Sturgis Motorcycle Rally - Sturgis, South Dakota

Basically anything goes for two solid weeks in Sturgis around the time of the rally. All the beer, boobs, butts, brats, bros, and bacchanalia you can handle. It’s Easy Rider by day and Mad Max by night. Ride hard. Party hard. It’s where weekend warriors come to recharge their batteries for a full year. And it’s living proof that America still has some of that old stock left in it, that frontier DNA is still churning.

Over 750,000 people attended Sturgis in 2000 -- equaling the population of the entire state that year. For 2009, the numbers were not as high, although lewd t-shirt sales this year, the 69th anniversary, were probably at an all-time. While the AFP was not prepared for the likes of Sturgis, by the end, we were pretty sure that Sturgis was one of the silliest gatherings we have attended.

We came to the inevitable but sad conclusion that Sturgis is, for the most part, a giant costume party. And the theme every year, again and again, is "rebel outlaw." So don't even bother to walk outside unless some part of your body is adorned with black leather, a skull on flames, a Harley logo, a cross, barbed wire, the word "freedom" or "hell" written somewhere. Don't be bashful about showing off chest hair. Sunglasses are a must. Jeans with black leather chaps over them are celebrated. If you don't have any, not to worry, there are about 4,000 vendors ready to sell all of your regalia needs.

We had shown up to photograph something pure and found it commercialized. But we were just as guilty as our fellow costumers in seeking out that classic American archetype. Everyone wanted to rub elbows with the ghosts of freedom: physical, moral, aesthetic, and even emotional liberation. That Bud Light, Harley Davidson, State Farm, Pepsi, Jack Daniels, Aerosmith were there to facilitate the entire operation only reinforced how distant we are from our rebel forebears. And with that epiphany we photographed Sturgis as it should be: a humorous and outlandish anomaly. So enjoy the pictures. They aren’t in our normal style.

Many thanks to the guys and gal from Royal Ras from Albuquerque, NM, for sharing their time and insights with us on our last day.