Monday, October 25, 2010

Road to Nowhere, and a Good Jumping Off Place

October 16, 2010, a little more than a week ago. 

I have plans today to nab the current tag in our local tag game.  The weather is supposed to be clear but cool, so it should be ideal.  I think I know where the tag is located, and I intend to go there before anyone else gets it.

The tag is shown in this photo, and the clue follows:
"Here's a real challenge.  Let's see who can find 'no where.'  Well, at least that's where the road is supposed to lead.  You can just make out the 'secret tunnel' a little way past the barricade.  I guess that is a tunnel to nowhere. The pavement ends just the other side of the tunnel. 
The 8 miles prior to this picture is a lot of fun.
A picture of your bike at the barricade wins this tag."

I key in on the "road to nowhere" phrase, and find it on the map, near Bryson City North Carolina. 
It is a little over a hundred miles one way, so I want to get an early start.  I have mapped out the intended route, and find that I have not been on many of the roads.  Some of them appear to be quite twisty.  We'll see how it goes. 

Here is the way I want to go:

View Larger Map

I dress warmly for the ride, as the temperature is about 41 degrees F when I leave.  By the way, since it is getting to be cool weather again, it is good to review the gear I wear when it is cold.  It is in a posting called Dressing for Cold Weather Riding.  Catchy title, eh? 

The first part of the route is through familiar territory.  I head from Easley to Pickens and up a curvy section of US-178.  The Holly Springs Country Store is at the corner where I turn left onto SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway.  This is an easy two-lane road in very good condition through here.  Most bikers use it to get from one twisty road to another, or for a leisurely, scenic jaunt to a restaurant. 

I turn north again in SC-130.  This is the road to Whitewater Falls and Bad Creek, places I have visited many times.  Before I reach either, however, I turn onto the Wigington Byway, a very short road with an overlook of Lake Jocassee part way along.  This leads to SC-107, the road that will take me most of the rest of the way.  The road passes very shortly into North Carolina.  It is pretty easy, with a few twists and turns. 

I pass by Lake Glenville, and follow the Tuckasegee River until a bit north of Cullowhee, where Western Carolina University has a campus.  At the town of Silva, I turn west again on a stretch of US-74.  It comes close to the Tuckasegee River again, and in Bryson City, I cross over the river.  I am getting close, now. 

I cross a railroad and seek out Everett Street, then follow it north.  It turns into Lakeview Drive.  This is known as the Road to Nowhere.  It gets lots of attention simply for its nickname, since it ends just beyond a tunnel inside the bounds of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The road received its name from a dispute during the 1930s and ‘40s when Swain County gave up the majority of its private land to the federal government for the creation of Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hundreds of people were forced to leave the small communities that had been their homes for generations. The government flooded that land by building Fontana Dam. The hydroelectric power provided by the dam proved vital in helping the government build the atomic bomb in nearby Oak Ridge, Tenn.  By the way, Fontana Dam is the highest dam east of the Rocky Mountains, at 480 feet. 

The road that led to the area was flooded beneath the waters of the lake, cutting off access to a number of family cemeteries. The federal government made an agreement with Swain County to replace the road with a new one along the lake’s north shore, to be called the North Shore Road -- another catchy name. 

Construction of the road began in the 1960s but was halted because of an environmental issue, leaving the road though the tunnel completed, but nothing else. The environmental problems included rotten, unstable rock that would have required much larger cuts through the hills than expected.  It was deemed to be too expensive and damaging to the appearance of the parklands, so the road was not completed. The rock is also acidic, and construction may have upset the aquatic life in local streams. 

The government runs a ferry service from the south side of Fontana Lake most of the year, so people can visit the isolated cemeteries.

Lakeview Drive is a nice twisty, eight-mile-long section of road.  Along the way is an overlook onto an arm of Fontana Lake. 

Pretty, isn't it? 

The road surface is patched and uneven in places, so I am jolted off my seat a few times, though there isn't much traffic since this is a dead end road.  Just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is a sign that reminds passers by of the broken promise of the 1940s.
 [from Western NC Attractions website]

This is my first visit to the National Park on the bike. I won't be seeing any more of it than the tag location, if I find it, since I don't have enough time to stay longer and see more things. 

The road ends at a post barrier with the tunnel in sight beyond. The road and tunnel were completed by the end of 1969, but the remaining 26 miles of road have never been finished. 

Snap!  Now, I have the tag photo, but I want to explore a little.

I note that the place where I park my bike has quite a lot of horse manure around it.  I might have known this would be the case, as there are several horse trailers parked here. The equestrians use the park trails extensively. 
Fragrant, I'm sure, and this is one of the smaller deposits.

I walk along the road a tenth of a mile or so to the entrance to the tunnel.  Here is a closer look at the tunnel entrance.  A nearby sign says there are several trails that start beyond the tunnel. 

The tunnel construction is similar to those on the Blue Ridge Parkway, having a stone facing and concrete lining. 
I venture into the graffiti-covered portal.  It seems that most such places are so covered these days, like the one under the Saluda Grade.  The pavement inside is rough surfaced, but level. I walk the 1,200-foot length and emerge on a short section of road, complete with wooden timber guardrails.  After maybe four hundred feet, the road stops and this trail begins. 
The trail winds sharply to the left.  It is not obvious where the road was to go. Any direction appears to require another tunnel or significant cutting a filling, i.e. high cost. 

Here is a view of the far tunnel portal, taken from the trail. It is a rather picturesque scene, reminiscent of a mid-twentieth-century road. 

A view from the entrance.  The leaves have started to turn color for Fall, though the peak is a couple of weeks away yet. 

The rest of the story about the Road to Nowhere is that the federal government made a cash settlement in February of 2010 in lieu of completing the road.  The settlement, paid to Swain County, was for $52,000,000.  Completion of the road would have cost at least $600,000,000.

Now, back to the ride.

I take the same route home as I took to get here.  My time is limited today, and this tag was further away than most of them that have been posted.  I really enjoy the warmth that has replaced the chill of the morning.

Maybe I can return to see some other scenery near here some time.  


[Well, what's this about a "good jumping off place" in the title up there, Bucky?]

Oh.  That means that there are a number of other places for motorcyclists and other travelers to visit that are near here. 

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
P.O. Box 1490
226 Everett Street
Bryson City, NC  28713 
This is a tourist railroad with fifty-three miles of track, two tunnels and twenty-five bridges, running through fertile valleys and river gorges. The operating locomotives are Diesel-powered.
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is owned by American Heritage Railways, which is the parent company of the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the Texas State Railroad.
The famous train wreck scene in the 1993 Warner Brothers blockbuster movie The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones was filmed in Dillsboro North Carolina along the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The wreckage set can still be viewed on eastbound Tuckasegee River Excursions departing from Bryson City.
[photo by flickr contributor Jerry James]  
The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad was also used in the filming of 1996 Warner Brothers comedy My Fellow Americans starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner when they stumble on to a charter train full of UNC-Chapel Hill fans headed for the NCAA Final Four.
Train scenes in the 1998 DreamWorks SKG film Forces of Nature starring Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock were also filmed here.

Smoky Mountain Trains Museum
P.O. Box 1490
100 Greenlee St.
Bryson City, NC
28713 U.S.A.
1-800-872-4681 x 7050 or 828-488-5200

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 
More information

Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum
Twenty-five miles from Bryson City using this route
62 Vintage Lane
Maggie Valley, NC 28751
For Internet directions, search for: 2914 Soco Road, Maggie Valley, NC 28751
I have posted about my trip to this place. 

Tail of the Dragon
Thirty-seven miles from Bryson City to nearest point, using this route.  
The famous Dragon begins on the North Carolina side at Fugitive Bridge with a view of the 225 foot high Cheoah Dam where Harrison Ford jumped in the movie The Fugitive. It ends 14 miles across the mountain at the Tabcat Creek Bridge in Tennessee. 
There is plenty of information on the website, including riding tips and safety.  There are also maps of other good motorcycle roads. 

Cherohala Skyway
Thirty-one miles from Bryson City to nearest point, using this route
This road connects Robbinsville, North Carolina with Tellico Plains, Tennessee. Winding up and over 5,400 foot mountains for fifteen miles in North Carolina and descending another twenty-one miles into the deeply forested backcountry of Tennessee, the road crosses through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests.  Thus the name "Chero...hala."  It has long, sweeping curves, scenic views, and cool summer breezes.

Two miles from Bryson City to nearest point, using this route
Stretching from the Tail of the Dragon, Moonshiner 28 winds its way southeastward through Franklin and Highlands North Carolina before turning southward into Georgia and South Carolina at Walhalla.
It was once one of the major runs for moonshiners with revenuers hot on their bumpers.  The road today boasts some great twisties, wide sweepers, and unsurpassed scenery.  Mountain vistas, waterfalls and secluded lakes appear frequently.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Thirteen miles from Bryson City to nearest point (southern end), using this route
The Parkway runs for 469 miles (755 km), mostly along the famous Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. Its southern terminus is on the boundary between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina, from which it travels north to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and becomes Shenandoah's Skyline Drive.
Information about Bryson City. Things to do nearby. 
Photos taken in and near Bryson City by Galen R Frysinger.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Wheels Through Time

You remember that I went to the Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition up in Vancouver British Columbia a few weeks ago.  They show parts of their extensive collection of motorcycles in an extension of their Harley dealership.

Well, I ventured out to a closer-by motorcycle exhibit a couple of weeks ago, up in Maggie Valley North Carolina, called Wheels Through Time.  I figured I had better go now before the mountain roads get crowded with fall foliage gawkers and the road surfaces become covered with leaves.

I mapped out a route that would take me up some twisty roads and past some pretty scenery.  We are blessed with some very nice motorcycle roads not far from my house.  There is US-178, NC-215, and a great section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that is north of home by about 51 miles.

This is not the first time I have visited the museum.  The last time was with a couple of guys who are much faster riders than I am, and I couldn't keep up. They were very understanding, and never said a word about it, but my riding confidence evaporated and I didn't have a good day of it.  I'll try to do better today.  

I go out about 7:00 AM because I want to spend some time looking around the museum and I don't want to get home too late.  My ride starts out a little iffy as far as the weather is concerned, though.  It is foggy and damp.  I head up US-178 to the Holly Springs Country Store where a lot of bikers meet up.  It is apparently too early today to see other riders there, so I pass right by and begin the more twisty section of the road.  It is called the Moorefield Memorial Highway after the road engineer who designed it.  The fast riders go at warp speed on this road, and the residents don't like it much.  Law enforcement officers on bikes and in cars frequent this stretch, too.

I take my time and ride as fast as I feel comfortable with, well below warp, but above the advisory speeds. It gets very foggy near Rosman North Carolina, and I consider turning back.  After a short stop, I decide to press onward.  That turns out to be a good decision, as the fog dissipates nicely in a few miles. The temperature is a cool 65 degrees here at this higher elevation. 

NC-215 is a continuation of US-178, after a slight jog above Rosman.  This road has recently been paved, and there is gravel on many of the turns.  I keep the speed down here too, for fear of a slip on the stones.  At least the road surface is much better than it was the last time I came up here.  There were many potential edge traps and gravel then too.

I stop at a pulloff just south of the Parkway to take in the view.  I note that the gravel pulloff has not been graded up to the level of the new road surface as yet, so the dropoff is five inches or more.  It is a little unnerving to plunge off the edge onto the gravel, but I slow down and take it at as near a right angle as possible and it goes well.

See that black line just beyond the bike?  That is the step I have just come down. 
Hmmmm.  That step should be an interesting hurdle when I leave.  I put it out of my mind while I look over the scenery and rest for a few minutes. 

The road ahead beckons in this picture.  The Blue Ridge Parkway entrance is just a fraction of a mile further on.  I get ready to move on. 

As I survey the pavement edge situation, I manage to find a place where the bump up to the pavement is not as great, and take it at a near right angle, and, again I make it OK.  That was easier than I thought, though there is some risk here because the road curves and the entry point is blind, which is especially bad if a vehicle is traveling above the speed limit.

I reach the Parkway, and head south.  I have not ridden very far in this direction before, so I want to look at the scenery -- and that requires stopping frequently at overlooks. 

Here is one scene this morning.
It almost looks like a painting -- a bit otherworldly, in fact.

Not far along, I stop at the highest point on the Parkway, at 6053 feet above sea level.   

For comparison, Rosman is at 2200 feet, and Easley at home is at 1091, so I have climbed nearly a mile, not counting the downhill sections that have been regained. 

There is a visitor center at Waterrock Knob, near the place where I will be getting off the Parkway.  Here is a shot taken from part way up the knob. 

It is located at milepost 451.2, just 18 miles from the south end of the Parkway.  Note how the road curves around beyond the parking lot, so you can see it on both sides.  The hike up to this vantage point is steep and I have to stop a few times to catch my breath.  The top of the knob is a little more than a half mile walk.  The summit has an elevation of 6,292 feet, but I stop before that -- just a quarter mile along -- to take the picture.

By now, the temperature has climbed and the sun is bright.  A little sweat has netted me a wonderful view of the surrounding creation.

Some other views from here. 

The road I came in on. 

I like the views from here, but I am hot, and it will be good to get moving again. 

I ride on a few miles and exit the Parkway onto Soco Road, which leads to the museum.  As I near it, the roads are laden, mostly with Harley riders.  Although I didn't know it, this weekend is the Thunder in the Smokies Fall Motorcycle Rally.  I marvel at how few of the Harley guys and gals are wearing protective gear.  Helmets, yes -- but maybe because they are required in North Carolina.  Oh, and some of the bikes have loud exhausts.  What a surprise! 

Here is a picture of the front of the Wheels Through Time museum building.

There are many other bikes in the parking lot when I arrive.  I maneuver mine to a place under a tree and dismount.  I walk up to the entrance, and this old veteran greets me there. 
...and so does this one. 
Yes, there are both restored and unrestored bikes on display.

I go in, and walk to the desk.  The ladies there greet me warmly, with genuine friendship in their voices and on their countenances.   I pay the fare, and they point out the way to the displays and restrooms, and tell me that I am free to come and go all day if I want.

On my way in, I note that there are several of these around, also freely coming and going.  Friendly, and trusting, all. This one was sprawled out in the lobby area, and all of the visitors gently stepped around her. 

The museum is owned by Dale Walksler.  His son Matt is active here as well.  Established in 1993, it was closed for a while, but is now open again. It contains mostly American motorcycles. 
One interesting aspect of this museum is that it is not entirely hands-off.  In fact, there is little that keeps a visitor from touching many of the display items except good behavior, from bikes on down to literature relating to motorcycles.  Read this account from the Dixie Biker website.

Many of the bikes are in operating condition, and the staff sometimes starts up various of them so visitors can hear and occasionally ride them. There are considerable areas of the concrete floor where rubber has been laid down from quick starts and stops of the vintage iron. 

The last time I visited, Dale Walksler himself, with a sidecar rig, gave rides to the kids who were visiting.  Here he is taking Tater dog and a friend for a ride that day. 
[photo by Ryan]

This time, Mr. Walksler is away, on the Cannonball RunThis is a two week, coast-to-coast endurance run for motorcycles made before 1916.  Over 45 riders are competing in the run and thousands of fans and spectators gather to cheer them on every step of the way.  They passed through the Wheels Through Time museum just a week ago.  They started at Kitty Hawk, NC and will run to Santa Monica, CA.  Mr. Walksler, is one of the 45 riders on the run, competing aboard a specially-prepared 1915 Harley-Davidson. 

On to the displays.  

This bike has an acetylene headlamp and handlebar muffs to keep the rider's hands warm in cold weather.  Kind of like the Hippo Hands I have for winter. 
Here is an in-town delivery truck/trike.  These must have been practical, but also provide eye-catching advertising space for a business, similar to the little Japanese truck I saw in Vancouver. 

Here is a police trike, probably from the 1950s.  It is nicely restored.  I remember these from the big city during my youth up north, except they were white and black instead of blue.  Note the brass pump-type fire extinguisher to the left of the rear wheel.  It was sold by the Pyrene Manufacturing Company, and filled with carbon tetrachloride. 

This is the Fred Ham special.  This 1937 Harley-Davidson 61 cubic-inch EL Knucklehead is an exact recreation of the motorcycle Fred "Ironman" Ham rode to a new 24 hour endurance record of 1825 miles at Muroc Dry Lake on April 8, 1937.  Seventy years later, this machine would make a run at history at Talladega Superspeedway traveling nearly 1400 miles in 24 hours. 

This is very unusual. 

At first, it appears to be a sidecar rig, but look more closely.  See where the handlebars are?  And look inside the car. 

The handlebars extend to the person seated there, and there are controls on the floor.  Do you suppose it was meant for an adventuresome lady who preferred not to straddle a motorcycle? 

Mr. Walksler's father Bernie walks up about the time I am looking at this rig.  He begins to explain what I am looking at, and he shows me a few of the other displays nearby.  Later, I see him helping museum visitors to mount one of the old bikes on display so their families could take pictures.  This is really NOT a hands-off place!  

How about single-speed belt drive?

An old Indian. 

Silver and blue. 

This is part of a vintage hill climbing bike display. 

Over in this corner is a mockup of a motorcycle service shop. 
With real oil stains on the wooden floor. 

Not all of the displays are labeled, so I can't identify all of these relics.  The staff would help, I am sure, but they are busy with others so I don't bother them.  

This is a 1924 Harley-Davidson FHAC.  This specimen is particularly rare, containing a 61 cubic inch, indirect-action, two cam engine.  The drive also includes a unique slipper sprocket.  The "FH" was a truly dominant machine used for racing on wooden, steeply-banked boardtrack ovals.  This bike has mostly original paint. 

In 1924 Harley Twin Cam board track racers were capable of speeds in excess of 100 mph. note the photo of racers on such a track in the background.
[photo from Charlotte Observer]

1909 Reading Standard Board Track Racer.  Reading Standard entered the racing game in 1907.  It developed a series of successful racing engines and sponsored a field of professional riders including Ray Seymour and Frank Hart.  In July 1909, Seymour set a new one mile record in the Los Angeles Coliseum Motordome, lowering the record to 47 seconds at 76.6 MPH.  This bike remained undiscovered at Ford's Greenfield Village, sitting in the basement of the Orville and Wilbur Wright house there.  It was sold to Wheels Through Time in 1990 and restored in 1992 and 1993.  This 1909 Reading is probably the most elegant early board racer in existence. 

1929 Harley-Davidson DAR Board Track Racer.   It was built to compete as a Class A 45 cubic inch racer.  This creation of this class was influenced by the Excelsior Company's year earlier 45 cubic inch motorcycle, the Super X.  Soon after the development of the new class, Indian followed suit, building a factory-built special called the Altoona.  Harley sensed the need to develop a good 45 cubic inch machine, to compete with these others.  The first factory-built OHV 45 cubic inch Harley debuted at a hill climb in August 1929.  As hill climbing became the big American motorcycle sport, the DAH became a force to be reckoned with over several seasons, culminating with a National Championship in 1932.  Approximately ten OHV 45s are known to exist, and this is the only original DAR Board Track Racer. 

Some more racers.  

1924 Harley Davidson JDCA. 

A 1915 Dayton hack.  

Look where the engine is on this Dayton Motorwheel.  

A 1917(?) Traub.  Said to be the only one ever found. 

You can easily touch this exceedingly rare piece.  Here is a picture of it outdoors.  

An engine closeup.  

The story, from the Wheels Through Time website is as follows:  

"Wheels Through Time is home to what many consider to be the premier collection of Vintage American motorcycles on the planet, containing over 300 of the rarest and most significant two- and three-wheeled American vehicles ever produced.  Located in the mountains of Western North Carolina, the museum was founded by curator, Dale Walksler, as a way to preserve the history of motorized Americana.  A true shrine to our countries motorcycle heritage, the Museum contains a plethora of machines dating back over 100 years to 1903.  From prototypes and production models to boardtrack racers and hillclimbers, Wheels Through Time is a living, breathing museum, as each and every machine in the collection is kept in running condition, and are regularly started for visitors.

"Of the hundreds of machines housed at Wheels Through Time, perhaps none are more rare than the 1917 Traub motorcycle on display in the museum's "One-Of-A-Kind Motorcycles" exhibit. 

"The Traub has a unique story -- one that has baffled previous owners and vintage motorcycle enthusiasts alike for over 40 years.   Dated to 1917, the Traub is built entirely of its own design and to this date, no documentation on its origin has surfaced.  Found in 1967 behind a brick wall during the renovation of a Chicago apartment building, the Traub fell into the hands of Chicago bicycle shop owner, Torillo Tacchi.  After Tacchi had owned the machine for several years, actor and Hollywood stunt double, Bud Ekins, purchased the machine while on set for the Blues Brothers Movie in the late 1970s.  The Traub was later sold to collector and restorer, Richard Morris, who then sold it to Wheels Through Time Museum curator, Dale Walksler, in 1990.  It has been on permanent display in the museum collection ever since.

"When comparing other top motorcycle makes and models of the era, the Traub has no equal.  Comprised of a sand-cast, hand-built, 80 cubic-inch 'sidevalve' engine, the machine has the ability to reach speeds in excess of 85 mph with ease.  This is largely due to the builders development of a unique three-speed transmission -- a feat that was only achieved by only a few of the most notable motorcycle companies during that time.   Each and every part and component on the machine is hand-made and unique.  During the early part of the 20th century, there were as many as 200 different motorcycle manufacturers, many of which used common parts found on other makes and models.  What sets the Traub apart from other early 'one-of-a-kind' machines is that of all the hundreds of parts that make up the this wonderful motorcycle, none can be found anywhere else in the world.

"But perhaps the most interesting part of this cycle's history is the story, or lack there-of, of its creation.  Numerous public records searches by current owner, Dale Walksler, have yielded no results of a Traub Motorcycle Company ever existing.   In fact, Walksler has been combing through Wheels Through Time's historical archives for years, and has yet to find even a mention of a Traub motorcycle or company.

"For a machine to have such advanced features, unparalleled by other motorcycles of the same era, is truly outstanding," said Walksler.   'It's my opinion that The Traub was an attempt at a new breed of motorcycle.'  But how on earth could a machine have been produced in such great form, with capabilities that far exceed that of any comparable machine, without the knowledge of the rest of the motorcycle industry during that time?"

"While the Traub's story remains a mystery, the search for its origin continues.  'While we may never know why the machine was placed behind that wall, we do hope to one day find out more about its history and the genius that created it,' said Walksler.  Until then, the machine's past will remain unknown, and it will hold its place as perhaps the rarest motorcycle on earth.
More photos can be found here on the Speed TV website

This next is a few-of-a kind bike.  It started life as a Flanders motorcycle, and was purchased by a man in Elkhart Indiana, along with the remaining inventory of the Flanders Company when it went out of business.  Given a quick makeover, and an "ELK" emblem, they were sold out of a hardware store by their original purchaser.  Note that the control cables run inside the frame. 

1936 Harley Davidson UX2.  Based on the 61 cubic inch overhead valve chassis, this model was Harley's update of the conventional but outdated side valve VL.  The UX features an 80 cubic inch displacement with a recirculating oil system similar to the overhead valve version, while its predecessor, the VL, featured a total loss system.  This is number two of six VL prototypes produced.

1936 Harley Davidson EL.  The "knucklehead" was Harley's first production 61 cubic inch overhead valve engine and featuring an entirely new chassis and a recirculating oil system.  The revolutionary knucklehead was produced from 1936 to 1947, and is given credit for making the modern motorcycle what it is today.   This one also features a maroon and Nile green paint scheme.

1937 Harley-Davidson ULH.  A new model for 1937, the ULH was an update to their VLH produced the year before.  The VLH used many of the improvements to the 80 cubic inch knucklehead engine, including recirculating oil system, double-downtube frame and popular teardrop shaped tank. 

1948 Harley-Davidson WRTT.  With 1948 being the peak production season for the Harley-Davidson WR, the AMA class C racing circuit was back in full swing, with races popping up all across the country.  This WRTT, one of only 292 produced, was raced on the west coast into the 1950s, and is featured exactly as it would have been raced over fifty years ago.  It has a side-mounted WICO magneto, and its original number plates. 
1950 Harley-Davidson WR.  Labeled the "Hot-Dog Bike," this Daytona WR is featured in original as-raced condition.  The bike was raced in Daytona and on various other circuits across the Midwest by Jim Kruse, #22 from Kenosha Wisconsin.  It is one of sixty-nine produced, and as a hand clutch, foot shift setup.  Note the rare cast aluminum oil tank. 

1970 Harley-Davidson XR750 Evil Knievel jump bike. 

1953 Harley-Davidson KRM.  This restored KRM is one of the few still in existence.  Produced for cross-country and enduro racing, it was a sporting version of the 45 cubic inch K model.  The engine is all ball bearings.  This specimen was raced in west coast enduros into the 1960s. 

This little gem has an interesting transmission. 

Look more closely.  It is a continuously-variable type using a friction wheel against a disk driven by the engine.  The further from the center of the disk the wheel is moved, the faster the bike goes.  The clutch function was incorporated by simply lifting the wheel from the disk. 

World War I carrier pigeon trailer.  This bike was ridden by Steve McQueen in Spirit of St. Louis.  That is Matt Walksler demonstrating.  He started up the bike so we could hear it run. 
[photo by Ryan]

The museum also has an area devoted to other products that are related to motorcycle manufacturers or that use motorcycle engines for power. 

An Indian outboard engine.  

And a chainsaw.  

A snowmobile!

A personal watercraft, built in the 1920's, and powered by a 1926 Harley engine driving a propeller.

A mine cart.  
This was found in an abandoned gold mine in northern California in the late 1970s.  The Davis Motor Mine Cart is a home-built creation using most of a 1926 Harley-Davidson 21 cubic inch B model motorcycle.  The cart also features a Ford Model-A transmission and electric start.  The Ford transmission coupled with the motorcycle transmission gave nine forward and three reverse speeds.  It was used to pull wagons laden with ore out of an underground mine.  

And several other devices, including an ice saw, and garden tillers. 

Harley also produced general-purpose small engines.

Here is the neon sign for Professor's Harley-Davidson.  It survived 65 years of hurricanes, including Katrina, in Metairie Louisiana.

An overall view of a part of the museum, taken from the balcony. 

While here, I spot another, non-transportation, attraction -- a player piano.  Now I have been restoring and collecting these kinds of pianos since my college days, but today I am attracted to the large space, and I have a hankering to see what the piano sounds like if I play it by hand.  I try a few notes, and it seems to be fairly well in tune, so I ask Mr. Walksler if I might try it out.  He enthusiastically tells me to go ahead -- another example of the make-you-feel-welcome attitude everyone here seems to have.  

I sit down and start in.  First "Elmer's Tune" (also here), then "Put Another Nickel In," "Give Me a Little Kiss," "Unchained Melody," "The Entertainer," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus," "America," "America the Beautiful," "God Bless America," and "Good Night Ladies." 

[How do you remember what all you played, Bucky?]   

Those songs are some I most frequently play, so I know them by memory.  Grandma would have said "by heart,"  a description that may be better, since once you know the music by memory, you can put more feeling -- your heart -- into it. 

A few people stand around listening, some sing along on the patriotic tunes and hymns, and several clap when I finish.  Aw, shucks. I have fun hamming it up a little.  Playing the piano is much easier than riding a motorcycle for me. Then again, I have been playing music almost fifty years longer than I have been riding a motorcycle. Practice helps most things, you think? 

I make a last round of the exhibits to see if I missed anything.  I decide that I haven't, so I make my way out and back to my bike. As I am getting ready to go, a fellow runs up, and grabs my hand, shaking it vigorously.  He is the gardener for the museum, Trapper, and he wants to thank me for the piano music.  Just another one of the staff making a visitor feel good about being there.  

By the way, Trapper was proud of the flowers planted in front of the museum.  I agree, they are nice.  Not in prissy little beds of perfect symmetry, though.  Some of them are large and bushy.   Masculine flowerbeds, maybe??

By the time I leave, the parking lot looks like this.  

I meet a fellow in the parking lot from Illinois, riding a Gold Wing and pulling a trailer.  He says he is on his way to see his son at camp on the east coast, and who has just returned from Afghanistan.  I ask him to give my thanks to him for his service.  He says he would be glad to. 

The temperature has climbed to the high 80s by now.  I mount up and head for the freeway.  It is boring, and the traffic is occasionally heavy, but it is fast.  Often times, when I plan a ride, I take a more difficult route to get there and an easier route back.  That way, if I am a bit tired, I am not as apt to have a mishap. 

I have ridden 212 miles today, and have seen a great collection of motorbikes. It has been a beautiful day to be out.

Come along next time. 

Wheels Through Time videos on YouTube. 
 If you go:

Wheels Through Time, 62 Vintage Lane, Maggie Valley, NC, thirty miles west of Asheville, 828-926-6266
For Internet directions, search for: 2914 Soco Road, Maggie Valley, NC 28751
Hours of operation:
Thursday through Monday, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.
Admission: Adults $12, Seniors (65 and up) $10, Children $6

A further-away alternative:
Deeley Motorcycle Exposition, 1875 Boundary Rd., Vancouver, BC V5M 3Y7.
Adjacent to Trev Deeley Motorcycles.

Hours of operation:
Monday through Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Saturday: 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Sunday: 11:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Admission: Donation
Some explanatory text in this posting is directly quoted from Wheels Through Time displays.