In a free association exercise, if I were to say "Sturgis," what would you say in response?
If you associate this town of 7,000 people and its neighboring cities of Rapid City, Deadwood, and Lead with the tourist destination of the Black Hills, such a response would certainly be correct. And even though a walk downtown would take you past several souvenir and gift shops, complete with an amazing array of t-shirts, the souvenirs may refer to another association with Sturgis.
Before considering other associa-tions, con-tinue your walk past businesses typical of a downtown area, such as this Italian restaurant with an interesting mural that covers the entire front of the building and
this hardware and furniture store, a shop offering to buy gold and silver, and a tattoo parlor.
Advertise-ments for businesses, some of which may no longer be in business, are also present.
But then you notice a sign for the Black Hills Motor Classic
and this mural across the front of another store, which, when combined with the signs heralding the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (NCOM) office (below) and Aid to Injured Motorcy-clists (AIM), you realize that the most likely association with "Stur-gis" is "motor-cycles" or the annual "Sturgis Motorcycle Rally." In fact, the 71st annual rally is scheduled for August 8-14.
Attendance estimates over the past three years have averaged about 440,000 for the week's events. Although there are many motorcycle enthusiasts living in the Sturgis area, visitors from around the country may already be motoring into town.
One of the likely stops will be the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.
I had to visit this museum, although my knowledge of anything other than the names of some of the major manufacturers of motorcycles is virtually nil. I am including photos and information on just a few of those that I found interesting.
1910 Indian Tri-Car.
In the original production, there was a seat mounted between the front wheels so a passenger could enjoy the ride.
1910 Flying Merkel (center).
The Flying Merkels, built from 1909-1915 were machines of advanced design--and they were fast. During the year this flat track racer was built, Flying Merkels won over 85% of the races they competed in.
From 1911 to 1917 the Dayton Sewing Machine Company manufac-tured motor-cycles, motor-bicyles (shown in the photo), and bicycles.
This particular Dayton motorbi-cycle incorporates the engine on the front wheel.
1966 Matchless with Sidecar.
"This motorcycle was perfectly equipped to ride through the London fog and rain. The custom tandem sidecar unit would fit two people, and the motorcycle would carry two, making this a four-passenger vehicle."
1967 Honda Dream.
"This little 305cc motorcycle took the U.S. by storm, threatening both the U.S. and European markets."
1999 Excelsior-Henderson Super X.
This is #1073 out of 1851 produced during the company's two-year production life. Before going bankrupt, the company invested 100 million dollars over 10 years and produced 1851 motorcycles.
I gained a greater appreciation for some of the details of the construction and attributes of different bikes as I listened to the conversations of very knowledgable visitors. But I'll need many more visits to talk intelligently beyond styling changes over the years.