BATTLE LAKE, Minn. — It may be a picture-perfect morning on Lake Ethel near Ottertail, Minn., but the owner of Chase's Ethel Beach resort, Sparky Chase, is planning to leave lake life for the rumble of motorcycles at the annual Sturgis rally. The rally in Sturgis, S.D., starts Friday, Aug. 7, and runs through Aug. 16.

"It is pretty casual; you can be in the crowds or be in the country — there is plenty of room," Chase said. "You can evade everyone and still be a part of it, or do whatever you want."

Chase has been to the Sturgis rally more than a dozen times. He left for this year's rally Monday, Aug. 3, mindful that there are critics who argue the annual gathering should be canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"If you are going to be in the crowds, do what you want to do. If you feel you need to wear a mask, wear a mask. Wash your hands, just like everyone says, but I am not going to live my life in fear that way, like the sky is falling. So, out we go to do our thing," Chase said.

There's another reason Chase will be headed out to Sturgis this year. Sparky's 20-year-old son, Levi, a UND student pilot described as thoughtful and known as "The Professor," died by suicide in June. Chase will be taking his son's memory with him on the road during the journey to the rally.

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Chase, who has a successful utility and equipment trailer business, will also be setting up a new store in Sturgis. He expects to experience the solitude of the west and Black Hills and the rally, all in the middle of a pandemic.

"A breath of fresh air to go out to the Black Hills, because Levi enjoyed it too," Chase said. "Just to get out of the cabin, so to say, and get that breath of fresh air."