Fast Mike’s Favorite Motorcycle Destinations, Part 3 (Museums)


Some of my favorite touring destinations are museums. For those who are lifelong learners, there’s nothing quite like stopping into an institution that is dedicated to preserving a particular set of knowledge and gleaning everything you can from it. I’ve probably learned almost as much about the history of the United States from stopping at museums as I have from books and documentaries.

Some museums are better laid out or maintained than others, but all almost all of them that I have visited have a common energy from staff and volunteers that are passionate about their museum’s topic and mission.

Corvette Museum

National Corvette Museum

Location: Bowling Green, Ky.

Website: www.corvettemuseum.org

The National Corvette Museum is simply awesome. Situated on a hill across State Route 446 from the General Motors Corvette plant, this museum tells the story of how the iconic Chevrolet Corvette model has evolved from the 1950s to present. For any sports car aficionado, seeing so many classic and neo-classic sports cars in one location is a one-of-a-kind experience. There’s also a part of the exhibit that’s about the sinkhole that caused part of the museum’s floor to collapse, swallowing several historic Corvettes in the process. Some of the cars have been restored after being excavated out of the rubble, while several are on display in their damaged, barely recognizable condition.

The museum is easy to access from I-65 and is a great stop on trips to places like Barber Motorsports Park, Circuit of the Americas and more.

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AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

Location: Pickerington, Ohio

Website: www.americanmotorcyclist.com/hall-of-fame

The mission of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame is to preserve the legacy of motorcycling in America, and its exhibit does a great job at accomplishing that mission. The two-story museum–located on the American Motorcyclist Association campus and housed in the former executive offices of the Physician’s Insurance Company of Ohio–has a variety of motorcycles and memorabilia from a wide range of motorcycle riding and racing disciplines. The exhibit also pays homage to the advocates that have helped protect motorcyclists’ rights and recounts the struggles motorcyclists have endured to keep public lands open, maintain access to public roads and parks and battle excessive motorcycle sound without ill-fated government intrusion. There’s a gallery where visitors can look through the names of the Hall of Fame’s inductees, as well as an exhibit about the most recent Hall of Fame Class.

The Hall of Fame’s location in Central Ohio makes it easy to access on a tour heading to the norther east coast. The AMA campus is located adjacent to Interstate 70 on the east side of the Columbus metro, and it’s just a short trip on I-270 to get there if your tour follows I-71.

AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame photos by Jen Muecke, downloaded from the AMA’s Smugmug Gallery

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The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Location: Birmingham, Ala.

Website: www.barbermuseum.org

This place is a must-stop for everyone, not just motorcyclists. The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is easily the largest motorcycle museum in the United States, and is worth seeing for its largess let alone the impressive collection of thousands of motorcycles on display. The collection spans more than 100 years of motorcycling history, and the museum is constructed with a large spiral walkway at its center. Floors branch off from the walkway and are organized by time period or topic. There’s also a sizable collection of Lotus race cars and spectacular views of the Barber Motorsports Park track, which was constructed along with the museum. The grounds of Barber are immaculately manicured and adorned in artwork, including the large metal spider near Turn 5 of the road course. This is a great place to stop on your way Daytona Bike Week, and there’s a big vintage motorcycle festival at the museum each fall.

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Johnny Cash Museum

Location: Nashville, Tenn.

Website: www.johnnycashmuseum.com

In addition to all the places to eat and things to see in Nashville, Tenn., the Johnny Cash Museum is a downtown gem. The museum tells the story of Cash’s legendary musical career, sheds light on his life off-stage and has lots of Cash memorabilia. The highlight of my visit was the last artifact I saw: what I call the “liar’s chair.” It’s the chair Cash sat in while recording the music video for his cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt.” The music video was very moving for me, and to see the chair in person was unreal.

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National Packard Museum

Location: Warren, Ohio

Website: www.packardmuseum.org

This small but well-put-together museum about the Packard brand can be found on the northwest side of Warren, Ohio. I’m a little biased on this one, since I did my internship for my second master’s degree there. The permanent exhibit includes more than a dozen Packard cars from a variety of eras, as well as artifacts and a detailed history of how Packard’s electrical division grew into the modern Delphi corporation. While the Packard car factory was located in Detroit, Warren was the home of the factory in the 1900s and was where the Packard brothers grew up. And the museum is not devoid of two-wheeled artifacts, at least not all year long. One of its rotating exhibits is an annual motorcycle exhibit that goes up in January and is taken down about Memorial Day weekend.

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Iowa 80 Trucking Museum

Location: Walcott, Iowa (near Davenport)

Website: www.iowa80truckingmuseum.com

Located next to the iconic truck stop (which will be discussed in a future article), the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum tells the story of how trucking got its start in the United States and grew to the powerhouse industry it is today. The museum boasts an impressive collection of commercial trucks ranging from early 1900s lorries through modern-day big rigs. The timeline that’s presented near the museum entrance helps orient visitors to the evolution of trucking before they start looking at artifacts, and each truck on display has an information board with the truck’s specs. It was amazing to see how much trucks have evolved in terms of engine size and horsepower over the decades. Best of all, this museum is free of change to visit (donations are accepted and highly recommended).

It makes a great stop on any cross-country trip on I-80.

The Key to Getting the Most Out of Motorcycle Touring: Slowing Down


I’m 36, have about 120,000 miles of on-road motorcycle riding experience and have come to the realization that I have a problem.  

Not with riding: that’s never a problem. What’s wrong with a long day in the saddle while seeing new places and learning more about American history? 

My problem is with how I have been touring. I began believing that because I’m old hat at planning and executing motorcycle tours I don’t need to spend as much time preparing for one. I’d let myself begin to believe that long-distance riding is quantity over quality. I’ve done this so many times that I don’t cherish it the way I used to. I still feel joy, excitement and contentment every time I throw a leg over Jadzia, my trusty 2008 Yamaha FJR1300. But as I’ve tried to pack more and more into my tours the last four years or so, the return on the time and energy spent on the tour has declined. 

At the end of each tour, it’s begun to feel more like I completed a task rather than concluded a most excellent two-wheeled adventure. The passion to tour is alive and well, but the way I’ve been executing it has dulled it some. Yet, even as recently as last night, I found myself trying to engineer ways to to pack just a little more into several trips I am planning for 2020.  

“Maybe I could leave a night early, you know?” I said to myself. “Then I’ll just push like hell in the morning to make it to the event in time.” 

As I was sitting here in a waiting room while my flu-infected girlfriend sees her doctor, I thought about the trips I am in the process of planning. Then my mind drifted back to my first couple motorcycle tours. Some things are still the same. I still plan trips right down to the fuel stops to make sure I don’t run out of gas and have few or no options for fuel. I still compare several hotel brands to make sure I’m getting the best deal I can for each stop. 

But some things have changed that have jaded the touring and tour planning experience. During those first tours, I planned 6-7 hour days, giving me plenty of time to stop and see things along the way. Packing lists were strictly followed. Test rides were done with packed luggage to make sure there were no balance or weight distribution problems. Logs were kept to track how far ahead or behind schedule I was running. Notes were made at each stop so I could reference them for planning future tours. I stopped when I felt I needed to, and each stop was often my first time at each place. I had time to conversations with other riders or others who would walk up and ask how I could bear wearing full riding gear in the middle of summer. 

More recently, trips have been planned more haphazardly, and I’ve broken one of the rules of touring I’ve written about (not packing the night before a trip) all too often. I try to plan 9-10 hours in the saddle each day, and having to make an unplanned stop becomes a choice between risking my safety in the present to not have to ride after sunset or feeling the stress mount as I continually check the time and watch myself fall further behind schedule. Those conversations still take place, but are often much more abbreviated and rushed. I’m in too much of a hurry to enjoy tracking my progress and learning more about my own touring habits. 

As my touring has become more and more destination-focused, I’ve lost sight of the journey. In the rush to see things further away or not have to take as much paid time off for a given trip, I’ve sacrificed the experience of riding simply to make it to as many destinations as I can. I’ve turned the relaxation of recreational riding into a race against Father Time. And what I need to do now is look myself in the mirror and realize I’m trying to compete against something that is undefeated.  

So, this year, I’m going to do things different. I’m going to go back to the roots of my touring and make sure I don’t forget to plan a journey that more of an adventure and less of a chore. I’m going to find some new places to ride to that aren’t as far away, and I’m going to plan trips so that being stopped by heavy rain, lightning or other acts of god are simply an unplanned break as opposed to a nerve-rattling setback in maintaining a frantic pace.  

Will I stick to what I’m saying I’ll do different? I guess we’ll find out at the end of 2020.