As far as the eye can see, there's nothing friendly about South Dakota'sBadlands. The size of an ocean, it stretches across the horizon, sculpted into canyoned mazes with lots of ways in, but seemingly no way out. Legend has it that even the tough Native American Indians of the region stayed out of this place.
But today, if you're a guy toting a fat salami or a girl with big twins, the Badlands are the place you head every August. And these select individuals bring the following with them every year: beer bellies, sagging tattoos, wind-burnt skin, and stereotypical leather clothing that looks like it all came from the same catalog.
The event is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and it's right up with Bike Week in Daytona if you're into the Harley-Davidson thing. In its 66th year, the event draws 500,000 people to the western side ofSouth Dakota. This increases the state's population by 75 percent, and literally transforms towns like Sturgis, Spearfish, and Deadwood into temporary HOG heaven or hell, depending on your point of view. (For you non-bikers, HOG stands for Harley Owners Group, fat salamis are exhaust pipes, and big twins are large-displacement V-twin engines.)
Town main streets are lined with bikes and bikers and babes. Campgrounds and hotels are filled, and locals even rent out space in their front yards for bikers to pitch tents. City-funded port-a-johns take care of that need for tent dwellers, while some enterprising individuals offer shower stations for five bucks a rinsing. Along with these small-time gigs, major commercial commerce follows the two-wheeled crowd to the rally, so anything related to the biker lifestyle is available for purchase. Plunk down your cash for everything from temporary tattoos to custom bikes to tricked-out semi-trucks with enclosed bike haulers.