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What’s a motorcycle enthusiast to do when it’s too snowy and icy to ride? One neat thing is to visit a motorcycle museum. Just what you’ll find depends on the focus the museum has, but you can bet whatever you see will be interesting and drool-worthy.
Here are some motorcycle museums and collections in Washington State. Please note that this is not prime tourist season and some museums will have shorter hours. Call ahead and check on opening times.
The LeMay Family Collection was named by the Guiness Book of World Records as “Largest Antique and Vintage Vehicle Collection” in 1997, and it’s right here in Tacoma. Harold and Nancy LeMay began collecting vintage autos and motorcycles (as well as associated memorabilia) in the 1960s. Nowadays the collection is housed in the America’s Car Museum and at the Marymount Event Center. Both locations include motorcycles. Be warned, America’s Car Museum looks small from the outside, but it’s a five-story garage underneath. The 195,000 square foot museum displays over 300 vehicles, and among them right now is the restored Pope motorcycle Steve McQueen loved to ride in the 1970s. At Marymount, the collection is housed in several buildings; with your paid admission, you can request a free docent to guide you so you don’t miss anything.
Near Tacoma, in Spanaway, is Burgin’s Motorcycle Museum upstairs of Vintage Motorcycles Northwest. John (Johnnie) Burgin, who built the collection, passed away in 2005. His collection began after he retired at age fifty. The collection includes over fifty vintage motorcycles and is one of three that includes every Harley-Davidson Knucklehead ever built—from 1936 through 1947. He also rebuilt old military bikes and you’ll see a lot of them, too. According to the Spanaway Visitors Guide website the museum is open weekdays by appointment. You can take a tour here.
In Auburn, at the Hinshaw Motorcycle Store Ron Orr shows off his collection of Japanese bikes that dates back to the 1940s. The bikes come from major brands, and some not so well-known and are beautifully restored. The collection is upstairs from the shop and may be chained off. If so, ask permission to see it. Find pictures here.
Café Veloce is an Italian restaurant in Kirkland that displays, in fewer than ten bikes, the history of Italian motorcycles. Rumor has it that, if you ride your motorcycle, you'll get ten percent off your check, but you should verify that. Clubs can reserve the back room which accommodates as many as thirty people. Find more information here.
Chehalis is about halfway between Seattle and Portland on US 5. It’s home to an historic movie-house and the Chehalis-Centralia Steam Train, but we’re interested in the Vintage Motorcycle Museum. It began back in the 70s when Frank Mason was looking for a hobby and decided to collect vintage motorcycles. When he had forty bikes in his collection, he opened his own museum. He’d also started to acquire historic buildings and housed the collection in his Foster Bakery Building, which dates from the 20s. Frank specializes in pre-1916 motorcycles and has both original and fully-restored machines. You’ll find brands like: Excelsior, Pierce, Emblem, Reading Standard, Thor, as well as Harley Davidson and Indian, and some wooden bicycles, including an example of the first bicycle made in America. The six-thousand square foot museum is on two stories. It’s usually open mornings from Tuesday through Friday, but do call first. You’ll find more information here: http://www.antiquemotorcycles.net/.