When NorCal rider Peter Ottke took off for a ride on a warm July afternoon, the only goal was to putt over to Hollister for a little wind time and to check out the Charlie Brechtel Band. Little did he know he would be standing back to review his lifelong bucket list and routing out a map for the longest ride of his life.
On a whim, Ottke put his name in the giveaway to win two free camping passes to the legendary Buffalo Chip in Sturgis, South Dakota, but his name wasn’t drawn. “I never win anything, so it wasn’t like I was disappointed or anything. That’s just how it goes and I was happy for the gal who won because she was so excited about it. I just listened to Charlie play a while, met his wife Sabrina, then went on home. That was it,” Peter told us afterward. A few days later the phone rang and Charlie explained that the winner wasn’t able to work out her schedule so she returned the tickets. As second place runner-up, Peter was now the proud owner of two all-inclusive Buffalo Chip experience camping tickets. Peter was welcome to bivouac at the Chip for the entire Sturgis Rally, which was extended to a 10-day event in 2017 and the giveaway included all the concerts, races, and activities that would rock the place during the rally’s 77th iteration. Needless to say, Peter was in shock. He’d been considering taking his maiden voyage to the mecca of motorcycling but as the sole proprietor of his own business, there were lots of details to iron out on the work front as well as planning and routing a ride half-way across the United States. Though he’d been riding for more than two decades, he’d never been a long distance rider. He immediately set to researching the practicality of the sojourn and the next thing he knew he was packed up and headed north.
We met up to share a few miles along the scenic route he’d mapped and to snap some photos of Peter’s epic ride as he visited all the iconic places he’d grown up hearing about. At four years old his father had planted the image of Old Faithful, the faithfully erupting geyser that is part of the Yellowstone Supervolcano that formed some 2.1 million years ago, in his young son’s mind. As a World War II bomber pilot, the Senior Ottke instilled a curiosity about the world in his children and Peter had always dreamed of visiting the sites his father had told of.
“While I’m in Yellowstone, wouldn’t be cool if a herd of buffalo just wandered out in front of my handlebars?” he mused as we entered the park. After a quiet moment to watch Old Faithful do its thing for the gathered tourists, Peter would have his wish while riding through Hayden Valley. A huge herd of bison blocked traffic for miles as they filled the roadway to migrate to the wallows on the other side. We collectively held our breath as the 2,000 pound beasts walked within inches of our bikes. Frozen to our seats, we were too stunned, and scared, to even take pictures while hundreds of the beasts milled about and held up traffic for more than half an hour. The sights and scenes in Yellowstone were mesmerizing as we took the twisties, stopping occasionally to snap a few photos before we stopped by the Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming.
The famous hotel and saloon was named after Buffalo Bill Cody’s beloved daughter and is still the site of Wild West shootouts during the summer as actors re-enact the drama that is a part of the history of the tourist destination spot. Beyond that, Beartooth Pass lay in silent invitation to riders to visit the mountains that will surely take your breath away, but Peter chose to skip Beartooth and mapped his route through a part of the Big Horn forest and Ten Sleep, which included incredible vistas and wildlife sightings before heading to Gillette, Wyoming. Charlie Brechtel plays at the Deluxe H-D dealership there each year so Peter decided to visit before taking a ride out to Devil’s Tower on his way to the Buffalo Chip.
Once on the sacred ground of the famous Buffalo Chip, a destination campground with all the amenities a rider could possibly need, Peter was given a hero’s welcome and a rally program so he couldn’t possibly miss all the cool stuff. Passes to the Chip include concerts to the several stages scattered around the property, all the races and stage shows and activities. There are runs every day that either start or end at the Chip, restaurants, bars, a store, water fun at the Bikini Beach and bike shows of every ilk. The vast property is comprised of several hundred acres of fun stuff and you can spend your entire rally never leaving the campground and never get bored but for Peter, it was all about soaking up all the Black Hills has to offer. From seeing Michael Lichter’s art show, and meeting the world-famous photographer in person, to meeting musician Pat Simmons from the Doobie Brothers, the 92-year-old Motor Maid, Gloria Struck and her family, and locals Dale and Kathy Gott, Peter was a busy guy. He made it by the vintage races at the fairgrounds, out to Mount Rushmore and took in the Legends Ride that raises money for the Special Olympics Foundation. Between concerts like Blackberry Smoke and Ozzy Osborn there were rides out past the spiritual Bear Buttes to the Spur Creek Saloon and over to Deadwood. In between all that, he still managed to swing by the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum to meet the Thunder Press staff during their 25th anniversary party. And, in true biker fashion, there was even a break down on his Dyna, though it was a quick $30 part and the fix managed to get him all the way back home. By the time first-time Sturgis rider arrived back in San Jose, California, he’d logged two miles short of 4,000 miles through nine states: the longest ride he’d ever made and he’s still talking about all the friends he made. He’s making a new list of destination points and the 2018 Sturgis Rally is in the planning. He’s already mapped a ride up the coast of California into Oregon and is watching the weather patterns for a winter ride to the sunny southwest. It’s obvious the riding bug has bitten pretty hard and the only sure cure, is more miles. All the best in your future adventures, Peter.