Friends Doug and Pat took us out on a day trip from their home in Almond, North Carolina. Doug wanted to visit the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley and, knowing Alie was unlikely to be thrilled with a motorcycle museum, he took us first to the Haywood Smokehouse in Waynesville. Both towns are on the southeast corner of the Great Smoky National Park.
It was a stellar day for Alie. She said the pulled pork at the Haywood Smokehouse was the best she ever had. My brisket was also great. The secret is they don’t load it with sauce. After rubbed with spices, pork butts are smoked from 14 to 18 hours; brisket is smoked from 16 to 20 hours. Sauces are provided at the table, but the reason to go out of your way to stop at Haywood is the meat.
Then Alie found three hours in a motorcycle museum was not enough. We have to go back.
Dale Walksler opened a Harley-Davidson dealership in Mount Vernon Illinois in 1977. Today he builds, repairs and restores motorcycles. He opened Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley in 1993. He also is featured this year on the History Channel’s program American Restoration as one of five restorers.
He has a one hundred thousand square-foot building, outbuildings and four shops on the property. In addition to an amazing collection of motorcycles, he has a number of interesting automobiles and tens of thousands of photographs, signs and other motorcycle memorabilia and artifacts.
Did I say he builds, repairs and restores motorcycles? Almost all the historic machines in the museum are still working. We were fortunate to talk with him for a while. We found his enthusiasm
infectious, and he started a 1918 Excelslor Henderson prototype for us.
He says he bought his first bike, an old Chicago police bike, in 1970 with $25 he borrowed from his dad. He still has that bike, and when Jay Leno visited the museum a few years back, Leno started it up.
The current collection has over 350 rare American (when he talks, he emphasizes American) machines. Many are in their original condition, but he has built or restored around 150. When you visit, you will find he is still working on more, and each visit will have something new.
There are many one-of-a-kind bikes including the 1914 Flescher Flyer, the 1913 prototype of the Indian, a 1914 Elk and the mysterious 1917 Traub (which I will write about next week).
Early used-motorcycles could be bought for ten dollars and the engines were often used in other machines. Walksler has what is believed to be the first jet ski, the first snowmobile (then called a motor toboggan), a 1929 air compressor, a power lawn mower, a 1915 ice cutter, and a 1910 tiller among many other machines.
If I seem to have gone crazy with the photographs here, remember I had over 350 motorcycles to look at — and Alie wants to go back.
You can see Dale on the History Channel on Friday nights on American Restoration.
Do you have an outstanding small museum to suggest to us?
Click on photos to enlarge.