My first bike. Thank God for long driveways.

Cool people ride motorcycles. So do jerks, nerds, holy men, veterans, newbies, wannabes, posers, pranksters, rich people, poor people, and ordinary people. Like me.

The 72nd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is cranking up in western South Dakota. The Sturgis Rally is the single largest motorcycle event in the world. It takes place annually the first full week of August in the town of Sturgis, South Dakota, which normally has a population of about 6,600 people. During the Rally, that number swells to anywhere between 500,000 and 750,000, depending on the year. So the Rally is a big deal, literally. It’s a non-stop, week-long crush of concerts, motorcycle races, bike build-offs, drinking, vendor-hopping, and lots of motorcycle riding.

I attended my first Sturgis Rally in 1985 as a 19-year-old news intern with a Rapid City, South Dakota radio station. It was the best assignment of the summer. I wandered the streets taking pictures of half-naked people, interviewing vendors and Sturgis residents, and snatching up cheap Rally t-shirts as souvenirs. I’d had some experience around motorcycles; my dad rode one and so did my boyfriend at the time. But I myself had yet to throttle up anything bigger than a 70cc Honda trail bike.

In 1989, I was back at the Rally again with my current husband (then boyfriend) on a 1974 Harley Sportster. That bike was the first thing we owned as a couple (followed by a stereo and a super single waterbed – the only size that fit in the 7’ by 9’ bedroom of our rental house). From 1989 to 2000, the Rally was our annual vacation. We’d make the trip with whoever had the time or money to go, throw up a tent, cruise Main Street, catch a concert, drink, shop, and do lots of motorcycle riding. I loved it.

During that time, I got my motorcycle license and my first motorcycle – a 550 Honda chopper with a six-foot front end. It was light and low to the ground, a hardtail that kickstarted which meant it could be both a pain in the ass AND the calf muscles but that little sucker could scream down the road like nobody’s business.

In 2000, my husband sold off the bikes. It was his decision, not mine, but I accepted it, except for one time of year – the Rally. Starting the last week of July, I’d hear the rumble coming down the road and press my nose to the window, gazing longingly at the parade of bikes roaring past. I’d sigh, then turn and glare at my husband. I missed it. He didn’t.

My current ride, George.

When the motorcycle bug bit me, it hung on and never let go. My husband caught it again about five years ago and picked up a 1980 Shovelhead. Three years later, a 1997 Sportster joined it in the garage. I got my motorcycle license again and claimed it.

The motorcycle traffic is picking up this weekend, heading west to Sturgis, some of our friends and family members along for the ride. We’d planned to join them this year but Jay’s Shovelhead is laid low with transmission trouble and not likely to be fixed in the next week. My Sportster, however, is feeling fine, and with gas, full saddlebags, and a tent and bedroll, eager to hit the road. I offered to let Jay ride “bitch“; he declined, although politely. So I broached the subject of riding out with friends just for a day or two. He said go ahead but if I do go to Sturgis without him, I don’t need to bother coming back home. Guess I’ll have to mail him his Sturgis t-shirt.

My dream bike – a 650 Triumph. If it was good enough for Steve McQueen, it’s good enough for me.

Are you a rider? If you are, what’s your ride of choice and why do you ride?

  1. I am with you on the Triumph. That is a sexy, classy bike. I had no idea your first bike was a chopper. I look at those and think “rotator cuff strain.” Too bad about your marriage, maybe you can find a new husband at the Rally! Do you prefer the term Biker, Biker Chick, or Biker Bitch?

    • Some day that Triumph will be mine! But until then, the Sportster’s a good substitute. It was Harley’s answer to the Triumph. Did you really not know about the chopper? Can’t believe I never sent you any pictures. One thing I wouldn’t shop for at the Rally is a husband…

  2. kvalleryy says:

    “Half naked”–are you kidding me? I know you’ve seen them too–the chicks in black leather bikinis that make me (probably not the guys) glad it isn’t allergy season. One sneeze and–well you know…

    • HA! Kay, you’re killing me. My worst Sturgis sight, ever? A potbellied bearded guy in his 70’s wearing nothing but a webbed bodysuit. Dude, you have to know your limits….

  3. I love this piece of yours and to know a slice of your life like that makes me smile. You wear it well, I must say….you wear it well.

    • Thank you so much! I live a bit of a double life sometimes (must be the Gemini in me) so on occasion it’s nice to just be able to say, “This is me, take it or leave it.” That’s what I like about your blog – your honesty and your confidence in who you are.

  4. J Slater says:

    Way to go Kelly! Great piece and I hope Jay catches up.

    • He’ll come around, although I thought the ‘bitch” offer was pretty generous. Do you still ride? Remember that night I had to drive to Blunt and pick you guys up because somebody’s bike broke down? Thanks for swinging by to read and comment!

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