Nerds at the Rally

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The largest
motorcycle rally in the world was held in the Black Hills of South
Dakota August 8–15 and I attended for the first time in my
life, coincidentally the 70th anniversary of the event.
Hey, it was on my bucket list and my wife and I had a glorious time
of it. What a ball! I wonder from time to time if America is worth
saving but now I can honestly shout, Yes! There still are plenty
of independent, rebellious spirits left here, an estimated 700,000
of them attending the rally this year although that guesstimate
includes bikers from around the world.

I'm a motorcycle
freak, admittedly. I currently own four of ’em but none is
a Harley. At the top of my pyramid is a 2002 Honda Goldwing GL 1800,
the six-cylinder luxo touring bike. My wife Pat likes to ride on
the back, otherwise known as the queen's throne, but no long slogs
allowed, just 250 miles per day or so tooting around the countryside.
The weather, roads and attractions in the Black Hills were perfect
for just such entertainment at the rally this year.

The streams
of motorcycles on the highway were just incredible, what dense and
grand if noisy traffic! Every parking lot was filled, especially
establishments advertising $2 cold beer. I'd guess nearly 9 of 10
bikes at the rally were Harleys. Hardly anyone wore helmets or crash-worthy
safety gear. Mostly we saw do-rags worn as head protection in case
of a get-off! Pat said we were the nerds at the rally and truer
words were never spoken. We always wear our full-face helmets with
intercom, boots and gloves and usually armored jackets (we cheat
on that item occasionally) when out riding the highways and byways.
I saw one guy in a T-shirt shop wearing Bermuda shorts, dark socks
and shoes and coke-bottle thick glasses and comforted myself that
at least one guy was a bigger geek than I am.

An accident
on US 385 north of Custer City held us and the rest of traffic up
for nearly an hour and it was a stomach-churning reminder of the
risks involved in riding, with a body covered on the pavement in
our lane with a twisted boot sticking out and blood staining the
pavement. Some women cried as they passed by in the opposite direction
before we had seen the sad sight. I can only wonder what happened
on that straight stretch of highway and if a real helmet might have
saved his life.

We camped in
a quiet campground near Custer, about 50 miles from rally headquarters
in Sturgis, but every town for miles around had plenty of bikes,
bikers, babes and vendors. All in all, people were remarkably well
behaved. We saw one woman exposing her ta-ta's briefly in Custer,
and one Harley guy passed me on the right in the Badlands park road
for no good reason. Guess he was showing off for his girl friend
on the back. A couple of Harley riders coming downhill on a hairpin
turn on the Needles Highway crossed the centerline and looked a
little out of control but no harm resulted. We had lunch in Wall,
SD, home of the famous Wall Drug Store, at the Biker Bar and enjoyed
listening to some trash talking. That was about it, although I must
admit we only spent about an hour in Sturgis itself where all the
craziness supposedly happens. Big name acts like Bob Dylan, ZZ Top,
Motley Crue and the Doobie Brothers performed at the BuffaloChip.com
amphitheatre before some 100,000 revelers each evening although
the biggie was Kid Rock according to what I heard, drawing way over
100,000.

The most important
thing I learned from my summer vacation is something libertarians
should love: the Crazy Horse Monument is a free enterprise project.
Everyone knows about the four Presidents' images (incomplete) carved
in granite on Mt. Rushmore at taxpayers' expense but fewer know
about the voluntary project that has never accepted a dime of government
money. Crazy Horse sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief
Henry Standing Bear dedicated their Crazy Horse Memorial dream on
June 3, 1948. Ziolkowski was a Boston-born American of Polish descent
and proud of it. He was orphaned at one year of age and led a ragged
life as a foster child until venturing out on his own at age 16.
An award-winning sculptor, Ziolkowski devoted his life after age
40 to the Crazy Horse sculpture and was incredibly resourceful in
his pursuit. He died in 1982 at age 74 and his wife Ruth, now in
her 80's, is very much in charge today, assisted by seven of her
ten children who have devoted their lives to the project. The memorial
is a non-profit undertaking, relying primarily on the proceeds from
over 1 million visitors per year and receives no federal or state
funding. Ziolkowski was offered $10 million from the federal government
on two occasions, but turned the offers down. He knew better after
seeing Mt. Rushmore go uncompleted and his vision was more than
a mountain carving so he feared that his plans for native American
educational and cultural goals for the memorial would suffer at
the hands of the feds! Smart man.

Is Crazy Horse
a worthy figure to memorialize? I have no idea. I'll leave for others
to debate. All I know is I liked what I saw at the Monument. The
face of Crazy Horse was completed and dedicated in 1998. The overall
sculpture has no fixed completion date, sensibly enough, like the
other sensible things I saw there.

August
19, 2010

Morgan
Reynolds, Ph.D. [send him
mail
], is emeritus professor of economics at Texas A&M University
and former Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor 2001–2.
Send him email
and see his website here.

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