Tag Archives: history channel

Filming American Pickers keeps Mike pretty busy these days, but it’s collaborating with guys like Timothy and AC that allow him to still share his passion for bicycles and old buildings. 

It’s a cold, rainy Tuesday morning in Columbia, Tennessee, about 40 minutes south of Nashville, as three bike shop owners — Mike Wolfe, Timothy Wakefield, and AC Howell — walk into the Trek Bicycle Shop on Main Street in the town square. This isn’t the first time the three have met, but it’s the confluence of three generations and 160 years of bike shop ownership and love.

Columbia, with a population of fewer than 38,000, is a town Mike has long admired for its historic Main Street and preserved buildings, particularly the 1857 brick two-story they’re about to walk into.

It’s a bicycle shop now, but it originally housed different wheels, operating as a wagon and plow business, still advertised by the gigantic faded painting on the huge brick wall outside. In 1973, while working at the local military academy, AC bought the building and opened The Wheel, the first bike shop in Columbia. He ran it as a hobby and side business and over the last 45 years it’s become a community treasure. Now it’s the thread that ties AC to Mike and Timothy.


The first thing to understand is that AC began his bicycle business at a pivotal time in Columbia’s commercial history.


“Everyone was leaving the square and taking their businesses to the mall,” says AC. “I was the chairman of the historical zoning commission here in Columbia, so it was my job to maintain the integrity of any downtown restoration projects in order to preserve our local gems. As long as I had something to do with it, I wasn’t going to give up on this building or the community because what existed and still exists here is one-of-a-kind.”

From offering payment plans to customers who needed bikes repaired so they could get to their jobs to hiring local boys in need of work, AC was integral to keeping Columbia moving along on two wheels.

Interior of Original Building from 1857
Interior of Original Building from 1857

“Many of the boys stayed with me until they went off to college,” says AC. “Now they walk in as dads with their own kids to pick out a bike. Even the head of the Columbia Water Department started working in my shop when he was a young man!”

AC still continued to give back to the community. Each year at Christmas, he would donate 30 or 40 used bikes to the local church group that cleaned them up, put bows on them and delivered them to folks who could use them. His generosity helped provide transportation and enjoyment to people in town who otherwise may never have had a bike.

By 2016, AC was ready to retire but unsure what that would mean for the shop that had become so much a part of the town. It was an opportune moment for Mike — the historian, preservationist, and bike enthusiast — a chance to become part of the active Main Street of the small town he had long admired.


“One day Mike wandered into the shop and asked me if I was really interested in selling the building,” says AC. “At that point, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to sell or not, but eventually I told him I would sell it on one condition: the bike shop had to stay.”

After kicking the idea around for a year, Mike called AC and the deal was made.

“I had been in the bike business since 1988,” says Mike. “I eventually opened a bike shop in an 1860s building in the historic district of Davenport, Iowa. Even after I closed that shop in 2000, I never lost my passion for bikes. To this day, I can’t walk past a shop without stopping, which is how I met AC. Learning the history of his building and the legacy of his business made me eager to be part of its story.”

Timothy Standing Inside Original Bicycle Shop
Timothy Standing Inside Original Bicycle Shop

Soon after the handshake deal with AC was concluded, Mike got to work on renovations and meeting with Trek bike reps. It was about then that Mike realized his eyes may have been bigger than his stomach.

“I was ready to go waist deep into this, ” explains Mike. “But after laying out all my projects and budgeting my time between LeClaire, Nashville, filming American Pickers, and my family, I quickly realized I couldn’t give the proper attention to the bike shop. During a meeting with a Trek rep, I asked if they knew anyone who’d want to run the shop. It was really important for me to find the right person to take over for AC. That’s when they sent me Tim and his wife from Alabama. He instantly fell in love with Columbia, and I trusted his experience and passion to successfully steer AC’s legacy in the right direction.”

How does AC feel about how everything turned out?

Interior of Renovated Trek Bicycle Shop
Interior of Renovated Trek Bicycle Shop

“Timothy knows what’s he’s doing. The only advice I passed on to him when he opened was to be sure to take care of the customers. That was the way I operated and it always served me well.”

As it stands now, AC sold the building to Mike, and the bike business to Timothy. They are now three generations of bicycle passion existing in one historic building.


Timothy and his wife manage three bike shops.  The other two are in Alabama and were both built from scratch. When they became the new owners of The Wheel (now called Trek Bicycle Shop), they were excited about the beautiful historic building that houses their new business.

“My wife is an interior designer so you can picture the glee on her face when we first walked into the large mid-1800s building with tall windows, tin ceilings, and aged wooden floors,” says Timothy.

Interior of TreK Bicycle Shop
Interior of TreK Bicycle Shop

While their two Alabama shops were busy servicing college students’ bikes as well as the bicycle needs of a city of more than 100,000 people, they were up for the challenge of impressing a small town that grew up with AC.

“This location was special because people had been coming to The Wheel for more than 40 years,” says Tim. “There was certainly a reputation to live up to. I’ve had so many returning customers walk in and share stories with me of how they got their first bike here with AC. We’re looking forward to creating lasting memories like that with the community for years to come.”


Inside the 160-year-old building, Tim is selling state-of-the-art bikes and accessories from Trek, a one-family lineage business out of Wisconsin that makes more bikes in America than any other bike retailer in the country. The family business itself is almost as old as The Wheel!

The town’s reliance on bikes for daily transportation may have altered since the 1970s, but what’s unchanged is the fact that the town’s kids are still learning a trade at the shop. Currently, Timothy has five young people under his wing, learning bike maintenance and customer service.

Timothy Checking Out the Progress with Ben Black of Rafter B Construction

“A common occurrence is having customers who purchased parts online come in for help installing them,” says Timothy.

“That’s how I met my wife!” interjects Mike. “Jodi came into my shop looking for help installing her pedals!”

“You see?” says Timothy. “Now Mike could’ve shunned her away because she didn’t buy those pedals from him.  You have to embrace it instead, because the end result is to get folks to walk in the door, like your future wife! Proof that you shouldn’t go to bars to meet someone, you should go hangout your local bike shop instead!

Timothy and His Family
Timothy, his wife Katie, and their daughter Ruthie

Trek Bicycle Shop will work on any bike you bring in because the end goal is to keep people riding them.

“This is more than a retail business, it’s a trade,” explains Mike. “Like a butcher, baker, tailor, people who specialize in what they do, so does a bike shop owner. With any trade nowadays, navigating social media and online sales it can be difficult to capture someones attention. Trek is great shop because you can come over and physically touch a bike you’re interested in. That might sound weird, but imagine everything you buy online that you can’t do that with. This is a major purchase for people. It’s a lifestyle”

Being a small business, Timothy understands the importance small town living. That’s why he actively holds community events to support other small businesses.  Like partnering with Muletown, the local coffee house, for a Coffee Cruise every Saturday. It’s a family-friendly 30-minute bike ride along the riverwalk and that ends with coffee and breakfast at Muletown.

Muletown Coffee Cruise
Muletown Coffee Cruise

“There are little girls on tricycles, high schoolers on mountain bikes, and their parents. It’s awesome to see a parade of bike-riding onto Main Street and through the square,” explains Timothy.

“We want to let everyone know that it doesn’t matter how nice your bike is, how many miles you ride a day, or even if you haven’t been on a bike since Bush was in office. We just want to help folks get out and ride!” says Timothy.

As a way to serve tourists and even the people who may not be interested in buying a bike, Timothy and his local crew offer rentals at the shop. They’ll hook you up with the proper gear and transport your bikes to the best place in town to ride, the Chickasaw Trace.


People come from all over the state to explore the Trace.  What’s better, it’s only a 10-minute ride from the shop.  And there’s no better time to be on two wheels than autumn – with leaves crunching under your tires and brisk air in your face.

Located on 300 acres, the Trace offers 8.5 miles of mountain bike trails suitable for all ages and skill levels. Weave around giant cedar trees and along the Duck River and Knob Creek tributary. Bring the dogs and the family and enjoy a well-deserved picnic along the bank after your ride . . . maybe even a refreshing dip in the river if the spirits moves you.

Unloading Bikes At Chickasaw Trace

There are trails to explore and rivers to race in Columbia, Tennessee. Experience it all while holding on to the handlebars of an American made bike from Trek Bicycle Shop.

“Your first sense of independence is on a bicycle. I truly believe that. I see it with my daughter as she learns how her bike is capable of taking her anywhere. That’s your independence, so I don’t think the love of bikes will ever go away completely.” – Mike Wolfe

Photography by Meghan Aileen


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Vermont Army Major unites with fellow veterans to reunite Purple Hearts to military families across the nation

Imagine for a second that you’re seeing your brother, son, dad, or uncle off to war. That precious, fleeting goodbye is filled with tears, prayers, and the promise of returning home. You watch them walk down the driveway to catch the bus and just like that, they’re gone. Two weeks later, you get a knock on your door. You open it, your body tightens, and everything around you slows up. A man in uniform hands you a telegram saying that your loved one is never coming home. As your family and friends cope with the news, the telegram is later followed by a final piece of the person you’ll ever receive, a Purple Heart.

war notice telegram
Photo credit Zachariah Fike

Could you imagine losing or misplacing that piece of a loved one and having it returned 50 years later? A Purple Heart is family history at its most significant, and the oldest military award still given to those who have served.  Helping identify and locate the survivors of one who was awarded it, and then somehow parted from, a Purple Heart is a chance to reunite a family with a piece of a near or distant relative they may lovedor perhaps never have known. Something Mike has personal experience with.

“Neither my mother nor I ever knew my grandfather,” says Mike. “What we do know is that he was killed on 11 May 1945 while serving on the U.S.S. Evans (DD-552) during the Battle of Okinawa in WWII. When she presented me with his Purple Heart and told me his story, I was without words. Men like Zachariah Fike are making it possible to give other military families closure and peace through his Purple Hearts Reunited nonprofit as he works unfailingly to return these medals to their rightful owners.”

mike wolfe grandfather
Mike’s Grandfather

Zac, founder of Purple Hearts Reunited and active Army Major for the past 18 years, left war a changed man. Especially after his last tour to Afghanistan, where he was wounded and later awarded a Purple Heart for his service and sacrifice. Like many other veterans on the mend, Zac needed an outlet to help him cope with post-combat stress, and he developed an interest and immersed himself in the world of antiques. The first piece of his collection was a gift from his mother — a Purple Heart she had bought for $100.

“When I flipped the heart over and read the name ‘Pvt. Corrado Piccoli’ my first reaction was sadness,” says Zac. “Having recently been presented with my own Purple Heart, I was all too familiar with its significance. The precious medal in my hand represented a fellow soldier who gave his life for me, my family, and our country. Suddenly that sadness fled and excitement took over as I felt I had a new mission at that very moment. I had to find out everything about this veteran’s service and answer the mystery as to who his family was and why his medal was discovered in an antique shop. I feel that excitement each evening when I go into my basement to research the fallen heroes of history.” (See Zac at work in the video below.)

Knowing that there were more Purple Hearts to rescue, and certainly other veterans needing an outlet, Zac founded Purple Hearts Reunited in 2012. His nonprofit is currently the only one of its kind uniting Purple Hearts and their proper families, free of charge and with the help of other veterans, serving the cause of historical preservation and education. So far, this alliance has resulted in the successful return of more than 300 Purple Hearts to military families all across the country.  Last year alone, the organization brought home 70 medals, with its volunteer veterans logging more than 28,000 miles and touching the lives of more than 70,000 people in 18 states.

Purple Hearts Reunited opens its Valor Guard to veterans from all branches of the military and special services, like Sgt. Greg Haak, who served eight years in the U.S. Army with two tours in Iraq. During his last deployment, he was wounded by an IED and the resulting infection cost him his leg. He has since retired from the military, gradually adjusting to civilian life with the help of Purple Hearts Reunited.

“Participating in these returns fills me with a sense of pride that I haven’t experienced since my time in the military, while allowing me to feel like I’m part of a new family,” says Greg.

“For me,” says Zac, “watching Greg stand in front of a family at a return, looking sharp in his uniform again, and projecting confidence in the mission he was performing, was one of the proudest monuments I’ve experienced since starting this organization. It has become more than returning a medal or honoring a family, it has transformed into a process that also helps heal my fellow veterans.”

purple hearts medals
Photo courtesy of Zachariah Fike

Veterans across the country have been given a new purpose and drive to stay active and serve others in need. Even the Executive Director of Purple Hearts Reunited, Sarah Corry, the daughter of a veteran, has a personal connection to the organization.

“My father is a two-time Purple Heart recipient from his time in Vietnam. I’m one of the lucky ones in that I get to sit down with my kids and show them that tangible symbol of sacrifice their Grandpa made for our nation. Being able to give that moment back to another Mom or Dad isn’t work for me, it’s a gift and a privilege. Participating in return ceremonies has been life-changing for me.”

Zac’s family has served all the way back to the Revolutionary War, so he understands the emotional attachment people have towards these medals.

“They tell the story and give closure to so many people. I believe all medals should go home to their true owners or be preserved in a special place of honor. Medal returns have become more than just returning a medal. We’re providing a very valuable experience for each family that often leads to families reuniting, learning more about their family history, and in most cases, finding closure with their loss. I once had help returning a Purple Heart from a dog named Smuckers after she dug the medal up in Denver dirt! That was a memorable story for me.”

purple hearts framed
Framed Purple Heart Photo Courtesy of Zachariah Fike

But there are so many more stories that still need to be told. In fact, Zac and his team have made a pretty amazing New Year’s resolution this year: to return at least 100 medals in 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I. To keep that resolution, they will have to return one medal just about every three days!

“I guess you could say I enjoy the thrill of finding an item and learning more about it, in much the same way that Mike does. It’s our vow that through returning these Purple Hearts  we’ll tell each veteran’s story, preserve their legacy, and solidify their contribution to history.”

If you’re a veteran looking to volunteerto donate, or help identify current Purple Hearts, visit PurpleHeartsReunited.org.


usa made gifts

Isabel Bloom Creation Supports Work of Operation Smile 

December 01, 2015 9:45 am • By Jennifer DeWitt

The smile that 3-year-old Charlie Wolfe had as she painted an Isabel Bloom sculpture bright pink is just the expression that Operation Smile helps restore for children around the world.

Fittingly, a statue inspired by Charlie now will give a financial boost to Operation Smile’s medical work with children and young adults.

Thanks to a collaboration between Isabel Bloom and Charlie’s parents, “American Pickers” star Mike Wolfe and Jodi Wolfe, Operation Smile will be able to help more children who, like Charlie, were born with cleft lips and cleft palates.  Isabel Bloom’s co-owners presented a $10,000 donation Monday to an Operation Smile representative.

“We’ve done other sculptures for organizations…but this one is different because we have a personal connection,” said Donna Young, co-owner of Isabel Bloom.  Charlie’s aunt, Jill Shively (Jody’s Sister), is the company’s controller.

The donation was raised through proceeds from the sale of the Isabel Bloom sculpture “Charlie’s Smile,” which features a little girl dressed in a pink tutu and boots, sitting on a dog. It was inspired by a photograph of Charlie.

Mike Wolfe, the creator and executive producer of the History Channel’s TV series “American Pickers,” explained how doctors discovered Charlie’s cleft lip and cleft palate during a routine ultrasound before her birth.  “It’s been a journey.”

“We had a lot of questions and were very concerned.  But one of the things we felt blessed about is that she had something that was cosmetic.” He said.  “We were very fortunate we had the ability to find good doctors.”

Charlie creates her own Isabel Bloom with her grandmother, Photo by: Isabel Bloom
Charlie creates her own Isabel Bloom with her grandmother, Photo by: Isabel Bloom

But through her extensive research, Jodi Wolfe learned of Operation Smile and its vast work as well as how common the birth defect is, and how devastating it can be particularly in third world countries.  “Charlie’s case here was so different; it’s cosmetic in the U.S. But in other countries it can mean life or death,” she said. “(These children) can’t eat. Sometimes they are left alongside the road to die.  These families often are shunned.  We are so blessed to be in this country.”

It was the couple’s own positive experience with Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital that prompted them to become advocates for Operation Smile and reach out to Isabel Bloom.  They since have been asked to become Operation Smile ambassadors, Jodi Wolfe said.

Young, who owns Isabel Bloom with Cathy Nevins and Bill Barrett, said the project “would not have happened without Mike, Jodi and Charlie.”

She added Operation Smile’s surgeries, which are performed by trained medical teams of volunteers, cost about $240 a piece.  “I’m no mathematician, but I did the math.  We will provide 41 surgeries for 41 children.”

Connie Chiles, an Operation Smile volunteer and a registered nurse at Ottumwa (Iowa) Regional Health Center, was thrilled to accept the check on behalf of the organization.  Thinking of the hundreds of families they help, she said “Until you volunteer on a mission, you do not know the impact it makes on a child.”

Chiles, who has been on 27 missions, said it is not unusual for the team to operate on 100 children per mission.  Though she has “lots of stories” from her trips, she cannot forget one father in Jimma, Ethiopia, who saved enough for one operation although he had three children, ages 12, 14 and 18, all in need.  He arrived at the hospital with all three, she said, telling how his wife had died in childbirth.  Her fourth child, who had been born without the birth defect, later died “because there was no one to feed it.”

“We did (operations on) all three children,” Chiles said.  The father knew his wife “was watching down and knew all three of her children were perfect now.”

“Charlie’s Smile” is available for sale online at IBloom.com.

Left to right, Donna Young, (Co-owner and artist), Bill Barrett, Mike and Cathy Nevins. / Photo By: Isabel Bloom
Left to right, Donna Young, (Co-owner and artist), Bill Barrett, Mike Wolfe, and Cathy Nevins. Photo By: Isabel Bloom




Every once in a while, Antique Archaeology acquires slightly creepy picks, which almost instantly makes our shop look a little like a funhouse. What can we say? Sometimes Mike’s taste tilt towards the unusual. Like that one trip to upstate New York when he returned to our Nashville location with a load of clown heads and a gigantic old clown suit! It’s only appropriate with it being Halloween, that we showcase some of the spooky antiques that the Master of Junk has collected over the last few years.

You can see any of the following in Nashville. They’re sure to make your visit extra eerie.

This smiling, Oddfellows skeletal bust currently welcomes store guests behind the front counter.

Mike Wolfe Picks
Photo by Meghan Aileen

Anyone recognize the clown on the left? You saw it on Season 7 when Mike purchased it in upstate New York. The paper mache clown head use to be propped atop a ciricus sign to greet the audience. The Bozo clown head on the right was off that same pick. Either of the clowns is enough to be any coulrophobic person’s worst nightmare!


creepy clown photos
Photos by Meghan Aileen

Now this old thing… Nope, it’s not from your worst nightmare – it’s a dental mold tool.

Antique dentures
Photo by Meghan Aileen

Wolf Boy is undoubtedly one of the most famous picks in American Pickers history. He was displayed at circus shows as an attraction and was created by sideshow artist, Homer Tate (read more about him HERE!)

Honor Tate
Photos by Meghan Aileen

Have you ever experienced the unsettling feeling like you’re being watched, heard whispers, or felt some serious chills? Let’s start a spooky story swap in the comments below. The creepier the better!



Article in American Airlines Celebrated Living Magazine Fall 2015

Picking on Nashville

History channel star Mike Wolfe has set up shop in Music City and has become one of its main attractions



Mike Wolfe in his shop, Antique Archaeology, in Nashville.  Photo by Kristin Barlowe.

The approach shot from Nashville’s trendy West End to Marathon Village is altogether peculiar. The city’s skyline ebbs into and out of view as you pass cranes and buildings and trees. The closer you get, the more your view is obscured by rows of warehouses.

That’s when you start to get a sense of the zoning juggernaut that became the banjo-plucking subtext of Music City’s notoriety. Tree-lined schoolyards butt up to industry; a hospice is across 18th Avenue from a motorcycle shop.

But then you turn onto Clinton Street, and it all makes sense.

The aging, rust-colored brick exterior and the filmy panel windows of the turn-of-the-century building — once a Marathon automobile manufacturing plant — look old, yes, but not in imminent decay. Quite the contrary, actually. The aging hulk is the perfect anchor — with just the right amount of patina — for a section of town teeming with energy and in the midst of a renaissance; with folks young and old converging on a shop made famous on the History channel by a country boy from Iowa.

Mike Wolfe makes an approach shot of his own, from the interior of his shop, Antique Archaeology, to the 18-foot moving truck on Clinton Street that bears the shop’s brand. His clothes resemble his picker’s uniform, which doubles as his business attire. The khaki-colored denim pants and blue denim shirt are common sights on his show, American Pickers. He’s wearing a trucker’s hat pulled low over his eyes, thereby making him somewhat indistinguishable from the throng of workers and shoppers milling about. Then a woman spots him and announces to the horde of tourists who came to Nashville from all over the country, “There he is!”

She and the other 20 people waiting on the sidewalk just happened to get lucky. Wolfe is on the road seven months out of the year, crisscrossing the country looking for vintage goods for American Pickers. This is a rare 9 a.m. appearance on Clinton Street for him. The shop doesn’t even open for another hour.

“Can we take your picture?” one woman asks. “We came all the way from Illinois just to meet you!”

“Oh, yeah?” Wolfe replies, now holding court for the early-morning shoppers. “Well then here, let me get in the picture with you.”

More people arrive and more tourists clamor for a shot with the reality star. He entertains them all. Perhaps he’s the living embodiment of a your-mamma-raised-you-right childhood, or maybe his humility is the byproduct of a memory that still reverts back to when he was sleeping in his van a decade ago while searching for salvaged gold in the barns of America’s back roads. The tourists couldn’t care less. They came to see Mike Wolfe, and here he is.

It is only a five-minute drive through the Gulch neighborhood to 12th Street. Wolfe maneuvers his 1951 candy-apple-red Ford F100 pickup truck through construction convoys and sky-high cranes and speaks as enthusiastically about his new hometown as he does when coming across a vintage Indian motorcycle on American Pickers. “I’ve been all over the country, and I haven’t seen this much growth anywhere,” he says. “The eyes of the world are on Nashville.”

He’s absolutely right. But the humble 50-year-old fails to note that he’s a major reason why Nashville has taken center stage on cable television, and why tour buses make the out-of-the-way Marathon Village neighborhood an attraction for excursions that used to cap the expedition at the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry.

“Most people come to Antique Archaeology and they’re not collectors,” he quips as he parks his truck on 12th Street in a spot he just created. His truck is, after all, cool, and it adds to the hip aesthetic around shops like Imogene + Willie custom jeans. (That’s his 1914 Harley-Davidson in the window.) “They come here and they want a piece of the store and the show.”

His show encompasses the dichotomous themes of America: smart growth while preserving our history. That’s why he and his wife, Jodi, moved to Nashville in 2011, just 10 days after the birth of their daughter. Nashville strikes the perfect balance of old meets new. What’s more, there’s a premium on architectural revival, unlike some cities in America that would just as soon knock down an aging eyesore as to save it.

Four years after touching down, he’s as dug in to the city as the planning and zoning commission. In addition to running his shops (the other Antique Archaeology is in Le Claire, Iowa), he also runs a clothing business, does his reality-show filming, has one show that has gone to series at HGTV plus two more pilots, another four in the works and he’s about to be a landlord (again).

Wolfe recently bought the 1882 building on the corner of 14th and Jo Johnson Avenue that was once a neighborhood grocer. The renovation is enormous and tedious, as Wolfe is trying to salvage every vestige of its past before he rents it out as a mixed-use facility. “I’ve always had an interest in old buildings,” he says. “This one tells a great story of the city. It’s also been a dentist office, and an old timer walked by and told me about when there used to be wash basins attached to it that people would use to do their laundry.”

“Hey, mamma, how’s it going?” Wolfe asks of the lady selling bracelets on Broadway in downtown Nashville. “Hey, baby!” she replies. “Good to see you!”

Wolfe is walking to Robert’s Western World for a burger and a beer, having just valeted his truck. Sort of. He pulls up to the gaggle of valets standing around, asks if anyone knows how to drive the thing, and when they all say no, he asks if anyone wants to try. One valet volunteers and instantly floods the engine. Wolfe helps him push it to the side of the street, where it sits and attracts as much attention from tourists as the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on the corner.

The barroom is barren at noon on Thursday. All the action is next door at Tootsie’s. A couple of locals nurse their Busch Light cans while a lone musician croons from a stage at the entrance. No one acknowledges him when a song begins — or when one ends.

Then Wolfe does. He lets out thunderous applause and shouts — loudly — in between songs. The other patrons follow suit. Instantly, the dynamic changes and people on the street pop in to hear what the commotion is about.

That’s what Mike Wolfe does for a community. For humanity, even. He’s out there picking through long-ago-faded memories with hopes of unearthing the stories they tell.

“I think everyone needs to see small-town America before it disappears,” he says, putting down his burger to weigh his words. “For the show, we go into these towns that are two lanes, and the buildings are falling down because the city can’t afford to keep them up, and the shopkeeps have long since left. I’m trying to figure out a way to help. It breaks my heart.”

He recalls a story from a pick in Arkansas. He was talking to the lone proprietor of the last standing business on Main Street. The man’s eyes welled up as he talked of happier times — of times when Main Street was where you came to shop as well as catch up with your neighbors and chew the fat about town goings-on. He said something to Wolfe that pangs him to this day: Imagine outliving your friends and how hurtful that feels. Now imagine outliving your town.

“Traveling is about moments,” he declares. “Why do we need to know what those moments are before we leave? Get out there. Go explore.”

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Bessie Stringfield, the “Motorcycle Queen of Miami”, broke barriers for women and African-American cyclists. Throughout her life she completed eight solo cross-country tours and served as a U.S. Army motorcycle dispatch rider. In 2002, she was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

History of Women in Motorcycles
Bessie Stringfield Photo Courtesy of AMA Motorcycle Museum

Born in Jamaica in 1911, she moved to Boston with her family and was orphaned by the age of five.  Bessie never mentioned her adoptive mother’s name in interviews, but she gave Bessie her first motorcycle at age 16, a 1928 Indian Scout. Her adopted mother was a devout Irish Catholic and believed giving Bessie a motorcycle was God’s will.  Bessie went on to say, “When I was in high school I wanted a motorcycle, and even though good girls didn’t ride motorcycles, I got one.”

Known as “BB” amongst friends, she took eight solo cross country trips in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as rides into Haiti, Europe, and South America.  Tossing a coin on a map would determine her next destination, and she would pick up gigs at carnival shows as a hill climber and stunt racer to  make money on the road.  It wasn’t easy for Bessie to find a place to stay overnight when she drove through a racially tense and segregated South. She discussed the challenge in Ann Ferrar’s book, Hear me Roar.

“If you had black skin, you couldn’t get a place to stay. I knew the Lord would take care of me, and He did. If I found black folks, I’d stay with them. If not, I’d sleep at filling stations on my motorcycle.”

In World War II, Bessie worked on courier duty as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider for the Army. She completed intense training while serving, and learned such skills as weaving a makeshift bridge out of rope, and using tree limbs to cross swamps.

In the 1950s, Bessie bought a house in a Miami suburb, became a licensed practical nurse, and formed the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. By this time she had been married and divorced six different times. While living there, she gained the lifelong moniker “The Motorcycle Queen of Miami.” In 1990, the AMA paid tribute to Bessie with the “Heroes of Harley Davidson” exhibit. Throughout her life, she owned 27 Harleys and claimed them to be “the only motorcycle ever made.” Bessie was still riding in 1993, when, at 82, her big, well-used heart beat its last.  

Bessie Springfield Women in Motorcycles
Bessie Stringfield Photo Courtesy of AMA Motorcycle Museum

Photos courtesy of the AMA Motorcycle Museum



Saving Nashville’s Historic Buildings – It’s Now or Never!

In a city that is growing so rapidly that cranes dot our skylines, high rise buildings take the place where some of our history once stood. Nashville is fortunate to have a hard working organization taking up the cause for preservation. Established in 1968 and renamed in 1975, Historic Nashville, Inc. (HNI) is a nonprofit organization with the mission of promoting and preserving the historic places that make our city unique. Over the years, HNI has successfully advocated for the preservation of such landmarks as the Ryman Auditorium, Union Station, Hermitage Hotel, 2nd Avenue & Lower Broadway and Shelby Street Bridge, as well as neighborhood historic districts throughout the city. Without their efforts, some of most valuable buildings may have fallen prey to modern development.


Historic Nashville Inc’s Nashville Nine

For the past eleven years, the organization has opened up nominations of the Nashville Nine for people to have their voices heard on the historic landmarks that matter most to them. Upon closing of nominations, HNI compiles the Nashville Nine in order to bring public attention to our endangered places, often with the hopes of saving them.

Through July 15, Historic Nashville, Inc. is now accepting nominations for the 2015 Nashville Nine. If you’re aware of any historic properties endangered by demolition, neglect or development in the city please nominate them. Historic houses and/or neighborhoods, park buildings, civic landmarks, commercial buildings, neighborhood schools, churches and even neon signs are eligible.

Nominate Nashville’s Endangered Buildings Here



Visit Nashville Historic, Inc Online for more on their efforts and some of Nashville’s history. Their website is here. 

Want to follow their efforts all year? Like their Facebook page here and tell them Antique Archaeology sent you!



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