Lyrical and pleasing reflections on machinery, midlife crisis, and sundry other matters. Not long ago Paulsen, a Newbury Honor author of books for children, as well as books for adults (Eastern Sun, Western Moon, 1993, etc.), turned 57 and discovered he had a heart ailment. He also discovered, he writes, that he is a man, in a time when it has become anachronistic to be masculine. To avert the horror of growing old, cuddly, and debilitated, Paulsen went out and bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, shopping for which turned out to be a challenge--for a new bike, he learned, he'd have to pay a small fortune and then wait three years for delivery. Arming himself with a used machine, he took to the road, making his way from New Mexico to Alaska and back again, celebrating the freedom afforded him by the Harley-as-extension-of-self. The book that resulted from his trip is really a series of loosely connected essays. One treats the curious career of George Armstrong Custer, whom Paulsen seems intent on rehabilitating. Writing in a Hemingwayesque turn, he takes the line that, while it is politically incorrect to express respect for the doomed general, it is difficult not to admire his courage, and in the end it could be said that he was given his measure of fame--which is more than most men are given. Another essay explores the American worship of know-how, the almost religious aspect of being a mechanic that does not seem to exist in other countries. Still another deals with the myriad ways there are to meet one's maker on the back of a motorcycle, crushed by an errant piece of livestock or splattered by a road-hogging RV. These meditations don't quite add up to a full-tilt memoir, but they make a nice entertainment all the same.