The expression, “herding cats” comes to mind. The logistics of wrangling a 22-bike pack comprised of Harley-Davidson corporate heavyweights and a few tag-alongs from Milwaukee to Main Street in Sturgis three days later was a challenge in and of itself. But then to arrange for the clearing of Main Street traffic and the assembling of the 22 bikes for a parade up and down the strip before parking the lot of us curbside for the grand opening of Harley-Davidson’s Rally Point party plaza at precisely 12:00 noon seemed nothing short of implausible. And when you add the additional factors of minor mishaps en route that split the group, and the limited lodging available at the small towns along the way that did so as well, and the whole zany escapade took on the look of an outright impossibility.
And yet there we all were staging in the parking lot of the Sturgis elementary school awaiting the arrival of a police escort at precisely 11:30. Unbelievable. At the head of the procession were Bill and Karen Davidson, and as the departure time approached, an SUV pulled up to the end of the line and out popped Willie G. and Nancy Davidson who wouldn’t have missed this moment for the world.
When word came via cell phone from downtown that all was in order and all preparations complete, the pack filed out of the parking lot following a Harley-mounted Sturgis cop booping his siren and proceeded to Main. It was indeed empty of traffic—a rare sight at a Sturgis Rally if ever there was one—and we rode as planned the length of the strip and parked as planned with quasi-military precision in front of the Rally Point at precisely noon. Miraculous.
The festivities began then, and as with any dedication of this significance the program commenced with a good deal of speechifying, mostly delivered by Bill Davidson who has a natural gift for speechifying, holding forth for a huge crowd of cell phone camera-wielding spectators speaking extemporaneously, delivering his remarks entirely off the cuff and with the engaging sincerity and enthusiasm that runs in the Davidson blood. His proud family stood nearby beaming. Joining Bill in the speechifying was Sturgis mayor Mark Carstensen, and they jointly announced that not only had Harley-Davidson been designated the official motorcycle of the Sturgis Rally, they’d inked a deal that would secure that designation for the next 75 years, and further announced that the Rally Point—which is actually more of a civic plaza than a party zone—will remain in operation all year as a destination for all pilgrims and looky-loos.
The masses cheered; I cheered. The crowd response bordered on the delirious and so caught up was I in the moment that it took me a spell to fully absorb what had just been said. Seventy-five years? What will Sturgis be like in 75 years? What will the country look like? What manner of vehicle and attendee will be present?
Putting aside for a second all of the apocalyptic scenarios that could intervene—you know, asteroids, neutron star collisions, environmental catastrophes, political upheavals, and, of course, the zombie apocalypse—we still have to somehow digest the startlingly rapid advance of motive power alternatives (in which electric motors are in rapid ascendency, though some heretofore unheard of technology could well develop by then as well), autonomous highway infrastructure that could make human operators utterly obsolete, and the equally startling aging of the Harley faithful and average Sturgis attendee, all of whom will be memories (unless the equally breathtaking possibilities of advances in life extension medical breakthroughs become a reality). And so will all those cell phones, which by then will probably be bio-implanted chips.
Obviously this is all groundless speculation, but that’s about all we have this far out from that future. I don’t have a fix on any of this or even a reasonably educated guess. It’s 75 years, for crying out loud. It’s too much to wrap an old biker’s head around, and I would eagerly welcome any theories from the THUNDER PRESS readership on the subject. Send in your own visualizations of the future and we’ll compile them in these pages.
Having said all that, however, I have developed a pet theory of what Sturgis will be in 75 years. It will be a year-round theme park devoted to recreating those glory days of the American V-twin lifestyle and experience. Something like a cross between West World and Jurassic Park with robotic humanoids acting out all of the clichéd behaviors of the culture beneath a monorail and beside moving plexiglass-enclosed walkways. An animatronic Willie G. will provide a voice-over commentary to the tourists, and so will Bill and maybe two or three future generations of the clan as well, tracing the history and development of The Motor Company. You’re all welcome to riff on that theory as well.
(One final word: the success of this unlikely undertaking, of getting all of those bikes across that distance and convening the whole motley crew on cue, goes almost entirely to Jen Hoyer, Harley-Davidson’s Media Relations Manager, cat wrangler and all-around Energizer Bunny. Well done, Jen. Well done.)
It’s all right here in the diaries…