South Charlotte

See wheels through time

Wheels Through Time

U.S. 19, Maggie Valley. 828-926-6266; www.wheelsthroughtime.com.

Days: Open Thursdays-Mondays, through Oct. 31.

Activities: The Western North Carolina mountains are prime when autumn begins to turn, and an ultimate thrill might be riding a motorcycle on the Blue Ridge Parkway or one of several U.S. highways that cork-screw through Haywood and Jackson counties.

Cycle enthusiasts aren't alone when it comes to visiting Wheels Through Time, the Maggie Valley museum dedicated to two-wheeled transportation. The 300-some vehicles in this 38,000-square-foot facility constitute one of the largest and finest collections of historic motorcycles in North America.

Until automaker Henry Ford developed the assembly-line concept, motorcycles were on the fast-track of American technology: They were basically bicycles modified with gas engines. Engineers and inventors who tinkered with them included the Wright brothers; aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh was an avid biker.

The first motor vehicle to cross America was a 1905 Yale motorcycle. Only a handful were built. One is here.

The museum has some modern motorcycles, but the antiques are the big draw.

They're all from the collection of museum founder Dale Walksler, a one-time Harley dealer who decided he'd rather fix and display classics than sell new motorcycles. The volunteer staff at Wheels Through Time share that passion and are adept at chatting with connoisseurs about, say, spark-plug wires on a 1939 Crocker. They can also explain to an 8-year-old what makes motorcycle wheels turn.

Many motorcycles on display are operational: Bikes in the collection are fired up several times a day.

Admission: $12; $10 for 65 and older; $6 for ages 6-12; 5 and younger, free.

Target audience: The built-in appeal is to motorcyclists, the strong element of American transportation history attracts others. Little kids might become impatient.

Directions: Interstate 40 West to Clyde; take the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway (U.S. 74/19/23) southwest. Near Lake Junaluska, follow U.S. 19 west to Maggie Valley. In Maggie Valley, the museum will be on the right side of U.S. 19.

Travel time from Charlotte: 2 hours and 45 minutes.

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