Leather and Lace: Sturgis or Bust

L&L is the place for women’s voices here at Thunder Press. This month, Whitney Meza

Words and Photo: Whitney Meza

It’s been over eight years since I got my motorcycle license, and I’d never been to Sturgis. (Yeah, I know…) I’d wanted to attend for years, and as things worked out, this ended up being my year! Pandemic rolling through the country or not, I kept my plans the same. It was Sturgis or bust, baby.

As a first timer I had no idea what to expect for lodging, so my choice was simple – I’d car-camp, since I’d be picking up my Eagle Rider Harley rental in Black Hills, South Dakota. Next year, I hope to ride my own bike to Sturgis along with my husband, who’s in the Army and currently stationed overseas. But this year, doing the car-camping thing let me be prepared for anything. So after packing up my car with camping and motorcycle gear, I was ready to rock! 

What was supposed to merely be a trip to Sturgis turned into more of a western tour. My Eagle Rider rental was only available for a single day in Sturgis, which bummed me out. But I’m not one to mope around, so I spent the rest of my time heading west to Montana, checking out the Big Horn Canyon, Bear Tooth Pass, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons and more, doing nearly 4,000 miles during my six days out (some in my car and some on various bikes). 

Heading to Sturgis from Wisconsin, I spent the night camping in the Badlands National Park, waking up to the most beautiful sunrise and fog hovering over the rock formations. A large group of riders greeted me at 6am, and honestly, that’s probably the best time to ride the Badlands. It’s stunning with the sun pouring through the canyons (just watch out for live animals). 

I picked up my Eagle Rider rental in Rapid City – with contactless contract signing, of course – and just after 10am I pulled out, feeling a bit of nerves while riding a ‘new to me’ bike on new roads. And there were so many options to choose from. Going with my gut, I headed to Mt. Rushmore, a must-see for me, and active military receive free admission, too. 

The Famous Needles Highway isn’t far away, and I’ve always heard it was a must-ride. Luckily, my Eagle Rider rental came equipped with a State Park pass on the handlebar, and that let me get into Custer State Park…14 incredible miles of twists and turns through beautiful forests and austere granite mountains. Nerves got the best of me early on in all those corners, but by the end of those 14 miles I felt like a pro. When I hit the tunnel on the ride, I even enjoyed ‘rev bombing’ my way through with a grin on my face. 

Rolling through Main Street in Sturgis was my next highlight. It was awe-inspiring seeing Main Street with motorcycles parked all through downtown. Riding over those brick-lined streets in Deadwood left me checking off another bucket list item. Hanging around downtown Sturgis and Deadwood made me a bit nervous – the last thing I wanted was to take Covid home to my kids – so I kept my time in crowded areas pretty short. 

I hoped to get the Eagle Rider rental for more time, but it’s tough to score those rentals during Rally time. To keep the adventure going I headed further west. While I hit nearly every great spot within a day or two’s ride of Sturgis, one of the biggest highlights was meeting up with my now-forever friend and fellow female rider Abby near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She let me ride her Indian Scout – my first time on an Indian – and together we rode all over Wyoming and Idaho. After riding through Swan Valley, following Snake River and even handling nasty traffic in Jackson Hole, I’ve gotta admit I had a tough time giving that Indian back.

After that adventure I headed back to Sturgis, met up with a couple other moto vloggers, and enjoyed some fun with fellow riders at the Full Throttle Saloon. 

While I only got a taste of the Sturgis Rally this year, it was enough to make me want more. I’ll be back next year, and hopefully bringing my husband along with me so we can both ride our bikes together and experience those fantastic roads as we celebrate our 10th anniversary. Let’s hope the Army cooperates and he’s stateside to enjoy the next Sturgis adventure with me. 

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