Pauley Lecture: Wheeling Around World
The Ruth Pauley Lecture Series (RPLS) at Sandhills Community College features Jim Hendrickson, a famous long distance traveler who has traversed much of the earth pedaling about its surface on two wheels.
The subject of Hendrickson's talk Thursday is "10,000 Miles, 100 Cultures on a Bike." Hendrickson is a freelance photojournalist specializing in native cultures around the globe. Hendrickson has published travel articles on the Cook Islands, Tonga, Italy, Turkey, and Egypt. His book, "Cycling the North Star," described his 3,200-mile bicycle trip from Montana to Alaska.
According to the author, "'Cycling the North Star' takes you along on a self-contained 3,200-mile expedition by mountain bike from Missoula, Montana to Anchorage, Alaska."
Hendrickson's grueling 73-day bicycle tour was filled with adventures and misadventures including a harrowing ascent to Logan Pass along the Going-to-the-Sun Highway in Glacier National Park, a standoff with a black bear in the Yukon, a daring dash through a forest fire and a horrendous two-day ordeal over the potholed Top-of-the-World Highway connecting Canada and Alaska.
In 1997, Hendrickson wrote about his experiences biking about the Pacific, island-hopping between bicycle explorations ranging from Aitutaki in the Cook Islands ("a country afloat in the heart of Polynesia") to Tonga, by way of New Zealand.
He liked the Maoris, describing them as more gentle and predictable than their weather.
"They are among the friendliest people I have met on my world travels," he said. "Wherever I rode my bicycle, many local folks greeted me with a wave and a big smile, and sometimes they said, 'Kia orana,' meaning 'Hello.' Even the local big shots were friendly."
The biggest big shot of all Hendrickson met on this journey may have been the enormous king of Tonga, the last absolute ruler of the South Pacific's last monarchy. Until his son succeeded him upon his death in 2006 and renounced many of his powers, this royal family's semi-feudal political system controlled the group of 170 coral islands.
"One of the most exciting events of my four-month bicycle journey occurred the day before I returned home (when) I was granted an interview with His Majesty, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV," Hendrickson said. "I pedaled to the gymnasium where I identified myself to several soldiers who were expecting my arrival. 10 minutes later the King arrived in a dark green armored truck, built especially for him When a sergeant opened the door of the truck, I gasped. This 78-year-old gentleman was a giant at 6 feet, five inches and he weighed over 300 pounds."
Mr. and Mrs. Carl Munro are sponsoring this presentation which begins at 7 p.m. As always, RPLS talks are free and open to the public. No tickets are required. Owens Auditorium, Sandhills Community College, Airport Road, Southern Pines.
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