Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Sturgis Motor Classics Part II

The Sturgis Motor Classics Part I, "Top Cop" in case you want to start from the beginning.

The City of Sturgis Parks and Recreation and DPW were as unprepared for the number to exceed 100,000 as we were. They had planned, as usual, to house all of the attendees in the City Park as they always did [Housing means providing a place to put a tent or lie upon the earth]. There was some advantage to that in the fact we had most of them housed in one area but the closeness sure caused some problems. At least a dozen times I had to mediate problems between bikers who wanted to stay up, drink and raise hell all night and those that wanted to turn in at a decent time so that they could get up in the morning, have breakfast and head out to the morning festivities. It was a no win situation but somehow we all managed to work things out. By far the majority of bikers that attended these rallies were here for a good time, see things and do things but they all certainly respected each others rights. That’s what made the thing work, not us. Our main job was with the 1 or 2 % who insisted on causing problems. We had to keep them in tow.
Photo is of the 2005 Rally. Click here for more photos and the official website

Early the 1st night we received a call from a State Trooper following two bikers into town and he could see guns in the back of their pants so we met them on the edge of town. I had a couple of officers and there was a Trooper or two but we were a little bit a head of everyone else so we stopped at the Truck Stop on the edge of town. Good thing because I was riding in the backseat and when I jumped in, my chest hit the back of the front seat and caused a small mace can I carried in my shirt pocket [looked like a pen] to discharge and nailed me straight in the face. I was still hanging out under a faucet when someone shouted here they come. After a bit of fighting and wrestling we managed to corral the two Colorado bikers and headed for the SO where a Justice of the Peace was waiting for us. For having concealed weapons and for fighting us, the boys got a$150 or 30 days sentence each. Owing to the fact they had no money they got to start the 30 day in jail part, instead of the $150 part. The next morning the club president and several others were at the SO bright and early to pay the boy’s Fines. He said that we were not going to have any more problems from their members as “this kangaroo court system will bleed us dry” as he put it. As he was saying that, I could see, out in the parking lot, the boys being beaten to within an inch of their lives and then ungraciously being tossed into the back of a van while their bikes were loaded in on top of them. I really don’t remember having any more problems from this group outside of a couple of bar fights that were over by the time we arrived.

Two separate tours of the Black Hills sponsored by the Jackpine Gypsies MC club were a standard at the Classics. One for the Northern Hills and one for the Southern Hills and on different days. The first tour left from our downtown area with the South Dakota Highway Patrol leading the group with their own Harleys. I was at the main intersection directing traffic and CBS News was there to record the event as thousands and thousands of motorcycle riders made the turn, 2 X 2 to start the tour. I ended up on the national news that night and friends of mine, from the Snook [ssn592] saw the news from their hotel room. He had just got out of the Navy and he and his wife were touring the country and they said “Why don’t we go visit Dale and Ted in Sturgis, SD as it is right on our way. They showed up on our doorstep and we put them up. Problem was, I didn’t have time to spend with them because I was working about 24 hours a day. That was OK because they didn’t like our town anyway, too many motorcycles. Jim said ”Is it always like this here?” and they left promising to come back when things settled down but they never did.

We had way less problems than anticipated and I was happy with that. Removing a motorcycle chain away from some drunken biker in a bar was a heck of a lot less challenging than one would imagine. Being on the receiving end of a Colt Python, .357 magnum, loaded with hollow point rounds is a fairly sobering experience, when some overly tired cop is on the operating end and he has just pointed out the amount of extreme body damage you are about to receive when that hollow point explodes inside your body. Especially when that cop explains to you that you are holding a dangerous weapon in your hand and the law says that he has a perfectly good right to blow your head off. We had three of four of those incidents and two bank hold up alarms. The hold up alarms were false but we sure responded and fast. Most of the bad activities took place around the edge of town, at our motels, as they were the prime target for a group of Harley Davidson thieves. They got us for about 8 bikes and along with those we had two burglaries of local business’s [about one week after the races, the Chief Deputy from a neighboring SO called and informed me that they had found our missing bikes on an out of way trail in the Black Hills. We went and retrieved them but all that there was were seats, saddle bags, fenders and windshields as they had been stripped and turned into choppers which were driven out of the area with new plates ].

Our Volunteer Fire Dept was certainly busy with a rash of arson fires, all grass except one unoccupied structure fire where we didn’t even save the basement. [I got to solve those arson’s later after making friends with a chief from the other end of the state and we compared notes. A gal it was and he got to put her in the state prison] Our FD was stretched pretty thin during the day but about ½ of the firefighters on the structure fire were pro’s and volunteers from out of state. Out-of-state bikers could see we needed some help and it was really appreciated.

Our final big day was going to be Saturday and we expected Saturday night would really be wild. Saturday lived up to its expectations but mainly drunks at the races causing problems. Usually when we showed up the fans were tickled to death to see them go and so we rarely got problems but it sure was busy. That evening I went home for supper to see if I still had a family and I got to spend some time playing with my 6 month old daughter. At one point she was on my lap, I was bouncing her, and talking to my wife when she reached up with her little hand and hit me in the face. That would have been OK but it was actually my eye she hit and one of those cute, little, sharp, fingernails punctured my eye. I then headed for the hospital got salve and an eye patch and told to go home…... Riiiight. That little girl sure took the fight out of me and I monitored the activities from my office all night. It about killed me off staying out of all of the action.

My Mother always went downtown to look at all of the beautiful bikes at least once during the Classics. This year she took my wife and off they went. As you can tell by the picture, there are always a lot of bikes to chose from. My Mother was a bit of straight laced but truly appreciated the work, designs, painting and efforts that went into these wonderful ‘works of art’ and if a character was standing there to talk about the bike, so much the better. What she didn’t approve of was the women and displays of too much skin. As my wife tells the story, they were looking at the bikes and down the street comes a chopper with a scantily clad female on back, who was holding up her top so everyone could admire her assets as they slowly went by. My Mom looked up at the display and said to my wife “Isn’t that a beautiful bike?” and went on admiring the other bikes parked at the curb. Kinda summed up the display.

Sunday was really quiet as everyone was leaving town. It was over and we were all alive. We had managed to keep the town relatively safe and a local girl was burning down the town not the bikers. They were a good group, all 100,000 of them or whatever there were that showed up. How do you count them? How can such a large group of people get together for a week and get along so well. I know I had a really good bunch of officers, all 12 of them, regular and reserves, that did all of the work. This was all 36 years ago and since that time hundreds of young and not so young people have asked me about the races. I’ve told each of them the same thing. Go!!! You’ll have the time of your life.

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