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If You Think Snow in April is Bad, Try Living Out of a Tent at Sturgis

After two weeks on the road (GA KY WV OH) I am back home again (WI) in my little shack in the woods. I woke up yesterday morning to a few inches of snow on the ground. April 20th is late for a snowstorm — even in this part of the country — but fine by me. I hadn’t planned to go anywhere anyway. Of course my friends and neighbors didn’t feel the same way. They had to venture out in the shit.

Although I didn’t complain about the weather yesterday, I can relate to those who did. As a starving artist/comic, I’ve had to deal with my share of inclement weather. I was homeless for awhile. I didn’t want anyone to know so I slept in front of a Ticket Master. That is a joke (one of my better ones) but seriously — on many occasions — I’ve been stuck out in the cold. 

Below is one of my “braving the elements” stories. It’s another excerpt from my mini-memoir about my 2009 adventure at the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Mother Nature was a bitch that year. She is famous for that in the Black Hills.

From The Big Risk  (picked up somewhere in the middle) copyright 2009 by Dwight York 

A war began that morning that I would wage for the remainder of my stay. It would pit me against the elements and would be fought most every day. That day’s battle was against the wind and my tent became the first casualty. Though I’d been warned of the rapidly changing weather the Black Hills is famous for, it never occurred to me that on a sunny day, without a storm cloud in the sky, the wind could kick-up with such force that it could lay waste to my tent and to my comfort creating efforts of the previous few days. It can and it did.

Because my four person tent was nearly as old as my comedy career, I’d brought along back-up. This tent was designed to withstand the most extreme weather, but I didn’t relish the idea of having to live out of it. It was made for backpacking and provided just enough space for one person to lie down. That made things like sitting up and changing clothes frustratingly problematic. Plus it ended all hope of ever “entertaining” an overnight guest. But there was no time to lament my loss; I had shows to prepare for…

…………… [break] ……………………..

The next several days were spent slogging it out. And not just on stage. I slogged it out with the wind which kept my tent in the hot sun and kept me looking disheveled. I slogged it out with the daily thunderstorms that turned the road in front of my campsite into a mixture of mud and clay (the locals call gumbo) which sticks to the bottom of your shoes like hardened cement and is all but impossible to scrape from your clothes. I slogged it out against the heat and humidity and the inside of my tent grew mold. I slogged it out across the rain soaked fields in search of adventure and new friends and lost ten pounds. And I slogged it out in my head to keep my attitude from going to complete and absolute hell.

…………… [break] ……………………..

The following day was another that summer that will never be forgotten. One of the most severe hail storms in Black Hill’s history struck the campground. I was walking out in the open just before it hit. Although there were storm clouds in the distance, the sky didn’t look particularly foreboding and so initially, I had no idea what was sailing past me when hail started skipping across the ground (the wind blowing the icy pellets out in front of the storm). First a piece of something hit me in the back. Then another something flew past my ear. My assumption was that somebody was throwing shit at me because they’d seen one of my shows. Then all hell fell from above. I ran for shelter under the roof of the Sam Kinison Stage and watched first in fascination, then in alarm, as hail – some as big as softballs – poured from the sky.


I will be returning this August to Sturgis for the big rally. I am hoping for nice weather.

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