cover image Pilgrimage on a Steelride: A Memoir about Men and Motorcycles

Pilgrimage on a Steelride: A Memoir about Men and Motorcycles

Gary Paulsen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $21 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-15-193093-7

Talk about succumbing to the mystique of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Paulsen's fourth collection of memoirs finds him 57 and diagnosed with heart disease. So before it's too late and--as the book's title suggests--desperate to test his masculinity, Paulsen (Eastern Sun, Western Moon) invests in a barely used Heritage Softail and sets out for Alaska from New Mexico. His encounters along the way trigger memories that are more detailed than Paulsen's actual travels. Which is a good thing. He tells terrific tales of working with migrant Mexicans in North Dakota, playing high-stakes poker in the army, running the Alaskan Iditarod and hanging out with the hard-edged Midwestern cop who deterred him from a life of juvenile delinquency. And Paulsen's account of shoveling out septic-tank pits in Denver is comic genius. Eventually, though, the book retreats back to Paulsen and his Harley. Unfortunately, he indulges in every grease-monkey, hard-ass motorcycle stereotype he can, leaving readers with a tainted impression of motorcycle dealers and riders. Women will probably not enjoy this machismo and Paulsen's informal and still convuluted writing style is not for everyone. But his gift for storytelling makes riding along on this 10,000-mile trek worth the trouble. (Nov.)