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bicycle museum of america

Bicycle museum near Airstream factory in Ohio

 

Pee Wee Herman’s bike isn’t in the basement of the Alamo.

Equally unlikely: it’s in New Bremen, Ohio. 

 

I obtained this knowledge in a roundabout way. On my highway journey to Alumapalooza, a speeding semi-trailer in an adjacent lane kicked up a rock which shot under my Airstream and took out various appararti in the undercarriage and shredded the banana wrap. I was headed to the factory anyway, and they squeezed me in for service.

 

It’s a nifty system they have at The Mothership. If your repairs are extensive you may sleepover in your coach at the Terraport, the onsite campground reserved for those with appointments at the Service Center. At 7am you’d better be toothbrushes down and changed out of pajamas though, because they mean business—there will be a startling knock on the screen, a male “hello!”, and the alarming sound of the tow tractor outside preparing to tilt your trailer, hitch it up, and whisk it across the street to the factory service bays. 

 

You wave goodbye and are now free of your Airstream (and all your belongings within), on your own for the day. Gulp. Now what? 

 

Here’s what, and back to the subject at hand: take a twenty minute drive to New Bremen and visit the fascinating Bicycle Museum of America on the corner of Routes 274 and 66.

 

Its three levels that rise behind a deceptively small storefront are packed with every variety of historic and freakish bike imaginable. Silly tandems from the 1800s. Monocycles, old and new, and a wall of unicycles. (Not the same thing!) Ridiculous new models, and old timey penny-farthings, named for the British coins the wheels call to mind. An ice bike, with skis in front instead of a tire, with a spiked snow tire in back. Tools and accessories. Ultra-rare bikes. Kid’s bikes. (Are you old enough to remember the Stingray?) 

 

The Most Badass category award goes to the military transport cycles with their built in rifle and ammo racks; the cunning paratrooper model, used by British airborne soldiers, is foldable.

 

Some of Hollywood’s most familiar and famed bicycles are there, including Pee Wee’s aforementioned “X1”—the modified 1940‘s Schwinn with a tiger head on the handlebars—that was lost (and recovered) in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

 

How this extensive collection happens to be on display in a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere is a long story that began with Schwinn. Ohio, it turns out, has a rich bicycle history.

 

Be prepared for the nice lady who will greet you at the door and then attach herself to you as you wander the exhibits. This would ordinarily be welcome but she’s a close-talker and her “tour” has no content. (“This is a fancy old bicycle.” “This bike is made of wood.”) Tip: she can’t get to the upper floors. There’s also a man on the premises who’s far more informed but he’ll stalk you as well to impart his bicycle minutiae.

 

You still have time to kill. Off to Wapakoneta. (To be continued…)

 

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