- Bruce Elliott
Today, even your Uncle Hal may own a Harley (or at least a Harley T-shirt). But just a few decades ago, America's signature motorcycle company flirted with irrelevance and financial ruin. American motorcycle history, too, was disappearing, as foreign collectors loaded classics of all makes onto planes and boats.
According to Jim Wear, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum, only die-hard riders kept the flame burning during those lean years. His museum pays homage to those men and women, and the bikes they've ridden.
"We needed a place where an old guy could bring his grandson, to tell him, 'That's an Indian, and I had one,'" he says.
Wear founded the nonprofit museum in 1992. The first motorcycles he exhibited came from his garage and from the collection of friend Walt Timme, the legendary Pueblo motorcycle dealer who died two months ago.
Today, the 3,000-square foot museum on North Nevada Avenue swells with more than 60 classic bikes; the 1916 Excelsior Autocycle pictured above was the first to forgo pedals.
Despite the museum's growth, some things haven't changed: Admission remains free, and Wear relies solely on unpaid volunteers, such as curator Jerry Manka, to keep it running.
To cover rent, utilities and insurance, Wear organizes fundraisers, the largest being an auction at the region's annual Super Show and Swap Meet. This year's takes place on Feb. 18 and 19 at the Phil Long Expo Center.
Though both the crowd and cause have a motorcycle bent, Wear says he'll auction anything -- gift certificates, artwork, sporting goods -- that businesses and donors are kind enough to give.
To donate gifts or cash, or to find out more about the auction, call 487-8005.
-- Kirk Woundy
photo by Bruce Elliott