Dale Walksler of Wheels Through Time Passes Away

 

I got word that Dale Walksler, the founder and president of the wonderful Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. Dale was 69 years old. The news struck me hard, as several of us Road Dirt guys were just there back in October, touring this famous museum of American motorcycling. I’ve visited the museum 5-6 times since they first opened in 2002, and have always marveled at not only the vast collection of American motorcycle history they have amassed, but how every bike in the collection actually runs. Yet best of all was Dale’s personal touch. Until his health prevented it, Dale was often out on the floor, meeting patrons and discussing bikes, history, great rides and fond memories, a precedent the rest of their staff continues to practice. Wheels Through Time truly is, “The Museum That Runs.”

Dale gracing the cover of American Motorcyclist, after being inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame, 2019.

I remember the one time I had the opportunity to meet Dale, on one of my several trips to the museum. It was the summer of 2008, and our oldest daughter Ansley had wanted a motorcycle road trip into the Appalachians with her dad, instead of the typical high school graduation trip to Panama City or something.

Among the many roads and sights we took in, we spent an afternoon in Dale’s Wheels Through Time. While in some back corner of the exhibits, this kindly older gent walked up behind Ansley and me, shook our hands and said, “Hi, I’m Dale, and I hope you’re enjoying our little collection here!”

What he did next blessed the socks off me as a dad. He turned to my daughter, chatted her up about the road trip we were on, and then asked her, “You want to hear one of these run?” Of course, Ansley was thrilled (as was I), as he kicked over and fired to life the vintage Harley (I don’t remember which one). Then to top it off, he did a smoky burnout with it, power braking right there on his showroom floor. We were enthralled. He then offered to snap a couple of pics on Ansley’s old flip phone of her in front of the bike, and a nearby mannequin dressed in 50s-era leather biker gear, Ansley comically posing with the leggy plastic model. I wish we could find those…

Dale singlehandedly made that tour of the museum, and really our whole 4-day road trip, even more memorable. To this day, my now 30-year old daughter quips, “That will always be one of my favorite vacation trips.”

Typical bike exhibit in the museum, with history and specs. And yes, it runs.

As I recounted Dale’s passing to my father and mother, Dad immediately recalled the time he and Mom met Dale on one of their own trips to the museum: “Your mother and I had spent a few hours roaming through the museum, amazed at the array of American motorcycles they had. Before leaving, Dale himself walked up to us near the exit, asked if we enjoyed our visit, which of course we did. Dale said, ‘Every bike in here will start and run. All of them. Pick any one you’d like, and I’ll fire it up for you.’ We assured him we believed it, but politely declined, needing to get back on the road to our lodging for the night at Ironhorse. But before we could leave, Dale asked your mother, ‘Would you have time to take a short ride around the parking lot with me on the Big Bike?’ He was referring to the giant parade trike they owned for some years, and parked out streetside (anyone who visited in the 2000s knows the one I’m talking about). Well, she did, and it was hilarious! He was bouncing that huge beast around the gravel parking lot, your mother hanging on and laughing, Dale just grinning ear to ear. What a super nice guy.”

Dale out on a “pick” for vintage moto iron, displaying that infectious enthusiasm any of us who met him indeed remember.

Yes, Dale was indeed a super guy, in so many ways. A master restorer, a true curator of American motorcycling history, a superb “picker” of vintage bikes, a hardcore rider (frequent Cross Country Cannonball Chase rider, among others), and mostly, one of the kindest souls you could ever meet in motorcycling.

Thank you, Dale. From myself, my daughter, my parents, we are grateful to have met you, grateful for your warmth and hospitality, and for your youthful enthusiasm. You will be sorely missed.

From the family’s announcement page:
At Dale’s request, in lieu of flowers, please send any donations and condolences to Wheels Through Time, PO Box 790, Maggie Valley, NC 28751.

All donations will be dedicated to ensuring the continuance of the legacy that Dale created far into the future and to giving museum visitors historical insight into the vital role that transportation has played in American history. The thrill of hearing the cycles run coupled with thoughts of riding into the wind will continue to evoke thoughts of Dale’s vibrant spirit- and his dream.
 
*All photos by Wheels Through Time

22 Comments

  1. Skip weaver

    The epitome of the joy of motorcycle preservation and riding. A major loss to the motorcycle world.

    Reply
  2. Steve Trainum

    I was there several times over the years and spent quality time with both Dale, and his son, Matt. The first time, there weren’t many people there and I got to talk with Dale, got a VIP tour, several bike’s started up, and left feeling that I had made a new friend. Thanks, Dale. We’ll all miss you!

    Reply
    • Ted Edwards

      Have you ever been to a buddy’s garage only to find out that his garage tells you everything you need to know about him? HIs preferences, his personality, his passions, all on display in his shop like the outward expressing of his innermost heart. The Wheels Through Time Museum was like that. It was Dale’s love letter to American motorcycling, a shiny, well-lubed, functional love note to the world written with rubber, chrome and gasoline. I am sad that I never met Dale, but in a way, by walking though his museum, by seeing his creations and restorations, I met him at his best. God’s speed Dale.

      Reply
  3. Robert Wol

    Thank You Dale for the joy you’ve brought to so many people, and hopes go out to your family to continue your life style ! ??❤️??

    Reply
    • MajorDad

      (Maggie Valley, N.C.) A wonderland for those who have grown up on and always preferred to fly on 2 wheels. From kids on customized Spyder bicycles to young Rupp minbike hoodlums dodging the LE cruisers on neighborhood streets, our addiction pushed us on to small 100cc dirt and street scramblers to racing true motocross bikes. Growing into our final and later legal destinations of hanging out at local Chopper Shops (Stan’s) with dreams of open road adventures on an old rigid frame Knuckle or Panhead chopper built by hand from mostly donated parts from our mentors. Many sleds (and years later…64) still addicted and still preferring to twist a grip and fly on 2 wheels. RIP Dale Walksler, you knew us well.

      Reply
      • Rob Brooks

        Well-stated, “MajorDad”. Good word.

        Reply
  4. Jeffery Lee Wood

    Dale was truly a man with a passion for motorcycles. His museum is one of a kind. When my wife and I visited I was taken back to a time of mechanical greatness. Thanks Dale, you are truly missed.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      His son will carry on the legacy. But Dale was indeed one-of-a-kind.

      Reply
  5. Jim

    First time I met Dale was in Oley at the antique meet he was laying on the ground taking photos of a long tank Henderson underside and my 8 year old son got in the way Dale just laughed and waited for him to look at the bike and then Dale got up introduced him self invited us to come to see the museum and after that meeting when I would see him at any of the big meets he always treated me as if we were old friends and I guess that is true since my son is now 28. Will miss you at Wauseon if they open this year and all the knowledge you freely shared and great to see Matt is there to carry on

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Great story, Jim. So many have stories of Dale like that. Such a great person, as well as motorcyclist.

      Reply
  6. Michael adams

    We visited Maggie valley a few years age with my disabled son who is wheelchair bound, the second we walked in Dale greeted us with such enthusiasm I was blown away.
    So friendly it made our day very special.
    His son greeted us as well , a truly wonderful experience.
    God bless Dale , you will be sadly missed
    Michael Adams

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Thanks for sharing this, Michael. They are a fine family.

      Reply
  7. Danny

    I met Dale, many years ago, when he was working at Jasper’s Motorcycle Shop in Centralia, Illinois. I bought my first motorcycle, a 1987 numbered 676 Harley Classic, at his shop in Mt Vernon, Illinois. He had a museum in the back which we often stopped in to visit. We missed it when he moved it North Carolina. You will be sadly missed.

    Reply
  8. Steven Mccracken

    I know Dale’s riding with the Lord You will be missed a man of great intelligence about all things biker I miss you brother Steve McCracken

    Reply
  9. Tracy Confair

    Dale,
    You was a genius ahead of your time when it came to motorcycle’s.
    Your surely going to be missed…
    Rest in peace buddy…

    Reply
  10. Ric Taylor

    Greetings. Although I’d not had the pleasure of meeting Dale, I still feel that I did. His legacy lives on in the hearts and the minds of motorcyclists, everywhere. He did us proud by showing how positive and congenial a motorcyclist can be. Good bye, Dale. (I’ll) see you around the “next turn”.

    Reply
  11. Brett Whitesides

    He single handedly reignited a passion for old bikes. I wish I could have met him, his life has touched and inspired more people than he could have imagined. Thank you Dale you are missed

    Reply
  12. Big Dan

    I have been riding for 45 years people Like Dale is the reason why RIP Dale

    Reply
  13. James R Reams

    Maggie Valley, North Carolina… not …… Tennessee

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      Good catch, James! Corrected.

      Reply
      • Jack R Brewer

        This is absolutely heartbreaking news. Dale was an absolute class act. His passing is not only a very hard and painful loss for his beloved family and friends but the antique motorcycle world lost a incredibly knowledgable icon and truly talented preserver of history. RIP Dale. You certainly will be missed ?

        Reply

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