HARLEY - DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLE MUSEUM
It was a beautiful day in facinating Milwaukee, and our host offered to take us to the new Museum that had been recently completed by Harley Davidson. Harley Davidson started the company way back around 1902, and has been an important part of the community since then. So, lets go and see what is there.
But first, a note about terminology. Sometimes I refer to motorcycles as "bikes", and sometimes as "Machines", but they all mean the same. Also, as shorthand, I sometimes refer to Harley Davidson and Harley.
I was really impressed as we drove to the museum. Wide streets, large parking lots, and in the center, two very large new buildings connected by an overhead bridge. One contains the museum, and the other is for the maintenance, restoration and storage of the bike collection. I was told that there are over 700 motorcycles in the collection, and about 150 of those are currently on display. This is the building that houses the museum. The bikes are displayed in a number of rooms on two floors. The second floor is where the visit starts.
This is the first room that you see on entering. The oldest bikes are near the entrance, and the newest ones are at the far end.of this long room. There are special topic rooms on each side.
This is the first bike made by Harley, and it is known as "Serial #1".
Close up of the drive on serial number one. Looks like a belt drive to me.
Wide view of Serial #1
Here we are back at the beginning of the line I referred to above, I love the white sidewall tires, and sweep of the handle bars, which make the bike look like it is speeding even when standing still. But I wonder how the handle bars may hit one's thigh when making a sharp turn.
we took photos of many bikes, and I am showing them in the hope that you can appreciate the details, but I don't have much to say about many of them. So, enjoy the images.
I remember the side cars of my youth, and often wish I could ride in one.
Each one is a beauty in it's own right.
They had a room with some of the military motorcycles - note the rifles/carbines. They were great for the army messengers, military police and scouts..
They played an important role in both World Wars. as well as some of the later conflicts.
These were very popular in ghe first half of the 1900's.
Now we are in the room for the racing bikes.
This is part of the banked racing surface of the popular indoor racing tracks.
Now we are in the Engine Room. As you can imagine there were many many different engines developed over the years.
and most of them are displayed here. There were also a number of educational models, where one turned a crank and saw the interior of a cut away engine.
Most of these engines are mounted on this large wall
In front of the wall were these neat flat panel displays, with touch screens . One could select any of the engines and get history and specifications. One could also get a recording of the sound of the engine. I really loved that. VROOMM, VROMM!
The gas tanks gave a great opportunity for customizing and beautifying. Just look at their collection of gas tanks!!
Now we have gone down to the first floor. This first section focuses on the "Custom Culture"
These bikes were used in the movie "Easy Rider"
Someone spent a big chunk of his life making this super power machine with multiple engines.
This person did all of this customizing while recovering from an accident. Hundreds and hundreds of lights!
This is a display of hill climbers
Let's pause for a minute and talk about Harley's history. In the first half of the 1900's, Harley competed mainly against American competitors such as "Indian". However, after WWII, there was very strong competition from the Germans, Japanese, and some English. As times got tougher at Harley they branched out into other products as a way to survive. They were bought and struggled on. Finally, I think it was in the 90's, they were about to be closed by the banks, but the employees made a long shot offer, and finally it was accepted. Now, after lots of hard work, they seem to be doing fine. I got the gist of this from a film that they showed, and I hope I got it pretty right.
They built an array of other items including there scooters and golf carts.
Really small bike.
As we neared the exit we came to this large room where there were about 20 different motorcycles that one could actually sit on. They were all facing a huge screen where films were projected simulating driving down a series of different roads, accompanied by good sound effects. So one could, try to imagine that they were out for a nice ride on an interesting road.
I was amazed at how hard it was to get my leg up and over the bike. But then, I'm no spring chicken.
I believe that they were having a raffle for this bike.
Of course there is excellent parking right by the front door for those who arrive on a motorcycle.
My impression is that Harley did not spare the horses when they designed and built this marvelous facility. Really first class in all respects. A great visit even if one does not own/ride a bike. I am one of those.
A tradition seems to have developed where many owners of Harley Davidson Motorcycles return to Milwaukee for a big gathering/rrunion/convention/bash, typically on Labor Day weekend. Harley's goal was to be sure that the new museum would be ready in time for this 2008 gathering. I was informed by one of the employees that 30,000 tickets to the museum had been distributed via dealers, etc. Hotel rooms for the weekend had been sold out for months for miles and miles around Milwaukee. We were home for 3 weeks before the big weekend, but the reports were that it was a truly huge success, with thousand and thousands people on motorcycles everywhere. I am happy that it was a big success, because Harley had done such a great job.
We think this is a wonderful place to visit, and hope to go back some day.
P.S. Our host, Tom Jr, took most of these photos, and I wish to thank him for their use.