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Our Trip to Sturgis on a 1947 Knucklehead

Updated on April 7, 2016
Sherry Hewins profile image

My husband and I have traveled all over the western United States on vintage Harley Davidsons. I want to share a few things we have learned.

The '47 Knucklehead Packed and Ready

1947 Knucklehead Loaded for a Road Trip
1947 Knucklehead Loaded for a Road Trip

Off to Sturgis on the Knucklehead

It was the year 2000, the year of the 60th annual Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis South Dakota. My husband Bryan and I were riding alone on a 1947 Knucklehead. It was the only time I have made that trip.

When we left home, our only real goal was to be at Buffalo Chip Campground on Thursday night to see Johnny Lang play.

We took kind of a long route through the bottom corner of Idaho, the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Once we got to Idaho, there were dark clouds circling overhead. Although it did not rain on us, there were plenty of times we could tell it had just rained, since the road was still wet.

We camped all the way, and though we didn't cook all that much, we made coffee every morning, and had cold iced tea in the small ice chest we carried. That was a pretty nice thing to have going through Nevada when the temperature was in triple digits. Once we got to Buffalo Chip Campground we did do some cooking.

Sturgis Rally in Full Swing

When we arrived at Main Street in Sturgis on Wednesday afternoon, we saw half a dozen people we know from our hometown within 2 hours of being there. It’s funny how that happens.

The street was very crowded, lots of guys hot rodding up and down the street showing off, tattooed women in pasties and leather chaps and not much more, a woman dressed as Lady Godiva in a long blond wig, and plenty of cops keeping an eye on things.

It was a hot day. Bryan had given up drinking a few years before, and I don't drink much anymore. They had stands selling this killer lemonade that they made right in front of you. Cute, young, scantily clad women squeezed fresh lemons, added water, ice and sugar right into the cup, covered it with another cup and gave it a good shake. It was very refreshing.

We stopped at a vendor selling leathers, and ended up both buying new leather jackets. I had never realized how uncomfortable every other leather jacket I had ever worn was until I got my brand new soft as butter leather jacket.

Most of the bikes there were new. As usual, the old Knucklehead got a lot of attention. When we went to leave, Bryan was actually drawing a crowd by kick starting it.

Our friend Red Dog's mom lived right there in Sturgis, so we pitched the tent in her front yard that night, then headed out for Buffalo Chip the next day.

Main Street in Sturgis

Knucklehead on Main Street at Sturgis
Knucklehead on Main Street at Sturgis

Buffalo Chip Campground

When we got to Buffalo Chip, it was already hot, the campground was almost full and the terrain was relatively flat with not very many trees.

My sweetie had camped there the year before, so he headed for his old camp spot under a big tree. Amazingly, it was available with only one other tent in the area.

As soon as we pulled up a guy jumped out of the tent and said "Hey, a Knucklehead, is that the original paint?"

I said "Hell no, it's been painted twice that I know of."

He said his name was Hotdog, and he was from Florida. He was riding an evo, but it turned out he had a Knucklehead at home and was kind of a collector. He considered the Knucklehead an around town show bike. He sheepishly admitted that he'd had his bike shipped and he had flown in for the run. He didn't have enough time off to make the ride, but we said "Whatever, no big deal, at least you made it."

Being another Knucklehead guy, Hotdog and Bryan had plenty to talk about, and we invited him for dinner, cooked up some steak and beans. While we were sitting around getting to know each other, we noticed the wind picked up, and the sky looked ominous. We threw everything we had inside the tent and went inside ourselves.

The storm hit fast with strong winds, rain and hail. It only lasted maybe 30 minutes, but when it was over there were tents and tarps blown down all over the campground. It was only 2 hours before Johnny Lang was to hit the stage, so we had been a little worried about that. We need not have been concerned. The moon came out pretty as can be, the stars twinkling away, and the show went on as planned.

We got a nice spot about 25 feet from the stage. Since I am only 5'2", I usually can't see anything in a crowd like that, but there was a picnic table near us and I was able to stand on the bench so I got a fine view of the stage. There I was, on a beautiful clear evening, almost level with the stage, watching Johnny sing "Wander This World." It was just one of those perfect nights.

The next morning we woke up to a little Japanese guy who came looking for Bryan. He had met him at the same spot the year before. He worked for a Japanese magazine and wanted to take pictures of the bike and us. He actually sent us copies of the issue with our pictures in it a few months later.

We rode out to Deadwood, and went to see Mt. Rushmore (pretty amazing by the way, don't miss it if you're in the area), then back to Main Street one more time. We stopped by Red Dog's mom’s house and guess who was there, Hot Dog. It seems he was renting a room at her house, and she was his contact in Sturgis for shipping his bike. We spent a couple of hours there socializing before we headed out on the trip home.

We had already been on the road for 10 days I wanted to go home, but Bryan wanted to go to the San Juan Islands in Washington, so where do you think we went? That's a whole story in itself, maybe I'll tell you about it sometime.

Photos from our ride to Sturgis

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The old man in tie die at the Idaho borderKnucklehead at Grand TetonsBuffalo Chip Campground Before the StormMorning at Buffalo Chip CampgroundWoman looking through Motorcycle Saddlebags
The old man in tie die at the Idaho border
The old man in tie die at the Idaho border
Knucklehead at Grand Tetons
Knucklehead at Grand Tetons
Buffalo Chip Campground Before the Storm
Buffalo Chip Campground Before the Storm
Morning at Buffalo Chip Campground
Morning at Buffalo Chip Campground
Woman looking through Motorcycle Saddlebags
Woman looking through Motorcycle Saddlebags

Sixty Second Tent - A Lifesaver

I think the best piece of camping gear we brought on this trip was our 60 second tent. It's a dome tent, but instead of threading the poles through sleeves on the tent, they are already in place, with hinges that lock open. It can literally be set up in 60 seconds. When you are riding and breaking camp every day it just makes life so much easier.

Equipment List

You may think I'm joking, but we really did take all these things with us when we rode to Sturgis from our home in Nevada City, California. As you can see from the photo at the beginning of the story, it was quite a load. We actually used most of the things we brought.

  • Towel
  • Soap and Toiletries
  • Radio
  • Camera
  • 4 Flashlights
  • Ice Chest
  • Food
  • Aspirin and Decongestant
  • P38 Can Opener
  • Camp Stove
  • Coffee and Tea Bags
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Knife
  • Cast Iron Skillet

Last but not least:

  • Credit Card

  • Canteen with Water
  • Map
  • Tools
  • Bicycle Pump
  • Extra Tire Tube
  • Spare 3-brush Generator
  • Headlight and Taillight Bulb
  • Quart of Oil
  • Liter of Gasoline
  • Sunscreen
  • Chapstick
  • Clothes for temperatures
    ranging from 45° to 110°
  • Rain Gear
  • 60 Second Tent
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Camp Mattresses

© 2012 Sherry Hewins

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    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Adventure is a thing to be appreciated. I have no hesitation to clap on your ventures. Thank you for sharing your experience here.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

      It sounds like it, with the moon up above, and all. :) I love biking. I don't have one, but my husband had one for awhile. He looked so good on it, too. :)

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thanks Denise Handlon, It was an adventure, just as it always is traveling on the old bike. That night watching Johnny Lang was magical.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

      What an adventure! I love stories like this-it just ignites that flame in me that wants to pick up and travel. I had a b.f. who had a motorcycle, but nothing like your husband's! Very interesting-loved it. Now I'm waiting for the 'trip to Washington' story. :) I would have loved camping out and listening to Johnny Lang. UP/U/A/I and sharing.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thanks TIMETRAVELER2, for reading and commenting. You say your are not a biker, but did you ride a bike to the Sturgis Rally? SD is beautiful, and It was indeed an adventure and I'm glad you enjoyed my story.

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

      TIMETRAVELER2 5 years ago

      We're not bikers but we love SD and have been to the Sturgis rally several times. What a hoot! This was so much fun to read. Thanks for the great hub.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Yes, our photos were in a Japanese magazine, I don't remember the name of it, I'll have to dig it out, it's in the house somewhere. The Knucklehead is a real conversation starter, that's for sure. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Sean 5 years ago

      Nice adventure. I've been thinking it would be great to be able to do the Sturgis Rally, it's a long way from here, I think I'll put it on my list of adventures though. Sounds like you guy's had a great time. Having a bike that's a little unique is also an attraction and makes it easier to make friends. Were your pictures in a magazine in Japan ? probably somewhere. You certainly got some gear on the knucklehead, I'm impressed.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thank you for the comment. You are right, there's a certain mindset that you get when you are out on the road like that. It takes a few days to shed your regular life and just be in the moment as you ride.

    • profile image

      Joe Neubarth 5 years ago

      Sounds like fun. Our greatest ventures in life are often on the open road. I think that is what made the TV Series "Route 66" so popular half a century ago.