Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Free-Wheeling Adventurer

By Gregory McNamee

NOVEMBER 2, 1998: 

10 Years on 2 Wheels, by Helge Pedersen (Elfin Cove Press). Cloth, $48.

THE NOTION OF packing a knapsack and heading out to see the world has crossed all our minds at one time or another. Most of us don't get far before the demands of work and family pull us back home--if, that is, we set out at all.

Helge Pedersen, a then-young Norwegian adventurer, ignored those demands when he took off in 1982 on a new BMW R80 G/S motorcycle, which he named Olga, to travel the length of Africa. The trip was difficult, and Pedersen had his share of misadventures: In Somalia, for instance, where he'd detoured to escape civil war in the Sudan, he was arrested on suspicion of being a Soviet spy; and he had to battle the usual diseases as well as highway robbers, corrupt cops, and crocodiles. Even so, the lure of the road stayed with him, and he decided to finish the job by traveling around the rest of the world on the ever-obliging Olga. Between 1985 and 1996, he clocked 250,000 miles in 77 countries, visiting such alien places as Ulan Ude, Mongolia, and Sturgis, South Dakota.

A keen and sympathetic observer of the landscape and the many cultures among which he traveled, Pedersen kept a journal along the way. That journal forms the basis of his entertaining memoir 10 Years on 2 Wheels, which recounts the highs and lows of his journey from Tierra del Fuego to Sakhalin. (Pedersen, who seems an affable and uncomplaining sort, takes care not to dwell on the hardships of the trip, although there must have been many.) The book, privately published, also contains more than 100 National Geographic-quality color photographs. All told, it's a real treat for armchair travelers, who'll find many vicarious thrills in Pedersen's pages.

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