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Pilgrimage on a Steel Ride: A Memoir About Men and Motorcycles Hardcover – November, 1997

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Editorial Reviews Review

At 57, with heart disease and a bad case of wanderlust, Gary Paulsen decided to get himself the motorcycle of his dreams and take it to Alaska from his home in New Mexico. "The bike held me like a hand, caught me and took me with it so that the engine seemed to be my engine, the wheels my wheels," he writes. "It was singular, visceral, unlike any other motorcycle I had ever ridden. In some way it brought me out of myself, out ahead of myself, into myself, into the core of what I was, what I needed to live. And I knew, my core knew that I would never be the same again, could never be the same."

Paulsen writes in a blaze of macho invective, about men who like drinkin' and butcherin' and guns and "poker with no-limits stakes, or stakes high enough to make you intensely focus on everything there is--and there is everything--in the game." But when he's writing about the spicy characters he's encountered in his wide-ranging travels around America, this short memoir, for all its exaggerated manliness, turns out to be quite funny. --Maria Dolan

From Library Journal

In his previous autobiographical odyssey, Eastern Sun, Winter Moon (LJ 2/15/93), Paulsen looked backward at his life. Here he looks at the present and sees a 57-year-old man with a heart problem and a gnawing discontent. Having had an enduring "love affair with two-wheeled vehicles" and a desire to get a Harley and make a long "run," Paulsen buys his Harley and with a friend takes a run from New Mexico to Alaska. Along the way, he ruminates about playing poker, the Zen of a good motorcycle mechanic, and the Canadian prairie. He copes with changing weather, seagulls flying into the bike, the unpaved portions of the Alaska highway, and motor-home drivers, for whom he has little use. You do not have to be a fan of long runs and Harleys to enjoy this. Recommended for public libraries.?David Schau, Kanawha Cty. P.L., Charleston, W. Va.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1st. ed edition (November 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151930937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151930937
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,032,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gary Paulsen is one of the most honored writers of contemporary literature for young readers. He has written more than one hundred book for adults and young readers, and is the author of three Newberry Honor titles: Dogsong, Hatchet, and The Winter Room. He divides his time among Alaska, New Mexico, Minnesota, and the Pacific.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#63 in Books > Teens
#63 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Victor Cruz on September 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Gary Paulsen is admittedly patently insane, but that shouldn't stop you from reading this book. Alcoholic parents turned him homeless at age 14, so he eked out a bare existence doing any thing that paid, from fence posting to tarring roofs and digging septic systems, cutting trees in snow, picking crops with migrants, etc.
You might ask, why do you care about this guy's life? Because while the book's title suggests a road journey, the subtitle suggests otherwise: "a memoir about men and motorcycles." But this book is not about either; there is only one bike involved and one guy's story. Since I don't believe in false advertising, I would change that subtitle to "a memoir about myself." And this is what we get. We get an award-winning book author who makes no compromises with his life, who clocked up 10,000 miles on the Alaskan Highway astride his Harley the moment he laid $19K on her and just weeks after doctors told him he had heart disease. And that's nothing compared to the 20,000 miles he claims he's done as a real sled-dog musher and Iditarod finisher.
Paulsen's writing style is direct, in-your-face, colloquial. This explains why his books are big sellers in the "young adult" market. He's never eloquent, but then you don't have to be when you can write something like this: "To seek. Not to find, not to end but to always seek a beginning."
Paulsen is like so many riders out there scribbling on the slab: a pilgrimage is not about traveling to any holy place since the holy place is found in the traveling itself.
At only 179 pages, Steel Ride is a fast read and despite the journey to Alaska, the book doesn't exactly inspire trekking there because we hardly get out of Paulsen's own head trip.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Frank on March 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for this book, it has been newly reprinted (word for word) under the title, _Zero to Sixty: The Motorcycle Journey of a Lifetime_.
I love many of Gary Paulsen's books. I've heard Gary discuss his books at a bookstore appearance; Gary appears to be a very genuine, intelligent, and caring man and author.
BUT, this book seems to have been cobbled together to meet a contractual obligation. Not only is the book short, but the print line spacing is expanded to "fluff" the text. Typical books have 28 to 32 lines of text per page; this book has 24. The title doesn't even match: the journey isn't a "pilgrimage," since the length of trip is more important than the destination. While the book is in part about Gary Paulsen's relationship with motorcycles and journeys, it isn't about "men and motorcycles." There's some glorification of how a Harley, different from any other motorcycle, "brought me out of myself, out ahead of myself, into myself, into the core of what I was, what I needed to live," but no thought about WHY the Harley brand does this for Gary -- or why other motorcyclists feel that other brands fit THEIR soul. (See _The Perfect Vehicle: What It is about Motorcycles_ for Melissa Holbrook Pierson's take on her relationship with her Moto Guzzi.)
_Pilgrimage_ contains some interesting insights into Gary Paulsen's life, and has some beautifully written passages: but that's what you might expect in a long magazine interview.
The profanity is inappropriate and very stilted. Further, the profanity suddenly and almost totally stops halfway through the book at the start of chapter five -- almost as if an editor said, "Gary, you've got to throw some profanity into the first half of the book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William A. Owen on June 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to believe that the author of such first-rate young adult books like Hatchet and Winterdance could also produce something this bad. Pilgrimage is a rambling, poorly-structured narrative that details Paulsen's motorcycle trip to Alaska. Upon reaching his destination, Paulsen and his traveling companion buy T-shirts at the local Harley shop, then turn around and head home. Ultimately, the book is as pointless as the trip itself. However, to say that this is a travel story, or even a book about motorcycling is a bit misleading. The narrative appears to exist just so Paulsen may rant against motorhomes, pose with his Harley, and exhibit a twisted nostalgia for a misanthropic cop from his youth. As I read Pilgrimage, I actually found myself embarrassed for the author. To be fair, most of us are allowed the privilege of staggering through our own mid-life crises with anonymity. Paulsen, as a well-known (and, presumably, bankable) author, was seemingly exploited at this vulnerable moment by those who saw the possibilities for profit in this, yet-another-Harley-book, mistake. Those who would like to read a good adventure tale are referred to the titles above. Those who would like a good motorcycle book are encouraged to take a look at The Perfect Vehicle by Melissa Pierson.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By on June 5, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Gary Paulsen delivers a middle age memoir that strikes a sentimental and gentle chord as we follow him on his Harley from New Mexico to Alaska and back. It's not the Iliad nor the Odyssey but as Homer put it best the adventure is "in the journey". Take this book with you to an easy chair, prop up your feet, lean back and take it for a smooth ride. It is well worth it.
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