Iowa All Over: Museum is a motorcycle mecca

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ANAMOSA — Motorcycles have been on the road since the mid-1800s. And at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, you can witness a wide array of their history and influence on American culture.

Step through its doors of the 36,000-square-foot venue and see row after row of motorcycles lined up — are red, yellow, black, silver, gray and orange. Some have thin tires, others are much thicker.

Some, such as the 1927 Brough Superior SS100, black with silver finishing, are elevated on a pedestal.

The collection features rusted antiques and motorcycles manufactured in Iowa. It also boasts display cases with tiny motorcycle drivers on toy motorcycles in every color.

Founded in 1989, the museum in total is home to 400 motorcycles — lining the walls from floor to ceiling — that span more than 100 years of history.

The museum first opened in Sturgis, S.D. John Parham, founder of J & P Cycles in Anamosa and president of the museum’s board, later moved it to Anamosa, where it opened in 2000.

The motorcycles come from around the world, Director Bill Barber said. More than half the collection is on loan. The rest has been donated, said Mark Mederski, special projects director at the museum.

While everyone has his or her favorite, and Barber’s is the Flying Merkel board tracker. The original board track bike hasn’t been restored, Barber said. The antique cycle is orange and features a fully-visible engine in the center and white tires.

Actor Steve McQueen’s 1947 Indian Chief Chopper motorcycle is on display. The vintage cycle even has McQueen’s sleeping bag folded and resting near the handlebars, and an entire section dedicated to stunt rider Evel Knievel.

But the museum offers far more than just motorcycles. There is a section of graphic art, featuring more than 1,100 pieces. Now on display is a fine-art show that features work from artists from across the country.

The artwork has been on display since May 2015. Due to its popularity, Barber hopes to keep the collection up for more than a year.

“A lot of people come in here, maybe their wife doesn’t care about motorcycles, and I find them here wandering through the art,” Barber said. “They like the art.”

The other temporary exhibit documents American custom motorcycles. It features choppers and Honda, Harley and Triumph bikes as well as Von Dutch and Ron Finch.

Visitors can walk through a restored 1920s gas station and take a look at items that would have been sold during the era.

There is an early motorcycle repair shop and even a bright red shiny motorcycle with a matching sidecar. The motorcycle has three lights on its front and a red cover over the front tire. The side car glistens red, with three decorative stripes.

The museum attracts about 20,000 visitors annually, Barber said, and is open year-round. In 2015, it was named an Outstanding Attraction during the Iowa Tourism Conference in Fairfield.

Barber, who lives in Anamosa, has been director since September. He previously worked at J & P Cycles for eight years.

“It’s a constantly changing display,” Barber said of the museum. “I have 451 motorcycles on the floor today, probably another 250, 300 in storage.

“We constantly get more loans in (and) we change the main displays every year. It’s never the same.”

If you go

• What: National Motorcycle Museum

• Where: 102 Chamber Dr., Anamosa

• When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday during winter

• Admission: $10 for adults, children under 12 free when accompanied by an adult

• Call: (319) 462-3925 or go to nationalmcmuseum.org

Source: Iowa All Over: Museum is a motorcycle mecca