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Submarine USS South Dakota crewmen ride motorcycles across South Dakota

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The USS SD Harley motorcycle that the sailors will be taking turns riding.

The “USS South Dakota Ride Across South Dakota” is July 14-15. Ten sailors from SSN 790, including Commanding Officer Craig Litty and Chief of the Boat Adam Goulas, will participate. All motorcyclists are welcome to join the ride.

According to the commissioning committee, the ride officially began Sunday, July 14, at the Battleship USS South Dakota (BB 57) Memorial in Sioux Falls. Captain Diane Diekman, USN (retired), president of the BB 57 Memorial, welcomed the sailors and shared some of the history of Battleship South Dakota, one of the most decorated warships in the Navy’s history.

The sailors are riding the Commemorative USS South Dakota (SSN 790) 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Glide. This one-of-a-kind motorcycle was donated by Harley-Davidson Motor Company to celebrate South Dakota’s namesake vessel. J&L Harley-Davidson of Sioux Falls is the sponsoring dealership and, along with Black Hills Harley-Davidson, will ensure the bike is maintained over the next 30 years. South Dakota artist Mickey Harris created and painted the bike, which honors the history of Battleship South Dakota and commemorates Submarine South Dakota. The sailors will take turns riding this and other Harley-Davidson motorcycles provided by J&L H-D and Black Hills H-D.

The riders left the BB 57 Memorial for the Corn Palace in Mitchell. The murals on this year’s Corn Palace are a “Salute to Military,” and include corn murals of Battleship South Dakota and Submarine South Dakota. After lunch, the riders headed for Chamberlain. After fueling up, they continued on to Pierre, where they stayed overnight.

According to Tom Muenster, USS SD commissioning committee, the schedule was for the riders to tour the Capitol on Monday at 8 a.m. The committee and the South Dakota Community Foundation held an official announcement at 8:45 a.m. at the WWII Memorial concerning the establishment of a $100,000 endowment for the benefit of the sailors.

When the commissioning committee was founded, people and organizations donated for extraneous expenses experienced with the submarine’s commissioning and related ceremonies. “We were very careful how we used the donors’ money,” Muenster said. There was money remaining. The endowment will pay for incidental expenses with the special motorcycle, such as licensing and insurance. The sailors, as beneficiaries of the endowment, can apply for its use only on charitable and situational basis, such as family funeral expenses. “Hopefully in 30 years (the anticipated active life of the submarine before it is decommissioned) the endowment can be used to honor the service of everyone who was assigned duty on the submarine, similar to the way we honor those who served on the Battleship USS South Dakota,” Muenster said.

The ride resumed at 9 a.m. from the Capitol. Motorcyclists headed to Badlands National Park off of Interstate 90. The ride arrived in Wall at noon for lunch. At 2 p.m., the ride departed Wall for Black Hills H-D in Rapid City, arriving at the dealership about 3 p.m. At approximately 4 p.m., the riders headed on to Sturgis.

At 5 p.m., the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Motorcycle Hall of Fame welcomed the riders and inducted the Commemorative USS South Dakota (SSN 790) 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Glide into the museum. The bike is to be on permanent display, and maintained in running condition. Plankowners of SSN 790 have lifetime rights to ride the motorcycle. A “plank owner” is an individual who was a member of the crew of a ship when that ship was placed in commission. According to Muenster, any sailor assigned to SSN 790, not only plankowners, is welcome to check the bike out of the museum and ride it anywhere in the state of South Dakota.

Muenster added that the ride will be documented on Facebook.