We often take the toll-roads and by-passes around a big city so we can quickly reach and enjoy our family or vacation destination. Even when we go into a city we typically head to the usual tourist draws. But hidden gems are missed by merely staying on the main road, as Robert Lee Frost wistfully surmised in The Road Not Taken. “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference” (Frost, 1916).
So, every few weeks a gem of a road detour will appear here, from an ethnic neighborhood enjoyed mostly by locals or an interesting house that a movie or author made worth a visit to an atypical museum or garden or market.
First in the detour series is a museum of vehicles that over the past 100 years were used by the postal service, the military, delivery companies, celebrities such as Elvis Presley, and riders who enjoyed road trips sans cars. It is the Harley-Davidson Museum near downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Less than 10 minutes east of Interstates 94/43 and south of Interstate 794, the museum opened July 2008 at Canal and 6th Streets. Its location on land surrounded by the Menomonee River make it a fine place to walk and relax during a road trip. Signs at the interstate’s National Exit make the museum easy to find.
After buying a ticket on the main floor, go upstairs (handicapped accessible) to go back in time to see how bikes and their riders evolved in perception and usage.
From exhibits of photos, bikes and stories to rooms with engines and design machines, a visitor is easily “riveted” (excuse the pun) for hours.
Tip: If going by Labor Day, stop in the “Garage” annex to see “True Evel,” the story and exhibit of Evel Knievel’s exploits and machines that ends Sept. 6, 2010.
The H-D gift shop, café and restaurant-bar are a fun stop across the walkway from the main building.
If you go
Parking is free. Admission: adults 18-64: $16, children 5-17: $10, under 5 are free, students with valid ID, senior citizens 65 and older, military and H.O.G. members with ID: $12.
Hours: May through September Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. October through April 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Thursday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Harley-Davidson Museum 400 West Canal Street Milwaukee, WI 532011 877-HD-MUSEUM or 1-877-436-8738