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.