From Kansas to Oz

Lately I’ve been reminded on the smallness of this 814,180 populated state.

With the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally bringing in roughly 500,000 people to a town of 6,000+, it’s a little bit of a “We’re not in Kansas anymore” moment. I-90 is jammed pack with Harley Davidson’s and handlebar mustaches, fancy pickups pulling even fancier trailers, and vendor opportunists from all over the country hoping to sell souvenirs and body art to people of all ages.

I grew up in this part of South Dakota, and the familiar rumbles of bikes brings me right back to that time and place where, for one week, the Black Hills transformed from it’s peaceful ambiance to leather and lace. For over eighteen years I was a part of this highly-celebrated occasion and witnessed the interesting affect a new culture has on people.

Like the wealthy suburban married men who transform into wild hogs for a week, a chance to escape from daily expectations of provider roles and mortality. Or the women feeling liberated under the cheers of men while they ride mechanical bulls or participate in beauty contests, not just of the face but of the whole temple.

I don’t look back on those days with a feeling of superiority, but with a strange disconnect to a girl I once knew. A kind of transformation that only occurs from being planted into the country, on a farm, with nothing but the vegetables and animals under your care.

It’s quiet and simple yet so wildly hard.

South Dakota is small and quite uneventful apart from this second week of August. It rapidly transforms back to its original state once the last of the bikers leave, so quickly you almost wouldn’t know it was here except for the lingering smoke in the air. Real-life transformation doesn’t happen so quickly, however… and maybe it’s not supposed to.

But now those roars are a distant echo on the farm. Oh, I hear the adventurers drive by, just did a few moments ago, heading west toward fun and freedom they hope to escape in.

And for a moment I think back to this girl I once knew, a girl  now making her way through the
Land of Oz .

me and kitty in garden


28 thoughts on “From Kansas to Oz

  1. I’m with you!! I remember the past days too, with a certain fondness, but no longer suiting me nor appealing to my spirit. It was a part of this journey of mine; what brought me to the peace, quiet and tranquility of the land, critters and nature… the slow evolving of life. It’s as if we can hear the earth grow beneath our feet, and we can see the most minute creature and feel the movement of earth, wind and sky perpetually move us into another day. I love your free spirit…

  2. Wow – that’s a lotta folks coming into a fairly small town. We were in Myrtle Beach one year (bad timing) during Bike Week. You never forget it.

    I know your town is glad when things quieten back down!

  3. —How amazing it must be to see the land jammed pack with Harley Davidson’s and handlebar mustaches!
    –Sounds a bit exciting.
    Is it better being back in Oz? Do you miss the sound of the rumbling bikes?
    Loved this post. You write beautifully 🙂 Fab.

  4. One of the best written lines EVER! “…not just of the face but of the whole temple…” Great, or not so great, visual whilst drinking coffee in the morning and checking emails. LOL. Thanks for the great posts!


  5. Well, being from Kansas, lol, I have to admit I know how you feel — really!!! We live about 30 minutes from a city in Ontario called Port Dover. They have a motorcycle event that draws a lot of people riding their wild hogs every year on Friday the 13th, whatever the month it falls on. Occasionally we get two months in one year with Friday the 13th in it, so they do it again. I’m learning about living in a land near a Great Lake and in case anyone is curious….no, I don’t miss Kansas cause its stinkin hot there in the summer but I do miss my family. I love living in Oz, I mean Canada. Ha Ha

  6. It’s startling to see the state’s population, given that my city of Long Beach has a little more than half that population! (This is not coincidentally why my brother told me he would never, ever be able to visit me for a few days at a time.)

    That photo is gorgeous. I love my life in Los Angeles, but I love being able to experience glimpses of this other life through others’ eyes. Getting to make brief forays into the quieter, greener side of things such as via my recent Colorado trip and my forthcoming trip home, also helps.

    I love getting to see your world, and for a few moments being able to close my eyes and imagine what it must be like to inhabit that.

  7. We just love South Dakota. But we’ve timed our visits for unbusy times. In May before school is out. Or to Custer State Park staying starting the day after the Bison Roundup ends, but before everything REALLY shuts down.

    Your summation of your current situation, “It’s quiet and simple yet so wildly hard,” is really powerful.

  8. I had to go back to your first paragraph and check the population of your state because it threw me for a loop, too. San Antonio, the city we recently moved from, has 1.33 million people, and it’s just a city. I can’t imagine being in a state the size of South Dakota but with such a small population. I picture people walking around for days never meeting another soul. It’s a wonder you found Country Man! LOL!

    Chincoteague is a tiny town on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, and it is inundated with people during the week of Pony Penning, so they would know how you feel. Enjoyed your post.

  9. Very nice perspective. It’s funny when I look back at places and times in my life, sometimes I can hardly recognize who I was then. Like to think I’m getting better all the time 🙂 The peaceful life is good. Enjoy.

  10. It’s an interesting mini experiment to have your town transformed for a few days. The only time I could relate to that was when I was living in Atlanta during the summer Olympics. For those two weeks it was almost like time was suspended in a strange way. There we were among all of our familiar building and streets, but it was also foreign at the same time.

  11. You are a talented writer. “Or the women feeling liberated under the cheers of men while they ride mechanical bulls or participate in beauty contests, not just of the face but of the whole temple.” Lyrical and not at all wordy.

  12. I love this! The first time I went to SD was in August of 1993. My parents and I were driving from FL to Bismarck for college. (I went to UMary) We saw all the motorcycles all the way up. We drove through Sturgis. It was just getting started and was exciting and scary to my 18-year-old self. Thanks for reminding me:)

  13. my first time here! “Charmed” is the word that comes to mind! 🙂

    I feel like I’m visiting a lovely house with comfortable furniture and I can just sit back with a cup of coffee and a slice of cake and watch the day turn into night and back again endlessly.

    I love the feel of your blog!

  14. The words are moving, and they capture a whole way of life that is so foreign to most of us living the city life … which is a beautiful thing. But most of all, I love that photo of happy you!

  15. I moved to North Carolina over 12 years ago. I lived in rural Northern California for 11 years as a young woman, but I was raised in the San Diego area. I consider myself a transplant…from city to country and I love it. I have a three footed doe I have been feeding for the five of the six years we have lived at Evans Ridge. She brings her babies every year to the site where I feed them in my back yard. She has had twins three years out of those five. Stand by for pictures as I acqauint myself with this lovely form of sharing experiences across the miles and the generations. I enjoy your posts tremedously and tried to email the post on your Tobi to my friend, but was uanble to…will recomend your site to her so she can smile, as I have.

  16. I just stopped by to let you know that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through your blog and archives. It is really an interesting journey. You are a “Noteworthy Archive Award Winner”. You have some treasures hidden in your archives and this award will let others know that it is well worth their time to take a walk through your archives. Here is the information about this award and where you can get your badge to show others you have great archives worth reading.
    Congrats and enjoy!
    Just Ramblin’

  17. Hubs and I brought the Harley out to Sturgis once (met my mom and Dad there, from PA, on their bike). We actually asked the question you answer here: what is it like in this area when the Sturgis bike rally isn’t going on? You’ve answered it, and frankly I would like the way it normally is BETTER :-). Here, here to country living!

    And, alas, we no longer have the HD … didn’t ride it enough to justify keeping it. We use our 4-wheelers a bit more now that we’re in the middle of nowhere.

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