Across America By Motorcycle

Email from How I Found C.K. Shepherd’s Son

Below is the complete text of one of the emails in the blog post How I Found C.K. Shepherd’s Son

Subject: Re: Grandson of CK Shaw
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2017 08:17:02 -0400
From: Mark Hunnibell

Well this was a bit of a needle in the haystack. I do not quite know where to start so I will give you a little sketch about how I came to look into this.

I am Mark Hunnibell. I am 59 years old and am an airline pilot for American Airlines with prior service in USAF. I live in Yellow Springs Ohio in the United States.

I am in the final stages are restoring a 1919 Henderson motorcycle. I got it years ago from my father, but he never had it running. About 15 years ago I started getting more serious about getting it running and it looks like it will be running this year. During the course of researching details about the motorcycle type and its history I found the book written by your grandfather CK Shepherd. He also drove a 1919 Henderson. As the restoration of my bike progressed, probably about 4 years ago, I had a romantic idea/dream that I would attempt to replicate his ride in 2019, one hundred years later. Now in 2017, it very much looks like it is going to happen.

So I have spent the last year or so carefully analyzing every word in that book to determine what I could about the route that he took and the dates that he was in specific places. Fairly quickly I found a number of problems in terms of his rendition of what happened. Nothing horrible mind you, but just small inconsistencies or references to places that did not exist. As you may know he did not include a map in the book, and so a great deal of my work has been trying to reverse engineer a map of the route that he took based on maps that were available back in the day. I finished that work about six months ago.

But as I did my review of the details in the book it occurred to me that people might be interested in an annotated version of the book, a book that is supplemented with details that he did not include, corrections where necessary, and other (hopefully) interesting discussion that would give readers better perspective of the challenges he faced and the experience he had. So right now my plan is to publish a annotated version of the book with content that probably will exceed the volume of the book itself but nonetheless should be interesting.

That said, one of the things that I discovered was that his life both before and after his ride was, to say the least, quite fascinating. I have a good sense that I have only scratched the surface but I have collected a great deal of information that to my knowledge has never been published before… certainly not collectively. So now I am working on collecting information that I would include as a separate biography of him at the end of the book that I’m working on regarding his ride.

I have done a great deal of research into his life and times, a concept you may well appreciate given the fact that I even found you.

Two months ago, I found and have subsequently met two grandsons of the gentleman that your grandfather met in Cincinnati, “Steve.” They still live in Cincinnati. “Steve’s” actual name was Thomas Stevenson Jr. I found that both your grandfather and he had served in WWI as maintenance supply officers working on aircraft engines in France and England. So I now have photographs of your grandfather and “Steve” in France in uniform. I also have copies of two wonderful letters that your grandfather wrote to Steve. One in 1928. The other in 1940. The letter in 1940 is six pages long and is a fascinating retrospective of his life to that point.

I have also found and now own a number of books, publications and other works of his and am continuing to look for a few others that I know about.

One of the things that I have been looking for over the years has been any original manuscripts for photographs from the 1919 trip itself. If you had stuff like that, I would be blown away but I have to ask!

Over the past few months, besides Steve’s grandsons, I have come in contact with others who have also done something of a superficial review of his life or one aspect of it. They expressed individually, and in different ways, the opinion that your grandfather was perhaps a somewhat dishonest person. My own perspective is that is far too simplistic a picture. In seeing what I have of his life, I have concluded that he was a very creative and intelligent man, but he had a difficult life. He was challenged at every corner, was beaten down many times, and yet he persisted for all of his living days. In an essay he wrote in 1933, apparently about a seance that he conducted to try to communicate with a lost-and-presumed-dead Australian pilot, Bert Hinkler, he wrote words that I think are far more autobiographical projection than they are about Hinkler. Here is what he wrote:

“As everyone knows, he did not succeed, yet his exploit will be remembered not as a failure, but as the concluding episode in the life of a man who, in spite of the bad luck that impeded his highest efforts was in reality a success. He set to the world an example of dogged perseverance combined with humility and lofty ambition unspoiled by constant misfortune.”

In fact, I think that very prose is what I think would be best suited as the “foreword” for the biography about your grandfather that I have been collecting details for, but have not yet begun writing.

My wife and I will be over in England this October… on vacation, ostensibly, but much of my touring will be to visit libraries and places that might allow me to learn more.

Although I know who your father is, I have not been successful in reaching him. I am not even sure I found the correct Charles Drury Shaw. I found an MD who was in England until 2010 or so but published in Australia shortly after that. I do not have any contact information for him (this Charles Shaw and/or your father) and enquiries to the University down there have gone unanswered.

So, please let me hear from you and we can take it as it goes from there.

Mark Hunnibell
Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387
United States
Cell: (iPhone works with iMessage)

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