Of Mice & Motorcycles

Barn Diving for 'Rusted Gold'

The biker-friendly History Channel has another hit show, American Pickers, which just happens to star two avid motorcyclists on a mission to recycle junk: no matter how far afield, how well it's hidden, or how rust- and rat poop-encrusted it is.

Crawling through creepy barns, basements, underground bunkers and bat caves across the nation for lost and forgotten booty, Mike Wolfe and his picking partner, Frank Fritz, call their re-found treasures "rusty gold." They'll buy anything they can sell, from old steel and porcelain signs to Depression-era soda fountains and glass gas pumps to rare and endangered motorcycle parts, and sometimes when they're really lucky, the proverbial bike in a barn-complete and rusted solid.

These self-described "modern archaeologists" bristle at the suggestion that they're mere dumpster divers. Ask any American picker, and he'll be happy to inform you there's a science to the scrounging, a method to their mission. Pickers like Mike and Frank travel the country, meeting collectors, hoarders, amateur historians and other individuals who all have unique tales to tell. Every treasure they uncover is a new history lesson, providing a glimpse at American life in the recent and distant past.

"Our biggest passion is old motorcycles," said Wolfe, whose daily ride is a 1934 Harley-Davidson VL. His garage is also home to a 1913 Indian Twin, a '41 Knucklehead and a '48 Chief, among other bikes most of us would trade our mothers for. But he looks to his barn-diving partner as the hardcore member of the team: "Frank, man, had a full beard and a Harley by the time he was in 9th grade."

Of Mice & Motorcycles