Friday, December 2nd was a big day for Ralph Juanes. It started like any other morning…waking up at home to a warm pot of coffee and scanning through the local newspaper. But within hours, Ralph’s ordinary morning would be no longer, as he and his wife Becky would be embarking on a trip that would soon change their lives.
Ralph and Becky Juanes hail from Lebanon, New Hampshire. Ralph is a clinical chemist at his local hospital, and works long hours in the emergency room. In his "off-time" he enjoys riding and wrenching on motorcycles, including his current ride — a 1980’s BMW RS. Ralph has a quite passion for motorcycles both old and new, and it was that passion that led him to the Wheels Through Time Museum in late October of this year.
On a short weekend vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ralph decided to make his way toward Maggie Valley for a taste of good old American motorcycle history. Just a few weeks earlier, he’d picked up a new book called "Vincent in the Barn" by Tom Cotter at his local bookstore. As you can guess, Ralphs passion for motorcycle history took him from cover to cover of the book of "Barn find" motorcycles, reading several stories about Dale and Wheels Through Time along the way.
"When I arrived at the museum, I was absolutely blown away," said Ralph. "Where on earth can you see so much history in one place, and actually talk to the folks who help to make it what it is?"
While visiting Wheels Through Time, Ralph met Dale’s father Bernie, who showed he and another group around the facility, highlighting many of the great stories of the people, places, and of course, machines that have made our sport what it is today. "I even recognized several motorcycles from stories in ‘The Vincent in the Barn’, which is how I heard about it in the first place," said Ralph. After what seemed to be a short afternoon in the museum (sometimes, four and a half hours just isn’t enough), Ralph went on his way…
When he returned back to Lebanon, New Hampshire, Ralph realized that visiting the museum was indeed one of the highlights of his trip, and within a few days, he decided to jump online to make a donation to the museum. "I had such a great time, and I thought, since I believed so strongly in what they were doing, I’d make a small donation to help," said Ralph. "Thats when I saw the 2010 Raffle Bike, and decided, why not make a donation and take a chance at winning a bike while I’m at it!"
Little did he know that this very decision would have a lasting impact on what was to come. Just two weeks later, on a sunny Saturday afternoon (November 13th to be exact) Ralph got the phone call. "Is this Ralph," said the voice on the phone. "This is Dale Walksler from Wheels Through Time Museum, and you’ve just one a motorcycle!"
Ralph was beyond words….his silence even made Dale wonder if he’d hung up thinking it was a prank. But after a few seconds of reflection, he was as giddy as if he’d just one a motorcycle! "I’ve never won anything in my life!" he shouted. "Until now!"
For Ralph, there was no question whether he’d take the $20,000 cash prize or the beautiful 1947 Knucklehead restored by Dale and team. He’s a motorcycle guy, and to him there was ever only one choice. Within days he had his plane ticket booked and a truck rented to haul it home.
On December 2nd, Ralph and Becky made the trip down the museum. It was Ralph’s second visit, and Becky’s first. After touring the museum, and a few hours of laughs with Dale, Knealie, Trapper, and myself, Ralph was ready to check out his new motorcycle. His excitement was high, and after a quick tutorial on how to start, operate, and maintain the machine he hopped on to get the feel.
Two kicks to prime, turn on the key, and wouldn’t ya know, he fired it up on the first kick. I always say that one of the most important aspects of riding an old bike is being able to start it with confidence, and it was pretty darn fitting that he jumped right on and fired it up! Not bad for his first time starting a Knucklehead!
After a few minutes of taking in the sounds, we rolled it outside for a few pictures. I could see the joy and pride in Ralphs face, and after cranking it up again (on the first kick, of course) he put on his helmet took his new finely-tuned mount for their first ride together. Although he mentioned he was a bit nervous about the foot-clutch and the front brake on the left hand, you’d have never known it. He took to it like it’d been his for years.
It is all of our hopes here at the museum that Ralph will get many, many years of enjoyment from riding this beauty near and far, and by the looks of it, he’ll be doing just that!
Congrats Ralph! Its always great to meet a new friend, and its even better to see them running down the road on a true American classic!