Bikers by the hundreds were milling around Hill City. They were darting in and out of stores and restaurants all while bonding with their fellow bikers who also made the trek to the Black Hills for the 79th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
While the weather was cooler this year than in years past — and the possibility of rain and thunderstorms daily was a real threat to the crowds — that didn’t seem to dampen the mood of the attendees.
“I’ve been coming here for a couple of years,” said Larry Palmer, of York, Penn., of the Sturgis Rally. “I love the Hills and the rally in general. It’s one big family reunion.”
On Monday, Aug. 5, the fourth day Main Street in Hill City had been shut down to motorcycle traffic only, after a morning rainstorm the main thoroughfare in Hill City was packed.
Traffic counts from the South Dakota Department of Transportation show a slight increase of 2018 in vehicles entering Sturgis for the Rally.
The unique sidewalks in Hill City that often can present a hazard for Main Street patrons provided to be the perfect resting stop for those who wanted to watch the goings-on.
It was there that Palmer, the frequent Sturgis participant, proclaimed his love for the Black Hills.
“The people here (both Rally participants and residents of the Black Hills) are great,” he said. “And I love talking with the other rally-goers.”
It’s easy to see Palmer’s love for the rally participants. Bikers driving down the road often wave to one another, signifying their membership in a fraternity of sorts where the entrance fee is a motorcycle.
Bikers in Hill City spent time and visited with one another, helping complete strangers back their bikes into that perfect spot on Main Street.
All the while, the main noise in Hill City was the sound of 1980s hair metal blaring from the bikes combined with the sound of exhaust pipes filling the air with noise and exhaust.
For some, the Sturgis Rally is a bucket list item. Paul Johnson, of Minneapolis, Minn., was one of them.
“The Hills are so beautiful,” he said. “There’s no place I’d rather ride.”
And riding in the Hills — particularly the Central Hills — has been safe this year with more people than in 2018.
According to the department of transportation, on Friday, Aug. 2, there were 51,933 vehciles, which was up 5.1 percent from Friday last year. On Saturday, Aug. 3, there were 59,759 entrants, which was down -0.6 percent from Saturday in 2018. On Sunday, Aug. 4, there were 55,325 vehicles counted, which was up 6.1 percent from Sunday last year.
Over the three-day total, 167,014 vehicles were counted around Sturgis, which was up 3.3 percent from last year at 161,696 vehicles.
Throughout the Black Hills, as of 6 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 5 since 6 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3, there had been no fatal accidents, according to information provided by the South Dakota Highway Patrol. During that same time period, there were a total of 12 people injured in crashes and 13 people involved in crashes where there were no injuries.
Some crashes of note:
At noon on Sunday, Aug. 3, on U.S. Hwy. 16A near mile marker 46 10 miles west of Keystone, a motorcycle was eastbound when the driver failed to negotiate a curve. The rider crossed the centerline and collided with a westbound motorcycle, according to the release.
All three people involved sustained serious non-life threatening injuries. The 77-year-old male driver of the first motorcycle was wearing a helmet. The two occupants of the second vehicle, the male driver, 59, and the female passenger, 56, were not wearing helmets, according to the release.
Shortly after, at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 3, on South Dakota Hwy. 87 near mile marker 57 five miles east of Custer, a motorcycle was southbound and failed to negotiate a curve in the road. The motorcycle traveled off the roadway into the east ditch and collided with a rock, according to the release.
The male driver, 64, was thrown from the motorcycle. He was not wearing a helmet and sustained serious non-life threatening injuries.
Later that same day, on Fisherman Flats Road 12 miles southwest of Hermosa, a motorcycle was westbound when the male driver swerved to miss a hole in the road. The driver, 41, lost control of the motorcycle. Both the male driver and the female passenger, 40, received minor injuries, and neither were wearing a helmet, according to the release.
Year to date last year there were a total of 14 non-injury accidents and 12 accidents resulting in injury. There were also two fatal accidents year to date last year according to a release.
From 6 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3 to 6 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 5, there were 51 total charges for driving under the influence, with seven of those coming from the Rapid City district and 44 coming from the City of Sturgis. To date, last year there had been 36 charges for driving under the influence, according to the release, throughout the Black Hills.
This year, too, there have been 64 charges for misdemeanor drug arrests with 15 of those coming from the Rapid City District and 49 coming from the city of Sturgis. Year to date last year there were 56 misdemeanor drug charges.
During that same time period this year, there were 45 people arrested and charged with felony drug offenses. Of those, 10 of those are from the Rapid City district and 35 from the city of Sturgis. Last year to date there had been 21 people arrested and charged with felony drug offenses.
However, Sarah Thompson, of Tampa, Fla., said she thinks this year is going better than in years past.
This was her third year participating in the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and, for her, the Hills are beautiful.
“The weather is a lot better than it is in Florida, too,” she said. “I love to ride down to Hill City from Sturgis. Hill City is always a destination stop.”