When the magazine she worked for looked destined to fold, Catharine Rambeau pulled on a fake leather jacket, revved up her red Honda 250 and took off on a 28,756-mile motorcycle odyssey around South America.

Her two-year adventure, which took her through deserts, jungles and plains as far as Ushuaia, Argentina, at the continent's southern tip, ended just before Christmas. She lived off her $12,000 in savings."I don't think what I did is inconsequential, but real heroes are women raising children alone and men working three jobs to put their children through school," she said. "I went bravely, yes, but I didn't have to make my trip."

Rambeau, 55, became a celebrity wherever she went, making the occasional appearance on radio and television shows.

"Once, in a small town in Brazil, I was pulled over by the local police, who supposedly wanted to check my papers," she said last week.

"When they saw me up close, they recognized me from TV. They forgot all about looking at my papers. Instead, they asked me for my autograph."

A native of the Detroit suburb of Northville, Rambeau left her job as a movie critic for the Detroit Free Press in 1986 and went to work for a video magazine, which she left two years later as it struggled to remain open. Video Digest folded in 1989.

Rambeau, a motorcycle buff since the 1970s, began her journey after deciding to visit a long-lost friend in Colombia.