(Originally Posted by Creeping Jennie on Monday, 25 January 2016 in Sturgis.com Blogs)
Yes, I know it has been for freaking ever since I have written anything, and for that, I apologize profusely. Life sometimes kicks your ass. Anyway, here is what's on my mind.
I'm always surprised at how many people come from other parts of the world to visit an event in a tiny little town in a state that probably has more cows than people. Even though I met and married one such a foreigner, and open my home every year to several others, it still blows my mind.
Having lived in two different European countries, and being fortunate enough to have visited Australia several times, I can certainly understand and sympathize with culture shock, and how much of a pain in the ass it is to fly across the ocean. Here are a few tips to make your trip easier.
Plan ahead! Make your reservations as early as you can. You usually can't just rock up to Sturgis and expect to find a hotel room. Not going to happen. Usually it is advised to make reservations by February or March for the same year. The exception would be a big landmark year, like the 75th Rally last year. In that case you should make reservations as soon as the previous Rally is over. Seriously.
Do your research. Honestly, I HATE this phrase, simply because it is ridiculously over used, but it is absolutely essential to learn all you can about the Sturgis Rally, and the customs of this country if you are visiting from "somewhere else." Join a social media info group, read travel blogs, go to your library. Some choose to leave the thinking to a tour agency, at a price. If you choose this option, I will warn you that most tours do not allow you the entire week in Sturgis, are too structured for many, and restrict your ability to have the full Sturgis experience, and will usually cost more than if your were to do it all on your own.
Do learn the laws and customs. Many foreign tourists are shocked to learn (often the hard way) that drinking age is 21, NO EXCEPTIONS, urinating behind the rubbish bins in the alley is illegal, and that it is illegal to bare one's female breasts in view of the public. Many are also clueless as to the fact that sales tax is not included into the price of items for sale, and that tipping IS NOT a bribe, and is actually "required." This simple ignorance can end up costing the traveler a lot more money than he or she had anticipated.
Many people organize to rent a car or bike in one state, and then drive or ride to Sturgis, and may not be aware that each state has its own laws regarding helmets, speed limits, or that they might not be permitted to take the rented vehicle out of the state in which it was procured. Chase down all of the details, and ask a lot of questions.
As for the flight itself, here are a few tips:
Don't wear your cut in the airport or on the plane. There is no reason to attract undue attention from TSA or security.
Take your medications on your carry on. Make sure that they are in original containers with the prescription label affixed on the containers. It would be wise to obtain a written prescription or letter from your doctor listing your meds as well.
Take any over the counter meds that you regularly take as well, but with one caveat: codeine is a prescription drug in the US, so if you regularly use a medication that contains codeine, you may need to get a prescription from your doctor.
Take a sweater, jumper, or light jacket for use on the plane. Trust me.
Don't joke with TSA, security, customs, or any other airport officials, even if you think they may be joking with you. Don't say "bomb" "gun" "explode" "terrorist" or anything of the like to any airport or airline official. EVER.
Take something to entertain you. Take your iPad, MP3 player, laptop, smartphone, kindle, book, magazines, crossword puzzles, or whatever you like to keep you entertained.
As soon as you are in the air (and permitted to) change your watch to whatever time it is in your destination, and behave accordingly. If it is dinner time in the US, eat something, even if food service hasn't happened yet. If it is bed time, take a sleeping pill or melatonin (great stuff, google it) and get ready for bed. Stay on that schedule until it is time to take the plane home.
Take an eye mask and earplugs. You may or may not need them, but if you don't have them you will definitely need them. That's how it works.
Wear something comfortable, but still smart looking on the plane. Yes, you are a biker, but airline and airport staff, as well as fellow travelers, will treat you according to how you look, like it or not. I'm not saying fly in a suit (fuck no) but just make sure you aren't wearing sweat pants or have stains or holes in your clothing. SHOWER or bathe before you flight. PLEASE.
Do not under any circumstances remove your socks and footwear entirely. If you must, put on some slippers. Goodness knows I can't sit in a plane seat for 16 hours with my shoes on the whole time, so I change into hard soled slippers.
Get up and stretch periodically, but please don't do yoga in the galley!
Your airline may serve alcohol, as well as the airport bar, but if you become intoxicated, you may not be allowed on the aircraft. Have a few to relax, but save the partying for when you get to Sturgis.