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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them









Backroads With Betsy: Sturgis Rally 2010

The land of the free and the home of the brave

By Betsy Huelskamp
8/29/2010

To me and thousands of other riders, Sturgis and the Black Hills represent just that, the land of the free and the home of the brave. I have watched countless documentaries about Sturgis, and I have yet to see anyone capture the essence of what keeps this 50-year-old woman coming back summer after summer.

For me the Black Hills hold a magical, spiritual beauty and energy that you don’t find cruising Main Street. But with the tough economy, the girlfriends who often accompany me on the ride out couldn’t make it. My new boyfriend wanted to be practical and attend to business at home. I contemplated not going myself…but it was the 70th Sturgis Rally, my 50th birthday, and I hadn’t missed the rally in more than 20 years.

And then there is my old Pa, who just turned 80, and his health isn’t so good. In the past few years he and I have started a tradition. After the rally I head to Minnesota to visit my mom, sis, and youngest brother and his family. Then I fetch my Pa, and we do a road trip back to Wyoming to visit the older of my two brothers and his family in Lander, Wyoming, where he works as a deputy sheriff. So I decided, as I almost always do, to cast fate into the wind, and head on down the highway.

The wonderfully lonely highway that allows thought, contemplation, and long conversations with God.
The wonderfully lonely highway that allows thought, contemplation, and long conversations with God.

My first stop was Hotchkiss, Colorado, where my Uncle David and Aunt Shelia have a horse ranch, and where I am moving in October. I stopped in to see my new place, and hung out down at Dave’s trout ponds. It’s a view I have grown up looking at, and am excited that it is about to be the view I wake up to every morning. 

My cousin Michele and the view from Uncle Dave’s trout ponds in Hotchkiss, Colorado.
My cousin Michele and the view from Uncle Dave’s trout ponds in Hotchkiss, Colorado.

Ken Conte from Rise Above Consulting has been kind enough to get me accommodations at the Buffalo Chip the past few years to cover the events going on there. So I had this keen idea to utilize the pass to its full extent, and see what it would be like for a woman to camp out by herself at the Buffalo Chip all week.

Having only been to the Chip a few times, I held the illusion that I might find myself a quiet corner under a nice tree to pitch my tent. And upon arriving, I did try…and I gave it an honest one night’s sleepless effort. Holy moly! At age 50, I decided I was simply too old to appreciate the Buffalo Chip. At 20, I was too old to appreciate the Buffalo Chip. The Buffalo Chip never sleeps, and neither did I. I crawled out of my sad Walmart tent, and asked a group of guys where the nearest bathroom was. “Beetsie? Betsy, I am Carlos, your Facebook friend from Chihuahua, Mexico. I can’t believe it’s you! Can we take a picture together?”

Me and my Buffalo Chip Facebook friends, Richie and Carlos from Chihuahua, Mexico, and a couple of other guys.
Me and my Buffalo Chip Facebook friends, Richie and Carlos from Chihuahua, Mexico, and a couple of other guys.

That first day I headed over to the county line Broken Spoke for Michael Lichter’s ride with custom bike builder Sugar Bear. My friend Bean’re (pronounced Beaner) and all of my buddies from the Limpnickie Lot, and the Wall of Death were staying there. I decided I would move out to that campground in hopes of a more peaceful rest. The ride took us down some scenic roads for Michael to do what he does best, shoot great pictures. After you reach the hot lemonade girl, you turn back and head for the drag strip.

Me and custom bike builder Sugar Bear.
Me and custom bike builder Sugar Bear.


I just love how this couple looks.
I just love how this couple looks.


Waiting around while riders gas up.
Waiting around while riders gas up.

The hot girl with the cold lemonade!
The hot girl with the cold lemonade!

At the drag strip, anyone who wanted to drag his or her own bike was invited to do so. Bean’re, and Chris Callen of Cycle Source magazine, had a mean competition going on. Before they even took off, Chris got his pant leg caught up in his belt drive. He had to be cut him out of his own pants. Now that’s what I call a drag race! I don’t remember who won being that they kept challenging one another to yet another run. They might still be out there on that track.

Cutting Chris out of his pants that got stuck in the exposed primary.
Cutting Chris out of his pants that got stuck in the exposed primary.


Chris, with half a pant leg, and Bean’re ready to take off.
Chris, with half a pant leg, and Bean’re ready to take off.


Colleen Swartz, a freelance motorcycle photographer, all suited up to take her turn.
Colleen Swartz, a freelance motorcycle photographer, all suited up to take her turn.

After a long afternoon of watching the races in the blazing sun, I decided to move my camp down the road to the more relaxed fields of the Spoke, but as I was passing Bear Butte Mountain, I looked up and remembered my favorite times at that spiritual place. I fell in love on that mountain with a beautiful Native American man named Anthony Salazar. The mountain will always hold the magic of those memories. 

I turned in without hesitation, and went up to walk the trail. I stayed there for a long time and looked out over Bear Butte Lake. I remembered the first time I went skinny dipping in that lake, and tore my shirt to make prayer offerings and head bands for us. I decided to stay there in the energy of the mountain, and headed down to make my quiet camp.

Me and Anthony Salazar on Bear Butte Mountain years ago before his passing.
Me and Anthony Salazar on Bear Butte Mountain years ago before his passing.

Anthony in Bear Butte Lake.
Anthony in Bear Butte Lake.

Me at the base of the mountain this year.
Me at the base of the mountain this year.

The buffalo had many babies this year.
The buffalo had many babies this year.


My new campsite near Bear Butte Lake.
My new campsite near Bear Butte Lake.

This campground has no facilities other than a non-flushing toilet. The quiet enveloped me, and I slept like a baby! The only sound I heard that night was a lone cow mooing in the distance. I woke up to a golden sunrise, and went for a long swim. There were a handful of other campers around, and only a couple had motorcycles. There were frogs all over the lakes edge soaking in the sun, so I tried not to disturb them as I tip toed in for my early morning swim. Then I headed over to the Legends Ride, a charity event taking place in Deadwood.

Sunrise at the lake next to my campsite.
Sunrise at the lake next to my campsite.

Taking a morning dip.
Taking a morning dip.

The Legends Ride was jamming! Pee-wee Herman was there with a bicycle that was custom built for him and that will be auctioned off for Legends Ride charities. The crowd seemed to really love him along with Rupert Boneham, a past winner of TV’s “Survivor” and who was also one of the “legends” on hand. Lorenzo Lamas was there with his new fiancée, Shawna Craig, along with his business partner, Chad Greulach of Lorenzo Cycles.

Lorenzo Lamas and his fiancée, Shawna Craig.
Lorenzo Lamas and his fiancée, Shawna Craig.

Me and Chad Greulach.
Me and Chad Greulach.


Diva Amy, Laura Klock, Cris Sommer Simmons, Meg McDonough, and me at the Legends Ride.
Diva Amy, Laura Klock, Cris Sommer Simmons, Meg McDonough, and me at the Legends Ride.

A most interesting man, Richie Finney. He organizes motorcycle tours around the globe and was hosting a group in Sturgis.
A most interesting man, Richie Finney. He organizes motorcycle tours around the globe and was hosting a group in Sturgis.

Chad on his chopper.
Chad on his chopper.

The Legends Ride route did a loop through Nemo and back through Sturgis. The ride was attempting to head out to the Buffalo Chip but got stuck in standstill traffic, so I pulled over to buy a glass of lemonade from a little boy on the side of the street for 50 cents. Rocker Gilby Clarke, formerly of Guns N’ Roses, and his pals pulled in behind me to do the same. I told the boy that the cool guys walking up were rock stars from Los Angeles and that he could charge them $5 for a glass of lemonade. “Do you really think I could?” he asked. By the time they all finished, I think Gilby gave him $30 and the little boy almost peed in his pants he was so excited! “I gotta go make more lemonade!” he said as he ran off.

Gilby Clarke and friends buying lemonade.
Gilby Clarke and friends buying lemonade.


Me and Gilby.
Me and Gilby.


Gilby and his friends invited me to tag along to go backstage at a new place called the Monkey Bar. They were headed to see a band called the Darling Stilettos. They were as sexy as the Pussycat Dolls, and certainly kept the boys mesmerized.

Backstage with the rock stars.
Backstage with the rock stars.


The Darling Stilettos played at the Rock 'N  Rev Festival at Sturgis.
The Darling Stilettos played at the Rock 'N Rev Festival at Sturgis.


That night Baker Drivetrain held a burnout contest out at the county line Broken Spoke, and my friend Kevin Alsop, owner of Big Bear Choppers, impressed the crowd with his seemingly effortless skills at bringing his bike to its ultimate performance level. Kevin was nursing fresh road rash from going down after hitting a deer the day before. Not much seems to faze the man!

Big Bear Choppers’ Kevin Alsop impressing the crowd.
Big Bear Choppers’ Kevin Alsop impressing the crowd.

The scene at the Broken Spoke county line.
The scene at the Broken Spoke county line.

The next day Chris Callen and and the Cycle Source boys organized their own ride out to the Nemo horse ranch where we had a barbeque lunch. Every day was sunny and filled with friends and laughter. Several of my pals were working at the Broken Spoke in town— Sasha Mullins, and comedian and host Jack Schit—but they were able to sneak off that day to be on the Cycle Source ride with us.

Me, Chris Callen and Sasha Mullins.
Me, Chris Callen and Sasha Mullins.


Privacy please!
Privacy please!


Tuesday night at The Buffalo Chip was Michael Lichter’s custom motorcycle exhibition and show of his lifetime work of motorcycle photography. The exhibit is always impressive and takes you back in time to the changes that have occurred over the years in the lifestyles of riding. The most important people in the world of motorcycling turned out to show their support of everything Michael has done.

Michael Lichter (second from left) with heavy hitter bike builders, Sugar Bear, Ron Finch, and Arlen Ness, who all had motorcycles on display.
Michael Lichter (second from left) with heavy hitter bike builders, Sugar Bear, Ron Finch, and Arlen Ness, who all had motorcycles on display.

Me and Mino, editor of Vibes magazine, a Japanese motorcycle publication.
Me and Mino, editor of Vibes magazine, a Japanese motorcycle publication.


Me and best pal Genevieve Schmitt.
Me and best pal Genevieve Schmitt.


After the show, Genevieve, my new friend Masyn Moyer, and WRN columnist Diva Amy and I immersed ourselves into the sea of people at the Buffalo Chip to watch Bob Dylan warm up the stage for Kid Rock. We were not close enough to the stage to get the most out of being at a Bob Dylan concert, but when Kid Rock hit the stage, the crowd went crazy. We elbowed our way up closer. Now that is a rock star! The man really does well what he does. He had four middle-aged women who are all in relationships saying, “Yup, I get it.” Somehow that skinny white trash boy from Detroit is all kinds of sexy!

Kid Rock in concert.
Kid Rock in concert.


The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame induction ceremomy breakfast came early the next day, but I didn’t want to miss it as my good friend Kiwi Mike Thomas was being inducted, and was seated at the head table next to Willie G. Davidson and his wife, Nancy, who was also being inducted. I always love to hear the stories of the lifetime passion the inductees have for the sport of motorcycling, and this was no exception. I was proud to be there with Kiwi’s family, my friend and longtime rider Grace McKean, and other friends to see him honored that way.

My good buddy, Kiwi Mike, of Kiwi Indian Motorcycles.
My good buddy, Kiwi Mike, of Kiwi Indian Motorcycles.

Old and new friends...and all riders...pose for a picture after the breakfast: Karen Davidson, Lori DeSilva, Cris Sommer Simmons, Gloria Struck, me, Grace McKean, and Genevieve.
Old and new friends...and all riders...pose for a picture after the breakfast: Karen Davidson, Lori DeSilva, Cris Sommer Simmons, Gloria Struck, me, Grace McKean, and Genevieve.


Athena Ransom, the coolest woman bike builder.
Athena Ransom, the coolest woman bike builder.


Masyn Moyer, my new friend from Boulder, Colorado.
Masyn Moyer, my new friend from Boulder, Colorado.


Eight-five-year-old Gloria Struck in a wet T-shirt contest? No, she’s just cooling off.
Eight-five-year-old Gloria Struck in a wet T-shirt contest? No, she’s just cooling off.

Me and comedian Jack Schit.
Me and comedian Jack Schit.

My last and favorite day was spent with the Limpnickie Lot boys doing a "Ride to the Rez.” It was on Friday, and many people had already pulled out for the week, so we had a small group. Chris Callen was leading the ride, but had a back tire malfunction, so the bike went onto a trailer. I offered Chris my bike, and I rode bitch on the back of my own bike through the Badlands to the Pine Ridge reservation. There was a group of kids waiting to meet us at the Boys and Girls Club, and we all headed out to a baseball field where we played ball and gave motorcycle rides to the kids around the outfield. The children were so enthused that it made our whole trip very rewarding. I fell in love with a young girl named Shayla that looked like Pocahontas, and gave her a long ride through the wheat fields of the rez.

Bean’re and Open Road Radio host Gina Woods riding to the rez.
Bean’re and Open Road Radio host Gina Woods riding to the rez.

Bikers meeting the kids.
Bikers meeting the kids.


Me and Shayla, the girl who tugged at my heartstrings.
Me and Shayla, the girl who tugged at my heartstrings.


Every one of those kids told me that someday they wanted to have a motorcycle, and they all got to choose the bike they liked best. The Pine Ridge reservation is a very impoverished place where clean running water, a resource we take for granted, is something they do not have enough of. The Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge this year was meant to bring awareness to this problem, but has yet to really do so. This long-distance endurance ride that occurred in June ended up embroiled in controversy.

Bikers as a group can make a difference when they band together for a greater cause. This is an important one to me as white men took the Indian’s land and gave them nothing in return except empty promises. We continue to enjoy and use their Black Hills while they continue to exist on very little. I hope the Hoka Hey ride has a second year, and that it helps to bring awareness in the form of actual change.

Bean’re taking a full load!
Bean’re taking a full load!

Bean’re and I rode back to Sturgis through the Badlands as the sun was setting. It was a most perfect ride, day, week…rally. I absolutely never get tired of the Black Hills. The beauty still leaves me in awe, and the energy will always be magical. My friends in the motorcycle community are like a huge family. Every year it is like renewal of existence for me. It recharges my battery and helps me to put everything else around me into perspective. If you allow yourself to be alone with your thoughts, surroundings, and the open road, a calm knowing happens. Instead of seeking answers to your life questions, the open road has a way of bringing clarity.

My old Pa doesn’t have the energy to ride on the back of my motorcycle anymore, or to come to Sturgis during rally, so I threw my bike on the trailer and went and fetched him in the truck. After visiting the prettiest girls in the Midwest, my nieces, Sienna and Maddy, I brought my dad to the Crazy Horse Monument to see the progress being made on what will eventually be the largest, most meaningful monument in our country. Dad was overwhelmed with the whole museum and the story behind it all. We spent the whole day there. We went on to spend some quality time at my brother Joe’s and my nephews shooting grasshoppers, fishing, wandering though ghost towns, wading in streams, roasting marshmallows for s’mores, and taking motorcycle rides. And every year I re-learn that it is as much the going, as the getting there that is good.

My beautiful niece Sienna.
My beautiful niece Sienna.

And her adorable sister Madison.
And her adorable sister Madison.

Me and Dad at Crazy Horse Monument.
Me and Dad at Crazy Horse Monument.


Painted horses with Crazy Horse in the background.
Painted horses with Crazy Horse in the background.


Taking my nephew Caleb for a ride.
Taking my nephew Caleb for a ride.


Now it's Dilly Dog's turn. That’s the name I call my nephew Dylan.
Now it's Dilly Dog's turn. That’s the name I call my nephew Dylan.


I hope you enjoyed riding along. You can find me on Facebook and at BetsyHuelskamp.com.

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