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Pilgrimage on a Steel Ride: A Memoir about Men and Motorcycles [Hardcover]

Gary Paulsen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

15 Nov 1997
The author describes his motorcycle journey through Minnesota and the Rockies to the Alaskan Highway, recalling the events in his life that have made him the man he is today.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Thomson Learning; 1st. Ed edition (15 Nov 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151930937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151930937
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 15.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,552,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From a rider's perspective... 2 Sep 2002
By Victor Cruz - Published on Amazon.com
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. For every mile we go forward we get two miles back into his personal history. But it's a fascinating history and a kind of life better heard than lived.
He pleads with the reader about hurrying up to Alaska by any means possible "before it's too late, before the jaws of life clamp down on your neck." Now there's some good advice.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A poor job by Gary Paulsen 2 Mar 2003
By Frank - Published on Amazon.com
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. After all, it is a 'Harley book.'" Who knows -- maybe the same editor later said, "hey, let's put out the same book under a different title and not tell anyone."
Borrow this book if you must read it -- it's a very quick read. But DON'T give up on Gary Paulsen if this is your first book of his -- he's an excellent writer -- just not here -- and perhaps not in his other directly autobiographical books.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wretched.... 21 Jun 2000
By William A. Owen - Published on Amazon.com
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.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its Not an Iliad nor an Odyssey but its a Pilgrimage 6 Jun 1998
By mullmj@netheaven.com - Published on Amazon.com
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars It's not the kill, it's the thrill of the chase. 23 Feb 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
After reading this book, you'll likely want to go out and buy a Harley, then make a run for the ages. Gary Paulsen certainly puts us in the saddle. More important to me, however, were Mr. Paulsen's intensely personal reflections on a life lived in search of experience. The road brings back memories: the smell of seagull guts cooking on a red-hot exhaust pipe (a real man's recherche du temps perdu!) takes him back to his North Dakota farming days; a chance encounter with a Kansas farmer whose home has been vaporized by recent flooding leads to ruminations on grunt work -- specifically, Paulsen's humorous stint as a septic tank technician. Eventually, Paulsen makes it to the Alaska Highway, where caravans of mobile homes unwittingly conspire to put him in serious danger (if you've ever made a long run out West, you know about mobile homes). How does it end? For Paulsen, it doesn't. He won't let it end, and that's why he's writing these books and we're sitting in cubicles staring at computer screens, tapping away, dreaming of making an epic run...
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