Zac2AZ: Postcard from the museum

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Gene Romero's Triumph sits in the Barber museum's shop. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Gene Romero’s Triumph sits in the Barber museum’s shop. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Sketchy housing

After high-tailing it down the highway away from Route 129, I rolled into Birmingham late at night, too late to camp. So, I decided to stay at an America’s Best Value motel, and use their wi-fi to get some work done. CMG doesn’t stay online all by itself, you know.

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I started to have doubts as soon as I pulled into the parking lot. Two women, one apparently a pizza delivery girl and the other one looking an awful lot like a call girl, walked by me as I paid at the front desk. The girl behind the desk … well, let’s just say that if she took up roadracing, they’d have to kill three cows to make her leathers. She was rather large.

Then, when I wheeled the bike around back to put it away for the night, a sketchy dude in a rap shirt came up and asked me all about the Harley-Davidson, telling me what a nice-looking bike it was. I smiled and nodded and looked for something solid to chain the wheel to.

Inside the motel, the wallpaper was peeling, the room offered only the most spartan of accommodations, but it was clean and that’s all I needed. I had a fantastic sleep and woke up to head to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum the next day, as , miraculously, my bike hadn’t been stolen overnight.

A morning at the museum

I wish I’d had more time to spend at the museum, but I knew if I was to make Dallas that night, even my two-hour limit would be stretching it.

Behold, the most attractive exhaust known to man. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Behold, the most attractive exhaust known to man. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

A couple of folks from the museum took the time to give me a guided tour, though, so I saw plenty in my short time there. I even got to go behind the scenes, to the museum’s restoration shop and backroom storage.

This museum is amazing. It’s the world’s largest  motorcycle museum (also the largest collection of Lotus cars, if you’re into cages, and even with some vintage outboards!). There are around 700 motorcycles on display, with about another 700 in storage.

The bikes span the entire age of motorcycling, from the earliest steam-engined machines, to the latest battery bikes from Zero. The museum’s collection of early motorcycles is particularly amazing. They have machines from marques you’ve never seen or heard of, and the bikes look just like new. Ivor Johnson, Excelsior, they’re all here.

One of John Britten's creations. There aren't many of these around; a trip to the Barber museum might be your best chance to see one. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
One of John Britten’s creations. There aren’t many of these around; a trip to the Barber museum might be your best chance to see one. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

If that’s not enough for you, they’ve got plenty of newer bikes too –  the Triumph Trophy SE, an electric bike from Zero, even some ratty old KLRs (is there any other kind) in the back room. There are record-setting machines, a Britten superbike, a Vincent Black Shadow, army and navy surplus machines … just look at the photos, because I could type this stuff all night.

Freeway free-for-all

Plenty of museums have army surplus bikes, but how many have navy surplus bikes? Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Plenty of museums have army surplus bikes, but how many have navy surplus bikes? Photo: Zac Kurylyk

From the museum, I had to go to Dallas. I had 650 miles to do, and I was starting at 12:30 p.m.; that meant a lot of high-speed miles down Rt. 20.

Most of that was smooth and boring, until I reached Shreveport, Louisiana, and encountered the mother of all traffic jams. Here I was with an air-cooled bike and what appeared to be miles of very. slow. moving. traffic. in front of me.

Until a car with a couple of blinged-out dudes asked me why I  wasn’t riding down the shoulder. I took their advice, and passed hundreds of cars, with everyone waving happily and smiling out their window. I had expected someone to start shooting at me, so this was an unexpected bonus.

An impatient cager decided to follow my cue, though, with less impressive results. A transport truck noticed her maneuver, and cut into the shoulder just enough to let me by … with no room for her.

Old-school racing style. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Old-school racing style. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

A few hours later I was in Dallas. I spent the next couple days catching up on CMG work, and seeing the sights (Taco Joint, Deep Ellum, JFK stuff). Then, it was time to hit the Southwest U.S. …


GALLERY

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