Motorcycle enthusiasts learn history of iron beast

30 Apr 2010 | Lance Cpl. Victor A. Barrera

United by their love for motorcycles, Marines and a civilian from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene went on a motorcycle safety ride, recently.

The group stayed at the Iron Horse Lodge in Robbinsville, N.C., a campground for travelers to rest, eat and socialize with others who share a love for motorcycles and the outdoors.

The lodge is located minutes from the Tail of the Dragon, an 11-mile stretch of road with 318 curves, and in the vicinity of the Wheels Through Time.

“This is like a second home to me,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael Wootten, battalion sergeant major for Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “I wake up, go out riding and when I come back dinner is ready.”

The Iron Horse Lodge is designed to give these travelers an enjoyable vacation while providing them with the comforts of home. The front of the building is reminiscent of an old western bar where cowboys tied up their horses while they grabbed a drink inside. Likewise, motorcyclists rode up, parked their motorcycles and enjoyed warm meals and a comfortable bed.

“This was what we were going for,” said John Powell, owner of the Iron Horse Lodge. “We try to make the whole stay at the Iron Horse a relaxing experience.”

The lodge was truly a relaxing experience. At nighttime, some Marines gathered outside for a bonfire and friendly conversation with the sounds of the creek murmured in the background. Others would watch a movie or play pool and shuffle board inside the lodge.

The group also socialized with other visitors at the lodge, some of whom became friends.

In addition to riding motorcycles, the group gained insight into the history of two-wheeled motorized vehicles by visiting the Wheels Through Time Museum, a museum dedicated to American motorcycles.

Their tour guide was none other than, Matt Walksler, the son of the founder of Wheels Through Time Museum.

Walksler dove into the history of the motorcycles and told stories about the original owners and how he and his dad collected so many motorcycles.

“It was unbelievable to see so much motorcycle history under one roof,” said Master Sgt. Angel Concepcion, the programs chief for Brig Company, HQSPTBN. “It was amazing to hear about the bikes, each one has its own history.”

Unlike some museums in the U.S. that have static, inoperable displays of vehicles, many of the motorcycles in the WTTM were still operational, including those dating back to World War II and motorcycles with single engines and pedals.

Toward the end of the museum tour Marines and the personnel with the museum built bonds through their love of bikes and after having talked to the owners one Marine in the group got a chance to ride one of the bikes.

Master Sgt. Andrew Allen, staff noncommissioned officer in charge with the Command Inspector General's office, got a chance to ride a restored vintage WWII motorcycle with the rifle carrying attachment on the front right-hand side.

Marines returned from their trip to the dragon’s tail full of knowledge about the history of motorcycles and relaxed, with some already talking about the next trip to the Iron Horse Lodge.

“Everything was perfect and the Iron Horse felt like paradise,” said Concepcion. “I’m definitely coming back.”