I wanted to get to the world's heart,"" says author-adventurer Stephens of his reason why (yes, because it was there) he embarked on a record-breaking (the longest non-repetitive auto trip around the earth) journey with sidekick Al Podell. Equipped and laden with goodies from numerous firms, including the Land Rover and camper they rode in and six red umbrellas from Travelers', they tested the world's beat about the globe--Semand Santa in Seville, the Sahara wilderness and desert hospitality, a cholera epidemic in North Afghanistan, socking a shark in Lake Victoria. Then there were the political overtones which at times took over: anti-Semitism in Egypt, anti-Americanism in a Pakistan (""You are not our friends any more"") engaged in strife with India, the many difficult border crossings, even evacuation. Other wayside characters attached themselves to the expedition--the ebullient Basque Manu, British Lord Jim ""Who needs a road?"") and assorted ladies. Technical battles raged throughout, that what-can-happen-now feeling allayed by a last-minute fire on the Ohio Turnpike; at the end, a fete in front of the public library with Krinski the doubter to greet them amid TV cameras and celebrants. A robust and ready tale to tempt and satisfy the housebound male.