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The Museum That Runs

By Sean Alexander, Oct. 27, 2003
On a recent trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I made a detour to Maggie Valley North Carolina. Not many things will get me off this most beautiful and challenging of roads, but I found one that was more than worth the time and price of admission. Its name is "The Wheels Through Time Transportation Museum".

I was not expecting to see anything I hadn't previously seen, or a display that broke new ground. After all, I'd previously made pilgrimages to see the Guggenheim Museum's much touted "Art of the Motorcycle" exhibit and had also trekked to the AMA's (American Motorcyclist Association) "Hall of Fame" museum in Ohio. What I did find, was a collection of over 250 rare antique American motorcycles, automobiles and memorabilia.

The museum was started by Dale Walksler. Walksler made his fortune as a Harley Davidson dealership owner. After selling his dealership, he decided to start a museum. We as motorcycle enthusiasts, are lucky he is more interested in preserving our motorcycle history than in keeping his fortune.

About 14 months ago, Walksler brought his collection of rare cars and motorcycles to a new and purpose-built building in the heart of Maggie Valley.

Rare may be an understatement as to what you will find in the museum. A great example of this, is a 1917 Traub. The Traub is a one of a kind motorcycle. It was found in 1968 behind a brick wall in Chicago, Ill. There is virtually no documentation on this motorcycle and its origin is a great mystery. What is known is that many of its design and technical features were years ahead of its time.

A favorite of mine, is the 1940 Crocker. This is a machine that documents indicate had an original production run of 106. At this time about 15 remain in complete enough condition to be called original. This machine was capable of over 100 MPH. To give an idea of how that stacks up to competition of the time, contemplate that Crockers were going better that 10 MPH faster than their Harley Davidson peers of the era. It is a gorgeous bike, but what will really perk up your senses is when your tour guide kicks it over and brings this old fire breathers engine to life. That's right, many of the motorcycles on display will be started up for you during your tour. The museum prides itself on being "the museum that runs". If you are like me the thrill of hearing and even feeling the floor shake a bit as these motorcycles from a long gone era are brought to life will send chills down your spine.

For those of you loyal to Harley Davidson or Indian, the senses will be assaulted with many rare production and race bikes. Walksler seems to have a great affinity for boardtrackers, hill climb bikes and vintage road racers. He even built a large mound of dirt within the museum that allows a more realistic display of the hill climb bikes. You will get to see not only the bikes, but also rare photos of championship winning riders, aboard the very motorcycles that sit in front of you. Walkslers attention to detail is impressive.

Fans of vintage automobiles will also be pleased. While the collection of cars is less abundant than motorcycles, the pieces on display are truly impressive. Examples of this are a 1929 Duesenberg. Many consider this to be the most beautiful car ever made. If you have ever heard anyone say "That's a doosie!", you'll know why after seeing this car. To give an idea of how pricey it was, in the depression era the Duesenberg was selling for $20,000! Other cars on display include Cadilacs a Locomobile and a number of other exotic pieces.

Space does not begin to allow me to begin to describe the sights and sounds, that the museum has to offer. Be assured though that if you're a motorcycle enthusiast this is a must see. Do yourself a favor and get to the Wheels of Time Transportation Museum. For more information on the Museum go to their web site at: www.wheelsthroughtime.com
By: Steve Hornung
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