Monday, August 11, 2014

August in the Black Hills is Burger Time!

Wait! Listen! Do you hear that?

Can it be...silence?

For the last ten days there's been a low drone in the air...constant...ominous.... I've been trying to figure out how to describe it, and the closest I can come is to have you imagine a jet taking off - for ten days straight. Always in the background, like the roar of a waterfall when you're canoeing down a river, or standing at the edge of Niagara Falls.

The 74th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was in town.

Let's start with a few stats:

 - Between 450,000 and 500,000 bikers attend the Rally each year. That's just an estimate. Since there is no registration, officials use hotel and campground reservations to estimate the numbers. This year's numbers won't be out for a couple weeks. Last year's estimate was around 483,000.

- The population of the Black Hills (including all cities and rural population) is around 150,000. That means that every year, at the beginning of August, our population quadruples for ten days.

- This year, about 40% of the attendees were women. Biker girls come with their boyfriends, husbands, sisters, or friends. At home they're moms, teachers, nurses, waitresses, doctors, accountants....

 - Our local hospital and emergency personnel don't have planned disaster drills. The Rally is a planned disaster every year. Think of it as knowing a hurricane is going to strike a year in advance.

 - One big draw to the Rally is the variety of concerts. Every night. This year we had Skillet, Josh Rogan, The Cult, Montgomery Gentry, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Zac Brown Band, Bret Michaels, Motley Crue, ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, Randy Houser, Cheap Trick... and those are only the names I recognized :)

 - Not everyone rides their bike across country for the Rally. You can rent a bike for around $400-$500 a day. Or you can hire a specialized transport company who will pick up your bike, deliver it to the Rally, and return it to your home afterwards for around $900. Of course, you still have to get here somehow.

- There are events for every taste. Everything from a ride to commemorate fallen law officers to the Roller Derby, to the Budweiser Clydesdales, to stunt-cycle demonstrations, to the hill climb, to the Weber Grill Burger Cook-Off, and more.

- Waitresses at the bars (and there are many!) average about $300 a day in tips. Of course, you can earn more. I've heard if you take advantage of the "skimpy clothing" option during the Rally, you can increase your tips. A lot.

 - Next year's Rally will be the 75th. Hotels and campgrounds are already maxing out on reservations. One official estimates a million bikers will head to Sturgis next August.

BUT! When the Rally comes, we know tourist season is beginning to wind down. Schools are starting up again, families are staying home, and the bikers go back to their real lives of being teachers and accountants.

And we get our Hills back. I can't tell you how sweet that is!

Of course, we enjoy the tourists! It's an exciting time when Memorial Day comes. It's almost like someone flips a switch and the area is filled with excitement and anticipation. I love meeting our visitors, chatting with them, helping them find their way around.

But in August, after the end of the Rally, it's kind of like the feeling you get when visitors leave. It was fun while they were here...but it's nice to have the place to ourselves :)

Another thing August brings is the beginning of the end of cookouts. If you remember, our winter started on the first weekend of October last year (With a bang! You can read about that storm here.) And since our spring was cool, wet and long, and our summer has also been cool and wet (and short), I'm expecting an early winter this year, too.

But it isn't winter yet! It's time to grill some burgers :)

Jan's Favorite Burgers

My family never gets tired of these....

Easy ingredients - ground beef and seasoning. I like to use the "Worcestershire Pub Burger" spice mix from McCormick, and a little Worcestershire Sauce.

Mix ground beef - a pound makes four burgers - and the seasonings (about 1 teaspoon of the spice mix and about 1 teaspoon of the Worcestershire Sauce) in a bowl. Using my hands to mix the beef is the only way I've found to make sure it's all mixed in evenly.

I use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to make 1/4 pound burgers. Measure the meat mixture, and if there's any left, divide it evenly between the lumps.

With your hands, form the lumps into patties a little bit bigger around than your buns (they'll shrink during cooking.) Make a little depression in each patty to ensure even cooking.

Cook on the grill until they're done. You can tell they're done when you pierce a burger and the juices are clear.

I like to sear the burgers on high heat, and then turn the gas to low to let the meat cook low and slow.

When the burgers are done, add any cheese of your choice - I like Tillamook Sharp Cheddar - and let it melt.

I've been eating my burgers Trim Healthy Mama style - either bare or in a low-carb wrap - with a big salad.

My dear husband eats his the traditional way - and with a nice bit of Gruyere cheese and a big slice of onion.

So, let's chat. How are things in your part of the world? Is summer winding down yet?


  1. summer's nowhere near wound down here - I think it finally picked up a month or so ago! usually we're super hot from April until October but it's been a bit milder up til the last month or so - just a lot of humidity.
    burgers look good! someone posted a link on facebook the other day for freezer meals trim healthy mama style

    1. Hi Susanna!

      We had hot weather a couple weeks ago, but now it's back in the mid-80's for the foreseeable future. But it's almost the middle of August, and you can feel fall in the air :)

      And I saw that link for the freezer meals. I printed them off, but haven't tried them yet.

  2. That is INSANE! The only crowd I've ever seen that size was in Denver at the Youth Day festival for Pope John Paul II. I think there were about a million people at the Sunday service. It was.... unbelievable.
    I imagine half of that crowd on motorcycles and my brain just can't conceive of it.
    Yummy burgers! My college roommate always made them that way. Smells so good, too.

    1. You picked the perfect word, Virginia. Insane.

      My SIL and BIL were in Denver for that event with their church youth group. They were thrilled to go.

  3. I've heard about Sturgis ever since I started going to Montana. I had no idea you were so close. And we use "Worcestershire Pub Burger" stuff on steaks too. Yum.

    1. Yup. Sturgis is just up the road.

      I've been using the Montreal Steak Seasoning for steaks (also yummy) but ran out. I'll definitely use the Worcestershire Pub Burger the next time on the steaks! I'm not sure I'll ever do burgers without it!

  4. I remember you telling us about those bikers last year. Honestly, I'd be running for the hills and hiding out until they all left! The noise from all those motorcycles would be horrendous!!!!

    Ahhh, burgers -- we had veggie ones my daughter made this weekend. She's been experimenting for ages trying to perfect a homemade vegan burger and was ecstatic when they looked so good. I have no idea what all was in them -- black beans and some kind of grain for a start. Anyway they were perfectly plump and round...until we heated them up on the grill. Then they turned into crumbled mush. Poor girl was devastated but mom saved the day by crumbling the burgers over grilled veggies. Delish!!!!

    1. It sounds like you saved the day, Kav! I'll have to try grilled veggies with my burger next week instead of the salad. Sounds like a nice change :)

      And yes, the motorcycle noise is horrendous. Most of us just put up with it or schedule vacation during that week. We can't leave town because of my husband's job, so we endure - and sometimes enjoy. I ran into a couple members of a Christian motorcycle group at Walmart the other day. They're always fun.

      And then there's the upside - we may be flooded with motorcycles, but we're also flooded with their money. They help pay for our nice roads!

  5. Jan, what a huge group of tourists!! I can't even imagine. But I can imagine the sound. We have a racetrack near here, and we hear the cars every Saturday night. I can only imagine the sound of that many motorcycles.

    Love the burgers! I haven't seen that spice yet! I love Worcestershire. Will have to buy this to try in place of Montreal Steak seasoning on our burgers.

    1. And the motorcyclists are only a small part of our yearly total of 3 million who visit Mt. Rushmore. Memorial Day to Labor Day is hopping around here!

      But such fun. Where else can you play the license plate game every time you go to the grocery store? And when we visit Mt. Rushmore, we regularly see more than 30 states and provinces represented in the parking lot - and that doesn't count international visitors. On one trip to Mt. Rushmore, my son counted 10 different languages spoken in the crowd.

      It's such a different place during the rest of the year. So quiet. Peaceful. :)

  6. Great burgers Jan, and you are so right...that little depression in the burgers makes all the difference! Thank you for the great post!

    1. You're welcome, Piper! Thanks for stopping by :)

  7. Jan, you make burgers just like I do. Montreal Seasoning and Worcestershire sauce all the way. And I eat mine THM style, too. Did you know that those Joseph's pitas make a good alternative to a bun?

    1. Take another look at that seasoning, Mindy! I love the Montreal Steak Seasoning, but the Worcestershire Pub Burger has won me over :)

      And I haven't tried the Joseph's Pitas for my burger yet. Our Walmart just started carrying them, and I'm experimenting. Love them for a mini pizza, though!

    2. Ooo, yes. I did that for the first time the other night. Pizza, that is. Did it on the grill. YUM!!!

      And I did not notice the seasoning. It looked just like MSS. Thanks for the heads up. I need to give that a try.

  8. I'm late but I hadn't thought about gruyere on my burger. YUM. We always travel after school starts but now you have me wondering if that is such a smart move. Snow is only a couple months away.