From 2 wheels to 3: A Sturgis Rally rider's perseverance

Ernie Williams with his service dog Tia
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STURGIS, S.D. (KOTA-TV)- Every Sturgis Rally rider has a story.
What do they ride?
Why do they ride it?

This is the backstory of a man who's been riding since 1975.
While his life has taken some wild twists and turns, Ernie Williams is still riding after all these years.

In the biker oasis, that is rally time, Sturgis streets are lined like a mirage, with a blur of decked out two wheeled, bright colored, shiny chromed, fun machines. Ernie Williams began riding back in 1975. Decades later he rolls in a flashy 3 wheeled Slingshot he calls a Geezer Glide.

"It's about 170 horsepower and about 17-hundred pounds," says Ernie Williams of Rapid City.
"You're butt's only about 18 inches off the ground, and when I first started riding em 30 miles an hour felt like 50," he says.

He's a member of the Black Hills American Legion Riders, a mobile honor guard, using their rides to honor fellow veterans in ceremonies, and escorts. Williams served in the Army and Army National guard for more than 15 years.

"I was in tank maintenance. M60 tanks. Got out 9 months. Civilian life wasn't for me," Williams says.

So he got back in, this time in the Army Chemical Corps.

"The Chemical Corps is the only branch of the Army whose sole mission in life is to deal with WMD's," says Williams.

Out of the Army for many years, obviously patriotic, why ride 3 wheels instead of 2? A disease with no known cure, a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis back in the mid 90's, changed his life ride forever.

"I have the strength in my right leg, but when the brain tells my leg to do something, it doesn't always do it," he says.

As a Cold War vet, Ernie never saw combat. But a series of traumatic life events outside the military led to PTSD, which is where his co-pilot Tia, a King Charles Spaniel service dog, comes into play. And it's where riding this Slingshot can be what he calls wind therapy.

"I almost named this Prozac," he says with a laugh.
"It gives me a sense of calm," says Williams.

And Ernie's not the only one. He says, there are other handicapped bikers out there in unconventional trikes.

"Don't pity us, just go yeah, they're doing it," he says with a laugh, "Ya know."

Because whether 2 wheels or 3, Ernie's still riding. He's enjoying the same therapeutic breeze he's enjoyed since 1975.

"You get out there and you get in the zone, where you see what's going on around, you're looking at the scenery, and you're just, it's a good life," he says.

Williams says he has snow tires for the Slingshot, so he can ride year round.