purchased her she had roughly 6K miles and it took me through the next two riding seasons.  I had the fortune of riding this bike to and from Milwaukee during Summerfest, back and forth to visit my brother and sister in Winona & Rochester and even a to Duluth and back. Each trip had a fun memories associated with it but I just loved how fun it handled and the power it had.

At the beginning of the 2010 riding season Epiphany had approximately 23K miles on her odometer.  On May 18th of that season I was on my way from work to go to Lake Calhoun and get a run in as I would often train for races there.  I was hit by another driver that day and went over the hood of their SUV and was pretty scrapped up.  Thankfully I was not severely hurt. I suffered some significant impact of my shoulder when I flew into their vehicle’s driver-side door.  Approximately six months later I underwent some arthroscopic shoulder surgery and now am back to about 90% on that shoulder’s side.

Scrapped up from getting hit by another motor vehicle!

Scrapped up from getting hit by another motor vehicle!

This was one occasion where It was really good that I had full coverage insurance on my motorcycle.  My insurance company came out and assessed my claim and let me know the approximate value of my bike and told me an amount they were willing to award me for the bike.  They quickly assessed it as a ‘total loss’ and were going to compensate me fairly, instead of taking the lump sum payment I suggested that I could keep the bike and they told me for 1K less I could keep the bike.  So I did just that!  I went to the impound lot and took a look at her a few days later.  To my surprise she was just like me, broken but not completely out of commission. I put the key in and tried to see if she would start, she fired right up!

After some crafty modification of the front fairings I was able to keep the body of the bike from rubbing on the front tire.  By taking only back roads I was able to limp the bike back to my townhouse.  When I got her home I was able to take a deeper dive into what was wrong with the bike mechanically.  The damage was most heavy isolated towards the front of the bike.  The air intake was shattered, the headlight was cracked, the neck of the bike was bent and the forks were at a more upright grade.  Some of the parts would have to be completely replaced, it would also need a significant amount of time to take the bike apart and find out whether it would ever be safe to perform normal riding.

So I had a big project ahead of me.  I took the next couple of months striping her down and then getting her fixed up.  I applied a new paint-job and eventually had her looking pretty sharp.  All the work took a couple of months to complete in my spare time and cost me another $350-$400. Through this process I learned much about working with my hands on the bike as well as some really good problem solving skills. Below are some before and after pictures of the bike.

Damaged and stripped down I really had my work cut out for me.  Luckily the engine was intact, mostly just body work.

Damaged and stripped down I really had my work cut out for me. Luckily the engine was intact, mostly just body work.

After the work was completed, this is what she came out looking like, new attitude and all!

Reborn she would forever be different, now known as the 'Green Machine'!

Reborn she would forever be different, now known as the ‘Green Machine’!

Before the Green Machine was finished being rebuilt I had already knew that I would be seeking out my next motorcycle.  I quickly fell in love with a sweet machine.  This creature is a beast of its own and deserves its own post.  For the remainder of the summer I had two bikes, which came particularly in handy as my best friend Russ’s bike was often down due to maintenance or a broken part, so often I would let him take the Green Machine.  It only got under my skin that he immediately would jump on it and wheelie it better than I could have ever tried (but I am past all that now).  I did want to keep it this bike as I had an emotional connection to it but my girlfriend at the time strongly encouraged me to let it go.  So I did the right thing and rode the bike for another 3K miles to ensure its safety.  Sold her that next winter for $2,600.  Not bad all things considered, she will forever be missed.  Between these two bikes I learned a lot about handling myself in the streets and how to appreciate and respect the freedom and risks you must take when on one.