by Bruce Mike
In early May, while I was in Iowa, I had an opportunity to visit The National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa. I was completely overwhelmed by it’s size and content. I have been to the Harley museum in Milwaukee which I found to be very interesting. They have done an amazing job covering all that is Harley-Davidson. But this one in Anamosa really blew me away.
The Harley museum tells the story of a legendary brand and a great story it is. The National Museum tells the story of motorcycles. It covers it all. The brands, the culture, all of it. I was there for about two hours and I could probably spend a couple of days. I will definitely be going back.
The museum was founded in 1989 and is chartered as a non-profit corporation. It is governed by a board of directors. Their funding comes from admissions, Museum Store sales, raffles, donations, memberships, corporate sponsorships and grants. They have over 300 motorcycles on display as well as hundreds of posters, photos, antique toys, riding gear and all other types of motorcycle memorabilia. Many of the motorcycles as well as the other pieces on display are on loan from private collectors from all over the world. It is truly amazing.
They have set up great displays with tons of information and some great stories. While wandering through it all I found myself reminiscing about past bikes I had, rallies I’ve attended and rides I’ve been on. It brought back my childhood fascination for everything motorcycle related and I couldn’t stop smiling. I’ve always enjoyed the history of things I’m interested in because it answers a lot of the “why” questions I have. Motorcycles are no exception. They keep evolving and improving based on rider experience. While tank shifters, carburetors and drum brakes are cool, toe shifters, fuel injectors and disk brakes make for a better riding experience. Now don’t bombard me with a bunch of emails touting the virtues of old bikes. I have plenty of old stuff in my garage that I thoroughly enjoy riding.
If you decide to make the trip to Anamosa give yourself plenty of time to wander. Between the knowledgable volunteers and excellent exhibits there are endless stories and photo opportunitues. This is a family-friendly museum so bring the kids. They can’t sit on the bikes but there is plenty of stuff that will keep them interested. They are located just off highway 151 and are open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm.
Like any good museum they have temporary exhibits that change over, so things don’t become stale and people will keep coming back. The drag racing exhibit has come down and all things dirt track has been installed. They’ve also put together a new scooter exhibit. June 8-9 they are having a vintage bike show and swap meet. The Evel Knievel Traveling Exhibit will be there along with a bunch of champion dirt track racers. To donate, volunteer or just stay up-to-date on what’s happening, visit and bookmark their website, www.nationalmcmuseum.org.
My perspective of Iowa has changed. We had a weekend of fun that would never be allowed in Minnesota. Our great state has too many rules and regulations. It included massive burnouts, racing around a parking lot on mini-bikes and vintage flat track bikes as well as a great museum visit. We do have nice museums here. If they had some twisty roads and gasoline not made of corn, I would like it even more.