Arts & Entertainment: ‘Let’s Ride! Motorcycling the Northwest’

// History museum pays homage to a great American pastime

It’s no secret, especially among avid bikers, that the Pacific Northwest provides some of the most beautiful scenery in the country that can be best appreciated from the seat of a motorcycle. People travel here from far and wide to experience the winding roads of Mount Rainier, the open spaces east of the mountains and the salty oceanic air along the coast. It’s no wonder then that Washington State History Museum is presenting a new exhibit this weekend that’s all about our region’s fascination with all things motorcycle, a love affair that’s been going strong ever since the early 1900s.

“Let’s Ride! Motorcycling the Northwest,” opening Jan. 26, features nearly two dozen rare machines on display from 1906 to the 21st century, along with interactive exhibits, videos, movies and events that span the next few months. More than just a visual treat, the exhibit and accompanying events take a deeper look into the artistry and science of motorcycles with the history of motorcycling itself. Exhibit highlights include a motorcycle owned by Steve McQueen, an early United Parcel Service delivery bike, the discovery of Washington’s first motorcycle, the iconic Seattle Mariner machine and a look at Moses Lake’s own Evel Knievel.

Whether rich or poor, young or old, male or female, black or white, those who find themselves drawn to motorcycling come from all walks of life, providing an open opportunity for anyone and everyone to enjoy the thrill of freedom on two wheels.

“It’s remarkable how much the history of motorcycling reflects the Northwest’s great themes of cultural diversity, urbanization, conflict and community,” said Jennifer Kilmer, director of the Washington State Historical Society. “This exhibit is another lens through which we can study our state and our region’s unique history, while exciting visitors with the allure of motorcycles and the romanticism of riding the open road.”

Here’s what’s planned for “Let’s Ride! Motorcycling the Northwest.”

MOTORCYCLE MOVIES

“The World’s Fastest Indian”

Feb. 21, 6:30 p.m.

The inspiring true story of New Zealander Burt Munro who set the land-speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967 on a 190 Indian motorcycle.

“The Invention of Motorcycles in the Age of Steam”

March 1, 3 P.M.

Ride back in time to the late 1800s where you’ll discover the early days of steam bikes and motoring innovation. It was a time of wild imagination and speculation on transportation of the future. You’ll get to see where motorcycle design and use came from, and where it has taken us today.

“The Mouse and the Motorcycle”

March 16, 10 a.m.

The best-selling book by Beverly Cleary comes to life in live action and dimensional animation. Ralph is not like other mice. He is always looking for a new adventure. Film showing is offered free through a partnership with Click! Network, The Grand Cinema, and WSHS.

“The Great Escape”

March 23, 3 p.m.

Steve McQueen and James Garner star in this 1963 classic film based on a true World War II story. Allied POWs plot the escape of hundreds from an “escape-proof” camp in Germany. With amazing characters and daring feats-including McQueen’s famous motorcycle ride-this film is great fun for motorcycle and World War II buffs alike.

“Let’s Ride”

Feb. 1, 3 p.m.

Join curator Redmond Barnett for a walk and talk through 100 years of motorcycling in the Northwest. Hear stories from the road and get behind-the-scenes take on developing the Let’s Ride exhibit.

“Washington’s World Class Racers: The First and The Best!”

Feb. 9, 11 a.m.

The first Americans to win world motorcycle championships were from Washington. Yakima’s Jim Pomeroy was the first of the firsts: first American to win, at the first race of the season-the World Motocross Grand Prix in Spain. Jim won that initial race in 1973 and was the first person to win it in his first ever international race. In 1977 he was the first American to win a motocross at the US 500cc Grand Prix. On his heels, Steve Baker of Bellingham was the first American to win a road racing world championship. He won in 1977 right after winning the prestigious Daytona 200. 

Shawn McDonald, founder of the Washington State Motorcycle Hall of Fame, will share their stories, display special artifacts of the era, show racing bikes on the museum plaza and highlight these two world racers he knew at the height of their careers. Audience discussion welcome, coffee and snacks served during the presentation in the museum’s activity room.

Motorcycle Rally

April 13, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

An exciting gathering of local motorcycle clubs at the Washington State History Museum to display their machines and share their motorcycling adventures. Watch the riders as they arrive! Participating motorcycle clubs will have information booths on site so you can learn about joining their membership. Presented in partnership with the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club

Family Fun Starts in the Dirt

April 13, 1 p.m.

Why start in the dirt? It’s the place the whole family can learn to ride together (starting at 6 years old). No experience is necessary and all you need is to be able to balance a pedal bike. Everything you need including a dirt bike, basic safety gear and training is included. Perfect for families and groups with small children. Courses cover responsible riding strategies and good decision making which combine to prevent injuries. Oh! By the way; plan on getting dirty. Presented by Washington Motorcycle Safety Program.

Motorcycle Rally

May 11, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A gathering of local motorcycle clubs at the Washington State History Museum to display their machines and share their motorcycling adventures. Look for a large gathering of clubs from around the region. Presented in partnership with the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club.

“Motorcycling: Is it for you?”

May 11, 1 p.m.

 Riding a motorcycle is a one-of-a-kind experience. It is invigorating with a sense of freedom that only a motorcyclist understands. Yet the skills needed for safe riding, combined with the lack of car crash protection and increased risk of injury, can cast doubts on whether you should ride a motorcycle. If you’re considering joining the group of 2-wheel enthusiast, come get an understanding of the choices and consequences in motorcycling and then decide if riding is for you. Presented by Washington Motorcycle Safety Program.

Poker Run Benefit

June 1, 10 a.m.

Join area riders for a hand of poker and a fun tour of the South Sound for a good cause. Beginning at 10 AM at WSHM draw your first card and head out toward Olympia with stops in between and a refreshment break at the historical society’s State Capital Museum in Olympia, before you finish up at the Swiss Tavern for your final card.

Cost is $10 per rider and $15 for rider and passenger. The rider with the high poker hand will split the proceeds with the history museum. The history museum gift will go toward helping schools pay for field trip buses to the museum during the 2013-14 school year.

Supported and organized by the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club in partnership with the WSHS. Special Event to benefit the History Museum’s Field Trip Fund.

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