In 1919, Charles Kenilworth (“C.K.”) Shepherd—a veteran of World War I and former British Royal Air Force Captain—took some “time off” after his service. He traveled to the United States to “trot ’round America” on a brand new, top-of-the-line Henderson 4-cylinder motorcycle he dubbed “Lizzie.” Just eleven days after arriving in the States, Shepherd and Lizzie headed west on a pioneer adventure. He journeyed to California on America’s “highways,” which he soon realized consisted of dirt roads—several of which were impassable. After arriving in San Francisco two months later, he sold his motorcycle on the street. In 1922, he memorialized this journey for eternity in his book Across America by Motor-Cycle.
Shepherd’s tale is an informative and engaging reflection of the trials and tribulations of an Englishman’s solo adventure across the United States when there were no such things as interstate highways or even good street maps. His honest observations about America’s roads, history, and culture—through the lens of a British “observer”—are revealing and often humorous. One hundred years later, Shepherd’s book remains a classic.
Mark Hunnibell—a former United States Air Force Captain—discovered Shepherd’s book while beginning to restore his own “basket case” 1919 Henderson motorcycle that his father had given him decades earlier. Realizing it was the same make, model, and year owned by Shepherd, Hunnibell imagined retracing Shepherd’s journey. But Hunnibell realized such a major feat would go well beyond mechanical restoration. He had to get the old Henderson functioning like new to contemplate such an arduous expedition, but he also had to deduce Shepherd’s path when the British adventurer had not included a map or specific itinerary. Hunnibell set about analyzing the book word-by-word in a bold attempt to discover, document, and reverse-engineer the smallest details of Shepherd’s ride.
As the research progressed, revelations of Shepherd’s route and other amazing details emerged while Hunnibell also became fascinated by C.K.’s cultural reflections. Hunnibell also realized that the British explorer had an occasional tendency to embellish, apparently hoping it would make his book even more appealing.
It occurred to Hunnibell that readers of C.K.’s 1922 book—and even new ones—would be even more inspired and entertained by the journey if they had the benefit of a complete and accurate explanation of as many details as possible. He sought to answer fundamental questions such as: Who was “C.K. Shepherd” and what was his background? Why did he embark on this trip? Whatever happened to him?
This Fully Annotated Centennial Edition contains nearly 1,000 exhaustively researched notes, original photographs (many previously unpublished that had been taken by Shepherd himself), illustrations, and rich period details and explanations. It also contains a foreword by C.K.’s son, Dr. Charles Drury Shaw, who has graciously supported this celebration.
Although some details of Shepherd’s journey will forever remain a mystery, this Fully Annotated Centennial Edition—which includes the complete text of the original book—stands as the definitive work on the subject.