29 Jul Bikes and History at the Harley Davidson Museum
We watched the steel ball with bated breath–a woman stood inside, inches away from two motorcycles speeding in circles around her. The motorcycles defied gravity, spinning round and round and upside down. We were at the Harley Davidson Museum watching the Ives Brothers Cycle Globe of Death Performance, and it was terrifyingly amazing.
To round off the end of our Wisconsin road trip with AmericInn Hotels, we drove from Sheboygan on the eastern side of the state all the way over to Prairie du Chien on the west. Along the way, we made a slight detour and swung down through Milwaukee for lunch and a stop at the Harley Davidson Museum.
The weekend we visited, there was an event going on called the “Wild Ones Weekend” so there were rows and rows of vintage bikes out front for the Antique Motorcycle Ride In Show. We loved ogling at the antique bikes and getting a peek at some historic motorcycles before heading inside to the museum.
Now, I’m going to be honest—we aren’t “motorcycle people”. Other than going for one or two short rides with family members as children, neither of us have ever really been on a bike. With that said, we decided to visit the museum because the culture and history of the company is fascinating, and I’ve heard wonderful reviews about the museum.
One of the things I’ve heard from numerous people is that the guides are amazing, so if you have the chance to go on a guided tour of the museum, I would definitely sign up. Unfortunately, a tour didn’t align quite right with our visit, so we opted for the audio tour instead. We wanted to learn more about the displays as we wandered around the museum, and I’m so glad that we had some commentary to go along with the exhibits.
I had no idea how motorcycles actually got their start in the world. In the early 1900’s, there were only about 150 miles of paved roads across the United States. Because of this, bikes were created to make it easier for people to travel down the dirt roads. It wasn’t until people started to switch over to automobiles that motorcycles became a sport.
I loved walking through the historic bike section and learning about the transitions the motorcycles made throughout the years and why. The upstairs of the museum is home to exhibits and information about how the company got its start, as well as information and an interactive exhibit about the different types of motors in various bikes.
My favorite sections were the stories about Evel Knievel and the stunts he pulled and the history of some of the adventurous women who rode motorcycles in the 1920’s, such as Vivian Bales who was known for her long distance rides and stunt riding.
Next, the museum led us to information about the designs on the fuel tanks and how they have evolved. There was a full wall highlighting different design examples throughout the years.
Up on the 3rd floor, there was a workshop where you might have a chance to see bikes being worked on–when we were there, no one was in the shop, but it would have been fun to see some action in there!
Next, it was on to the main floor of the museum. The main floor had displays of more modern bikes along with some of the other products Harley Davidson has created, such as boats, snowmobiles and more–I had no idea they produced anything other than bikes! There were also several more interactive exhibits as well as a wall full of photos of people with their motorcycles.
We also checked out some of the eccentric ways people have decorated their bikes–there were several bikes on display that had some interesting embellishments added.
After we had our fill of the main museum, we made our way over to the special exhibit dedicated to drag racing. We were running short on time, so we took a quick spin through to get an overview of the history of this intriguing sport and some of the people that made drag racing what it is today.
Although we aren’t motorcycle people, the museum and events of the day were very interesting to learn about. I left with an appreciation for motorcycles that I didn’t have prior to our visit. It was the perfect way to break up our drive to Prairie du Chien, and even though we didn’t arrive at our next AmericInn hotel on bikes, it gave me a smile to see bins with towels dedicated and ready for motorcyclists coming in from a long day on the road. The evening and road trip ended on a high note–on our final night, our last AmericInn Hotel had fresh Wisconsin cheese and an ice cream sundae bar ready for guests throughout the evening. Then, we made our way out to two amazing fireworks shows that lasted for almost two hours in total. I can definitely say we ended this trip with a bang!
We partnered with AmericInn Hotels and Suites on a summer road trip through Wisconsin in connection with their Fill-Inn-To-Win promotion. AmericInn is giving away a free night stay every day throughout the summer, so be sure to enter for your chance to win! As always, all opinions are our own.