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Sturgis: Snippets From The Memory Of A Vendor

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Buffalo Chip

The first time I ever worked Sturgis it was at the Buffalo Chip Campground. All the security guards were wearing dusters – August in South Dakota? After careful observation I notice that all the security people had semi automatic weapons under the dusters. During the event a woman walked by my stand, casually picked up a jacket and kept moving. Thirty yards down the row I confronted her. With wide eyed innocence she asked: “Where do I pay for this?”

Paul and Friend

Blowing In the Wind

Crossing Main Street after midnight on a breezy evening when my briefcase loaded with thousands of dollars opened up and money was blowing everywhere. Everyone on the street to the man and to the woman chased down the blowing money and kept at it until every scrap was returned.

Day Care

My kids, probably 7 and 10 at the time, worked long hours. If the afternoons were slow I’d just let them run the streets. They were already veterans of the biker circuit so almost all the “Outrageous” cavorting you see at major bike rallies were commonplace for them. They nonchalantly strolled in the store around five and informed us that they had just come from a shoot out/murder down the street. We had gone through another one the year before at the Baltimore Toy Run.

Pete & Seth looking through post swapmeet debris in search of lost treasure.

Pete & Seth looking through post swapmeet debris in search of lost treasure.

The Mouse That Roared

When I worked major rallies the cost of hauling, housing and feeding large crews could take away a lot of profit. I had a network of christian bikers and others that I would use around the country. In Sturgis the chamber of commerce had set up a labor pool to serve the vendors and supply employment for local people. I hired about seven women. With a superficial assessment I put the most capable looking people out front and placed the shy, retiring types in the back organizing stock.

As the day wore on everyone left but one woman who I had assigned to the back. Her name was Cindy. She appeared to be a radically soft-spoken, diminutive member of the mouse clan. We needed help selling and I reluctantly and skeptically enlisted her in the front lines. It was just me, my wife, kids and Cindy. We were busy. Cindy walked out the door with a customer and a set of saddlebags. In my soul I rolled my eyes apprehensively. Saddle bags are very hard to sell. Often you have to install the bags on the bike and they usually have to be perfect. Many people are more vain about the appearance of their bike than they are about themselves. Cindy came back in the store with the money. She had five kids and needed money for school supplies and clothes for the fast approaching school year.

After some time had passed she gently and quietly asked if the amount of merchandise she sold would affect her pay. I said yes. Cindy nodded and walked away. I had about fifty bags with me which was an extremely optimistic inventory. At the end of the event the bags were gone. Cindy had sold almost all of them along with lots of other stuff.

Paul, Eddie and Seth (front row) with some of the road crew


My good friend Kenny Apple, who now promotes the East Coast Motorcycle Rally in Little Orleans Md., had hooked up with yet another woman. Kenny had no wheels and worked on me relentlessly to drive hundreds of miles in the opposite direction from my Virginia home after the rally so I could deliver him on the doorstep of his new love in Colorado. I decided to tie it in with a visit to Pikes Peak for my overworked and under-vacationed kids. Somewhere in the southeast corner of Wyoming Seth, about age five, walked to front of the van weeping unconsolably. I asked him what was wrong. With a sense of total betrayal and broken hearted indignation he informed me through his tears: “Someone shit in my pants” To add fuel to the fire his favorite Batman underwear was not salvageable and lies buried in the Wyoming desert.

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