Cool Bike Rides

Sturgis - The Ride - Day 2

A multi-part series chronicling our Sturgis Bike Week experience! 

By: Ian Creswell

My brother-in-law Mike and his wife Kim coming out of one of the narrow passages on Needle's Highway.
Yes, that's my bike and indeed, it's a buffalo walking behind it! 

This is the third part of a multi-part series on Sturgis Bike Week. If you’ve not done it, feel free to live vicariously through us, but add this one to your bucket list!

Well we woke up the next morning and worked on hydrating and dehydrating all at the same time! Coffee and water were in order. After we recovered a bit from the night before, we set out in two groups to go do some exploring. The boys from Colorado had been in for a couple of days already so they’d already seen the tourist stuff. We hadn’t so off we went!

Chris and I do some longer riding locally so we’re used to a longer day in the saddle. Some of the group we were with tend not to do those longer rides. It’s shorter runs with many stops. Think poker runs and that sort of thing. Well we logged about 152 miles that day and much of it at a pretty slow pace so it felt a bit more like 200. Some backsides weren’t happy with me the next day!

What a day of riding it was though! We headed out and scooted down to Custer State Park. I was hell bent on seeing some buffalo and I’d been told that this was a must see. We got into the park (the band is still on my bike BTW) and after a bit of follow the leader, we spotted a herd way out in a field. We pulled over and I grabbed my camera and started heading towards the buffalo to get some closer pictures.


They were quite a way out. The distance is hard to judge in these open areas.  Well I was still a distance away, taking some photos, when a guy comes up to me and asks if I’m Ian. Now I can’t go anywhere in the northeast without running into someone I know but Sturgis? Turns out someone told my group that there were some buffalo closer to the road about a mile up and they’d asked this guy, who was heading out my way anyhow, to let me know.

I jogged back and saddled up and headed on up the road. A short time later traffic just stopped. I was stuck behind a pickup truck and couldn’t see why. I finally pulled off into the gully on the side of the road and quickly figured it out. About a quarter of a mile up there was a herd crossing the road. I was so excited! I grabbed my camera again and before I could move, the heard turned in our direction and started heading up that gully toward Chris and I and my bike. She ran back up to the relative safety of the road while I stood there taking pictures as they approached. No, I’m not that stupid, I eventually abandoned my bike and went up to the road myself and resumed my photography there.

It was amazing, we were as close as 25 – 30 feet from them as they passed by. I’ve got some great pictures of them around my motorcycle in the grass! Such massive animals with incredible muscle structure. It was so cool to see them ‘in the wild’ out there grazing in the state park and just moving around at their own pace.

After the group passed, and were a safe distance from my bike, Chris and I jumped back on and rejoined the group and continued on down the road. Christine did an amazing job taking photos over my shoulder, to either side and even behind us as we moved along. We saw another group of buffalo just beyond the point where the herd we’d just witnessed crossed the road. They were drinking and bathing in a small pond. That was all of the wildlife we saw in Custer State Park but man was that wild!  

We eventually exited the park and headed towards Needles Highway. Now this is a site to behold. Along the way though, we stopped at a campground to grab some lunch. Many of them have roadside BBQ’s set up and sell good, inexpensive food to passersby. Imagine this, I had a pulled buffalo sandwich! It was awesome! I wish buffalo were more widely available in stores because it is so good!

If you’ve never seen Needles Highway, it’s one of the more unique roads I’ve been on. It winds through another section of Custer State Park and it’s basically a road cut through the stone mountains. Some areas you couldn’t pass two cars through side by side. Heck, passing 2 bikes through side by side might just make me nervous! We came through one of the narrow passes at just the right time of the day. As you will see in the pictures Chris took, it looked like we were riding through the entrance to Heaven. I mean that, and that’s what it looked like in person.

At points, I believe you are at or above 6,000 feet above sea level. Some of the switchback curves are dicey even on a motorcycle doing 15-20 MPH. The drop-offs are breathtaking! If you’re afraid of heights, you’ll probably find yourself closing your eyes or looking in other directions on some of these. I know Chris did! Just make sure you’re not the one working the controls!

Once we exited Needle’s Highway, we were just a short run to Mount Rushmore so why not right? Now like the Lincoln Memorial in DC, if you’ve only seen it in pictures, you’ve never seen it. It’s just amazing to see this in person. To think this was done partially with explosives! Did you know that the original design was to depict the presidents from the waist up? I didn’t either. Unfortunately, they ran out of funding and what you see is what you get. The details of these carvings are simply amazing and to think that they have been there taking the weather beating since 1941. Such a cool national monument. Do you know why these were done? To encourage tourism to the region. The original suggestion was to depict other, American west heroes like Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, and Buffalo Bill Cody but they decided the presidents would have broader appeal.

We left Mount Rushmore and headed the hour back to the campground for the day so we could grab a bite and give our backsides a rest, but what an amazing day it was! We were checking off bucket list item after bucket list item all day long.

I’m telling you, even if you don’t get out there for Bike Week, a trip to the region is truly worth the time. Just our day one exploits made the trip worth doing and there is so much more history to see out there. If you are on two wheels, and don’t do much longer riding, you may want to break these up into multiple runs. Be sure to check out the pictures below! 

TO BE CONTINUED: Click here for the next article in this series...