Five Hundred Miles...

A Rogue Wanderer Traveling The River of Life.. Travel, Motorcycles, and Growing Old Against My Will

Sunday, May 28, 2006



Since 2002, Dale Wachsler’s Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley NC, has been drawing visitors from around the world to this small quiet Smokey Mountain village. It is truly one of the most unique museums in the world, where every machine has a history, every one a story, and every one of them is in rolling running condition. It is a living museum.

Situated on forty two acres, the forty thousand square feet of display space accommodates this incredible and largest collection of historic American motorcycles in existence; including artwork, sculpture, memorabilia, trinkets and trivia of two wheeled history. If it is any way related to motorcycling in America in the twentieth century, it is here.

The collection includes several tons of dirt and stone that were trucked in for the display of limited edition, sometimes one of a kind hill climb motorcycles, which compliments the various displays built around themes of their time, concepts of early twentieth century motorcycle shops and stores, evoking a true feeling of being in another time, another place.

For Dale, this is a labor of love. The 54 year old founder, designer and owner of the museum began his motorcycling career at 15, when he built his first three wheel chopper. Today, there are more than 275 motorcycles on display, including twenty three different marques of historic American motorcycles. Included here are bikes owned by McQueen and Evel Knieval's Harley Davidson, for example, along with many others not so famous, but just as prominently displayed.

“Every motorcycle here has its own story. They are pieces of people’s lives, each with layered bits of history attached to it” Dale said recently.
The Traub 80 ci 1300 cc V-twin of 1917 vintage is the exception. It is the bike with no story, no history that anyone can find.

It was found buried inside the wall of a building in Chicago in 1967, restored and owned by Steve McQueen’s stuntman Bud Ekins. The years 1915-1930 were exciting times in motorcycle history, when new innovations were coming fast and furious, and builders all had their eyes on the prize that Harley Davidson eventually won. Who was Traub? No one knows. Perhaps a man who dreamed dreams that no one else dared to dream, and for some reason or another had to abandon. “It was years ahead of its time”, Dale says.

Steve McQueen had more than the Triumphs that he was always seen riding. It is estimated that he owned in the neighborhood of one hundred and fifty motorcycles, including the Pierce that is part of the tribute to women motorcyclists currently on display, and the rare 1917 Flesher Flyer on its pedestal. All of these bikes are Dale's own; a reflection on his love for American motorcycles and the role that they have played in our history, through two world wars, a depression, and the incredible twentieth century, when every new development was indeed that, not a reworking of an existing design. Everything here is Dale Wachsler, his vision and his dream. "I'm an archaeologist of old motorcycles", he says.

Dale’s proudest possession though is the 1917 Henderson that he rode cross country in 1997, setting an eighty year old cross country record this particular bike had crashed while attempting a board track endurance run and then languished in obscurity for seventy five years. Dale bought it, had it restored and took it cross country, suffering only a single flat tire between California and New York. “It was just another moving on seven days of my life. It wasn’t a stroll in the park”. Says Dale.

The idea of making that kind of ride brings home exactly what those early motorcyclists went through to pioneer what we have today. In a world of electronic ignitions, highly developed streamlined high speed machines, interstates and paved roads, we can only admire what they endured


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