September 30, 2022

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Savvy Car Technicians

WNC motorcycle museum celebrates 20 years, looks ahead


“If you Google the ‘World’s Rarest Bike,’ this bike will instantly pop up,” Walksler said. “This is the only 1 identified in existence. There is no record of a Traub motorbike corporation, possibly. And it was uncovered guiding a brick wall in Chicago in 1967 — its origin however a secret.”

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Matt Walksler and the 1916 Traub, regarded the “World’s Rarest Motorcycle.” Garret K. Woodward image

The crowd is wild-eyed, with appears of sheer amazement and pure question functioning across each deal with, no matter if a youthful little one holding his mother’s hand or an elderly army veteran in his wheelchair. All in attendance are sporting some variety of bike attire (with Harley-Davidson the brand of selection), a crimson or blue bandana hanging out of back again pockets to wipe the grease off one’s fingers.

Walksler turns off the Traub and the onlookers clap in acknowledgment of the exclusive moment. Walksler smiles in appreciation, shakes a few arms extended toward him, and finally would make his way across the huge showroom to commence yet another antique bike, the group expanding in dimensions with each bicycle coming to life during the afternoon.

These sights and seems are just yet another working day at Dale’s Wheels By means of Time museum in the heart of Maggie Valley. The roar of engines and the inundation of motorcycles — possibly inside of the 38,000-sq.-foot museum housing more than 370 bikes or outdoors in the broad parking whole lot — is nonstop. Hundreds of persons in seemingly every single route, the common and alluring mix of oil and gas wafting in the course of the residence. 

The scene is surreal and too much to handle, and nonetheless oddly lovely and cathartic, seeing initially-hand multiple generations of people coming collectively for this a single real and genuine enthusiasm in their lives — bikes.

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Hannah Rate/Mountain Light Studio

“Wheels Via Time is the premier selection of American motorcycles any place in earth. But, you know, it is not your regular museum,” Walksler mentioned, using a scarce moment to sit at the rear of his second-flooring office environment desk. “This place is additional of an knowledge, alternatively than just a creating full of outdated bikes. There’s far more historical past in below than you could see in a dozen or much more visits. It is an interactive expertise, which is what is so neat about it.”

The “Dale” in Dale’s Wheels Through Time is the late Dale Walksler, Matt’s father and mentor, who started the museum in 2002. A larger sized-than-lifestyle character, Dale gathered bikes for more than 50 a long time of his lifestyle, bouncing from coast to coast for decades, constantly in look for of the subsequent large treasure hunt of steel and heritage. 

Sadly, immediately after a four-yr arduous struggle with cancer, Dale succumbed to his ailment on Feb. 3, 2021, at age 68. Not long ago, the museum celebrated 20 a long time with a weekend of festivities, which include an engine crank around of 20 exceptional bikes, just one for every single yr in operation.

“It’s been a actually psychological weekend. Twenty decades in this article in Maggie Valley has really flown by,” Matt said. “And what definitely tends to make me proud is that when my dad moved below, this was his desire to do just what we’re executing now. I know he is not here to see it, but he’d be proud of how items are heading, happy of the place the museum has come to.”

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The founder of Wheels Through Time, Dale Walksler passed away in 2021. (image: Wheels By means of Time)

At 39, Matt is now the curator and operator of the museum, ultimately carrying the torch of his father’s vision headlong into the future technology and outside of. And while there are a good deal of similarities between Matt and Dale, there are also refined dissimilarities. 

“In a lot of ways, he and I are the identical. But, I’m not scared to get a break,” Matt chuckled, his views drifting to his spouse and younger small children. “He by no means took a break. I signify, this is our life and it’s what we do. But, for him, he was the most pushed of driven people today that I’ve at any time achieved in my existence.”

Exactly where Dale was gregarious and a true force of character in particular person, Matt is humbler in his tone and the way he carries himself all-around the museum. But, both equally of them comprise this immense prosperity of motorbike know-how that is familiar with no bounds. The motorcycles each Walksler adult men have discovered, rebuilt and ridden throughout America with their bare palms is astonishing — in lore and in technique.

“It’s tricky to contact this function, it definitely is,” Matt mentioned. “We’ve really fortuitous to be in a area exactly where each man or woman that comes more than that bridge and into the museum is smiling. You get to fulfill all of these wonderful people from all around the environment, and you get to listen to their story and their enjoy for motorcycles.”

That, and just like his father, Matt delivers to the table a fascinating sense of self, specially when it will come to the myriad of YouTube video clips and dwell streaming by means of social media, something Dale was a pioneer at with his tv and world-wide-web applications early on in the museum’s background. As of very last test, the Wheels Via Time YouTube channel has more than 112,000 subscribers.

“It’s about the preservation of these bikes, finding them running yet again. And the biggest part of it for me was viewing my father with individuals, looking at the effect he experienced when he would share his enthusiasm with men and women — that is a contagious issue,” Matt explained. “When you saw the positive result that Dale experienced on an individual, it will make you want to do the same thing — my biggest objective is to run this museum like he would have.”

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Garret K. Woodward photo

While Wheels By Time was established in 2002, Dale’s lifelong love of motorcycles came about in 1967. He was 15 many years outdated and creating his initially bike when that original spark of enthusiasm and persistence caught like wildfire. By 22, he proven a Harley-Davidson franchise in Mount Vernon, Illinois. 

From there, Dale began collecting bicycle right after bike, scouring the United States for scarce finds, only to before long open up a museum in Illinois. Ultimately, he made the decision to pull up stakes in the Midwest and place down roots in the legendary bike driving haven that is the mountains of Western North Carolina.

“He took a huge leap of faith in going every thing to right here in Maggie Valley. But, his concept and eyesight worked, where now we’re breaking attendance information every month,” Matt explained. “Between word-of-mouth and our YouTube channel, the museum is developing every solitary working day. And our goal is to keep on to expand the assortment, proceed to improve the working experience and maintain preserving history.”

Strolling by means of the museum showroom, there are hundreds of antique bikes in access. Priceless machines surrounded by endless memorabilia and trinkets — event posters, advertising symptoms, a slew of mechanical pieces to but one more challenge prepared for the future — all shelling out homage to the timeless impression of a rider on the open up streets of America.

“It’s that independence of American exploration,” Matt claimed. “It’s in the blood of everybody. Hitting the road on a motorcycle with the wind in your facial area. It appears extremely nostalgic, but it’s serious and tangible.”

As a child expanding up in Illinois, some of Matt’s earliest reminiscences are of jogging all around the Midwest with his father and hitting the road in a quest to monitor down and salvage another bike.

“My dad would get in the van, place in a route and go obtain a thing. We’d travel hundreds of miles every single weekend, heading to antique bicycle satisfies — finding parts, mingling with old motorcycle buddies of his,” Matt marveled. “And, getting a Harley-Davidson seller for 26 yrs, items would discover him, way too. Persons would arrive in and trade their aged Panhead for a new Harley — it was a terrific time for digging up outdated bikes.”

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Garret K. Woodward photo

And nevertheless it’s possible it’s a minor more difficult today to dig up a uncommon bike by prospect or happenstance — with numerous dusty barn finds now discovered or social media connecting collectors and sellers — there are still steel horses out there completely ready to be allow loose and back out onto the tricky blacktop.

“We’re all just momentary caretakers of these bikes — factors adjust fingers, priorities improve. The place we may perhaps locate a lot significantly less of that bicycle in the barn that hasn’t been found yet, there are certainly more individuals out there who could have been collecting for 20, 30, 40, 50 yrs,” Matt claimed. “Each 1 of these collectors has held those people bikes in working ailment, every single is a caretaker of the record and tale at the rear of just about every motorbike which is cared for and preserved.”

Obtaining up from his desk, it is time for Matt to walk down the stairs and again onto the showroom of the museum. There are additional scarce motorcycles to crank around and many additional fingers to shake in solidarity of a passion that reaches into the furthest corners of the human spirit and affliction. 

Each and every handshake is a individual from somewhere, anyplace, who — nearly like the film “Field of Dreams” — most likely only located by themselves at Wheels Through Time for factors over and above their have comprehension — all they know for absolutely sure is that had to be in this article, if but for a minute.

“You know, with no the tale element of all these bikes, it is just a bunch of inanimate objects, a pile of steel. The bikes do not go with no human interaction,” Matt explained. “There’s this outstanding connection amongst human beings and bikes, this link with heritage and your have particular recollections. There is a million reasons why folks come listed here — everyone has their very own story.”



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