Keystone attracts bikers

Leslie Silverman

The 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally drew huge crowds to the tiny town of Keystone.

“We were going to come no matter whether they cancelled it or not,” said Carlos Brando, 38 of Fort Lauderdale.

He rode 3,000 miles so far on his bike. It is his second time at the rally.

“The ride itself, it’s not only about Sturgis it’s about riding through the Black Hills,” he said. “Even if they had closed Sturgis we would still have come out because of the ride. The only time you’re going to have contact with somebody is when you sit down for lunch.”

Brando chose to wear a mask during our interview, but some of his travel companions are without masks.

“I protect myself,” he said. “Everybody has the right to make their own choices. If they choose not to wear a mask that’s on them. Most of our group wear a mask. Some of our guys don’t. We’re staying in the same house. But we protect ourselves inside the house. I wear a mask in the house. Some guys don’t. They’re making their own choices.”

Brando is traveling with 11 other bikers and is the youngest in his group of riders.

Like others, he noticed some changes due to COVID-19.

“We sat at a table that seated only five or six,” Brando said. “So some of us sat at a nearby table that had a sign on it that said, “ leave it blank. Don’t sit here.”  We took both tables. Even though we’re in the same group the manager of the restaurant said, ‘you can’t do that.’ So we had to skip a table so part of our group had to sit separately.”

Brando noticed different restrictions in each state.

“Usually the business would have a sign,” making it easy to figure out what each state’s rules were, he said. He also noticed that, “there are a lot of stations everywhere with hand sanitizer, restrooms everywhere. It’s been great. It’s really, really nice.”

First time rally riders, James Winchester, 61, and Jason Manns, 48, of Arkansas, rode 1,200 miles to come to the 80th rally.

“We just hadn’t been,” Winchester said. “We’ve been putting if off for years and decided to come.”

The pandemic did not worry them in the least.

“We noticed the closer we got there was less mask wearing,” Winchester said. In Arkansas they have to wear a mask.

“It’s very pretty,” Winchester said of the Black Hills. “A lot cooler than I thought it would be.”

Chad Countryman rode into the area on a Harley Road Glide, riding nearly 1,000 miles to get here from Kansas.

“We’re really pleased the rally happened and that life is normal for the most part,” he said.

He made few behavioral changes other than wearing a mask in a few stores.

“We have a Democratic Governor,” Countryman said. “I live in Lawrence like the most democratic of the cities. In Kansas (wearing a mask) is pretty prevalent. …A lot of us in other states are really big fans of your governor. It’s great to see your state is welcoming and feeling pretty good about it.”

Matt Burton of Wisconsin rode 800 miles and “pretty much bypassed” Minnesota on his way here.

“We love the Black Hills,” he said. “The beauty really draws us. The camaraderie and everything else that goes on during the rally—it’s just fun to take in.”

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