My First Motorcycle Experience- A One Week Epic Sturgis Ride- A Harley Davidson/GoPro collaboration of Epic Proportions


Life can take many forms, and your daily decisions are what create that form.     I got a voice message from Toshi, my athlete manager at GoPro asking if I wanted to go on a “train ride” from August 2nd-9th.    My first thought was,  “uh train ride?  I am going to be at Outdoor Retailer Show during that time… “    When I called Toshi to let him know he said,  “Not a train ride, a “Dream Ride” on Harley’s from Seattle to Sturgis!”    Now he had my attention.   If GoPro is part of organizing this thing, then it will be awesome!    If Harley is organizing it, we won’t be on busted down ordinary bikes, but be on showcase bikes that they want people seeing, and anyone should want to ride.   I called Kristine and told her what I was invited to do and my first thought was, “too bad that is during a trade show” but she quickly reminded me that this was definitely something to do and I jumped on it and told Toshi I was in.   He told me tht my only requirement was that I needed a motorcycle license.    I told him that I don’t have one, but will have one by the time I am on the trip.    That worked for him.

 

Kristine organized everything for me.   She organized a flight from Ottawa to Nashville to take my test.   She scheduled an appointment in Chattanooga for my riding test and a motorcycle to take it on, owned by one of my employees’ (Rita) son.      I flew in on a Sunday night after teaching on the Ottawa for 2 weeks straight, with no breaks.   When I woke in the morning I read through the study book for the test again and drove to Cookeville to take my written test.   Typical test, multiple choice, but it has exactly what I would have loved to have in school that would have motivated me much more.    When you enter your answer it tells you immediately if you were right or wrong!    I was on a roll and got the first 25 questions right, but the 26th one which was on “riding stagger formation” with other riders, I got wrong.    The test results were 29 out of 30 correct/ passing.     I went home and went kayaking at Rock Island.    Kristine was in Salt Lake preparing for the OR show.     Dane was in the Olympic demonstration event and was not there, but KC was there, as well as Emily and Nick.    They would help the sales staff work the event, setting up, taking down, and of course educating our dealers and distributors on the new products. (We have awesome new stuff for 2013!!)

 

Now to get the motorcycle to use for the Chattanooga practical test.    First I was planning on using a trailer to load it on and drive it there.    I didn’t have my truck, however, or my trailer, so that made it hard.    It was obviously easier to just ride it there, but I didn’t have my license yet.    I decided that riding it there was the best, as I could practice on the way and be more likely to pass the test.   It turned out that this was the right way to go!    When I started it up, with Rita standing out there holding her 2 year old grandbaby it was running a little rough and I popped the clutch a little fast in the deep gravel driveway as I tried to steer through the cars.    I almost dropped the bike and did stall it.    A quick wave to Rita, like “don’t worry, I have this” and started up again this time decided I would not stall it and gave it some gas.  Instead of stalling, the clutch kicked in hard and flew right over the edge to the neighbor’s yard and stalled it again and almost dropped it again.    It went smooth after that on my 2 hour ride in to town and then back again.     (way back had some running out of gas issues)

 

I flew to Seattle on Thursday the 2nd of August and met up with the team.   Chad Kagy, Brian Lopes, Ashmore Bodiford,  Aaron Chase, Max Kuszaj, and I.     It turns out that they are all motorcycle owning, riding fanatics, except for me.     We got a ride to the hotel and met the Harley folks, the GoPro folks, and the organizers (Christian and Zach Schauf)  Amanda and Jeff are in charge of the  #epicsturges Harley ride.  Jeff is the social media guy and Amanda is one of the main marketing people for Harley Davison as well.    From GoPro we have Wes, who is in charge of the cameras, filming, editing each day, etc..   We also have freelance writers and photographers on board.     Josh is the main photographer and he is the man on a motorcycle.     We have Eric Seymore, who is on Team JK and this was one of those “it is a small world” moments when I saw he was working on this trip for Teton Gravity Research.

We got our Harley “bad assed bags” with leather jacket, helmet, goggles, etc..    Most of the riders brought their own riding gear.     I didn’t have any so they got me set up with Harley branded stuff.    We spent a couple of hours talking about the trip, signing waivers, etc..  and then got our orientation to the bikes.    Wow!   So many different bikes, so little time!    16 different bikes and only 7 days.   Our first trip was going to be to ride to a Harley dealership and then to dinner in Seattle.   Everyone mounted up and rode on out.   I grabbed the “48” which is a “roadster” and did pretty well with it in the city.    We went pretty slow as it was city streets and we had a big group.    It was a short ride to the Harley Dealership where we met the manager and hung out, and I shopped.  I needed gloves and boots and got both, along with a cool straw hat and a long sleeve t-shirt.

 

Our next ride was to a restaurant and everyone was getting frisky to show off their riding skills and we hit highway 5 and went fast.    Winding city highway, lots of traffic and we were zipping around.   I was scared!   Too fast, too many quick lane changes, I wasn’t used to my bike and couldn’t use the mirrors which were under the bar.    There were lots of times where I was thinking that I wasn’t going to try to keep up, but quickly changed my mind and committed to being the kayaker sticking to the group of extreme and action sports athletes that make their living on two wheels.    We made it to the restaurant and all was good.     It got dark, however, and it occurred to me that we were now going to do another ride back in the dark.     I did pretty well, and kept up, but it occurred to me that bringing up the rear of a group in fast, congested traffic is not as safe as being in the middle.    We were zipping in and out of lanes, taking exits (fast) and the roads were not in great shape, etc. etc..    Whew- I spent some adrenaline on my first night ride, but made it back to the hotel OK.     The trip hasn’t even started yet,    7:15 kickstands up in the morning.    Sleep deprivation was already begun.    Arriving back from dinner after midnight- and then starting at 6am the next morning.

Day 1:  420 miles- Seattle to Lewiston, ID-

This ride was really a great break in ride.    Combo of highway and awesome twisting turning rally roads.    I started off on the Yellow Flash “72” Sportster as we headed out of Seattle up to Mt. Rainier.   Imagine a 72 Schwinn Banana Bike you have the idea!   Sick Mountain Ride, my first one.     Riding with 16 bikes in stagger formation on mountain roads, hitting the corners fast is a test of focus for me as I have never ridden a motorcycle on mountain roads by myself.   Unlike being alone where you have the whole lane, plus the other lane if you need it,  you only get ½ of the lane and the turns get a whole lot more interesting.    Leaning in, making a smooth turn while not creeping into the rider on your side, or going off the road, downshifting, but not losing too much speed as you have somebody on your ass at all times, and then accelerating out the turn fast (if you want to keep up it is close to a full acceleration each time) makes for a mentally challenging ride!   Watching the experienced riders (the rest of the crew!) it is second nature.    Whether it be Brian Lopes who is a 4 time world champion downhill mountain bike racer where they race head to head with 4 people, or Aaron Chase or Chad Kagy who do big jumps and backflips, etc. on their bikes, or Josh, the photographer on the trip who stands on his seat at 60 miles/hour and takes photos with no hands on the bike while riding in the other lane, everyone seems to be in their comfort zone on this trip from the start!    I am trying to keep the bike on the road with two hands and be consistent and predictable as possible as there is a lot of steel moving together at high speeds.    I also noticed quite a difference in riding styles.    We were told by Amanda from Harley that no footage of people riding with no hands, or side by side will be used as it promotes dangerous riding.  That made sense to me.   Long sleeves, gloves, boots, and helmet also required gear.    Speedo not so much.     Some of the riders want to keep the group tight.    They are always overlapping the rider on the other side of the lane.   Some of the riders like to spread out a little.    Obviously spreading out provides more margin for error, which in my case, is a good thing.    I found that in the back of the group you get more room than in the front.   I started out in the back and Amanda was the “Sweep” and she always left me some room the first day.    Everyone was quite aware that I got my license the day before and this was my first trip.   The ride up to Rainier was a good experience and I was getting more comfortable and able to look around while feeling the wind rushing against my face.   We came off the mountain the way we went up and then headed towards the Wenatchee River and over to Mel’s Diner, a true classic!  I got the Mel’s Burger and a big Chocolate shake in the metal can.    Good stuff!     We switched out bikes at Mel’s as there are so many different bikes and we all want to try all of them.    I got on my first “Softail Slim” bike- a red one.    Bigger motor, heavier, more comfortable seating, etc..    Sweet bike.    Our plan was to make it to Lewiston, ID for dinner.   We just pulled it off getting to the Hotel in time to get dinner.    Dinner went past mid-night and we had a 6:30am wake up- 7:30 kickstands up call.

 

 

 

I woke up tired and felt like I needed another couple of hours of sleep but got coffee and drank an energy drink at breakfast.    This time I was going to ride the “Delux”.    Sweet looking bike and very comfortable.    We pulled out of the parking lot on the highway and everyone hit the gas hard and we are getting up to speed fast.   I got up to about 75 when my bike got the speed wobble!   Shoot, uh, not good!    I slowed down to try to figure out what was up.  I have gotten destroyed riding a skateboard down a big hill and gotten speedwobble before.   Will the motorcycle do that?  Get worse until it throws you or stop?   I have no idea myself.  Amanda pulled up beside me and told me to catch up to the rest… I tried to explain the speed wobble, but she couldn’t hear or understand me .   I rallied up to the rest at 90mph and it kept doing it.  I finally got to where I could accelerate out of it, but it was disconcerting to say the least.    After a while I figured out that it was not going to get out of control.    We pulled over and realized that the rear spokes were loose.  After tightening everything was in good form again.   We were headed from Lewiston, ID to Boseman, MT.    We rallied up along the Clearwater River, to the Locsa where there was a sign that said “Windy Road Next 99 Miles”.   I knew we were in for a treat then!    Rallied was the right way to put it as the turns were fun and could be taken fast.    The river was low but still made me feel good to just fly by it and have that as my backdrop while riding.     99 miles of twisting turning roads makes for a fun ride.  The turns were smooth, no switchbacks and gentle gradient. 
The general rule of thumb for the turns was, if it says “slow 30mph”  we took it at 60.      Dry road conditions made for a perfect ride.   The personalities at work is as fun as the riding sometimes.   Chad Kagy was the front line guy for most of the trip for the Twitter and Facebook posts by Harley.    Chad has a lot of Twitter followers and does a great job on camera as well as getting the content with his GoPro Hero 2.     He is a stout rider who can really run the camera with one hand and rally the bike with the other.     Brian Lopes was another one that did some great shots using a boom cam while zipping between the bikes at high speeds and focusing on the shot as much as the riding.    Wes Noble, the man who is responsible for the GoPro footage and edits each day had the hardest job, as he had to keep all of us in fresh batteries, cards, and collect the content each day and edit a short video.   
He was grumpy with us some times as his day started before everyone and ended afterwards and if we didn’t do things right it made his job not just harder, but impossible.    We spent much of the time riding in the  van editing, but when he did ride he rode hard.   “I am going to be riding super fast, so….  Do you know the way home?”   Is an example of how he started the ride from Rapid City to Sturgis the other day.     He switched out cards and batteries in his camera at 80mph.   Boldness.    Eric Seymore,  was a solid rider, and game for both the on road action and the evening activities.    “Hey Eric want to…? I would ask and he was always,   “Let’s do it!”    Max Kuszaj the basejumper, skier dude from Salt Lake also loved to rally the bike and when he wasn’t trying to kick random things on the side of the road, or jumping into the Harley-Davidson dealership (he is a Team GoPro diver) he was cutting up with the guys.      Ashemore Bodiford, our female rider was “Game on” the entire time.   Rides like a pro, energetic and funny on or off the bike.     I still don’t know what she does when she isn’t riding motorcyles;  never really broached the subject.   She had a semi-tough gig riding with 15 boys but was right at home with it and didn’t take any crap.

Our Fearless Organizers- Zach and Christian

Christian and Zach Schauf, two brothers with a band called, “Catch Penny” were shining stars in the group doing most of the organizing of the trip in advance and really keeping the group moving.   I am sure I’ll be seeing more of those guys, especially after I teach them to kayak!

Jeff Wick Rocking the Orange Classic

Jeff Wick was in charge of social media and that is his specialty, full time gig at Harley.    He lead the twitter/facebook charge and was on it every day.    He was also the drummer for “Catch Penny” (I am sure this is the connection) and is always game for some night-time fun after the rides!    Caleb Santana, aka, Vampire Man (he had the most bad assed canine teeth that make me want to get some extensions on mine.

EJ and Caleb getting chummy

I swear his teeth got bigger at night) was always good for a laugh and was a big teddy bear.    When I would go missing at the Buffalo Chip, Caleb was there to find me and re-connect me with the group.    He was also there to provide another drink and get me lost again. J     He is writing for a magazine that caters to men with money… Uh also can’t remember the name of his mag.    Matt from Men’s Health and his girlfriend, who I still don’t know her name because she not only talks at ½ of the decibels of my hearing, but I can’t read her lips either.    She was very cute and for me was one of those “Seen but not heard” girls on the trip.    She rode on the back of Matt’s bike.  Matt did some serious tandem riding and I was impressed that his girlfriend wasn’t scared!     Then we had the main organizer girl, Amanda.

Amanda rocking the UZI

Amanda was a biker chick through and through.    Tattoos, short spiked blonde hair, and dressed 100% Harley.     She took her job seriously and was responsible for 16 brand new motorcycles and the riders for 1,600 miles.   With a bunch of Yahoo adrenaline junkies on the trip it was going to a a challenge for her under any condition.     She managed to run the entire trip without a bike being dropped, or any accidents.    Her stress levels were rarely higher than a 9.5 out of 10, but were rarely lower than an 8 out of 10 it seemed.   She had a lot of moving parts to organize.    Joe, 23 years old, was there writing for somebody, but I couldn’t ever figure out who.     Joe summed up his personality and approach to life very clearly last night at the final party.    “I like being the sleeper, “Mediocre Joe”.   That way I always surprise people.    That was him during the trip as well.    Never pretentious, never full of himself, just plugging along and then you watch him and realize he is killing it!      Aaron Chase, originally from New Hampshire, is not only a super bad ass of slopestyle mountain biking, but was also the easiest guy for me to hang out with when I didn’t know anybody.  Always giving me good coaching for riding and game to play.    He went from ready to ride to ready to hang and party in a hurry when we arrived at Sturgis!   I still wanted to ride and get all I could get on the bikes.    Last night Aaron was in good form and definitely had opinions all night long!    We also had Max, another BMX guy who was super quiet off the bike but you saw and heard him on the bike!   Then there was Josh.  Don’t know his last name either, but he was the man on the motorcycles.   He ability to shoot photos while riding at high speeds was enough to write a story on.   He had a variety of ways to get a great shot.    Standing up while shooting his 35mm and no hands on the bars was standard… at 60+ mph in the oncoming traffic lane!   He was also high on any of the girls list for a “fine catch”.  It was funny to watch.   If a girl rides a Harley, they want Josh for themselves, it seems.    He was not obtuse to this, but certainly put little time into following up with his would be suitors.     He rides because that is what he loves to do.  He takes pictures because he likes that, too, but mostly to help him afford to ride.

Josh and EJ at the Buffalo Chip

I haven’t seen any of his photos yet, but am sure they are amazing.    We got a new friend from Harley when we arrived in Sturgis, Dana.    She is a 5’10” blonde biker chic and was in charge of the on the ground operations in Sturgis for the team.  She didn’t look like a biker, but once you put her on a bike, or watched her talking to bikers, the bike in her came out.  We also had a van driver, who’s name escapes me at the moment.   He drives for Red Bull, GoPro, and more and it was his job to move people and stuff around.   He was awesome as well but I am drawing a blank on his name;  sorry!

 

That was our group for the past week.   Lots of cool personalities and they came out on video, on the bikes, and during the after parties.     A full week of lack of sleep, hard riding, drinking, below par food some of the time (lots of the time) brought out the real personalities in everyone.    This is where I like to be.    I do like to see people in their primes, but I appreciate and enjoy seeing people that are past the pleasantries and are operating to survive, so they cut the BS and you get to see them at their worst (or best).   I always enjoy this when a top competitor loses a competition badly.   (I don’t wish it on anyone, however)  You see the real person then, while rarely see the real person after a win.

Group Shot at GoPro Trailer

We  had to free-for-all for the bikes every morning.    For a big highway ride, having a windshield makes it twice as easy.    For the city a roadster is more fun.    16 bikes, 16 people all just “figuring it out” and they all (almost) did it well each time without being selfish.     There were a couple of cases where people had excuses as to why they couldn’t switch bikes (my ass hurts, my arms hurt, etc. but for the most part, everyone was game for every bike at any time.    I wanted to rotate through the bikes but really wanted to save the “Road Glide” and the “Night-Rod”  for the last big day of driving where I would be the most comfortable on them and could really push them.  Mostly the Night Rod, but the Road Glide was a bigger bike and I wanted to ride it during a highway section and enjoy the stereo and windshield and cruise control.

 

Back to the ride…   We were off to Boseman via Lolo pass and had an awesome morning following 12 East past the Clearwater and the Locsa Rivers until we hit Missoula.   I called KB and Luke at Strongwater in Missoula to see about doing some kayaking at Brennan’s Wave while we had lunch there.    I caught them just as they walked in the store from Outdoor Retailer Show and they got a Rock Star M and gear ready for me.    I broke off  from the group and sent them to “The Shack” restaurant, a favorite of mine when we are in Missoula for lunch.   I led Wes to the store to film my short kayaking session (short as in 30 minutes or less!).    The middle section of Brennan’s Wave was still good and I got in some good surfing, some flatwater stuff, and they did a short edit of it for the Harley and GoPro websites and facebook, etc..  you can watch it here: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-NoD7qIebc&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

After Missoula, we shoved off towards Boseman.    I got on the “Switchback” for this part of the trip, which was one of my favorites.    Easy to ride and comfortable for high speeds.    I could have used a windshield for our highway rally, but got a good neck workout holding my head forward at 85-100mph.    There was no shortage of speed runs.  Everyone was “staggering” very good and it was part of the fun.    Any time somebody changes lane position from one side to the other, everyone behind him does the same thing to keep a stagger formation.    This provides a little bit of margin for error in case somebody doesn’t stay in their ½ of a lane and also keeps a bigger space between the person directly in front of you and you.   It provides you something to do besides just riding along.   You interact with the people around you more.   Add in some filming with GoPro cameras and you are more than just busy.   Add in some high speeds and you are really focusing on what you are doing.      I was mentally tired after each day as you don’t want to make a mistake on a motorcycle as they are not forgiving if you are not on your wheels and moving at 80+ mph.    We got into Boseman and stayed at the C’mon Inn.

C’Mon Inn Morning Sun

Dinner was at a local pub and we didn’t finish until after midnight, again!   Another 7:30 kickstands up day coming up and a day of activities planned, too!     I tried to get to sleep, but did some work on my computer and then finally got to bed.

 

I woke up at 6:30am after another 5 hour sleep night and was really tired today!   I at some breakfast at the buffet, drank lots of coffee and then a Armana energy drink (we had a bunch of them supplied for the trip and they came in handy!)

Catching a last minute of sleep before leaving

Our first stop would be up the mountain up towards Big Sky.       There was a bridge over the Gallatin River that we stopped at and a number of us jumped into the cold water.

Getting ready to jump in the cold water

It was a super cold ride that morning and we were already cold when we arrived.    I rocked my Speedo and had already threatened to wear in advance so it wasn’t a big surprise, but still gets some attention and some head shakes.    We had a short ride from there to the base of Big Sky Mountain where we had downhill mountain biking organized.   I had never taken a ski lift to the top of a mountain before to bike down.   Here we had several of the Athletes in their element.    Aaron Chase, Brian Lopes, Chad Kagy in particular were doing big jumps over big gaps and were able to fly down the mountain.   I made it without crashing and did one good jump over a small gap but went around all of the big ones.    The trail was tough.   A double black diamond that was super rocky.    There were a couple of tough spots that I barely made and had to drop in faster than I wanted given the terrain and my experience.   Josh our expert Harley rider/photographer was doing his first mountain bike run, wearing cowboy boots.     He did pretty well, but had an awesome crash.   Chad Kagy also had a big crash as did the photographer who went with us from the mountain.

 

 

 

 

Aaron jumping big

Lunch was a picnic with chips and sandwiches to save time and get ourselves back on the road for the most epic riding of the trip… Yellowstone park and then Beartooth pass.

 

We road into the West Entrance of Yellowstone in the afternoon and saw some cool stuff right away.   A big elk hanging by the river, a herd of buffalo, a moose, a bald eagle, deer, and more.     We didn’t see a bear, but you can’t see everything on a drive through, I guess.

Big boy of Yellowstone

The riding was slow due to traffic as we made our way up to the “Canyon Lodge” at in the park.   We took a break, got some drinks, and I lost my leather Harley jacket that I had for three days.    Bummer!    I really didn’t think I “lost it” as I remember putting it in the chase van, but it never showed up.  Luckily it was 90 degrees out and I wasn’t going to be cold.    We saddled up after 30 minutes of hanging out and losing stuff and got ready for our next adventure.   Beartooth pass.   This pass is a big climb up with beautiful rugged terrain, followed by a switchback laden, narrow, steep long downhill run that has huge cliffs on either side and would be a test of riding skills (at least at the speeds I imagine everyone will want to go).     I was on the Switchback still and liked the way it handle.  Christian got the Night-Rod which would have been my first choice.      We got out of Yellowstone and worked or way into the mountains with everyone staying together and found a lake for a photo opportunity.

Getting ready to rally down Beartooth Pass

We were not going to make it Red Lodge until 9:30pm or so already, so the time was getting tight to finish the pass before dark without incident.     Everyone looked pretty fired up to get on the pass run and be done with the photo shoot.      We pulled out of the parking lot in formation and started rallying.     It was clearly a racing type of a run as Christian was not just “leading us” but making passes around cars in the short passing zones at 85mph.  I was 8th in the formation but moved up to 5th and right behind Eric Seymore.      Max, Jeff, and Christian were ahead of me.

Gased up and Ready to Rock

Several passes around cars left Eric and I behind as there wasn’t room for all 5 of us to make the pass before the passing zone ended or the turn was upon us.    We had to make the pass immediately after the next turn and then catch up.    The turns kept getting tighter, going from 35 mph recommended max , to 20 mph max.      65 was the norm for the 35 mph and 40mph on the 20s.    My foot pedal hit the road and scared the hell out of me on the first really tight turn.    Once I realized that it flips up I felt much better and didn’t worry about it any more.   It was fun throwing the bike from one lean to the other scraping my footpedal on the ground from leaning so far down.    Having some real horsepower in the “Screaming Eagle” engine on the switchback made the acceleration out of the turns super fun and provided speed quickly so the braking was a fun part of the action as well.   I did one over zealous downshift into a 20mph turn and kicked my rear wheel out at 40mph on the turn, which made it exciting to say the least!  After a few more passes on the way down there were 5 of us that emerged in the first group and the rest not far behind.     We arrived at 9:30pm just before dark.    We got loaded into the van and headed into town to a little Pub for dinner.

Dinner Time!

Beer on tap, and the most amazing Philly Cheese Stake I have ever had capped off the evening.    I went to bed as soon as we got back (12:30am) to get ready for our final day of riding to Sturgis, all highway.

 

8:00am kickstands up and I started off on the Road Glide which is a sweet highway bike.    I put in my iPod and blasted the stereo on the highway.   We cruised along at a nice clip for 200 miles before I switched to the “72” again which is an open air bike with high handlebars.     My “Unbelievable Ears” headphones that I got from Harley were saviors for high speed open air riding.   I could hear the music and not hear the rushing air as much.  It was a long ride, over 400 miles, but because we were on the highway it went much faster than our other 400 mile rides.   It was obvious when we started getting close to Sturgis as the car count went down and the bike count went up.     When we got off the highway and started our ride into town I was blown away with the shear number of bikes and bikers.   Traffic for 30 minutes for a couple of miles of road to get to the Buffalo Chip Campground made for a hot ride in.

Awesomeness in numbers

Arriving at the Buffalo Chip and getting our very own brand new trailers was a treat.    There were bottles of Jack Daniels on the tables, beer in coolers, coke and water in coolers, snacks, and more.   Two more days of action while here!    Journey was playing tonight.   We started off on the far end of the field from the band having a beer and talking about the ride when I noticed that Steve Perry was amazing still.   How did he sing like that after all of these years?   Then Aaron busted my bubble and told me about him being fired and they found a new kid on YouTube, Arnel Pineda,  that took over as lead singer.  That guy sounds just like Steve Perry!  Very cool.   Overhead was a zip line that 4 people could go on and we got ourselves on top of the tower, GoPros in hand and Aaron and I went at the same time during Journey’s Neil Schon playing the National Anthem on the guitar.   How cool is that!  We were zipping over the enormous crowd (20,000?) while the National Anthem was being played.  I got the video and audio of it, but gave the footage to Wes, the GoPro dude. Eventually Ashemore, Aaron, and I decided that it was time to go front and center to the stage and get in on the action.   It took us a while to weasel our way in but we were 50 feet from the stage and in good position.    After the first song was finished in our new position, Faithfully, a really loud, strait pipe Harley fired up and the guy just kept cranking the engine, his version of a whistle, clapping, or hollering to show your appreciation for the music.    It was pretty awesome, actually.   A true biker event, obviously as the crowded around him loved it, (for the most part).     He, along with about 10 others had their bikes down in the middle of the crowd and were adding to the fun of of the concert.      The final song of the night, during the encore, was “Don’t Stop Believing” and it brought back memories!     I was ready for bed after the concert and we headed back.

 

I woke in the morning and our plans for the day were to do a ride to Mt. Rushmore.    I had never seen it before and was excited to go.  It was also supposed to be a nice ride out.    I got on the “72” and our group (Josh, his girlfriend, Max, Zach, Wes, Dana, and Eric Seymore) headed from Sturgis, through Rapid City, to Mt. Rushmore.   We got almost to the entrance and it started raining… hard!  I lost my cool Harley leather jacket that Amanda from Harley gave me at the start of the trip (sorry Amanda!) somewhere in Yellowstone, so I was sitting in the rain in my cotton JK Rockstar T-Shirt.     It turned to pea sized hail and then quit.   Soaked, we rode the rest of the way up into the entrance of the park, which felt a lot like driving into Niagara Falls, very commercial looking.    We parked in a multi-level parking garage as well.   Once we got to the viewing point, however, it became super impressive!

Mt Rushmore

Hungry, we all got ourselves a $9 hamburger (tasted like a $2 burger) and then got back on our bikes for the 90 minute ride back.      Wes noticed an alpine slide on the way up, so he, Eric, and I stopped for a run down the slide.   My first run I forgot to fire up the GoPro so I paid the $10.85 to do a second run.    I put the boom under my butt, sticking out the back of the slide, to get a different angle.  On the first whoopdie doos it fell out onto the track and I had to stop to pick it up.  It fell out a second time on a tight turn and didn’t keep up with me so I had to go to the bottom and then walk up to find it.    We challenged each other to go without using any breaks.   I definitely hit the breaks more than once on the bottom curves, not sure about the other guys.    We kept getting short rains that made the roads wet and I wasn’t comfortable going too fast on the wet roads.

 

By the time we got to the highway it was dry.   Wes said to Eric and I “I plan on going really fast on the way back… do you know how to get to the Buffalo Chip from here?”    We both shook our heads yes and then hit the busy highway and rallied with Wes on the way home.

Boston was playing tonight; another band I really like!

Boston rocking the house

I have the song, “More than a Feeling” on my playlist that I was listening to while riding across the country.    I showed up only to find out that the lead singer for Boston killed himself and a new lead singer, Tommy DeCarlo took his place.  I was bummed at first, but this guy nailed it on numerous songs.    The band was spot on and rocked the house… The Encore was all you needed to see, really, with the best songs and the energy was awesome.    We were getting goofy and singing along… more or less…   [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwBipxvnWNc&feature=plcp[/youtube]The motorcycles made it, however, making more noise than anything!  We hit up the “upstairs bar” where they had bikini dancers, a DJ, and lots of biker dudes.     After a bit of fun doing some people watching we called it a night around 1am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final day at Sturgis- no breakfast- but we rode our bikes to the Black Hills Harley store in Rapid City where GoPro had their booth.   There were plenty of fun things to see, including the electric Budweiser Cooler that you could ride, legally…  good idea…

cold drinks coming in fast…

Max took off to do a skydiving jump with GoPro chute into the dealership.    I got to ride an electric Motorcyle, bought KC a Harley T-Shirt, and hung out with the GoPro guys for a while.    We went from there back to the Buffalo Chip, and then out for dinner at a very nice restaurant compliments of Harley.    We returned in time for the “Eric Church” concert.   When he played the song “Springsteen” the crowd went nuts.    I must say that the country concert had more enthusiasm than the rock concerts!  It was cool to see.    We were right next to a guy with a VERY loud bike!    He took the award for the most fuel burnt in the spirit of cheering it on!   We all went to the upstairs bar again to do a little dancing.   It was our last night and everyone wanted it to continue on.    At the restaurant in town I bought a round of drinks for a toast to the trip and in stereotypical fashion forgot about that round when I went to buy a round at the bar.    I got the 10 beers delivered to the bar and went to pay and didn’t have any cash left!   Zach bailed me out; it was embarrassing.    I owe him $40 when he comes to Rock Island to learn to kayak.   Eventually we decided that it was enough at that bar, as Aaron has been bragging about “Bikini Beach” for two days.   “Why can’t we just hang out at Bikini Beach?” he kept whining.    On the way to dinner,  “We are going away from Bikini Beach, not towards it, we are going the wrong way, why do we have to go to dinner?”  So finally at about 2am we found our way there, with a few wrong turns.   It was a small pond with a rope swing, some little docks, and bars around it.    I didn’t have a swim suit, but our plan was to go skinny dipping.    Somewhere along the way everyone ended up at the bar and I was swinging off the rope into the water by myself.    It was actually quite refreshing and it was good to be alone for a few minutes, just relishing in the moment.    I managed to find a way to climb high in the tree for a big swing and got a couple of backflips and eventually settled down to a nice float around just looking at the stars.   I tucked my clothes, which included my wallet, gopro, and iphone into a fork in the tree and it stayed safely hidden by itself.     It occurred to me that nobody else was coming swimming and for all I knew they were all gone by now.   After all of that talk, where was Aaron?  Dana had already said that she was not likely to go skinny dipping, so that was no surprise.   I got out of the water and while there were people all around, it was like I was invisible and I managed to get my clothes, get dressed, and walk over to the bar to find the others with no issue.     Our walk back was interesting, as everyone was working hard to make the walk, tired and not exactly sober.     Back into our RVs and crash out, the end to another epic Sturgis day.    I am quite happy that it is over, however, as this isn’t the lifestyle for me, not for any extended period of time.   It is time to get back to my family, to kayaking, exercise, to goal achieving mode.    To be honest, the ride was  very much done in goal achieving mode for me.   To ride well, fast, and make each day safe and fun with 10 hours of riding each day was goal achieving for sure.   Add in the side trips, lack of sleep as an extra challenge, plus the filming, editing of photos, etc.. and it was no walk in the park.    Now, in Sturgis, the trip has turned into a big party, and after three days of concerts, bars, and hanging out, it was time to switch gears.

 

I woke up and did some last minute photo editing before handing my cards to Wes to take home for his big “edit” for GoPro.     When I walked out of the RV at 7:30 only Caleb was out there and ready to leave for the airport.    I said goodbye, as I had another hour or so before I needed a ride there.    When I got my stuff together and went outside to get a ride in, there wasn’t a ride to be had, so I walked to the exit gate of the Buffalo Chip campground and there was Caleb sitting and waiting for a cab.   The beat up mini-van cab pulled up to Caleb before I even got to him and I jumped in with him.   We were both going to be tight on time, but he was 15 minutes before me on departure.    The airport is a little regional one at Rapid City.    We fought Sturgis motorcycle traffic through town and eventually made it.   Neither of us had cash so we stopped at the ATM machine and my card wouldn’t read, only Caleb’s.    Now he would bail me out for the Taxi.   Not my shining moment, again, but luckily he is getting reimbursed for the taxi ride and insisted on paying.  He is going to get a Cuda 12, he said, for fishing on the Hudson River in New York.    Very cool.    Caleb was one of the most fun on the trip.   A vampire, I am sure, with canine teeth that are quite impressive, and get bigger at night.  (I may have mentioned this already, but worth repeating)   If you need a big vampire for protection, Caleb is the man.   He protected me all night last night making sure I didn’t get left behind.   At least three times I found him watching out for me as the group made a quick turn while I was going to the bathroom, or just not paying attention.    Good man in that guy.

 

The flight home was normal.

At Airport ready to go home!

Arrived in Nashville to see Kristine waiting in the Mini.  A big, long, hug and I knew I was home.    Dinner plans at Emily and Nick’s house, but we made a detour to our house to “catch up” and for me to get some clean clothes.     We arrived at Emily and Nick’s house, with KC (my 4 year old) and Lorraine (Kristine’s mom) there already and the grilled fired up.     Steak on a stick, and shish kabobs and a glass of wine started off the night.     Emily offered to make “Amarula” milkshakes, but then Nick got up and pulled out a bottle of Champagne.    “OK, interesting…”  He popped the cork and poured us each a glass, but not Emily.    Hmmm…   “EJ, I wanted to let you know that Emily is pregnant.”    Nick said.      “Wow, the saga continues for the Jackson family.   I will be a grandfather soon,  Emily and Nick will be parents, and KC will have a little Nephew to play with.”   I thought.    Yes, I already guessed she is having a boy.

Our Family with a new addition cooking up inside Emily!

She is only 7 weeks along, so it is a little, not so good looking mouse right now and hard to tell what sex it is.      March delivery date, like Emily and I.  Just in time for Emily to compete in USA Team Trials for the 2013 World Championships at NOC.    Nice planning Nick.

 

What an epic finish, to the Epic Sturgis trip.    Look for a full video edit by Wes Noble from GoPro next week sometime.

 

Thank you Toshi from GoPro for thinking of me for the trip.   Thank you Harley Davidson for putting this thing together!   Also thanks to Christian and Zach for a great itinerary and support during the trip, you guys rocked it!

 

Next blog will be about the new All-Star, training for world cup, being home again, etc..   I am a kayaker again!

Look for news about Dane this week!

 

Signing off….

 

EJ

 

Comments on “My First Motorcycle Experience- A One Week Epic Sturgis Ride- A Harley Davidson/GoPro collaboration of Epic Proportions”

  1. Ray Winter
    August 14, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    Eric, You write a good story maybe another Hemmingway? Remembering our early kayaking days in NH when I wanted to pull the kayak to the river behind my SUZUKI850 ! That was my fifth bike after the Honda 150 the BSA441 the PENTON175 and the BMW 600 . Thanks for encouraging me on those rivers ,Ray ::@drraywinter

  2. Michael
    August 15, 2012 at 1:06 am

    Great recount of your trip. I know it’s petty, but gotta look out for my home town. It’s Bozeman with a Z. Hope ya can keep up the MC trips, it’s a great mini vacation.
    Chetdawg

  3. Robert Paggioli
    September 16, 2013 at 12:15 am

    Perhaps a Harley inspired design coming soon? Combination of power, style, attitude and passion! You provide the motor, Can’t lose.

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