Saturday, September 24, 2011


Downtown Chehalis has an excellent motorcycle collection located in the Hotel Washington. You enter the museum on the second floor of the hotel which in itself is a sight to see. Visages of its swanky past, gorgeous windows,  hardwood floors, an old key keeper like those you see in old-time  romantic movies where the lover peeks to see what room key the girl is handed by the hotel clerk. In the public restroom, each visitor is provided a thick white hand towel instead of paper towels. Now that is class.

The collection contains brands and types of motorcycles most people have never heard of. We met an avid rider, biker, camper, rv-er with his wife.  Watching his joy and overhearing his reminiscences was part of the enjoyment. He once rode a Flying Merckel like this one, he told me.

The guy talked about what a scary ride this bike was if you were the front facing passenger with no control of the bike.

The first belt driven machine I ever saw,though I learned many early bikes were belt driven.
First American bike. Note the wooden wheels/tires.

From 1960, a space age molded fiberglass model by Bowdon, only 522 were  made. Clearly an oddity way before its time. Like cars, motorcycles went through myriad designs before the standard machines we see today.

And this oddity.

Motorcycles have gone mainstream, they are safer, but I still  think of motorcyclists as the wild, daring ones, snubbing their noses at convention, wearing outlandish leathers and tattoos. The outfits of yesteryear started with leather boots, goggles and soon all  leather for warmth and safety. They started the traditions we see today.

Movies capitalized on that sense of adventure and daring.  A Harley Indian used by James Garner, Steve Mc Queen and other stars was accompanied by this letter of authenticity from the owner.

The machines are jammed tightly together and picture taking is difficult. The Sheriff of Calaveras County during the 1970‘s, Claud Ballard, was a Cherokee Indian born in Oklahoma Territory before it was a state. He showed me his Harley Indian that he road all the way to California in the 1930’s  looking for better work. He patted his badge and said “Not bad for an ole’ boy off the reservation.”

Roy Burke , a prize winning racer, beat the odds, doing what he loved.

This is his epitaph

Other related artifacts  make this a great visit.


A truism, maybe.

The belt from a race car.

A soda fountain from the 1950’s brought back a few memories. The room holds a Wurlitzer juke box, a motorcycle repair garage set up, and a  Road Kill Cookbook just for fun.

Even if you don’t like motorcycles, you can’t help but enjoy this museum.

1 comment:

Clare Westby said...

This seems like a true blast-to-the-past museum. Most of the museums I’ve been to showcase restored bikes with gleaming parts. I enjoyed looking at your photos because they are mostly the beginnings of our favorite ride. Also, you’re so lucky for touring the museum with someone who speaks from experience!

Clare Westby