By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jul 11, 2008 at 8:16 AM

When I was a kid, my dad bought a motorcycle and took my brother for rides. He always tried to coax me on, but I wasn't having it. That is, until the day he sold it. Then, I took my first ride and I loved it. With my arms around his waist, we drove all around Brooklyn ... and the next day the bike was gone.

So, except for a single day, I've never really been much of a motorcycle enthusiast. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate what Harley means to Milwaukee and how it helps define Milwaukee to the rest of the world. And there's no denying that a lot of people undoubtedly "get it," even if I don't.

So, while I was curious to see the new Harley-Davidson Museum in the Menomonee Valley, I didn't really expect to be wowed. I was very pleasantly surprised. There's nary a misstep.

First, the location is perfect. In the shadow of the Downtown skyline, the museum is centrally located, yet far enough away to have decent parking and offer a space where the iron can rumble without annoying the neighbors.

The grounds are welcoming, too. Harley has constructed a tiny "city" with a building that houses the museum, another that contains the archives and a temporary exhibition space, and a third with a retail store and restaurant. They sit on an extension of the city grid, surrounded on three sides by water. Native plans line the river walk and there's a great, big green space on one corner.

The design of the buildings is perfect. With their steel exoskeletons, glass curtain walls and brick and metal industrial feel, they capture the spirit of the design of the bikes, which themselves are an alluring mix of utilitarian industrial design and sleek modernity.

Inside, the permanent collection - which will rotate, since the archives hold more bikes, engines, memorabilia and documents than can be displayed - are spacious, intelligently sequenced and, wisely don't assume an intimate knowledge of motorcycles or the history of Harley.

A wall of 100 brightly-colored gas tanks not only offers a window on the evolution of the design of Harley's logos, tanks and color schemes, it's a visually attractive space that draws in visitors.

There is a parade of bikes that catalogues 105 years of Harleys, but there are also interesting oddities, too, like Harley's boxy scooter meant to compete with Vespas and Lambrettas, the AMC-era Harley snowmobile, golf cart and motor boat, the vintage Harley bicycles that were made from 1917 to 1923 and more.

Riders and, I suspect, kids, will especially love the last room in the museum. There are more than a dozen bikes of all shapes, sizes and vintages that visitors can sit on. If you've never had the chance to straddle a 1920s Harley, the museum offers that and more.

Something tells me this place is going to be a success.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.