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By Dan Schmitt

Special note: I published this story to the web on January 27, 2008

and I need to add some more of the photos.

 The Wheels Through Time Museum may be the greatest motorcycle museum in the USA today. As a destination, the new location provides a great ride from all directions. As an educational center, its arrangement of motorcycles; by style, by purpose and by age, this museum provides a study of American made motorcycle from 1903 through present time. And as a living museum, a museum that runs, you can touch, smell and even hear these motorcycles, the way they were in their era.


Dale Walksler decided to move his museum from Mt. Vernon, Illinois to Maggie Valley, North Carolina after he sold his Harley-Davidson Dealership. He was looking for a tourist area to locate the new museum. Maggie Valley was suggested to him, and with one visit to this town, he fell in love with it. He purchased an old village campground and plans were formulated to build a new building to house this magnificent collection. Dale’s collection of motorcycles had outgrown his building behind the Harley-Davidson Dealership in Mt. Vernon and he sold the Dealership in order to dedicate his time to these old relics.


Dale explains the raising of the new 38,000 square foot building, “This was the old village campground.  It was a relatively popular campground that closed about three years ago, and I just fell in love with the piece of property.  There are 46 acres and initially we put a new bridge in so we could get the heavy equipment across.  Probably the biggest surprise was when we shot the elevations, we had to raise all this ground 12 feet, so we raised about 50,000 square feet 12 feet in elevation, which was very costly.  Then the building progressed real well.  We used all local contractors and local craftsmen to build the inside stuff, and it really went very well from the date of the real estate closing to the grand opening day.  The opening day of the museum was I think 10 months, so we really put it together in quick order.  We get a lot of compliments on the facility, and it’s probably exactly what I wanted.”


With 67 trips from Mt. Vernon to Maggie Valley, most of the collection is now in Maggie Valley. With careful planning, the motorcycles are now arranged according to style, use and age. Veteran Bikes, those build between 1903 and 1926 are located near the entrance to the great hall. Military Bikes, both WW I and WWII, are located next, on the right, in the great hall. Art Deco Bikes, those built between 1926-1939, are located next, including 45’s, 74’s and other American made motorcycles. Located on the other side of the great hall, the One of a Kind and Post-War motorcycles provide the hint of progress in manufacturing and engineering. Right in the center of the great hall, a man-made hill is located to spotlight the rare collection of factory hill-climb racers. At the far end of the great hall, America’s largest collection of board-track racers is located. Some of these motorcycles are one-off factory racers from the teens and twenties. Another display in the great hall contains old engines and equipment using motorcycle engines for power.


On the ground floor of the entrance hall, Dale has placed vintage cars representing ten decades of automotive progress. But up in the balcony, the Class C motorcycles are located. Race bikes from the thirties through the sixties, bikes that belonged to great champions, Roger Reiman, Brad Andres, Carroll Resweber, etc. There are early factory racers, build for flat-track and enduros. One of Evel Knievel’s jump bikes is there. Dale explains how he acquired two of these famous motorcycles, “A fella named George Sedlak was the guy who painted all of Evel Knievel’s bikes.  He was in the Quad Cities and early on he had met Evel down at Roger Reiman’s shop and told Roger that those bikes he was building for this guy were ugly and he could paint one.  And Evel kind of stood back and said,  “By golly just paint one for me” and from that point on, Evel would never jump anywhere unless he had a George Sedlak paint job on the helmet and on his bike. The first Evel Kneivel bike I bought through George Sedlak, and after Roger died, when they had his auction in Kewanee, Illinois, I bought another one of Evel’s bikes in pieces. That bike is currently on loan at the dealership in Mt. Vernon. “


Located front and center in the great hall is one of the vintage motorcycle shops. Built to represent what an average shop in the early teens would look like, and equipped with tools from that area. In the two far corners of the great hall, two more shops are located, one representing the sixties and the other, the thirties. In the future, the intention is to use these shops for a continuing educational program. Beside the motorcycles, hundreds of artifacts, lithographs, photos, posters and programs from these early eras are on display. Additionally, there are displays featuring era clothing, oil can collections, toys, original oil paintings and calendars.


Dale has been involved with vintage motorcycles from the start of his riding career. His first bike was a 1952 Harley Panhead. He grew up in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and after attending Western Illinois University, he opened his first shop, HOG PARTS, on North Avenue. Dale continues his story, “I started buying old motorcycle dealership’s inventories, and in 1977 I bought the Harley Dealership in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.  I think I was 22 years old.  I got credit through my father who put a second mortgage on his house so I could get the 50 grand to buy the dealership.  I stayed in Mt. Vernon for 24 years and ran a very non-uniform Harley Davidson dealership.  I wasn’t big in the motor clothing and gifts and accessories, I was a motorcycle dealership with great service.  I had 7 full-time mechanics, 3 salesmen, and during my last years in business Dale’s Harley Davidson would sell about 100 motorcycles a month in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, population 16,000 in the middle of nowhere.  That was kind of a means to this end, and during those years of running the dealership I collected and restored, built and put together a lot of pieces and parts, and ended up with 230 very rare motorcycles and a great little collection of cars.”


The first bike Dale restored was a black ’41 Knucklehead with a sidecar.  He rode it solo for many years. It is in the museum now with the sidecar. The first really ‘old’ bike that he bought was a ’28 JD. Next he acquired a 1913 Harley. He says that once you get the taste for these early bikes, the search goes on.  Dale continue the story, “Through my good friend Chuck Lipsky in Galesburg, Illinois and a fella named Red Ryan out of Batavia, Illinois who is really quite a legend, I was able to conjure up 3 or 4 old bikes and restore them back to condition.  They are still here in the museum today.  Over the years, I bought large inventories of old motorcycles. There was a huge deal in Iola, Kansas where I picked up about 40 old bikes.  Then there was a Harley dealership in Energy, Illinois and old George and Wanda Swim sold me 50 old motorcycles for a very reasonable price.  Auctions or funny leads, and they just come out of the strangest places.”


He built the building behind the Harley-Davidson Dealership in 1986.  At that time, he was in the antique car business also. He would buy and sell old cars.  It was called Dale’s Classic Cars.  In 1992, a good friend and famous photographer and writer, Doug Mitchell, suggested the name ‘Wheels Through Time’ and gave Dale a little logo idea.  Ron Ray perfected the logo idea and it became “Wheels Through Time, the Museum that Runs.”  It became official on March 9, 1992.


Dale took a cross-country ride and made it a fundraiser. Dale explains, “In 1997, I took a very famous bike that was raced by Maldwin Jones who crashed it in Cincinnati in 1917.  It laid up in Detroit for 70 years and my friend Steve Huntzinger restored that bike.  It’s a 1917 Henderson factory-built 24-hour endurance bike, a very special machine.  On June 5, 1997 I took the ’17 Henderson and broke Alan Bedell’s 1917 transcontinental record. This took place 80 years later to the day on a similar 1917 Henderson.” Dale continues, “I had a lot of fun doing it, but I made it a fundraiser for Grand National dirt track racers across the country.  It was called the Heritage Challenge and I raised about $35,000.  I think we went to 7 Grand National dirt track races and set up a $5,000 purse.  The Heritage Challenge was comprised of the 6 fastest non-qualifiers to the 5-lap dash for $5,000 just prior to the feature race, so it was a very rewarding experience riding the bike cross-country and seeing those guys who didn’t have a chance of winning, take some money home.”


When asked about Maggie Valley and the reason for the re-location to this location, Dale states, “If you just look around at the pretty mountains, and our motels in town are very friendly people, we have great restaurants here.  We have proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s 3 miles away within the best motorcycle roads in the country.  I-40 is only 8 miles from here, Asheville is 30 miles, and from a tourism point of view, this area will support a museum.”


Dale continue on about the funding of the museum, “Unlike most museums that are funded by large corporations or state grants, this is really funded but with three things.  We have our general admission, a raffle bike annually, and a membership program.  Those 3 items have funded the general operations of this museum, I am a non-paid participant here. I have to thank my friend Jeff Ring, who certainly should get credit for putting this museum together.  We have a staff of three, we have some marketing in place, we have some billboards here in town and some motel advertising.  We have a brochure program, and this little area here is such a wonderful place, it will support a museum.”


The WHEEL THROUGH TIME MUSEUM is located in western North Carolina with the Great Smokey Mountain as a backdrop. It is only 8 miles off I-40. If you travel from the Midwest, once you get east of Knoxville, Tennessee, you will ride the best interstate highway section in the country. This ride containing hundreds of turns through the Pigeon River Gorge is just fantastic. The speed limit for trucks is only 45 mph. From the east, the BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY travels from north-east to south-west, providing a smooth ride to Maggie Valley. Or you can just take I-40, the Highway 19 exit is just 30 west of Asheville, North Carolina.

The museum is open 7 days a week, and Dale is usually on the floor from 8 AM to 7-8 PM. The address is Wheels Through Time, P.O. Box 790, Maggie Valley, NC  28751. Telephone number is 828-926-6266. Their website is

 Next year, in 2004, the Antique Motorcycle Club of American (AMCA) will be hosting a national here, a national road run.  There will be 150 vintage bikes from around the country here to rally. Additional, this museum allow photographs and video taping, so bring your camera.



Some photo descriptions:


Harley Davidson’s 80 mile per gallon advertising roadside sign.


Pre-teens motorcycles


Vintage teens era motorcycle shop


Dale running his Henderson


Hill climb motorcycles on man-made hill


One of Evel Knievel’s Jump bikes.


Some of the hundred of pieces of original artwork


Early V-twin Indian.


Front entrance


Sign and waterfall on Highway 19


Oldsmobile built Motorama 3-wheel vehicle




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