As bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City, Robert Gruss leads more than 24,000 West River Catholics in a journey of the spirit. But shortly before the Sturgis rally this summer, he'll be taking his shepherd's role on the road.
Gruss took a refresher course this week at Black Hills Harley Davidson in preparation for a charitable motorcycle ride in late July. The 59-year-old bishop said getting back on a motorcycle felt good, after many years of not riding.
"The beautiful thing about it, is it's kind of like riding a bike, sort of. You don't lose a lot," Gruss said Tuesday. "You get a little rusty. But it all comes back very quickly."
Gruss gave up his motorcycle when he went into the seminary about 25 years ago. But now he has reason to ride again. It's called the first ever Ride with the Shepherd Rally and Poker Run. It's a fundraiser to help build a new Newman Center at Black Hills State University in Spearfish.
"It's great to be back on the motorcycle again. And I'm looking forward to this ride," Gruss said. "It's my understanding that there could be in excess of 300 riders, so I look for it to be a great fundraiser for a wonderful purpose."
The ride will be Sunday, July 27, a week before the Sturgs rally begins. After Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Spearfish, a breakfast and a blessing of the bikes, the ride will be off. The route includes Spearfish Canyon and a stop at Devil's Tower before the conclusion in Belle Fourche at St. Paul Catholic Church for a barbecue and silent auction.
"So it will be a lot of fun and some good food and good camaraderie with people who like to ride motorcycles, so I'm really looking forward to being part of it," Gruss said.
He's also excited about riding a bigger bike than the 250-cc Suzuki he used in his refresher course. Black Hills Harley Davidson will provide more substantial wheels for the charity ride.
"Well, I hope it's not too big," Gruss says. "It's been 25 years, so I still might be a little bit new at this."
More information on the ride is available at www.stjosephspearfish.com