Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – Wild and Free in South Dakota’s Black Hills!

August 2017 – The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has been lighting up the roads around the Black Hills of South Dakota for 77 years, and ever since we experienced the Daytona 200 years ago, we have talked endlessly about taking our RV to Sturgis — until this year when we finally got there!

And what a welcome we received as we drove into town on the first day and discovered the Bikini Bike Wash was already in full swing!

Bikini Bike Wash Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

WOW!!! Welcome to Sturgis!!!

During the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally the little town of Sturgis, South Dakota — population 6,627 as of the 2010 census — is suddenly inundated with 500,000 crazy motorcycle enthusiasts in a wild mix of political incorrectness and patriotism along with a passion for all things Harley Davidson.

Welcome to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Ahem… a lower key welcome…

Overnight, Sturgis transforms into Hog Heaven as thousands of Harleys fill the streets of town. From both rusty and restored antiques to the most recent brand new models, and from plain Jane Harleys to the most exotic and customized hogs imaginable, the love of freedom and the open road is celebrated in grand style for ten days.

Zippy motorcycle with ape-hanger bars Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Some babes wear bikinis at the bike wash. Others zip around town on cool Harleys.

The town of Sturgis first hosted this motorcycle rally back in 1938 when it was known as the Black Hills Classic. After all these years, the town has become expert at rolling out the welcome mat for visiting bikers.

People from all income brackets come to the rally, and no one is left out in the cold. Besides traditional rooms at motels and campsites in campgrounds, signs on the front lawns of the houses and small businesses in town offered tent camping and a chance for a front row seat to the 24/7 parade.

Tent camping in front yards at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Entrepreneurial home and business owners rent out tent space on the front lawn!

Even the local Episcopal church had temporarily transformed into the Church of the Spoke ‘n Wheel.

Church of the Spoke and Wheel Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Church of the Spoke ‘n Wheel — Great sermons, by the way!

In downtown Sturgis both sides of all the streets were lined with motorcycles, and they were parked right down the middle too. Meanwhile, a steady stream of bikers rolled by.

Welcome Bikers Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Motorcycles everywhere!

Motorcycle wheels Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

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Motorcycles pass Jack Daniels booth Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Jack Daniels had a huge vendor tent with free tastings!
Other whiskeys, bourbons and wine were on offer too along with $2 pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Suddenly, Mark insisted we stop at the Rebel Yell Bourbon booth. This was weird, because Mark is a beer drinker not a bourbon guy.

Rebel Yell Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey babes Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Hmmm. Why in the world would Mark want to check out Rebel Yell bourbon?!

Choppers of every style were on glorious display.

Big wheel motorcycle Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

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Big wheel motorcycle Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Some hogs are exquisitely crafted and decorated.

Hot babes were hanging out at a lot of vendor booths and we even saw an angel crossing the street.

Angel Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

An angel walks by.

But there were some real dogs too.

Little pooch gets a ride Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Pooch gets a ride.

Corsets are a favorite outfit for women bikers, and there were plenty to be found. The guys lean towards more bad boy images, and they go for skeletons of all kinds.

Skin tight leather corsets Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Corsets for the ladies…

Bad boy skeleton t-shirt designs Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

…and T-shirt images for the gents!

One of the favorite pastimes for everyone at Sturgis is people watching. Not only do folks set up chairs in front yards all over town, but the bars have outdoor seating, and temporary standup bars are set up along the roads so you can hang out with a beer and watch the wild procession go by.

Bar scene Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Real bars and makeshift bars were filled with people watchers all over town and beyond!

We saw lots of wild animals in Custer State Park, but Sturgis has a lot of wildlife too!

For lots of Sturgis-goers, the longer the beard and the wilder the duds the better. They even have a beard contest (with a dozen categories) that is a qualifier for the National Beard Contest (who knew there was such a thing?!). We saw quite a few good ones:

Tie-dye hippie Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

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Beard contest Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Ready for the beard contest.

We even saw a beard-and-horns combo:

Long beard horns and leather vest Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

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And there were a few headdresses that were totally over the top.

Crazy hat Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

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Black leather was favored by the motorcycle rally crowd, and leather vests were particularly popular with the guys. Folks put huge patches on the back that told a little about themselves.

Hells Angels California Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Hells Angels showed up!

There was a huge contingent with Combat Veteran patches on their backs, and each had additional patches for where they had fought. There was a strong comaraderie among these guys, and their service had been extensive, across continents and decades: Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Desert Storm, Vietnam and more.

Combat vets vest Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Combat vets gathered with pride.

Sturgis draws people from all over the world, and we saw people from very far-flung destinations!

Rally

A pair of visitors from Mazatlan, Mexco…

German visitors Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

…and from Germany too!

Tatoos are really popular with the Sturgis crowd too, and anyone who didn’t come to the rally with one — or who had a bare spot where they could squeeze in another — had plenty of options around town for getting the tatoo image of their dreams, short term or long!!

Get a tattoo Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Need a tatoo? Come get it here!

One of the most impressive tatoos we saw peeked out from behind a leather vest…

Belly tatoo artwork Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Now that’s a tatoo!

The tatoo artists weren’t the only talented graphics designers around town. We watched one attendee plop down on a bench, pull out a sketch pad, and start drawing the crazy motorcycle scene in front of him.

Motorcycle artist Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

An artist begins a drawing of the crazy street scene on his sketch pad.

At one vendor booth a pinstripe artist drew fantastic curvy designs on motorcycle tanks and fenders. I had no idea these guys did this freehand. What skill!!

Motorcycle Pinstripe artist Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

The confidence and steady hand this pinstripe artist had was astonishing. He worked really fast too!

The engineering design at the heart of the whole motorcycle rally, of course, is the Harley Davidson engine. A massive mockup of the engine was on display in the middle of it all.

Harley Davidson engine Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

At the heart of Sturgis — the Harley Davidson engine!!

There were oodles of really clever motorcycle designs everywhere, and we got a huge kick out of seeing them. One beautiful silver one caught my eye, and I idly looked at the price tag. My eyes jumped out of my head when I saw $94,048. It was handwritten and a little funky looking, so I checked the next bike to see if I’d missed a digit or something. Nope! The next (really gorgeous and extremely customized) bike was nearly the same price. Holy smokes!!

Corvette style motorcycle Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

What a cool ride — with a Corvette style back end!

Motorcycle with rear engine Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

The engine is back here — under the lid!!

Motorcycle tailpipes Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Spitting hellfire and fury out the tailpipes!!

Some people stay in the many motels around town and in the surrounding communities, but many people camp in one way or another. Lots of people camp in big beautiful toy haulers, and Jayco was in town with two brand new models that we walked through and checked out. But bunches of folks were camping in tents.

A few even towed a tiny popup tent trailer behind their motorcycle!!

Motorcycle popup tent trailer Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Motorcycle camping in style with a popup!

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is as much an industry trade show as it is a social gathering for like minded motorcycle enthusiasts. Every open piece of land throughout the town and out in the hinterlands was filled with vendor booths, and you could buy anything and everything you ever dreamed of for your bike.

And if your bike needed a tune-up or an oil change, you had a choice of at least a dozen places to get that done!

Every so often as we roamed around we’d here the deafening roar of a motorcycle “giving it all she’s got.” It turned out that several vendors had brought enormous trailers that had a complete laboratory dynamometer inside. After installing an engine tuner on a bike, they would dyno the motorcycle to find out its horsepower and torque!!

Motorcycle speed shop Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

What’s your bike’s horsepower and torque? Find out here!

As we walked through one area, we heard the whine of motorcycle engines revving like crazy. Slithering through the crowd, we found some motorcycle tricksters doing all kinds of crazy stunts. Wow!!

Motorcycle wheelie Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

These guys rode their Kawasakis like they were tiny BMX bikes!

Front wheelie bike tricksters Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

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Motorcycle brake torque burnouts Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Brake torque!!

For those who couldn’t quite pull off a wheelie or do a brake torque on a motorcycle, there was a bike set up on a permanent tilt where you could hop aboard and pose for a photo finish in a motorcycle race. I couldn’t pass that up!!

Motorcycle races Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Weeee!!

In many ways, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a street photographer’s heaven, and we saw cameras and photographers of all kinds roaming around. When we noticed one fellow with a really elaborate setup, we stopped to chat. It turned out he was from the Travel Channel! He was busy videoing bikes on the road, but inside a nearby bar we found the rest of the crew interviewing rally-goers right at the bar!

Travel Channel TV Crew Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

The Travel Channel was interviewing folks at the bar!

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally isn’t limited to the small town of Sturgis. Sturgis is just party central!

People bring their bikes to this part of the country because the roads outside of town, and all through the Black Hills, are so ideal for riding. Knowing they’ll be seeing thousands of bikes roll through during the ten day rally, restaurants, campgrounds and motels in all the outlying towns cater to their every need.

There was live music galore at all hours of the day and night at a dozen different venues in town and many more on the outskirts. Some were lesser known bands, but big headliners including Ozzie Ozbourne performed too!

As we drove around the area, we noticed that a lot of bikes kept heading down one particular road, so we decided to follow them one day.

Sturgis motorcycle rally South Dakota

Rolling thunder! Huge groups of bikes dominated the roads for a 50 mile radius from town. Just incredible!

They were heading to the Full Throttle Saloon, and on the way there we passed several sprawling tent city campgrounds that had been set up to house the motorcyclists for the ten day event.

Tent city Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Tent city campgrounds had sprouted up all over the place. Is $75 a night for a tent site too much?

Even here at the Full Throttle Saloon, about 3 miles from the heart of downtown Sturgis, the place was flooded with beautiful motorcycles.

Full Dressers Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Pick your favorite color…

The candy colors were eye-poppingly pretty, and we wandered from one stunningly gorgeous full dresser big wheel bike to the next.

Full Throttle Saloon Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Stunning full dresser big wheel bikes lined up at the Full Throttle Saloon outside of town.

The rally went on for days, and although we had thought we would just pop in for a few hours on the first day, we ended up spending nearly a week in the area. There’s just so much going on–and we didn’t do even a fraction of it–that it’s very hard to leave!

But every so often you do need to take a break. Among the casual, fun-loving and slightly geriatric crowd at Sturgis, taking a breather is never a problem. You can kick back on your bike and take a snooze right in the middle of it all!

Bike snooze Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Long night last night? Catch a few winks on your bike!

If you have a chance to go to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally at some point, it is a really fun event to attend. I’ve got a few links below to help plan a trip.

Custom motorcycle travel trailer Sturgis Motorcycle Rally South Dakota

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally — a really good time!!

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Other things to see and do in South Dakota – Blog posts from our South Dakota RV travels

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The Best Way to Enjoy Colorado’s Scenic Drives? In a Porsche!

Back in June 2017, we took our RV into the Colorado Rockies and unexpectedly met up with a special friend of mine from high school the day she was hosting a rally for the Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Club. Before we knew it, Mark and I had each hopped into a cute little roadster.

Heading out in a Porsche 356

We arrived in Colorado just in time to participate in a Porsche 356 rally.

We started in Georgetown, Colorado, and once the group of twelve colorful vintage sports cars had gathered, we were off on a beautiful day of driving west of Denver through some of Colorado’s best mountain scenery.

Rally for the Colorado Rocky Mountains Porsche 356 Club

Colorful little roadsters ready for a ride!

Porsche rally in Georgetown Colorado

We did a big loop through some of Colorado’s most breathtaking scenery, starting in Georgetown.

Our planned route would take us over four of Colorado’s big mountain passes: Loveland Pass, Vail Pass, Tennessee Pass and Fremont Pass. Almost as soon as we hit the highway, the snowcapped mountain peaks began to frame every view.

Rocky Mountain 356 Porsche rally in Colorado

Happy drivers take their vintage Porsches for a ride.

Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Rally in Colorado

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Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 rally in Colorado

Beautiful scenery!

The Porsche 356 is a sweet little car that was made from 1948 to 1965. It has two seats up front and a tiny seat in the back. We switched our seating around a few times, and my favorite spot was that little back seat where I had a view of the mountains in every direction.

View from back seat of Porsche 356 convertible in Colorado

I had a great view in all directions from the back seat.

Rocky Mountain 356 Porsche rally in Colorado

In June the mountains were still covered in snow.

The best view was out the back, and I just snapped away with the camera while Mark rode in another car and talked with the driver about all things Porsche for a very happy few hours.

Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Rally in the Colorado Rockies

What a place for a Saturday drive!

It was a glorious late June day and the snow glistened in the bright, warm sun. We weren’t the only ones out enjoying the gorgeous roads and mountains scenery. A cyclist crested Loveland Pass just as we did.

Cyclist on the top of Loveland Pass Colorado

It was a lot easier to get to the top of this pass in a Porsche!

The snow was still surprisingly thick on the mountains, and at one point we even saw skiers zooming downhill at a ski resort. It was a blast to sit in the back seat and watch the line of Porsches snaking around all the curves behind us.

Scenic drive Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Rally in Colorado

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Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Rally in Colorado

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At one point we all parked and got out to stretch our legs and enjoy the views. The mountains were lovely, but I got a kick out of seeing the back sides of all the Porshce 356s lined up in the parking area!!

Colorado Porsche 356 Rally

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Colorado Porsche 356 Rally

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When we got back out on the road again, I was reminded of some of the really fun experiences we’ve had with sports cars out on the open road during our RV travels.

One of the best was the Idaho’s Sun Valley Road Rally, which takes place around the third weekend in July each year. We were fortunate to see the second edition of the Sun Valley Road Rally in 2009 when four members of a family each raced the family Porsche down a straight stretch of the Sawtooth Scenic Byway, achieving higher and higher speeds. The son won the day with a top speed of 188 mph.

We saw it again in 2014 when a fleet of Bugatti Veyrons entered the race. One hit a top speed of 246 mph! A cute 81 year old woman raced her Corvette too, reaching a peak speed of 166 while the loudspeakers played “Little Old Lady of Pasadena.” When she hopped out of her Corvette after she finished, she turned around and her T-shirt said, “Go Granny Go!”

Rally for Porsche 356 Club in Colorado

This fun Porsche rally brought back memories of other exotic car events on the open road.

Porsche roadsters in the Rocky Mountain Porsche 356 Rally in Colorado

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At one point our group of Porsche 356s had to stop and refuel.

Gas stop on Colorado Porsche 356 rally

How fun to see all the Porsches taking turns at the gas station.

But soon we were out on the road again, winding our way through majestic mountain views.

Yellow Porsche Rocky Mountain 356 Porsche rally in Colorado

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A few years ago, we saw the amazing Nevada Open Road Challenge which is held each May. Sports car enthusiasts from all over brought some of the most exotic looking racing cars to Ely, Nevada, to race against the clock on 90 miles of back roads to Las Vegas.

Rally for Porsche 356 roadsters in Colorado

Big mountains. Little Porsche!

Just like the Sun Valley Road Rally, spectators are allowed to mingle with the drivers in the Nevada Open Road Challenge. What a thrill it was to see the drivers get suited up and take off in that race.

It turned out that there are lots of opportunities for people to volunteer and help with the Nevada Open Road Challenge, and we talked with some of the folks about what a good time they had being a part of such an unusual car race.

Rally for Porsche 356 roadsters

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Near the end of our beautiful ride through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, all the Porsches parked in a line for some photo ops. We were delighted to capture these colorful cars all in a row, and the owners proudly posed next to their cars for another round of pics.

Rally for Porsche 356 roadsters in Colorado Rockies

A rainbow of pretty Porsches.

Pretty Porsche 356 roadsters lined up in Colorado

More Porsches join them.

Rocky Mountains Porsche 356 Club Rally

Classy class photo!

I can’t think of a better way to get an overview of the magnificence of Colorado’s mountain scenery than to hop in the back of a friend’s convertible Porsche 356 and drive all around the state for a day. What luck!

Driving a Porsche in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

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But even if you don’t have a friend who has restored a vintage Porsche to take you on an exquisite ride, this part of Colorado is stunning no matter what vehicle you’re in. A map of the route is below in the reference links.

RV camping at sunset in Colorado

We never know where our travels will take us!

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The Porsche 356 Rally Route:

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Acadia National Park – Alluring Beauty on the Maine Coast

June 2015 – Maine’s Mt. Desert Island (pronounced “dessert” despite the spelling!) is home to several small harbor-front towns as well as lovely Acadia National Park. We made a beeline for the trendy and chic seaside town of Bar Harbor as soon as we got there.

Two old cannons face the water in the middle of town, aimed almost directly at a pretty schooner in the harbor. Mark decided to have a look down the barrel of one!

Cannons and schooner Bar Harbor Maine

Boom!

It was early in the morning, well before the crowds of tourists began to fill the streets, and we enjoyed the quiet and peaceful feeling of the place. This is an upscale town loaded with high end galleries and boutique shops, and it was nice to walk the main street and window shop completely by ourselves for a while.

Boutique shops Bar Harbor Maine

Shops on the main drag in Bar Harbor

Another wonderful small waterfront town is Northeast Harbor (whose sister town, Southwest Harbor, lies across the bay). All of these towns made for fun excursions during our stay, and we spent many a happy hour walking along the docks and watching the boats in the harbor.

Boats in Northeast Harbor Maine

Scenic Northeast Harbor

A lot of Maine harbors are geered primarily towards the lobster boat fleet, but Northeast Harbor is also home to many beautiful sailboats — and some unusual looking ones too!

Antique ketch Northeast Harbor Maine

Northeast Harbor has sleek fancy yachts and cute antiques too

Mt. Desert Island is shaped something like a lobster claw with a pair of wide pincers hanging down. Acadia National Park takes up most of the eastern lobe and much of the western lobe too. In the eastern portion — the main part of the park — there is a Loop Road that passes the major sights.

The eastern 2/3 of this road is one way, and in our excitement to see it all on our first day in Acadia, we blew right by the visitors center, missed some key signs and wound up at the far end of the loop road facing the wrong way, trying to figure out how to see the park. Oops!

Scenic drive Acadia National Park Maine

The drives around Mt. Desert Island are wonderful

We got ourselves sorted out the next day and, map in hand, drove the loop clockwise as you are supposed to! Stopping at some of the viewpoints, we were quickly swept up in the beauty of the craggy shorline.

Crashing surf Acadia National Park Maine

Crashing surf on Maine’s rugged coast.

There were wonderful, huge granite boulders, and some of them even held tidepools. I love these northeast tidepools. There are whole ecosystems of algae, seaweed, periwinkels and limpets living in them, and many are lined with an ultra soft and rich red velvet that is some kind of algae.

Tidepools in rocks Acadia National Park Maine

We found lots of pretty tidepools

Rocky coast Acadia National Park Maine

We LOVED the mix of pine trees and jagged granite boulders on the coast.

I wandered way off so I wouldn’t keep getting in Mark’s photos, and around the bend I saw a lobsterman busy hauling his traps. I took a bunch of photos of him and then noticed that he waved to me. I took my camera down from my face to wave back. When I raised it again, I saw through the telephoto lens that he hadn’t been waving — he’d been holding up a wriggling lobster for me!

Unfortunately, he dropped the lobster into his bucket before I realized what he was doing, and I missed the shot.

Darn! The one that got away…

The one that got away!

I didn’t realize he was showing off a lobster for me to photograph until too late!

One of the most popular attractions at Acadia National Park is Thunder Hole, an opening in the rocks where the waves crash in and out, sending up a huge spray of water. To see the biggest spray, you have to catch it as the tide is coming in. The tide was going out when we swung by, but it was still neat to hear the gurgles, gulps and belches booming between the rocks far below as the waves washed in and out.

Thunder Hole - cool sounds on an outgoing tide and huge splashes on an incoming tide

Thunder Hole – Booming sounds on an outgoing tide plus huge splashes on an incoming tide.

This shoreline is very alluring, and we had such fun scrambling over the rocks.

Rock crevice Acadia National Park Maine

I swear, these kinds of big boulders bring out the kid in me.

These are SO MUCH FUN to run around on!

What a coastline! If you don’t want to run and jump on the rocks, Thunder Hole has a solid railing…

Dramatic sky Acadia National Park Maine

A touch of drama in the sky.

Acadia National Park is a very popular place, and the park was very busy even though we had arrived ahead of the summer crowds (New England public schools were still in session because they’d had so many snow days during the endless winter blizzards). The roads are narrow and winding, and some crazy people like to bomb down them like they’re a racetrack.

One group of travelers, however, was enjoying every minute of slow driving on these roads — a Ford Model A club! They were so cute that none of the other drivers objected to their pace. Some 170+ Model A’s attended this rally, and everywhere we went we ran into little groups of them.

Seeing them out on the roads was lilke stepping back in time.

Antique Model A drives up Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

A Ford Model A rally took us back in time.

This group was having a ball, and the weather was perfect for them, so they drove around with the tops down and their beautiful leather suitcases strapped on the back bumpers.

Happy driver of a Ford Model A

Those guys were having too much fun!

Enjoying a fabulous road trip!

Enjoying a fabulous road trip!

Ford Model A cars lined up

These guys were all over the park. What fun!

Another Acadia National Park favorite is to take a drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point in the park. We zoomed up the mountain, watching the views grow ever larger around us. And who was waiting for us at the top? A bunch of those Model A’s!!

Ford Model A parked on Cadillac Mountain Maine

View from the Top

The views were truly beautiful — you can see the many islands of Frenchman Bay in the distance — but we got the biggest kick out of watching these cute Model A’s drive down these wonderful roads. They had come to Acadia National Park from all over the country, most making the trip on their own four wheels. One club member even hailed from Australia, although he’d left his Model A at home.

Ford Model A car drives down Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

What a classic image descending Cadillac mountain!

Two Ford Model A cars descend Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

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If you take your RV to Mt. Desert Island, unless it is fairly short in length and short in stature, you’ll be happiest leaving it behind as you tour the park. The scenic viewpoint parking is not RV friendly and there are bridges on the Loop Road as low as 11′ 8″. We enjoyed a fabulous stay at Narrows Too RV Resort, about 7 miles north of the north entrance to the park.

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Sun Valley Road Rally – Go Granny Go!

Bugatti Veyron

At the Sun Vally Road Rally you can see more than just the back end
of a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse!

July, 2014 – We found out that the Bugatti race cars had come to Sun Valley, Idaho for a reason.

We had arrived in the town of Ketchum just in time for the annual Sun Valley Road Rally, a car race we had seen in its second edition back in 2009.

This very cool “see how fast you can go” road race benefits The Drug Coalition of Blaine County.

For the race, the local cops clear Route 75 north of Ketchum, and participants pay $2,000 per run to drive any car they wish for two miles at top speed.

At the finish line, each car’s speed is recorded on radar.  And for once, the fastest car through the speed trap wins!

Future car racer at Sun Valley Road Rally in Idaho

A future car racer checks out a slick Camaro.

Five years ago, when we last saw the Sun Valley Road Rally, it was dominated by a mom, dad, son and daughter who passed the key to their family Porsche Carrera from one to the next as each took a turn in the driver’s seat.

The mom hit 181, the daughter reached 183 mph and the dad got to 186 mph, but the son topped them all at 188 and won the race.

Cars entering the Sun Valley Road Rally car race in Idaho

Cool cars and ski mountains — that’s Sun Valley for you!

Things have changed a LOT since then.  This year a fleet of six Bugatti Veyrons showed up.

These quad turbo charged cars sell for $2.7 million, have an exclusive “W-16” cylinder design (not a “V-8”), and 188 mph is an easy jog for them.  They go from 0 to 62 mph in 2.6 seconds.

Ferrari and other cars at the car show in Sun Valley Idaho

A Ferarri 458 cuddles with two companions at the car show

McClaren Can-Am Race Car Sun Valley Road Ralley Idaho

It’s the Bat Mobile! Wait…no…it’s a vintage McClaren Can-Am car!!

Spirits were high the night before the race when a parade of fantastic cars zipped through town before the kick-off car show.

This race is open to everyone, and we saw all kinds of fun cars.

An old bright red bathtub Porsche convertible went by.  It had a pair of skis tied to the back and an antique suitcase lashed to the trunk.

“He’s going to race like that?”  I wondered out loud.  The guy next to me nodded.  This race is all about having a good time.

Crowds watch the Sun Valley Road Rally

The crowds filled the fields on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway

“Hey look, it’s the Bat Mobile!” I nudged Mark as a bizarre blue machine roared past.

We later found out it was a 1980’s era McClaren Can-Am car, and it had a bouquet of velocity stacks towering in back.

The next day, out on the race track (well, the highway), the crowd gathered, bussed up from town in school buses.

 

Bugatti Veyrons ready to race in Sun Valley Idaho

The cars line up before the race.

The Bugattis got lined up at the start while the first car of the day, a Porsche, flew past the crowd at a whopping 219 mph.

Wow.  The race was off to an incredible start!

A few more cars limped by in the 180’s and then all our heads turned at once as a blue car flew past at a blinding speed.

“238!” The announcer cried.  “From a Nissan GTR!”

I heard some low whistles around me.  Then the announcer dropped his voice:  “And the Bugattis aren’t happy…”

Bugattis line up for the Sun Valley Road Rally

The Bugattis huddle together upon hearing news of an ultra fast Nissan.

The gauntlet had been thrown.  We watched some Ferarris, Lamborghinis, Audi R8’s and a Ford 500 GT and a few other cars to do their runs.  Nothing touched the Nissan.  And then the first Bugatti ran. It sounded awesome. It looked really fast…

“229!” The announcer yelled

He sounded almost apologetic! We all stared at each other in surprise.  Could a Nissan take the day at 238 mph??!!

Bugatti race car crosses the finish line at Sun Valley Road Rally

The first Bugatti crosses the line…a little too slowly!

One by one, the Bugattis rocketed past us. They were painted in gorgeous colors — two-toned blue, light silver, dark silver and orange.  As each one passed, we all held our breath, waiting to hear the speed. And with every single one we all let out a disappointed sigh:  “229….229….230…”

These Bugatti Veyrons just weren’t cutting it!

I heard murmurs around me.  Would a lowly Nissan that sells for a meager $250k beat a car ten times the price??  Not possible!! Then we all watched in awe as a white dot on the horizon came down the notorious Phantom Hill at lightning speed. I swear, if he went any faster he would have been airborne.

Bugatti sets record at Sun Valley Road Rally

Did you see THAT?? This Bugatti Veyron was booking!

Benjamin Chen with his winning Bugatti at Sun Valley Road Ralley in Idaho

Proud owner and driver Benjamin Chen with his awesome car.

“244!”  The announcer boomed.  “244!  A Bugatti”

OMG.  Who WAS this guy?

At the break between heats we rushed down to the finish line to mingle with the cars and drivers and watch them prepare for their next run.

Benjamin Chen, the owner and driver of this white and gold dream machine, was beaming.

He is a massively successful equity manager, but you’d never guess it looking at his boyish grin and blue jeans as he gave us the thumbs up.

Josh Ramsey ready to race a Nissan GTR in Sun Valley

Young driver Josh Ramsey with his incredible Nissan GTR. The green tape was to help with wind flow and to keep the hood from opening at 200+ mph.

A few cars down from him we met up with Josh Ramsey who would be driving the upstart Nissan GTR for its second run in the next heat.

Just 23 years old, and a self-made race car driver who got his start by sweeping floors in the car owner’s shop for nothing, he was excited and nervous, wanting so badly to beat the Bugattis at their own game.

But the tension and rivalry between these top cars was just a small part of the day.  There was lots of action in the lower ranks too.

 

 

1957 Corvett convertible at Sun Valley Road Rally in Idaho

Mike donned vintage glasses and his wife wore a scarf on their run,
going 110 mph in this 1957 Corvette!

A husband and wife went on a very fast date together, driving their 1957 Corvette convertible at 110 mph.

He wore antique goggles and she wore a fashionable scarf.

A 1950’s open wheel hot rod that had turned heads in the parade crossed the line at 98 mph.

Then another heat of 12 cars lined up and left the staging area to drive to the start line and set up to race.

 

hot rod racing in Sun Valley Road Rally in Idaho

What’s a car race without a hot rod, especially one that can go 98 mph!

“Did you see that driver in the yellow Corvette?” Mark suddenly said to me.  “She’s the little old lady from Pasadena!”

Huh?  I didn’t know what he was talking about until a little while later when the yellow Corvette flew across the finish line and pulled over to park near me.

A grandma climbed out of the driver’s seat, took off her helmet and brushed her hand through her hair.

Car racer Shirley Veine age 81 in Sun Valley Road Rally in Idaho

81 year old Shirley Veine stole the show at 166 mph in her bright yellow Corvette

“Wow!”  She gushed, looking up at me.  “That was fun!”

“You hit 166,” a young woman yelled as she rushed over to give her a hug.

“How old are you?” I asked, astonished.

“81” She grinned.

Go Granny Go Shirley Veine races her Corvette in Sun Vally Idaho

The Little Old Lady from Pasadena says she LOVES to go fast!!

“You know, I’ve been 120 mph before,” she said mischievously. “Out on those roads where nobody cares. But I’ve never raced before!”

Really!

When she turned around to pump her fist in the air for her fans, her T-shirt said, “Go Granny, Go!(That link goes to the song on YouTube for you, LOL!)

 

Josh Ramsey races a Nissan GTR in Sun Valley Idaho

The Nissan GTR had laid down the gauntlet and had hopes for the high 240’s, but a mechanical failure got in the way.

Meanwhile the race was heating up between the Bugattis and the Nissan.

Benjamin had taken his white and gold Bugatti across the line at 246 mph on his second run, and another Bugatti had matched the Nissan’s 238 mph.

The heat was on.

In the end, though, very unfortunately, the Nissan had a mechanical failure

Our hearts sank its young driver Josh limped back in after his run, wreathed in disappointment.

 

Benjamin Chen wins in a Bugatti Veyron at Sun Valley Road Rally

Victorious Benjamin Chen hit 246 mph on the golden spoked wheels
of his Bugatti Veyron.

However, even if he hadn’t won the day, at least his team had given those Bugattis a run for their money.

Over at the leaderboard, champ Benjamin’s grin went from ear to ear as he showed us his winning speed.

He told us the magic key on his necklace puts the car in a special “top speed mode,” dropping the spoiler, closing the air diffusers, and lowering the ground clearance.

Oh, to be a multi-millionaire with a super cool race car and a brilliant a sunny day to play with it out on the open road, especially smack in the middle of the Sawtooth Scenic Byway!

National Sawtooth Scenic Byway

The driver’s view (minus the cars) down Phantom Hill on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway
where, for once, the fastest car in the speed trap wins!

_________________________

See the following links for the Sun Valley Road Rally and the Sawtooth Scenic Byway in Idaho.

 

 

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Nevada Open Road Challenge – A NEED for SPEED!

May, 2014 – After our exciting slot canyon hike and our happy romps amid the beautiful wildflowers and “toadstools” just north of the Vermillion Cliffs in southern Utah, we put in some long hours on the road, driving north and west through Utah and into Nevada.

The roads in Utah were familiar and were loaded with memories as we passed through Kanab and the wonderful Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, on up through Panguitch and past its turn-offs for Zion National Park, Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks.

Straight lonely highways in Nevada

This is Hayabusa country!

But when we got into Nevada we were in new territory.  The roads were straight and deserted, and the vast valleys on either side of us seemed to go on forever.  There wasn’t a building or car in sight all the way to the horizon in every direction.

“This is Hayabusa country,” Mark suddenly said.  “This would be so perfect for a fast motorcycle!” Continue reading

San Diego’s Shelter Island – A Lively Waterfront!

Shelter Island San Diego

Shelter Island is a great place to sit for a spell!

Summer-Fall, 2013 – While we were in San Diego, living in one of the marinas in Shelter Island’s “backyard,” we discovered a summer-long party was going on out on the island’s “front yard” that faces the bay.

Statue of kid with balloons

A bronze statue is dressed up with balloons

Shelter Island’s unique waterfront park invites visitors to spread out a picnic, or kick back with a book under a tree, or host a birthday party, or gather the whole clan for a huge family reunion, and these kinds of festive happenings go on whenever the sun is shining, which is pretty much every afternoon!

Sunbathing on Shelter Island

Shelter Island’s little beach is great for sunbathing.

Whenever we took a stroll across the street from the marina, the bay side of Shelter Island was hopping with activity. Joggers, walkers and people with dogs filled the paths, while sunbathers and fishermen hung out by the water’s edge. Shelter Island Drive, the road that runs the length of this spit of land, is a about a mile long, and it is a favorite place for people to show off their sports cars. We spotted high-end cars of every variety driving by. After a while we got used to looking up and seeing something exotic rolling past, like a Ferarri or Lotus or Bentley or Rolls Royce.

Roadster on Shelter Island

California Dreaming…

This is California, after all, where cruising in a sporty roadster is an iconic pastime. One day we found a Porsche car show was in full swing at one end of the island. Porsches of every color and from every era filled the grassy lawn by the water. Proud owners stood back and smiled while their cars were ogled and photographed.

Porsche car show Shelter Island

Porsches are lined up at a car show

Many of the cars had cute license plates. I liked the one that said “It’s qwik.”

Porsche - it's quik!

This is a fast one!

The Porsche car show was set up for just a few hours that Saturday, but the local RVs were there every day.

Porche car show on Shelter Island

What a place to show off these beautiful cars

RVs up to 30′ long are given designated parking spaces that they can stay in 22/7 — all but the wee hours of the morning. A group of “regulars” showed up early every morning to take their favorite spots along the waterfront.

Decorated RV on Shelter Island

There’s a little of everything here

Just as unique and eye-popping as any sporty Porsche was one fellow’s Class C motorhome. He had decorated if from stem to stern in crazy, colorful doo-dads and stickers. The exterior of his rig was an evolving work of art, and we watched him carefully adding goodies to it every so often.

Prevost at Humphreys

The RV culture on Shelter Island includes million dollar rigs!

At the opposite end of the spectrum, famous rock and rollers pulled into Shelter Island every few days to perform in outdoor concerts at Humphreys. Their posh RVs were given designated parking too, right in the Humphreys parking lot!! Seeing these million dollar rigs lined up always prompted chatter among the passersby, “Who’s playing tonight?”

Fishing Pier cShelter Island

This little pier is Shelter Island’s fishing hub

Their lineup was impressive, and bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Moody Blues were on the roster during our stay. We hoped to catch a glimpse of a famous face, or at least get a peak inside a rig, or just talk to a roadie, but we never got quite that lucky. There were times, though, when there were four or five of these million dollar motorhomes parked in front of Humphreys, their generators humming.

Big tree on Shelter Island

Shelter Island has lots of huge and elegant trees

A few hundred yards away, the fishermen were lined up on the fishing pier, poles reaching out over the water, their ice buckets and coolers at their feet.

Jungle gym slide on Shelter Island

Little kids have their own place
on Shelter Island too.

Shelter Island’s captivating view looks straight across the bay at downtown San Diego, but it is the enormous trees towering over the shore that will always remain etched in my memory. These mammoth trees seem to reach for the sky, and they have shaded decades of parties and gatherings under their branches.

Bougainvillea trellis Shelter Island

Trellises covered with bougainvillea dot the walking paths

The little jungle gym in the middle of the island was always full of kids playing on the swings and slide.

Bell of Friendship from Yokohama to San Diego

Yokohama’s “Bell of Friendship” was given to San Diego in 1960.

At the far end of Shelter Island there is a Japanese monument, complete with a little red roofed structure that houses a very special “Bell of Friendship” along with a huge hanging mallet to strike it. This bell was presented to San Diego in 1960 by her “sister city,” Yokohama, Japan.

Morning mist on Shelter Island

Morning mist on Shelter Island

The whole monument faces right out to the open Pacific ocean beyond San Diego’s protected bay, and there is a longing and almost haunting quality to it.

Marvelous Muffins on Shelter Island Drive

Marvelous Muffins are MARVELOUS!

Although the afternoons were usually bright and sunny, the mornings were often very misty and foggy, and we often woke to the sound of water dripping from our boat’s rigging onto the deck. That’s when we would to head to Marvelous Muffins, a sweet little muffin shop that was warm and cozy and smelled yummy inside. The shop’s owner Sophie would greet us with a huge smile, and despite having hundreds of customers, many of whom have been coming daily for years, she soon knew our names and our favorite order: a cranberry bran muffin and a blueberry bran muffin.

Yoga on standup paddle boards

Morning yoga exercises in the bay

We liked to think that starting the day with a bran muffin was fairly healthy, but one morning as we nibbled our treats, we were quite taken aback when we saw three people doing yoga on their stand-up paddle boards out in the bay.

San Diego's Festival of Sail

San Diego’s Festival of Sail

Wow! Where else would you see something like that? Another day we wandered across from the marina to see the Festival of Sail, a fabulous tall ship parade.

New and old ships in San Diego

The NEW and the OLD!

People set up their chairs on the lawn and pulled out their binoculars and cameras to watch the ships sailing past. What a fun show. Historic ships of all kinds ghosted past, all sails flying. I loved seeing the ultra modern design of a race boat next to the salty lines of an old wooden schooner. What a contrast. Each boat harnesses the wind for propulsion, but in such totally different ways.

Tall ships of every kind sailed past

Tall ships of every kind sailed past

Tall ship in San Diego

These beautiful ships sailed towards downtown.

Tall ships in San Diegp

Tall ships and sailboats on San Diego Bay

Wanna race?

Local boaters got close to the action, sailing between the tall ships, and many of the local charter boats took their customers out for a view from the front row.

Tall ship cannon blast

Cannon blast!

This was a beautiful parade that moved past in silence and slow motion.

Tall ship at sunset

A tall ship catches the light at sunset

Some of the tall ships had been war ships in a bygone era and had been armed to the teeth in their day. Several of them broke the silence with cannon blasts as they went by. These explosions evoked a shout of excitement from us onlookers standing in the grass. But how frightening it must have been to be caught in a skirmish — a true dance macabre — between ships like these back when the coasts were untamed.

Fishermen statue

San Diego celebrates all the ways people enjoy the sea

San Diego has one of the most accessible waterfronts of any big city, and the statues all along the waterfront pay homage to the many ways that people enjoy the sea. We loved this statue of three fishermen reeling in their catch, and after we both tried many different angles on it, Mark captured this beautiful shot at dusk. The wonderful thing about Shelter Island is that even when there isn’t a formal tall ship parade going by, there is always something happening on the water.

A cruise ship lights up the bay as it sails towards downtown

A cruise ship lights up the bay as it sails towards downtown

Big cruise ships come into San Diego on a regular basis too. What a sight it is when one passes by, all lit up like a Christmas tree from stem to stern. It was a gift to be able to live on Shelter Island where everything from car shows to boat parades to little kids playing on swings to folks casting for fish to people walking and jogging along the waterfront all happened right in our own front yard. We relished all the action, but were always glad to be able to retreat at the end of the day to Shelter Island’s back yard of marinas where the the sunsets became ever more spectacular as the summer slipped into fall and then early winter!

Sunset on Harbor Island

The sunsets became ever more dramatic as Fall progressed.

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