KEEP YOUR HEAD ON A SWIVELExperts would probably phrase this something more like “watch for motorcycles in your blind spots.” However you want to say it, it’s solid advice. Folks driving cars, trucks and SUVs need to be vigilant, especially these next couple of weeks. Double check before merging or changing lanes, especially on interstate and state highways. If you’re part of the motorcycle crowd, give other vehicles plenty of space and make sure you’re not darting in and out of their blind spots. Here are some other tips for motorcycle riders: https://southdakotarides.com/stay-safe-at-sturgis/.
GIVE YOURSELF EXTRA TIMEOne of the best things about living in South Dakota is the overall light traffic. You can usually get from one side of Rapid City to the other in about 20 minutes – and that’s with construction. It’s going to be a little different the next couple of weeks. Anecdotally, we’ve heard a lot of comments about more tourist traffic than usual already this summer. That’s only going to amplify the next couple weeks. There will be more motorcycles, trailers, campers, trucks, etc. Speeding is responsible for almost 1/3 of crashes in the last decade, per the S.D. Office of Highway Safety. So, slow down and give yourself extra time to account for slower-moving traffic lines, clogged intersections, and sparse parking.
REMEMBER SPEED LIMIT CHANGESWe’re used to open roads and high speed limits. As of yesterday, the speed limit on Interstate 90 is 65 mph (instead of 75 mph) from Rapid City to 1 mile west of Sturgis. Be sure to watch for speed limit changes in high traffic or construction areas. When in doubt, slow down! You can also follow the South Dakota Highway Patrol, South Dakota Department of Transportation, and local law enforcement agencies on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for real time updates on traffic impacted by weather or crashes.
KNOW YOUR ROUTETake a little extra time planning your route before you start, as well. Navigation systems are great, but even hands-free options can be distracting when you need to focus on the road. If you’re going somewhere new or unfamiliar, map it out ahead of time. And for visitors to the area, remember the Black Hills have a lot of winding, narrow roads.
WATCH THE WEATHERWith our notoriously fickle weather, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the sky. (It is still hail season, after all.) Luckily, there are myriad weather websites, apps or local storm chasers who can keep you up-to-date on any abrupt wind shifts.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE CLOCKIt’s hard to gauge “peak travel times” during the rally. There isn’t really a rush hour (such as there ever is in these parts) so much as a “rush week.” That said, traffic on Interstate 90 and the major highways does start to pick up at 5 p.m. People dispersed throughout the hills during the day all start to head back into Sturgis for the evening. I-90 between Sturgis and Rapid City is especially busy in the evening. Plan accordingly.
CHECK THE SCHEDULEIt seems obvious, but we’ll reiterate that the Sturgis rally traffic extends far beyond the Sturgis city limits. A big part of the rally, after all, are the organized bike rides through the Hills. Many surrounding communities hold special events during the rally, as well. So, for instance, if you decide you’d like to head for the Southern Hills to hide out, just make sure you don’t wind up in Custer on Aug. 10, the day of its Custer Cruisin’ Mayor’s Ride. Or if you make a beeline for the Wyoming border, just know that Burnout Wednesday in Sundance, Wyoming, (Aug. 11) always draws a huge crowd. A few communities, like Deadwood, pack in the events for the whole week. So whether you’re looking to join the crowds or avoid them entirely, it’s not a bad idea to have an idea of the rally’s biggest events and locations. But if you do accidentally attend a rally-related event – hey, it could end up being fun. The people watching alone is usually worth whatever time you spend. Pro tip: There isn’t really one single event calendar for the rally. The city of Sturgis, the Buffalo Chip Campground, local campgrounds and event venues and surrounding communities all have their own event schedules and websites. It’s generally easier to pick where you want to go and check that location for rally-related activities before heading out. Here are links to some of the organizations with the largest event calendars for this year’s rally. Some places charge an entry fee on top of ticket prices for particular events. Be sure to check each event for details:
- City of Sturgis
- Sturgis Buffalo Chip
- Full Throttle Saloon
- Glencoe Campground
- Iron Horse Saloon
- The Knuckle Saloon
- Loud American Roadhouse
- Jackpine Gypsies