How could we not fit a trip to Milwaukee in the itinerary of our first USA on-the-road trip, expecially when we found out it was only 1 hour (by train) from Chicago?
More than the city itself what we really couldn’t miss is the Harley Davidson Museum that obviously is in Milwaukee, at the legend’s head office, there where everything started. We took an Amtrak train from Chicago Union Station to reach, feeling like children going to Disneyland, to Milwaukee Intermodal Station, That is situated 10/15 walking minutes from the Harley Davidson Museum (take St. Paul Avenue and then 6th Street going on the backside of the station, walking through the street or the bridge that cross the Menomonee River).
Note: Harley Davidson Museum is not just a place for enthusiasts of the legendary custom bike. Here more than a century of American (and world) history is told, starting from 1903: bikes used to deliver the mail, for war, for army and police; the evolution of the machines, of the comfort; books, movies and culture bonded to a symbol and that influenced, closely or from a distance, the lives of all of us.
Visiting the Harley Davidson Museum
The entrance to the museum is 20$ but it’s free to Veterans and HOG members.
The smell of rubber, oil and paint, the rumble of the engines and those black walls where the orange of details catches your attention are the best welcome one can imagine.
Together with us, taking a dive in this legendary world there are HOG chapters, Veterans, MCs, families and amazed families. In their eyes you can see the reflections of what, I guess, they can see in ours: love, pride, astonishment. That’s the strength of Harley-Davidson, make you feel part of something huge. Doesn’t matter you race, color or religion: if you ride a Harley you’re a brother. And this is also true in here, where perfect strangers exchange opinions, ideas, comments… but most of all smiles.
Walking through the museum is like walking through history: all Harley models are displayed and told, from the first one of 1903 (yes, Her, the number 1! It exists, is here, still works, and here you can see her with your own eyes!) all the way to the latest ones, rare models included.
It is not just an exposition, though. In the first room, for example, it is possible to make every Harley engine model sing, the most famous V-Twin in the world. Playing that music in this room is almost like starting it up on the saddle, the feeling it’s pretty similar. Music to the ears of passionates.
When you arrive at the Gas Tank Gallery, where on a wall are displayed fuel tanks in a thousand of colors and all shiny, your eyes will shine too. Thos vivid colors, thos perfect curves which much remind you of many roads.
In the Harley Davidson Museum your eyes shine and you can have fun, but for a moment you can also be moved.
At some point, you can see on display the Harley that in 2011 crossed a whole ocean, carried from Japan to Canada by th Tsunami that hit the Nippon land. The bike were found on the coasts of British Columbia and the owner was reached, Ikuo Yokoyama, a 29 year-old whom then chose to donate the bike to the Harley Davidson Museum as long as it was kept in the conditions in which it has been found, as a memorial to the victims of that tragedy.
You can also get emotional in the part dedicated to custom culture and to the bonding between HD and Hollywood. A different emotion, linked to the melancholy for the old times, for a gone youth, for a world that is now gone. A different world that was left behind us. An emotion that the “Captain America” the iconic bike from “Easy Rider” or the many others (e.g. Elvis’ and Marlon Brando’s) and that survived in the dreams of many today’s fifty (or more) year-old.
The visit ends with a gallery in wich you can throw your leg over many models (including an army WLA) and take a picture.
The tour ends but the passion remains, stronger than ever, because we bring the true passion everywhere, it stays inside and never dies.
Where to eat at Harley Davidson Museum
A trip around the museum, if done properly, takes at least 2 hours, so you could end up hungry at the end. After a visit to the gift shop just in front of the museum, next door you’ll find the Motor Bar&Restaurant, where you can have beers and American traditional dishes (I had Mac&Cheese and they were awesome) in a Harley – Wouldn’t you guess? – related atmosphere.
Other than Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee you can visit the Pilgrim Road Power Train Operations, the actual factory. It is on Pilgrim Road and the tour, Steel Toe Tour, costs 46$ (museum ticket and factory-museum shuttle included) When we were there it was closed for works, unluckily… but hey, that’s a reason to go back!