My Day with the Hogs

4 Sep

Last Saturday my Dad and I went to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wis., thanks to free passes I won at work.

We had some excitement before we event got to the museum thanks to a near car-crash. An old man tried to turn right from the left-hand turn lane, and a man in a small car next to him didn’t take too kindly to that, and the two almost collided. Lots of fun.

The outside of the museum is impressive, with lots of catwalk-like structuring and “Harley-Davidson” (see above) and “1903” spelled out in gray brick against a black background.

There was a cool sculpture of a man doing a wheelie on a Harley, and the familiar H-D logo was proudly displayed in several areas of scaffolding that made up the outside of the museum.


Our passes were somewhat akin to a movie ticket. We were scheduled to be in the museum at 8 a.m., and needed to arrive 30 minutes prior to our entry time. I assume this was because our visit coincided with the 105th Anniversary weekend, so they wanted to control the number of people coming in and leaving the museum at any one time.

I had been up late the night before, so I was a bit tired, but not too bad. There was plenty to look at as we waited to be let in, as bikers were arriving en masse to, I think, take part in the parade that was happening later that morning.

We were let into the museum long before 8 a.m. It consists of two floors. The first floor is the “first 50 years or so” of Harley-Davidson, and the second is the “Easy Rider” era to the present day. The first floor was a long hallway with bikes from various eras mounted in the center for viewing, and there were rooms off of the hallway for smaller displays.

A large marble plaque welcomed visitors with the story of how Harley-Davidson came to be.

Our first stop was the engine room, where lots of engines from over the years were mounted on the wall, and in some spots there were interactive kiosks where you could use a touch screen to choose and engine and hear how it sounds. My Dad pulled up the engine that was in the Harley he used to own — a Softail — and decided it sounded much like his old bike.

The picture above doesn’t really do that room justice in the way it was lit. It almost seemed like a funhouse, where the only real light was coming from the backlighting of the engines.

The next room covered Harley-Davidson’s role in war. There were a couple of older bikes there that were pretty cool.

Then we moved to the beginning of Harley-Davidson and racing. They had a portion of a racetrack set up in the room with bikes mounted to it. The track was actually a screen, which intermittently played scenes from races run a long time ago. My Dad explained that the bikes didn’t have brakes, so when the race was over the riders had to coast to a stop, and there were tons of injuries.

The second (lower level) contained bikes and gear from more recent times, mainly the 60s to the present. There was a year-by-year display, and I of course had to find the bike they made the year I was born.


There was also this cool ramp that had bikes bolted to it or hovering overhead, I think to illustrate how they look when they jump.

The final room looked like a drive-in theater. A screen was showing some kind of video, and below it were mounted various Harley-Davidson models. I was very excited to learn that you could sit on one or all of them and get your picture taken. My Dad didn’t want to; he said he had enough pictures of himself sitting on a Harley.

So I did.

We probably spent about an hour in the museum, and by the time we got out, more bikes had arrived, and the place was packed.

I was disappointed that the store wasn’t open, because I would have bought a t-shirt or something. Oh well, maybe next time. This is practically in my backyard, after all.


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