Nineteen years ago I rode to Sturgis with my best chum Tom Delaney.
We began in Yankton where Tom loaned me a Road King. As we headed west we joined a great river of bikers, a recreation on mechanical steeds of the Western migration of the 1840s and 50s. Most of the pilgrims were professionals on vacation although as always, there were many outlaw bikers as well.
Outside Sturgis traffic was backed up 15 miles. But Tom had lived in Sturgis and knew a back way in, which we used, saving hours. We camped out at the notorious Buffalo Chip east of town. In Sturgis itself, bikes were everywhere.
You’ve seen the pictures. You could walk from one side of the town to the other stepping only on motorcycle seats. Of course if you did that, you would be beaten to death.
The Chip’s restrooms were beyond primitive. Saturday morning I entered one and found an unconscious biker slumped on the concrete apron amid the stench and toilet paper. Since then they have renovated the toilets. As Tom and I walked toward the Hells Angels’ nitrous franchise, we passed a springer Harley and a man with a dog.
Tom said, “That’s a nice springer.”
I said, “That’s not a springer, it’s some kind of lab.”
Tom looked at me incredulous. “What?”
I turned toward the dog’s owner and said, “What kind of dog is that?”
The man, flying high, looked at me belligerently. “It’s a good dog. Why?”
Tom took my arm and steered me away.
I bought a balloon of nitrous from the Angels. The first one blew. The second one blew. The third one blew. The fourth one blew. The fifth one blew. I believe the sixth held.
The headliner that night was Jonny Lang, but before he came on, Cher came out to give away a free Harley. Cher was a regular at these things because of the movie “Mask”. All went well until Cher said, “I want to tell you about my good friend Bill Clinton.”
Fifty thousand bikers: “BOOOOOOOOOO!”
Cher: “Wait a minute! He’s a really good guy! Let me tell you…”
The booing and jeers were intense and prolonged, driving Cher from the stage.
She never returned.
Mike Baron is the creator of “Nexus” (with artist Steve Rude) and “Badger,” two of the longest lasting independent superhero comics. Baron has won two Eisners and an Inkpot award and written “The Punisher,” “Flash,” “Deadman” and “Star Wars” among many other titles.
His “Biker” novels follow a reformed motorcycle hoodlum turned private investigator. He lives in Colorado with his wife Ann and some dogs.