Sweet Home Sturgis

Day 36: Thursday 7th August 2013 – Sturgis, SD 

My last full day at Sturgis and the day started as most others had, with me sitting outside the general store charging phone and camera, and trying to write something for the blog. Most days I’d have company at my bench from other people charging their gadgets, and I would end up chatting with them rather than writing anything much. Since one of my favourite aspects of travelling is meeting people, I really didn’t mind.

Today I was joined by Mike, Donna, Kyle and Jackyl – my new friends from our spot in the huge Buffalo Chip campground.

From South Dakota, August 2013

Six Pack was missing. His hip was still giving him serious problems. He’d planned to set off for his Kentucky home today – a 3 day ride, but with the pain he was in that just wasn’t going to happen. Six Pack was off investigating options for flying home, which left him the problem of what to do with his bike.

Mike and Donna had trailered their bikes, and a quad from Ontario, Canada. They used the trailer as sleeping quarters. Their plan had been to continue onto California after Sturgis for an extended vacation. They had known Six Pack for years. All of my new Sturgis friends had been coming to the rally and meeting up at the same area of the Chip campground for years. When you come to events like this, it is really useful to be amongst friends, as I found out when I was evicted from my first camping spot. With Six Pack in such a bad way, Mike and Donna had offered to change their vacation plans and head east rather than west, and maybe go down to Florida rather than California. They thought they could fit Six Pack’s chopper in their trailer alongside their bikes, and they’d go east via Kentucky and deliver it to his home. They’d have given Six Pack a ride home too, except they were planning to stay until the end of the rally on Saturday, whereas Six Pack needed to be home by Sunday. It is times like this when you know who your friends are, and Mike and Donna were very good friends to have.

I think the non-stop partying that Kyle and Jakyl had been doing all week was taking it’s toll, because when Mike and Donna decided to head back to camp in the mid-afternoon, Kyle and Jakyl decided to hitch a ride and take a nap before that evening’s show.

From South Dakota, August 2013

Even without so many people to talk to, I still didn’t manage to get much published to the blog. The vagaries of the Chip’s internet connection had caused me to lose all of my first attempt at the American Bad Ass post, and I had to start again. One day I will learn to back things up more regularly. One thing I did manage to do, was to download a photo that had been taken of me as I rode out of the Full Throttle Saloon earlier in the week.

From South Dakota, August 2013

There seems to be a photographer outside a lot of the venues at Sturgis, taking photos of people coming and going. They take your photo, and then someone else hands you a slip of paper with a website address and a reference number. You can then go online and order prints or electronic copies of the photo. It’s quite pricey, I paid nearly $20 for the electronic copy of my photo, but it’s not very often I get the chance to have an action shot of me on the Trooper, and I gave into vanity.

We hadn’t managed to get our bikes right to the front row today. The Trooper, Jakyl’s Rufus and Kyle’s (unnamed) bike, were all low of gas, which was somewhat surprising as we really hadn’t ridden that many miles. I guess we’d been showing too much appreciation for the bands that had been playing and revving our engines along with everyone else. In any case, we all needed gas, and there was a fuel station at the Chip which was giving away a free tank of gas between 1pm and 4pm everyday.

This act of generosity was not truly altruistic. In the US, ethanol has been increasingly added to gasoline as a way to reduce greenhouse emissions, but it was caused quite a lot of controversy, especially for motorcycles. Aside from concerns about growing food crops for fuel, motorcyclists have also had concerns about damage that ethanol blends can do to motorcycle engines. In an effort to counter-act these fears, the Renewable Fuels Association provided the give away. Now I’m not really well-enough informed about the pros and cons of ethanol blends, but what I did know was that often I didn’t have a choice as the gas stations along my route only sold ethanol blends, so the Trooper was getting the ethanol blends where I liked it or not, and one more tank of blended fuel wasn’t going to make a huge difference one way or another, especially if it was free, so we went up and queued for our free fuel at 1pm and then parked the bikes up on the 2nd row for the evening’s concert.

The evening’s concerts didn’t start in the same way every other evenings had. The noticeable difference was there was no national anthem to kick the evening off. I found this surprising, as the first band playing was Madison Rising, the band whose version of the Star Spangled Banner had been played all week to start the shows. It turned out that today was Military Tribute Day at the Chip.

Well Madison Rising seemed well suited to open such a tribute. They are a self-proclaimed band for the troops, with such songs as Soldiers of American and Right To Bear, as well as the Star Spangled Banner (which wasn’t played during their opening set).

From South Dakota, August 2013

The reason for the omission of the Star Spangled Banner at the opening became obvious in the next part of the evenings “entertainment”, which was the military tribute. A group of military personnel carrying flags marched onto the stage, followed by David Bray from Madison Rising, who then sang his version of the Star Spangled Banner. Commemorative plaques were then presented to honour former Navy SEALs Tyronne Woods and Glen Doherty, who were killed during the Benghazi attacks in 2012.

This solemn, but politicised, tribute seemed a strange juxtaposition between the rest of the evening’s entertainment, especially as what followed the tribute was Brantley Gilbert.

From South Dakota, August 2013

UK readers may be forgiven for asking who? I’d never heard of him before either. Brantley Gilbert is another fusion of the popular US music styles of rap, rock and country. There were definite parallels with Kid Rock, only more country, and less rap, although I suspect Brantley Gilbert seemed to have rock aspirations, even if it was more Nickleback than AC/DC. He seemed to have appropriated the “horns” popular with metal fans – which Ronnie James Dio started when he joined Black Sabbath.

From South Dakota, August 2013

I couldn’t quite get my head around seeing this. He is definitely not metal. And he seemed to want to make the “horns” sign and then bob his arm up and down in time to the music, much as you’d expect of a rap artist, whilst he sang a pure country song. It was quite bizarre to witness how distinct music genres are being fused these days.

Brantley Gilbert stuck me as very much an American phenomenon. And he had plenty of fans in the audience. I can’t say I disliked his show, although I won’t be downloading any of his music anytime soon, and I can’t see him translating well on my side of the pond. Although much stranger things have happened, apparently Justin Beiber is quite popular in certain prepubescent quarters in the UK, (and also with a few middle aged woman who really should know better), to the shame of all self-respecting Canadians. I should hasten to add here that Brantley Gilbert is nothing like Justin Beiber, he is infinitely more talented.

My last show of Sturgis 2013, seemed most fitting – Lynyrd Skynyrd. Free Bird and Simple Man had helped set me on this course. I had missed them in 2011 at Sturgis, when Johnny Van Zant took ill and they’d had to pull out. But here they were tonight, like ZZ Top celebrating 40 years, but unlike ZZ Top who are still the same 3 band members, Gary Rossington is the only original member of the band.

This crowd, full of bikers from every state in the US, and a handful or two from around the world, were with them celebrating every one of those years and remembering fallen friends and comrades, along with the band.

From South Dakota, August 2013
From South Dakota, August 2013
From South Dakota, August 2013
From South Dakota, August 2013
From South Dakota, August 2013

They had the crowd in the palm of their hands for the whole show, but they began winding up the show with some of my favourites: Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man and, of course, Sweet Home Alabama – which I think every single person in the audience sang along to.

From South Dakota, August 2013
From South Dakota, August 2013

The band left the stage then. Engines revved mercilessly, willing them to come back for one more, which of course they did because there was one song left unplayed. Peter Keys came back first, and the opening notes of Freebird rang out from his keyboard. My Sturgis adventure was complete.

From South Dakota, August 2013
From South Dakota, August 2013
From South Dakota, August 2013

 

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