Finding spirituality on Sturgis trip

My recent trip to South Dakota was meant to be for a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, but the actual experience was quite different.

I arrived in Sturgis on a Sunday and the first ride I took was through Spearfish Canyon. The best way for me to describe it is, the Cleveland Metroparks on steroids. Sheer cliff walls, a stream running alongside the road, a waterfall, viewpoints to pull onto and the long wide curves made for a relaxing ride. When I finished, I felt as if I had been to church and heard a really great homily.

Monday was a trip by bike to Mount Rushmore. Photographs don’t do justice to the immense scale of a sculpture on the side of a mountain. The creativity, ambition and craftsmanship needed to create such a work of art are unfathomable to me.

Tuesday had a threat of thunderstorms so I drove my Chevy TrailBlazer to the famous drug store in Wall, South Dakota, followed by a drive through Mako Sika; which is Lakota for Badlands. My limited vocabulary prevents me from expressing the magnificence of this area of our great country. Witnessing the birth of my son, and seeing Kathy walking toward me down the aisle at St. James church on June 3, 1995, are the only experiences that surpass the emotions I felt in Mako Sika.

Wednesday was bike day at Devils Tower in Wyoming. The Native Americans of the area refer to the tower as Grizzly Bear's House, and hold the ground to be sacred. As I began my walk around the tower, a sign advised us to look for, but not disturb, “prayer bundles” left by the people of the various tribes. The bundles I saw ranged in size from a silver dollar to streamers of cloth and feathers up to two feet in length. The bundles asked the spirits for individual blessings. The combination of the prayer bundles dispersed around the tower, which took hundreds of thousands of years to form, had a profound emotional and spiritual effect on me.

Thursday was a day which started out as a research project. I needed to find the site where my friend and neighbor, John Stevenson, had a motorcycle accident, and subsequently lost his life. Trips to the police station, city hall, and eventually the library produced the results I was looking for. Almost 14 years to the day later, I visited that site. It seems that John was on his way back to Mount Rushmore, his favorite sight in South Dakota.

I returned to the site of John’s accident the next day with my own prayer bundle. My bundle consisted of a white rose, a Harley Davidson do-rag with an American motif (John always wore a do-rag when he rode), a strip of cloth from the sleeve of one of my Harley shirts, and the red and white edge from an American flag (I subsequently had the flag re-hemmed). I asked for blessings for John’s family and his soul. John was doing something he truly enjoyed, riding his Harley, and going to see something he was really impressed with, Mount Rushmore.

I followed that up with a return visit to Mako Sika. I spent the next six hours driving, hiking and meditating. I became totally immersed in the majesty and spirituality of this natural wonder. The experiences of the day touched my soul to the very core. 

We have a remarkable country with unique lands and people. If at all possible, leave your immediate circle and open yourself up to the awe inspiring opportunities our country has to offer. You never know what you’ll find.

Robert Kess

Owner of Pizza by Robert for 21 years. Lifelong resident of the westshore area. Married to Kathy for 19 years. Past president of the Westshore Chamber of commerce

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Volume 6, Issue 17, Posted 9:51 AM, 08.19.2014