Friday, May 28, 2010

Road Stop: Hutchins Harley-Davidson

It’s my contention that the ride, not the destination, should set the tone for a road trip. But a trip to Hutchins Harley-Davidson gives me reason to forget that rule.

Hutchins is a dealership that reminds me what local bike shops were like when I got my feet wet in this biking thing back in the ‘60s, because this shop—situated on 29 Palms Highway (aka Route 62) in Yucca Valley, California, and just a stone’s throw from the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park—isn’t your typical Harley-Davidson superstore franchise.

For the most part the shop has retained the same quaintness as when Dick Hutchins moved his business from Los Angeles to the high desert in 1979. Dick has since retired, and today his son Chris runs the business, but the place retains its old-time charm, despite undergoing changes to cope with today’s business climate.

When you pull into Hutchins’ parking lot, don’t expect to feel as though you’re visiting a Harley dealer at all. That’s because many riders go to Hutchins so they can dine at the Route 62 Diner that’s attached to the showroom. The diner stretches along the dealership’s front section, and inside that ‘50s-style diner you’ll find a place to hang your helmet while you eat some mighty tasty (that means greasy) meals. They’re listed on the menu with bike-related names like Panhead and Shovelhead, and each breakfast or lunch portion is enough to fill the belly of any seasoned biker. Which is to say, there’s a lot on each plate, and I’ve dined several times at Hutchins’ Route 62 Diner for breakfast and lunch, never leaving disappointed.

A single door connects the culinary hall to the shop, and when you wander onto the showroom floor the familiar pungent aroma of fresh paint and rubber greets you. Most of the new bikes are stationed on the main floor of the east room, although you’ll find new bikes scattered in the museum section as well.

Wait a minute, museum section? Well, sort of. The Hutchins family has been in this bike thing for many years, and they’ve collected more than a few old Harleys and a lot of memorabilia dating back to 1912. You’ll find the collectables in antique glass bookcases and on shelves, and other displays include complete vintage motorcycles with period-perfect props to add to the mini-diorama’s flavor. The collection even includes the 1930 VL that Dick purchased when he was a 16-year-old kid back in 1939. Look above on the wall and you’ll see a T-shirt collection with event dates reflecting the years when AMF owned The Motor Company, and of course you can find the normal array of authorized H-D apparel, parts and service elsewhere in the shop.

The diner is closed on Mondays, with normal serving hours from 7 a.m. to 2:30 pm the rest of the week. For thrifty spenders there’s a breakfast special for $3.99, and Hutchins sponsors a bike night the first Thursday of each month. Making the trip even more worthwhile for diehard gearheads, there’s a hot-rod shop, fittingly called The Hot Rod Shop, right across the highway; it occupies the town’s first fire station, built in 1929.

Looking for a reason to ride? Hutchins H-D might be all you need. Just show up with a hearty appetite, a hunger for some American motorcycle history, and maybe a need for some authentic Harley-Davidson merchandise. –Dain Gingerelli

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