Bikers express general indifference toward COVID-19 pandemic

Pioneer photo by Wendy Pitlick

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STURGIS — Bikers who are not wearing masks during the Rally have a variety of reasons for not being worried about COVID-19.

“I’m freaking 67! Why would I care about COVID at this point in my life,” said Paul Cropper, who rode his motorcycle from Delaware to Sturgis.

Others who expressed no concerns about the pandemic cited their religious faith as the reason. Others said the virus is politically motivated, and expressed their determination for preserving freedoms. Still, others just seemed pretty indifferent to COVID-19 in general.

“The Lord takes care of me. If he wants me to get that and come home, I’m ready. The sooner, the better. That’s fine with me,” said Rich Hardesty of California. Hardesty said he has been coming to the Rally for 23 years to distribute religious materials to the bikers on Main Street.

Gary Grant, of Indianapolis said he hauls campers to different places around the country for a living. He was dropping off a camper in Montana when he heard about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It sounded like a good time, so he decided to treat himself for his birthday, which falls during Rally week, to a trip to the Black Hills.

“I think it’s all bull,” Grant said of the pandemic and social distancing recommendations. “If I’m going to get sick, I’m going to get sick. If God had wanted us to have a mask on he would have put a mask on us when we were born. My buddy got a lung infection from wearing a mask because he was breathing the same air over and over.”

Jawbone, who did not give a full name on the record, donned a full beard and leather vest as he sat with his buddy on Main Street and happily watched the crowds go by. When asked about whether he is worried about the virus, he snickered.

“You mean the flu, right? It is a cold on steroids,” he said. “What has happened is it’s been weaponized for political purposes. It’s intimidating, it’s oppressive, and it’s a control factor.”

David Boone, of Michigan, traveled to the Rally to do tattoos on Main Street for his second year. The sanitary nature of his business is part of the reason he said he does not worry about getting sick at the Rally.

“We don’t really feed into all that propaganda,” he said. “We have looked into all the facts — the infection rate and the death rate. You’re more likely to get killed on the way here than you are by COVID. We take all the precautions. A tattoo parlor is probably about the most sanitary place during the Rally. It’s probably the only place that has disinfectants that kill any type of blood-borne pathogens, bacteria or anything like that. If someone has cold symptoms or something like that, if they’re coughing a lot or if they look sick we probably wouldn’t tattoo them. We also have masks to wear if someone is concerned about their safety. We’re not too concerned about it because we feel fine and as long as we stick with our precautions that we would do on a normal day before COVID anyway, then you really have nothing to worry about.”

Woody Terben, who was taking in the crowds and action from his motorized wheelchair, said he is a Vietnam veteran who does not trust the COVID-19 numbers. “I know a guy who got killed on a motorcycle and on his death certificate it says he died of the virus,” he said.

Joel Ortiz, a law enforcement officer from Sturgis, watched the crowd carefully walk by his police motorcycle, as he acknowledged his concerns about COVID-19. “The concerns are there. We are all concerned about it. But what can you do? You cannot force everybody to wear a mask. To be honest with you, the masks are a nuisance.”

Ortiz said he understands why so many people are coming to Sturgis this year, and he believes the 250,000-person crowd prediction will be very low. “I think we’re going to have more here than was predicted, due to the fact that they cancelled Daytona, and Laconia has been waiting on a decision to decide. They’re still up in the air. A lot of these guys want to go to a Rally to meet with old friends, make new friends and everything else. They decided that since Sturgis is hosting it, they all decided to come here.”

Sarah Smidt, who traveled to Sturgis from Nebraska with her husband, her in-laws, and her two small children, said her whole family has been coming to the Rally for at least four years. She summed up the feeling of most bikers on Main Street on Friday when she said, “We’re going to just practice normal safety and not live our lives in fear. We’re going to enjoy it and make the best of it.”

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(1) comment

Mr. Silppyfist

If you can't be bothered to wear a mask then leave. Most of us didn't want to hold the rally this year anyway.

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