I started riding late in my life…I never grew up around motorcycles, I never watched my dad turn wrenches on motorcycles (or any vehicle for that matter), and I never had friends who rode bikes. So when it came to shopping for and purchasing a motorcycle as a 25 year old man joining up with the Circus (that’s a story for another blog), I figured I was the first in my family to do this…blazing new ground…and when I threw a leg over my first bike, I wasn’t prepared for how that would change the outlook on the rest of my life.
That photo above ⬆️ that’s my Grandpa Slabaugh on his 1930’s Indian Scout…growing up, I was lucky enough to know my Grandpa Slabaugh & my Grandpa Warner. Both, men of a generation when the world came to a crossroads and humanity was called to serve. I’m proud that both Grandfather’s served in their own way…my Grandpa Warner loaded bombs and maintained the guns on B-17s in England and my Grandpa Slabaugh served in the Civilian Public Service (CPS) as a Conscientious Objector. (If you aren’t familiar with the powerful story of the CPS, read a brief history here.) He served at 3 different CPS camps during the war, the last of which was a State Hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Grandpa Slabaugh rode motorcycles.
I had no idea about any of this until a few years into touring with the circus (and many thousands of miles of motorcycles trips later). One evening when I was visiting with him around his dinner table in Ohio sharing about some of my motorbike adventures, he causally brought up that he had an Indian and used to ride it back and forth from Ypsilanti. Then he went on to tell me that my dad had a motorcycle in college, and that he had tested it and rode it out from the dealer for my dad (a Triumph 600 something I think). It went from being a lone wolf, a trail blazer, a first-in-the-family kind of thing to learning that it’s in my blood. And after musing over it during the following weeks, I was like… “hmmmm…all of those goofy grins I get twisting the throttle, and the way I long to ride to the next town, or state, or time zone…just to see what’s there….that actually makes a lot of sense…it’s generational…IT’S IN MY BLOOD”
These two black & white pictures above are the only record I have of him and his Adventure Machine, an Indian Chief (late 1930’s as best as I can tell)…I see so much of me in that face, the face of a man and his machine of adventure…I really wish I could have known him then and gone on a ride with him, even if it were out for a burger and a milk shake. If I am ever blessed with a kid, I have resolved to myself to share that passion that will undoubtedly run through both of our veins.