Her Last Ride Memoirs of a Harley Woman

a beautiful middle-aged woman and her harley davidson motorcyle

Photograph courtesy Annie-hannah Mancini


In August of 2010, my sister Barb Slaughter took a cross-country motorcycle road trip on her Harley Davidson Street Glide, Cleo.

Starting in her home town of Charlottesville, VA., Barb ventured into more than what was supposed to be a 30 day quest. In the journal that she kept on her ride that August and in the other eight, dog-eared journals from the past forty-two years of her life that I found in her attic, Barb left more than just documentation of her life’s experiences. Barb wrote about her spirit-based convictions unabashedly and with a sense of awe and gratitude. Barb reflected upon and articulated something larger in her life than just her experiences (good and not so good). Her inspiration was invested in a deeper truth about her humanness, her spirituality, and whom she knew God to be – “The Universe.”

Aug. 7, 2010 cross-country to Sturgis & maybe California! (With two riding companions.)365.1 miles!

Left Charlottesville, Va. @ 11:30 am. Rode my 2002 Street Glide that I call Cleo, short for Cleopatra, to Knoxville, TN. I so doubted my ability to ride such a big bike fully loaded, but I did GREAT. I felt awesome & it was a great ride on a beautiful, sunny day.

Ate breakfast at Waffle House in C-ville & wished I had someone to take my picture sitting on Cleo as I embark on the wonderful adventure. It’s ok; I took a picture on my bike anyway. I am so happy & so grateful to The Universe for providing me w/ this unbelievable opportunity!!!

All is well. All is good.

August 11, 2011

Left Mitchell & rode 375 miles across 90 west – it was beautiful. Passed many sunflower fields. Yep, sunflowers…beautiful bright yellow flowers in acres & acres. Got off 90 & went thru the Badlands Nat’l forest. That was beautiful!! Took some pictures, bought some postcards. I could imagine the outlaw gangs of the Old West hiding out in those incredible structures. I also could sense & feel my Indian Spirit Guide, Big Owl, perched on the peaks & watching over me.

Riding with two other companions on that cross-country trip Barb notes:
August 21, 2010

We rode thru the Redwood Nat’l Forest & I so wanted to stop. Of course, they didn’t. I wanted to get out & walk thru those gigantic trees, touch them, feel them. But, it was beautiful riding thru them. It was very chilly however & pretty foggy. At one point, the sun cracked thru the fog & streams of light filtered thru those massive branches. It was like being in church. Incredible.

During the course of Barb’s cross-country motorcycle excursion, she admitted herself into an emergency room in Durango, CO. after experiencing “heart attack-like” pains.

The X-rays showed an abnormality on her lung. However, the attending doctor told Barb that it was nothing to worry about and indicated to her that “it” could have been with her “all her life.” In late March 2011, after months of wheezing and lower back pain Barb was correctly diagnosed, albeit too late, with Stage 4 Soft Tissue Sarcoma Cancer. Her survival prognosis was about three months.

Well, the doctors didn’t know Barb Slaughter. She was a Harley woman, and you just don’t tell Harley women stuff like where to ride, what to drink–or when to die. She was determined to live Life to its fullest (read: party!) and she did so–miraculously–feeling little or no pain associated with this type of cancer until the last couple of weeks of her life.

Through the outpouring of prayers and human goodness over the ensuing months, Barb outlived her original prognosis by a year and three months. Her doctors were flummoxed; we witnessed a miracle.

On crystal clear days, when I hear the sounds of the all-too familiar Harley motorcycles roaring through my town, I know Barb is right there with them. “I truly love riding my motorcycle.” She wrote when she purchased her first Harley, a Fat Boy, she named Shasta. “It gives me such feelings of freedom, independence & exhilaration!”

Editor’s Note: This is a true story. The letters above were compiled by Barb’s sister as part of two books she wrote about her late sibling.

Below are also two videos that Barb’s sister compiled for these projects. I find Barb to be quite inspiring, particularly in a world where we’re all so afraid of dying that we absolutely forget to live.