For those of us that like to hit the open road, whether that be in a car, motorcycle, tractor, or bike, the National Motorcycle Museum located in Anamosa, Iowa is a place to find history and adventure. With over 450 motorcycles, Steppenwolf’s song, Born To Be Wild should be playing as you enter this mecca of machines. The opening lines embrace the feeling of the museum perfectly! “Get your motor runnin,’ Head out on the highway. Lookin’ for adventure., And whatever comes our way.”
The is a non-profit museum.
The museum was established by a group of people who love the sport and the machines in 1989. In 2010, the collection moved to the outskirts of Anamosa to this large building that encompasses a huge array of motorcycles, memorabilia, toys, posters and more!
The cost to get in is $15 per person.
Displays and history are breathtaking
Even before entering the actual museum the lobby itself is cool. There is a great picture of racing in Daytona on the beach. This reminded Keith and I of a wonderful visit we had years ago to the North Turn Bar that sits there now
Once inside the museum there is a cool concrete motorcycle you can pose on before heading into the “no touch” zone!
Inside the museum there is a replica of the 1885 Daimler. This is thought to be the word’s first motorcycle, powered by a one-cycle Otto-cycle engine on a wooden frame bike.
Then you move right into Evil Knievel land! I had no idea there was so much memorabilia that went with his stunts and history.
The early displays were my favorites! Like the 1915 Harley-Davidson Twin with the factory sidecar. Then, there is the 1908 Harley Davidson Single, which is the only known bike to have this kind of cylinder configuration. There is a 1906 Curtiss Twin, 1911 Flying Merkel Twin Racer and more.
Some of the historic bikes have been customized like “King Bill’s” Harley Hydra-Glide. This bike was customized they think by “Spanish Louis” . It has so many lights it had to have an auxiliary generator installed
Cars and more at the National Motorcycle Museum!
There were also cars, and bicycle history as well. For example, there was a 1913 Spacke Cycle Car on display, and even a few planes like the 1911 Steco Aerohydroplane! There was even an ice boat!
Von Dutch and Bike Art
Kenneth Howard, AKA Von Dutch was a legendary custom painter, artist, and motorcycle mechanic. He was also a metal worker that hand-crafted his own knives and guns. Nearby was art and a tribute to Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. He along with friends opened a paint shop. Then he began painting and pin-striping cars and motorcycles. When I saw the inspiration of Rat Fink, it made me think of the Annette Funiculi Beach movies I watched when I was young with all the bikers on the beach!
The art I love is the original posters like the beautiful Harley-Davidson sign. The memorabilia throughout the museum and the toys make for great photo-ops as well!
One wonderful piece of art that is quite touching to me is the Piston Splitter’s tank. This was a motorcycle club of veterans formed after World War II.
Replicas of the motorcycles in Easy Rider along with movie posters are on display. There were some Vespa’s on display. They made me think of the Disney movie I started watching with the grandkids. In the movie a sea monster and his friend were trying to build a Vespa!
Steve McQueen’s 1947 Indian Chief Chopper motorcycle is in the museum along with several pictures of this motion picture star!
William “Wild Bill” Gelbke worked as an electrical and mechanical engineer for McDonnell Douglas and Hughes Aircraft. He left the corporate world and began designing motorcycles. He built one called Roadog then logged 20,000 miles on this mega bike in its first year. In a 1972 story about the motorcycle, the article stated that the bike was 17-feet long and weighed 3,280 pounds”! Sadly the “Wild Bill” died in a law dispute, but the motorcycle lives on at the museum.
I have always been amazed at fairs when men or women ride in what this diorama they have on display calls, The Wall of Death. Several pictures show women from the early 1900’s like Viola Pelaquin. She rode the wall of death with her husband until she had her first child in 1929!
There are examples of board racing with some authentic track. This racing took place from 1910 to 1925 according to a video on the museum website. There is also hill climbing and other types of examples of racing at the museum as well!
This just touches the surface of this amazing national motorcycle museum. Be sure to allow plenty of time for this visit, and bring a few dollars for the gift shop! If you like this museum, you would also love the Bicycle Museum in Bremen Ohio!