There is something special about the state of Pennsylvania that causes it to be a Mecca for gearheads. It is not Southern California or Florida which are blessed with climates that allow for year-round indulgence. It is not particularly blessed with famous racetracks or national museums. Yet somehow, it is replete with destinations for gearhead events throughout the driving and riding season that are nationally known and loved. And the venues are not typically the large cities and towns within the state. They are locations like Carlisle and Lewisberry and Hershey and Oley.
Ahhh Oley. Population 1,282. Site of the annual Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) swap meet. There are other chapters and meets in Pennsylvania (Neshaminy, and Western Alleghany). There are chapters of AMCA across the country, but for some reason, Oley has grown to proportions that make it more of a regional event. AMCA is about originality, and their shows are judged according to the way the motorcycle would have left the factory rather than judging against other machines. Perhaps it is fitting then that the swap meet and vendor area are mostly about original, unrestored, and survivor parts and motorcycles. This is not the place to come looking for aftermarket goodies or even reproduction parts. This is the place to find the floorboards for your Excelsior Henderson.
Although Harley-Davidson may be the most prevalent marque there are plenty of other brands around. Indian, Excelsior, BMW, Honda, BSA, Triumph, etc. Oley Is nowhere near as large as vintage motorcycle days or the Barber vintage weekend, but what it lacks in size, it seems to make up for in character. This is the place to bring your strange creation or your ultra rare part, or your wildly altered vintage trike. Like other large vintage meets, it is also the place to show off your pit bike or some other unusual conveyance intended to get you around the swap meet. There are almost as many Briggs & Stratton motors at Oley as there are Harley knuckleheads. They are affixed to things never intended to be motorized in that manner, like a claw foot bathtub, or a Barbie Jeep.
Of course behind all of these creations and the vendor stalls and the rusty parts and the immaculate parts, are the people. Of course some just have a lot of time on their hands and welding tools around, but that is a caricature and there is a wide variation. When there are not several hundred stalls to peruse, you spend a bit more time paying attention to each. You notice that the Ural has a Kawasaki motor in it, or that the moped has an expensive flame paint job. You also talk to people. I bought some reflectors and learned more than I thought existed about the history of reflectors. I also learned why some Ural alternators are affectionately called “grenades”. Of course, you could get all of this from Google, or some online forum, but then you would miss the experience that is Oley.