SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Interstate 90 may be the fastest way to get across South Dakota from east to west to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally but it’s not the only way.
Bikers are looking for different options. KELOLAND’s Sydney Thorson reported on Aug. 4 that a record number of semis with motorcycles were at the Rapid City Airport.
Bikers are also aging. The average age of a rally attend is about 54, according to Sturgis Rally and Events Department survey.
Loree Gaikowski of the Wessington Springs chamber and economic development said there are bikers who aren’t in a quick pace to get to Sturgis but want a more scenic, leisurely ride.
That includes bikers who may be hauling bikes in trailers and using campers.
For years, bikers have been using U.S. Highways 12, 212 and 14 and 18 to travel the state to the rally. Add in South Dakota Highway 34 and 44 and few others, and there are plenty of two-lane options for those who don’t want the interstate pace.
The rally can be a boost in business for some towns along those highways.
The bikers may stop for food, gas, or an overnight stay.
U.S. Highway 14
“We were just talking about it at a meeting this morning,” Rita Anderson, the director of the DeSmet Development Corporation, said of motorcycle traffic in the city.
“We’re getting a lot of motorcycle traffic. Highway 14 and been very busy,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the coronavirus pandemic reduced the rally traffic last year. The numbers are larger this year than in some prior years, she said.
“It’s pretty amazing. We’ve got enough extra traffic that we all commented on it this morning,” Anderson said.
“It’s wonderful for businesses,” Anderson said.
Anderson has noted groups of 20 bikers and groups of 12 as some of the larger groups.
“We are a good stopping point,” Anderson said.
DeSmet is about 35 to 40 miles from Brookings to the east and 35 to 40 miles from Huron to the west, she said.
“We appreciate the business in DeSmet,” Anderson said.
Highway 14 starts near Elkton in eastern South Dakota and passes through the state capital city of Pierre. It peels off as Highway 14A in the Black Hills after it joins Interstate 90 near Wall. As Highway 14 continues through the Black Hills area as part of I-90 as it crosses the western border into Wyoming.
Huron and Brookings are two larger towns on the highway.
The South Dakota Department of Transportation June 2020 average daily traffic map, the most recent available, shows that the busiest stretches of the highway near Arlington and Brookings have average daily traffic counts of more than 2,500 vehicles. The area near Huron has the same traffic count.
U.S. Highway 212
This route is known as the most direct route from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, to the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, according to South Dakota tourism.
Lots of rally attendees come from Minnesota.
More than a few are using U.S. Highway 212 to get to Sturgis.
“We see a lot of Minnesota,” Jamie Adkinson said of the license plates on motorcycles traveling through Gettysburg.
Adkinson has worked at Stan’s Sinclair along Highway 212 for almost three years.
The biker traffic has been steady since Friday, Adkinson said.
“They are stopping a lot for gas, beer and food,” Adkinson said.”Mostly in the morning or midday.”
But construction on a main route through Gettysburg has prevented many bikers from getting to the Gas ‘N Goodies in the middle of town, convenience store employee Brandee Hanson said.
U.S. Highway 212 starts its route through South Dakota east of Kranzburg on the Minnesota border. On the western border, it runs through Belle Fourche and then, west to Wyoming.
Belle Fourche is known as the geographic center of the nation.
The stretch from Kranzburg west to Watertown is one of the busiest. South Dakota DOT says the average daily vehicle count was more than 2,500 vehicles in that area. The average daily traffic around Gettysburg is 551 to 1,500 vehicles per day.
South Dakota Highway 34
Jon Niemeyer of the Springs Inn Cafe in Wessington Springs says Highway 34 is the most scenic route across the state from east to west to Sturgis.
“It’s much more fun than others,” Niemeyer. Niemeyer and his wife Carla own the cafe.
Waitress Lori Kole said the biker traffic has been busy this year.
“We have some that stay at the campground, some that stay in the hotel…,” Kole said.
“We have a lot that stop here,” Kole said. “We have very good burgers.”
Kole said the bikers comment on the burgers. “They must communicate,” she said of spreading the word about the cafe’s burgers.
“This year we are seeing some big groups,” said Gaikowski. “We are seeing groups of 10 to 15.”
Gaikowski said a biker friend of the family recently rode into Wessington Springs from Washington state. “He said 34 is the shortest distance in miles across South Dakota and it’s the most scenic route to take,” she said.
Highway 34 starts near Flandreau on the eastern border with Minnesota. It ends north of Spearfish at the Wyoming border in the west.
South Dakota tourism calls Highway 34 “Raptor Alley” for the 175-mile stretch between Pierre and Sturgis.
Birds of prey are visible on that stretch, particularly during the winter.
According to S.D. DOT much of Highway 34 has 551 to 1,500 vehicles per day.