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The bejeweled Harley bedazzles.
The bejeweled Harley bedazzles.
Willie G.'s watercolors will be on display until April 15.
Willie G.'s watercolors will be on display until April 15.

A great return trip to the Harley-Davidson Museum

It had been a while since we rolled into the Harley-Davidson Museum. The last time we went was in 2010 during the Evel Knievel show.

This weekend, we did the museum differently. My kids are a little older now, 8 and 9, so we decided to participate in the scavenger hunt, an option offered to little folks upon their arrival. It was fun. They ran around trying to find various motorcycles based on provided clues and then recorded them on a sheet of paper. (At the end, we brought the completed sheet to the gift shop and exchanged it for temporary Harley tattoos and stickers.)

The aspect of the museum that impresses me the most is the layout and the use of space. It's so fluid, easy to walk through and creatively designed. A motorcycle is suspended from the ceiling, others are displayed on ramps and tracks that jut dozens of feet into the air. It all feels modern, spacious, clean.

The current temporary show is "Watercolors by Willie G.," which runs through April 15, 2012. Willie G. Davidson is Harley's chief styling officer and the grandson of one of the founders. Many people are familiar with his motorcycle design contributions, but few were aware that the guy painted so skillfully.

Most of the paintings are not bike related. Instead, the subjects include a barn, shed, canoe, stump and one of a portion of a building that's cryptically called "rehab." Willy is clearly interested in shadows and paints them well. I imagine shadows are something most avid bikers see a lot of when on the road, mainly of their own and their motorcycles.

Some of the items in the paintings are on display in their actual form, like a chunky silver bracelet, as well as the sketches that inspired the watercolors. Having visual access to his process makes the exhibit more interesting.

I enjoyed his Native American watercolors the most. "What fascinates me is their intrinsic design ability which I think is an ultimate form of folk art," reads Willie G.'s words next to the cluster of paintings.

We also enjoyed checking out the custom bikes, particularly "Russ and Peg's" Harley that's bejeweled with thousands of hand-places rhinestones. It looks like something Elvis would have cruised around on.

Someday, I hope to own a Harley-Davidson. In the mean time, I'll just snoop around the H-D Museum and daydream about life on the road.

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