I’ve been to the Wheels Through Time museum three times now, and each time, I’m just as enamored of the displays as I was on my first visit. I still manage to learn way more than I can actually take in, and every time, I’m stunned by how much I’ve yet to discover. But there’s something else I look forward to each time I visit the Maggie Valley, North Carolina moto-emporium, and that’s the hospitality of the owners, Dale and Matt Walksler.
The museum itself, located right at the tip of the phenomenal Blue Ridge Parkway, features a world-class collection of over 300 vintage American motorcycles. Beyond that, memorabilia and period motoring artifacts adorn the walls and displays throughout the 40,000 sq-ft. building. Besides Harley-Davidson and Indian, you’ll find a host of different nameplates, the majority of which you’ve probably never heard of.
For those into military history, there’s an entire section of the museum devoted strictly to those machines. If choppers are your thing, stop by the Chopper Graveyard and see creations such as Purple Haze, one of Arlen Ness’ first builds. Hillclimb lovers can easily find the giant hill sitting in the middle of the museum showing some of the most successful racers of the day in their appropriate setting. If contraptions and mechanical marvels get you excited, you won’t want to miss the Harley-powered airplane, Heath-Henderson-powered ice sled, or “the first jet ski.” Upstairs features some of the more “modern” classics, like the first Evolution-powered Harley-Davidson, an XLCR café racer, and even Mert Lawill’s XR750 race bike.
While a vintage motorcycle aficionado could spend days upon days inspecting and examining every single item in the museum, it’s easily enjoyed by casual visitors and families, too. Its location amid some of the best roads the country has to offer certainly makes it a great destination for riders. Plus, there are hotels and bars/restaurants all within walking distance of each other in charming Maggie Valley, which makes it a great place to rest for the night.
The best part about the whole thing: all the motorcycles in the museum are in running condition, just waiting to be kicked over and ridden. The Wheels Through Time museum, fittingly nicknamed “the museum that runs,” is open from April to November. RB
By Tyler Greenblatt • Photos by Buzz Kanter
Story as published in the June 2012 issue of RoadBike magazine.