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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wheel Through Time - Awesome!

Sometimes people rant and rave about a place, building it up, only to result in unmet expectations.  That is not the case with Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum.  During our recent trip to southwest North Carolina some friends and I visited the museum in Maggie Valley, NC and my expectations were met and exceeded.
The unassuming building holds an amazing amount of history
Maggie Valley is a nice town that sits on US 19 on the eastern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 35 miles west of Asheville, NC and 66 miles east of the famous Deals Gap and the Tail of the Dragon.

We arrived early Sunday morning and there were only two other motorcycles in the parking lot.  We were greeted by some great vintage bikes before entering the building.  Once in we were welcomed by very friendly staff.
 One of the bikes on the outside steps
What a nice Harley
A staff member answered many of our questions and started telling us about different bikes.  We learned that all the bikes are American made and nearly all of them would run.  Using their computer in the gift shop I showed him the photos of my grandpa's bike on my blog and asked if they had one like it in the museum.  He directed me to two bikes and he felt it was one of them, either the 1915 or 1916  Harley.  It was cool to see the bike up close.
 This might have been the same model my grandfather rode.
As we continued looking the owner's son Matt came by and spent a great deal of time with us.  He told us many interesting stories about different bikes and how they acquired them.  He told us the history of different makes and styles.  He talked to us about flat track racing, dirt racing, hill climbing, and the historic Jack Pine enduro races.  

Matt also started up 5 different bikes for us.  One of them was 100 years old!  A very rare 1913 Thor 1000c race bike - watch the video below - turn up the sound and hear Matt tell us about the bike.
1913 Thor racing bike (Video by Jerry Bryant) - subscribe to YouTube Channel
Matt also told us the history to the Jack Pine enduro race and how they got the Harley-Davidson with sidecar that had raced in the Jack Pine several times.  He then fired it up for us.
Jack Pine race (Video by Jerry Burden)- subscribe to YouTube Channel
There were so many bikes and many were rare.  The rarest was the one of a kind Traub.  The 1917 Traub was found bricked up in an apartment in Chicago in 1967.  There is no information about the builder.  (For more info click here.)
1917 Traub - a true one of a kind
There are 26 different American made brands in the museum.  The history is amazing and the personal attention the owner Dale and his son gave us was awesome.  Too many bikes and too much information to put in a post.  If you are anywhere near Maggie Valley do yourself a favor and visit the Wheels Through Time museum.  I really don't think you will be disappointed.  Below are a few more photos to enjoy.
 DOT approved ???

 A rare Elk in running condition
 Check out the big rear fender
 Flat track racer
 American made ACE

 Board trac racing display
Military Harley
Many more bikes, parts, cars, and more are on display at the museum.  If you enjoy motorcycle history this is the place to visit.  A bonus is all the great roads to ride while you are in the area.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Great road & destination west of Austin, TX

It gets really hot here in Texas but, sometimes the road is worthy of some discomfort.  One such road I recently found is northwest of Austin on the eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country.  It was really by chance that I took the road but I am glad I found Farm to Market 1431 (FM 1431).

Cedar Park is a growing city 20 miles from downtown Austin and about 10 miles west of Round Rock and Interstate 35.  I checked into a motel on a hot (102 degrees) Sunday afternoon.  Once in the room I looked at the map and saw that I wasn't that far from the famous Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls and its famous homemade pies.  Homemade pie sounded great.  The most direct route was FM 1431 and it looked like it had some nice curves so I decided to take it.  I am glad I did.
FM 1431 has plenty of curves and elevation change
It was about 3:30 in the afternoon and the temperature on the FJR read 103 degrees as I headed west.  For the first five to six miles from I35 FM 1431 is a six lane city street with plenty of traffic lights, but after passing Anderson Mill Road things get better.  It comes a 4 lane road with nice sweeping curves and several hills.  There is one more traffic light in Lago Vista (about 20 miles west of I35) and then the road narrows to a two lane stretch of asphalt just waiting to be ridden.
Recently repaved FM 1431 is in great condition
The road had numerous curves, but down shifting was not needed on most of them.  They were big sweeping curves with elevation changes frequently.  I was able to enter the curve at a good pace and acceleration through the turn.  I really enjoyed the hills.  There is very few stretch (and those are short) in which there was no curve or no elevation change.

Of course riding in the Texas Hill Country at dusk or dawn can be a dangerous situation due to the concentration of wildlife, especially Mule Deer.  I did not see any on the way to Marble Falls (100+ temperatures tend to keep Bambi in the cooler shaded areas), but I did pass a couple 20 feet from the road on my way back to the motel around 6:00.
 This photo is from a different trip about 35 miles from Marble Falls, but it serves as a great example how deer sightings are very common in the area.
Once I got to Marble Falls I was disappointed to see that The Blue Bonnet Cafe closes at 1:45 on Sundays (yes, the sign on the door says 1:45).  I drowned may sorrows of missing out on a great piece of homemade pie with a Blizzard from the local Dairy Queen.

I decided to take the same road back even though I was headed to Georgetown to watch my son at basketball camp and there were other routes.  I had enjoyed the road and I knew that I could take it at a crisper pace this time.  It was great!

The following day I decided to ride some before heading to camp and watch my son and his team play games.  I checked out the map and decided that I had enjoyed FM 1431 so much and I did not get my pie - I would ride out to the Blue Bonnet Cafe for lunch, but on the way I was going to take a side loop off of FM 1431.

About 12 mile east of Marble Falls FM 1174 intersects FM 1431 and heads north.  I took FM 1174 to FM 243 to Oatmeal, TX.  Oatmeal is a tiny community with a community center and pavilion including a large grill to use during the Oatmeal Festival.  Yes, there is an Annual Oatmeal Festival on the Labor Day Weekend.
 Documented proof that somewhere someone will celebrate anything.
Hopefully this isn't the community's waters source.
I continued north on FM 243 to Bertram, TX where I turned south on FM 1174 riding it back to FM 1431.  The loop to Oatmeal, Bertram, and back to FM 1431 added 31 miles and it was well worth it.  The loop was not as curvy, but quite enjoyable and scenic.  
FM 1431 crossing over Cow Creek
I pulled into the Blue Bonnet Cafe ready for lunch and some pie.  I actually enjoyed breakfast for lunch (breakfast served all day) and yes I had a piece of German Chocolate Pie after my breakfast/lunch.  I forgot to take my camera in so no pictures, but I was very satisfied with both the meal and the dessert.

Once more I consulted my map to decide how I would get to Georgetown and basketball camp.  No other road heading to Georgetown could match the squiggly line I had already ridden three times in less than 24 hours - so I smiled and headed east on FM 1431 with a goal of push the FJR through the curves and over the hills.  I also had time to take a couple of side roads to look at Cow Creek and the Colorado River (not to be confused with the much longer and bigger river that flows from Colorado to the Gulf of California).
Cow Creek.  Cow Creek Road is a paved county road that has some great scenery.
Muleshoe Bend of the Colorado at the end of Turkey Bend Road
The fourth time riding the road was just as enjoyable as the first and second time.  I really enjoyed the road, the scenery, and the side roads.  If you are in Central Texas and have the time you will not be disappointed riding FM 1431 and you might as well stop for pie in Marble Falls.

On a different note - during my ride from the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro-mess I had to stop by the Czech Stop Bakery in West and then I purposefully set out to find a church that I had seen on a previous ride.  The sign to the church is like none other I had ever seen so I wanted a picture of the sign.  Just thought I would share it with you.  Let me know if you have ever seen a church like this.  
Read the sign carefully