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From left, Paulette Marsh, Jane Lewin, Tom Dewey, Bernie Marsh and Marleah Marsh swap stories at the Esquire Club in downtown Dickinson on Thursday night. Tom and Jane have been visiting Dickinson on their way to the Sturgis, S.D., motorcycle rally every year since a chance meeting with the Marshes in 1988, even though it's 200 miles out of their way.

Two decades of detours: Tom Dewey and Jane Lewin visit the Marshes in Dickinson before heading down to Sturgis

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Two decades of detours: Tom Dewey and Jane Lewin visit the Marshes in Dickinson before heading down to Sturgis
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

In 1988, Tom Dewey and his girlfriend of roughly a year, Jane Lewin, both of Appleton, Wis., stopped for gas in Dickinson on their way to Billings, Mont., with plans taking them to the Sturgis, S.D., motorcycle rally.


After driving across North Dakota, the pair decided it was time for a cocktail. The gas station attendant, seeing the bikers were traveling on two wheels, recommended Bernie's Esquire Club downtown.

"We came in here, and -- for a biker bar -- found a guy wearing Hawaiian clothes tending bar," Tom said, "which didn't quite fit the scene."

Meanwhile in town, the Marsh family had just purchased a home, which was sitting empty at the time of Tom and Jane's visit. The Marshes invited the biking pair and all the friends they had with to crash at the empty house.

Since that summer, Tom and Jane have visited Paulette, Bernie and the eight Marsh children (although there were only five during that first visit) on their way to Sturgis, camped in their yard, imbibed at the Esquire, had breakfast in the morning and headed down to the Black Hills for a week of riding.

"You could call it camp out, but there were people laying all over his yard," Tom said.

The detour through Dickinson has become a tradition for Tom and Jane.

"Coming here, it's actually 200 miles out of our way," he said. "But you aren't going to find better people."

"It's our second family," Jane added.

Tom and Jane have watched the Marsh family blossom.

"After 24 years here, the little kids that we first met are now tending bar down in Sturgis," Jane said.

Until recently, the pair have made the trip on bikes. Now they trailer them after driving through four rain storms in one day while crossing North Dakota a few years ago, Tom said.

"With age setting in after 35-40 years, I got my bike in the back of the camper," Tom said. "I definitely won't sleep on the ground no more."

Tom has been going to Sturgis for 40 years. Jane's first time was in 1988. They note that the rally has changed since that time.

"I'm getting older but the crowd seems to be getting a lot younger," he said.

Vendors charge higher prices and what was once one six-block stretch in a small town has turned into a multi-block square of crowded events, Tom said.

"When it originally started, it was for the racers and everything," he said. "Now it's all money."

Tom has had the same campsite for 38 years and has seen five owners of the campground.

"I know I'm going to be back here next year, but I don't know if you're going to be back next year," he told the fifth owner when asked for a deposit on the site a year in advance. He offered to send the payment for the site a month before the rally.

They only go to the city of Sturgis once or twice in their week-long visit, opting to ride around the Black Hills, Tom said.

Before making the trip, Tom thought this might be his last year attending the rally after some health issues with his arms and legs arose, including needing a knee replacement. That changed when he met a 72-year-old on a bike.

"That guy was looking sharp," he said.

When asked if they had ever been out to Wisconsin to see their friends, Paulette replied, "No, we never, never have."

And it's not that they haven't thought about visiting. It just hasn't happened, Paulette said.

Tom and Jane have fallen short on a visit themselves. "In 24 years, we still haven't been to Billings, Mont.," Tom said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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