What follows is a true story, involving Neil Peart, Michael Mosbach, and Yr Fthfl Srvnt. As most of you probably know, Neil is the drummer and lyricist for the progressive rock band Rush, and many experts consider him to be the best living drummer in the world. Michael is a private investigator from Los Angeles. He is also head of security whenever Rush is on tour, since Neil considers him to be the best P.I. in the world. As for me, well, I’m just the luckiest guy in the world. But let’s begin at the beginning…
Back in 1972, I was studying for my graduate school comprehensive exams. Suddenly, an idea for a fiction short story occurred to me, and I promptly started writing. The story, titled “A Nice Morning Drive,” was set in the distant future (1982!) and involved Modern Safety Vehicles (MSV’s) that could damage older, pre-safety-bumper cars without incurring any harm themselves. With a mixture of hope and presumption, I sent it off to Road & Track magazine–and they decided to publish it! (They even paid me $200, which was a lot of money back then, especially to a broke graduate student.) The article appeared in the November 1973 issue:
You can read the full story at “A Nice Morning Drive”.
Neil Peart, who had joined Rush a couple of years earlier and who has been a sports car enthusiast all his life, read the story. Flash forward to 1980, and he decided to write a song for the band featuring a science fiction story line inspired by the R&T article. He substituted his all-time favorite car, a Ferrari 166MM, for the MGB from “A Nice Morning Drive” (even though he had previously owned an MGB himself). He also portrayed a more extreme, futuristic setting involving a man-and-machine confrontation with The Man and a totalitarian world that had outlawed cars altogether. “Red Barchetta” first appeared on the Moving Pictures album and became one of Rush’s top ten all-time songs (roughly speaking; when you’ve made 18 albums and a huge number of outstanding songs, picking the top ten would be an exercise in frustration and disagreement!)
At the time, Neil tried to get in touch with me, but R&T no longer had my correct address on hand. So he added a citation at the end of the song’s lyrics in the liner notes, as follows:
Flash forward again, to 1996. We had just gotten Internet access in my office, and one of the guys entered my name into a search engine just for fun. It promptly took him to a Rush fan site, where there was an online copy of my story. We figured out the connection between “A Nice Morning Drive” and “Red Barchetta” and marveled at how many years we had failed to discover it. (I had heard the song on the radio, but I hadn’t focused on its lyrics carefully enough to make the connection.)
Prior to this point, I was somewhat Parked in the Sixties, musically speaking, listening to such groups as the Jefferson Airplane, the Animals, the Zombies, Simon & Garfunkle, Country Joe and the Fish, and The Ventures (of course). Naturally, after making the connection to “Red Barchetta,” I immediately became a Rush fan and began catching up with the band’s considerable catalog.
Well, now we have to flash forward again, this time to 2006. At the Washington, DC International Motorcycle Show, my friend Dave told me about a book by Neil Peart, titled Ghost Rider. In the book, Neil described how he tried to find himself again following the tragic deaths of, first, his college-age daughter and, subsequently, his wife. Emotionally, he was completely devastated and just empty–beyond any level that most of us can imagine. Eventually, all he could do was to keep moving, so he got on his BMW R1100GS and started riding. Many months and well over 100,000 miles later, he began finding the will to return to life and to stop being the “ghost rider.”
My friend Dave thought the book was outstanding and recommended it to me highly. Last Fall, I bought a copy, and I soon found myself in thorough agreement with Dave’s assessment. It was a moving and eloquent story, and I couldn’t put it down.
In December, I wrote a letter to Neil Peart saying how much I liked Ghost Rider and explaining that I was the Richard S. Foster from “A Nice Morning Drive” all those years ago. I wasn’t especially optimistic that Neil would even get the letter, since he and the other band members receive thousands every year, but in early January I received a package containing a copy of his newest book, RoadShow. It had a very nice inscription on the title page, and there was also a long letter in the package.
In his letter, Neil remarked on the many connections we had between us, dating back roughly 35 years. I responded in a letter that, in addition to the story, song, and the fact that we both currently ride R1200GS’s, another similarity is that I, too, am a member of a world-famous “power trio,” The Surftones. (You say you haven’t heard of this band? Neither had Neil…)
Thus began a long series of e-mails that eventually led to planning a GS ride together while Neil was on the East Coast for the 2007 “Snakes and Arrows” World Tour. We arranged that I would meet him on Sunday, June 24, near Tom’s Brook, VA, following the band’s performance at the Nissan Pavilion the night before. From there, we would follow Neil’s route into and through West Virginia, and then head north toward their next show on Monday night outside of Pittsburgh.
I dutifully arrived and found his bus at 8:00 am after a 115-mile ride from Catonsville. To avoid the tedium of life on the road for a several-month tour, Neil rides his BMW from one venue to the next. For use at the concert and to exit the area after the show, he has this tour bus. The trailer holds his new red 2007 R1200GS (already with 7,500 miles on the clock), Michael’s similar (but blue) ’07 GS, Neil’s “emergency backup” older red R1200GS, with close to 100,000 miles, and bus-driver Dave’s Harley Davidson.
Onboard the bus, I met Dave, Michael, and finally Neil himself. After some introductory handshakes and conversation, I presented him with an autographed November 1973 issue of R&T and, naturally, a copy of Jim VonBaden’s nifty R1200 maintenance DVD. Neil had a quick breakfast (“Set the microwave to ‘popcorn’–that’s the only setting that works!”), and we went outside to start the ride. Here The World’s Greatest Drummer is making sure that his WV map is securely stowed. (As told in RoadShow, Michael’s GPS “Doofus” and Neil’s corresponding “Dingus” are not necessarily to be trusted…)
All suited up and ready to go, Neil and Michael indicate who the slower rider is…
Speaking of the slower rider, it quickly became apparent who the slowest rider was–namely me! These guys don’t hang around. I won’t mention any specific figures, but let’s just say that the prevailing average on the two-lane WV back roads was higher than my mostly Interstate trip to Tom’s Brook to meet the bus. It was actually a valuable education, watching Neil “read” upcoming corners and adjust his speed accordingly. It was also helpful seeing how far he was leaned over in the corners, and knowing that I was similarly leaned right behind him. Nobody was scraping pegs–but it’s a good thing there weren’t any turtles on the road…
As most of you know, I normally ride about 10 feet, stop, take a picture, and then repeat over and over again. On this ride, I could barely take in the scenery around me! There were hundreds of fabulous photo opportunities (which I plan to take advantage of some day), but I did stop every once in a while when I just couldn’t help myself. For example:
Neil led the way, with me next, and Michael bringing up the rear, “making sure Rick doesn’t get left behind and totally lost.” We stopped every so often to stretch our legs and check the route.
Shortly before lunch, we stopped to refuel, which is a routine that Neil and Michael have down to a science based on their tens of thousands of miles riding together: Everyone noses into the island, Michael runs the credit card, and the pump nozzle is handed from bike to bike. In this case, however, in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia, the station had run out of both premium and mid-grade, so we were forced to resort to regular. (It still beat the time a few years ago when Neil accidentally put diesel fuel into his bike.)
Here’s another stop, with a handsome red, yellow, and blue trio of R1200GS’s. Neil seems to be out of the picture, having wandered off to commune with nature…
Neil’s route was a magnificent combination of fun/challenging roads and beautiful scenery. Here, he and Michael “share the road”:
Continuing our trek through the Middle of Nowhere Even by WV Standards, we encountered the Woodspoage Chappele. (Yes, that’s the correct spelling.)
Neil admires my Zumo and tries to avoid looking at my “damnable BMW side cases” while he and Michael wonder where I’ve wandered off to this time.
Michael’s GS still had a thorough coating of mud from riding the Tamiami Trail in Florida, at the start of the tour two weeks earlier:
After lunch near the Snowshoe ski resort, in a restaurant that was closing forever the next day (what did we say??), we headed off to discover what a West Virginia dirt road was like. Very soon, we were scrambling up steep, rocky, gravelly climbs and tiptoeing down the inevitable declines. At least, I was tiptoeing; Neil and Michael managed to disappear in a cloud of dust ahead of me, while I puttered along at “only” 30 mph on the straight, level sections. On the more difficult ones (and let me tell you, there were lots), I learned that the Zumo speedometer would read in tenths of mph when you were going less than 10 mph (e.g., 5.5). Fortunately, after every tricky section, I would find Michael waiting for me to ensure that I was okay and still on course, just like Neil waited for him. I felt totally out of control “only” three times, all while descending steep gradients with lots of ruts, rocks, and gravel, but I managed to stay upright throughout.
On one of the few sections level enough to actually park, we stopped for a moment to share the solitude of a WV mountain.
Neil thoughtfully suggested the mountain road would make a good setting for a “biker camaraderie” shot, courtesy of Michael:
Speaking of Michael, here he is consulting Doofus, who is no doubt telling him, “You’re in the middle of @#$%&*! Nowhere in West Virginia, you idiot!”
Neil putts by peacefully so I can get a picture–and then disappears in yet another Cloud o’ Dust.
After approximately 280 miles (not counting my 115-mile ride to meet up with the bus), we arrived in Buckhannon, WV and found a suitable motel for the night. Neil poured The Macallan for all of us. I’d read about this amazing “tipple” in RoadShow: It was first produced in 1824, it’s considered the world’s best scotch whiskey, and this particular batch was 18 years old. I have to admit, it was outstanding—even served in a motel plastic cup!
After washing up, we hiked over to a steakhouse for dinner. Michael recommended a shortcut to get us off of the shoulder of a busy highway. Said shortcut eventually involved climbing a near-vertical 30-foot cliff above a stream conduit. And this guy is in charge of Neil’s safety?? Well, we all made it to the top and had a good dinner, presented by a cute waitress who did well putting up with us. During the dinner, thinking back on our pace and Assorted Passing Maneuvers, I said to Neil and Michael, “You guys are bad influences!” They grinned broadly and responded, “Damn right!” and “You bet, and we’re proud of it!”
The next morning, Neil and I ate breakfast at the motel, while Michael got a little extra rest. On our way back, we banged on his door and yelled, “It’s time to get up, Wendy!” The two of them have an ongoing exchange of jibes, insults, and witty repartee that has to be heard to be believed. Great fun, although it’s a wonder they don’t attack each other sometimes!
We rode back to Buckhannon and picked up Neil’s route. However, the next WV dirt road that we turned onto ended abruptly with a closed (and locked) gate, so we had to backtrack. The same story, more or less, played out with the next 4 or 5 dirt roads that we tried. Although the GPS’s showed the trails continuing, they ended at people’s houses, farms, cemeteries, you name it.
Eventually, however, we found a proper dirt road, and Neil and Michael proceeded to do their best motocross impressions while I skittered along behind. At one point, I was so far back that I decided I could afford to stop for another photo. Note the dog at the far right telling me to move on; despite its appearance, this was a “working” farm barn.
At the end of the unplanned dirt road, Neil goes for the map…
After 100 miles or so, it was time for me to head East (since I was flying to Cape Cod the next morning). We stopped at an interchange with I-79 south of Fairmont. Michael consults Doofus yet again, whilst The Drummer ponders the vagaries of electronic motorcycle navigation…
With a manly hug and a theatrical “We have faced Death together!”, we went our separate ways. So, one rode East and two rode North, toward that night’s Rush performance. Will I ever chance to see them again? Well, actually, keep reading…
I’ll provide a very abbreviated report of my ride back to Catonsville. I hit Penn Alps for lunch. It’s near Grantsville, MD and right next to the historic Casselman River bridge and state park. This artisan village had outstanding food plus numerous original log cabins and houses, imported from the surrounding countryside. *Recommended*
This scenic overlook was worth a brief stop. Go soon, because the whole thing will collapse any day, I expect…
Although the day was running late, I couldn’t resist another attempt at finding the lost ghost town of Two Locks, MD. I had tried once before and failed, as reported previously, but this time I had a GPS on my side. Here, I’ve parked next to one of the empty houses from the ghost town—without even realizing it at first. (Look carefully.)
A short hike brought me to the Two Locks area on the C & O Canal. A very pretty sight, as it turned out.
And, on my way back to civilization, I passed this barn/manger, complete with Big Momma Llama, baby llamas, big and little goats, and big hens of some kind. All of them seemed to get along just fine. To quote the Ghostbusters, “Dogs and cats living together—mass hysteria!”
Normally, this is where the report would end, having completed 688 miles of riding in two days. But remember the part about me flying to Cape Cod? The primary purpose was to join my wife in Falmouth for a short vacation. But as it happened, Rush was playing at the Tweeter Center outside of Boston, only 60 miles away from Falmouth, on Wednesday night. Needless to say, a short road trip was in order.
So, after having left Neil and Michael in West Virginia on Monday afternoon, I drove to Mansfield, Massachusetts Wednesday evening and met up with them all over again. I was joined by the intrepid Buzz, my college roommate and best friend—and, for the record, the hero of the story “A Nice Morning Drive.” He was vacationing with us in Cape Cod, along with his wife and their 9-year-old grandson.
At the Tweeter Center, a quick call to Michael got us in, and we found our way to Neil’s bus. We were joined there by Neil after a few minutes, and we had a fun talk. Here is Neil’s longtime friend Marty Deller (the drummer for the Canadian progressive rock band FM) with his BMW Rockster:
And here is Rush itself at soundcheck: Alex Lifeson on lead guitar, Neil on drums, and vocalist Geddy Lee on bass and keyboard. Note Alex’s Barbie fan club. (It’s a long story…)
Neil kindly provided tickets to the concert for Buzz and me, plus backstage passes, t-shirts, CDs, tour booklets, hats, etc., etc., etc.–and dinner! We chatted some more with him in his practice room, and then we bumped into Alex, with whom we traded Important Lead Guitarist Secret Tips. Were we happy campers or what?
Here I am, together with more than 10,000 other attendees, just before the show began. Rush is just as popular as ever and have been filling every arena on the tour.
It was brutally hot, we were all jammed in together, there was zero breeze—and we were all treated to an incredible rock and roll performance. I knew from listening to their records that all three of them were exceptionally talented. It wasn’t until I saw them perform live, however, that I realized the full extent of their abilities. Alex would literally fling sweat off his hands and then launch into a breathtaking guitar solo. Geddy would switch seamlessly back and forth between the bass and keyboard, singing all the while in his trademark voice.
And The World’s Greatest Drummer drummed his heart out in the 90-degree weather, with innovative styles, compelling and addictive rhythms, and feats that must be seen and heard to be believed. The crowd’s favorite song was Neil’s approximately 15-minute drum solo, featuring a revolving drum set. (He switched 180 degrees twice during the solo, to play the drums behind him.) It was mind-bending enough before he drummed in 3/4 time with his feet and 7/8 time with his hands… By any reasonable standard, this technique should be impossible. When I facetiously asked him whether the pattern coincided every 21 beats or every 32, he said it took him a very long time to learn to drum in this way, and he didn’t dare think about how it actually worked!
Beyond the substantial energy of the band, their virtuosity with their instruments, and the exceptional musical innovation and fluidity, the lyrics to the songs must be mentioned. They are written by Neil and set to music by Geddy and Alex—and, in my view, they are a major factor in what sets Rush apart from so many other top bands. Despite their brevity, the words convey complex thoughts and moods and do so in ways that can in turn be moving, mysterious, or incisive. It’s pure poetry.
The audience gave the band innumerable standing ovations (in part because no one ever sat down throughout the more than 3-hour concert), but eventually the encores were finished and we were all left with “the echoes from the amplifiers ringing in our heads.” We filed out in awe and drove back to a suddenly prosaic-seeming time in Cape Cod.
Well, that’s it. I had a blast from start to finish. Thanks, Neil and Michael, for a rousing ride and a fabulous concert. I’ll remember the whole adventure forever–or, given my age, as long as I can!
PS: Copyrighted material from Rush appears courtesy of the band. Copyrighted material from Road & Track will undoubtedly be appearing courtesy of Road & Track, as soon as they get back to me…
PPS: Our route through WV is available as a MapSource file, if anyone would like the particulars.
PPPS: Be sure to check out Neil Peart’s personal website. It’s well worth a visit. How many other world-famous rock drummers can boast “Bubba’s Book Club”??
Hi Rick – What a great story! The world seems to be a more reassuring place when people in the public eye who we admire turn out to be genuinely good guys. Thank you for sharing your splendid narrative and images, and for conveying the spirit of adventure and curiosity in which all concerned travelled the road those days you were part of the team.
I don’t suppose I will be the only one who takes a stop at your story after being knocked sidewise at waking up to news of Neil Peart’s death. Like many others who have commented on this event on various sites, I am in my mid 50s and those early Rush LPs stood centrepiece in my mid-teenage years record collection. A few years ago, an old school friend and I went to see the band in London. What a great move that was – close to the front and settled in with the other like-minded souls for a terrific evening’s entertainment. It’s awful to think what the man and his family have been through the past three years. But I’m also determined to spend time today doing something that Neil Peart would have valued – and that is simply to sit down and read one of the book’s reviewed in our man’s ‘Bubba’s Book Club’ numbers. I’ve gone for Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (http://www.neilpeart.net/index.php/book-club/current-issue/).
Goodbye from somewhere on a west coast in northern Europe.
Thanks for your moving and insightful thoughts regarding Neil. I was honored to have been his friend over the last 12½ years, and I am very saddened by his passing. We had many fascinating discussions during that period, including difficult ones about his illness. He was an ingenious, thoughtful, caring, and all-round brilliant person—even without considering his skills as a drummer and lyricist. His music brought joy to millions of people around the world.
A sad day, indeed.
I too have read Neil’s books and especially liked his humorous wit shown in Road Show. How Neil slammed the commercialism of naming the venues that Rush played at (like the “Nissan Pavilion“), which he would have described as something like “boring Japanese car company venue”. Godspeed, Professor.
I didn’t know Neil road. What a shame. He must have been at the Rock Store many times and I wouldn’t have known. Great band. Saw them at the S.M.C.A.. Awesome.
PS good story.
WOW WOW WOW
WHAT A BEAUTIFUL LIFE STORY !!!
THANK YOU FOR SHARING !!
1 LIFE MANY BREATHES
JUST RIDE !!
What an experience.. you lucky dog… lol in the mean time.. so sad to read of Neil’s passing.. in my search for his books.. i came across this.. and was glad I Did.. I currently live in Cambridge, Ohio.. own http://www.timberlinecabins.net... 8 cabins next door to the most visited State Park in Ohio.. Salt Fork State Park.. and a great location for Riders to Stay and jump off on trips from… Rock on Brother and Neil will definitely Rest In Peace.. Missing him already.. Mick The Maag..
Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve been by Cambridge a few times, mostly on the way to the Indy 500 or the Mid-Ohio racetrack. I’ll have to visit the Salt Fork State Park next time.
It’s rare for someone to be such an accomplished musician and writer, both. Even more so when you consider that Neil never finished high school. He was, however, supremely well read, highly intelligent, and interested in a surprisingly broad array of subjects. He could name every kind of bird, plant, or tree that we came across without hesitation. Once, when I mentioned that I was rereading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, 30 or so years after first reading it, his comment was, “Yes, I enjoyed that book years ago as well. How does it stand up now in light of developments in women’s rights and equality?”
A polymath of the most enjoyable sort.
Neil was an excellent motorcycle rider. He must have logged hundreds of thousands of miles in total on his BMWs.
And yes, he stopped by the Rock Store on a number of occasions!
I’m glad you enjoyed the report. It was an exciting time, and it formed the basis for our friendship ever after.
I once saw Neil on the West coast on Panoche Road just outside of Hollister California. Neil was sitting on a picnic table reading a book and the red BMW was a few feet away. I myself was with a small group of friends from Fresno CA. Riding our bicycles back to our cars after 104 mile ride. So we looked wore out. Not knowing who it was I said hi and he replied back. Said his ride was easier then ours. We both had a good laugh.
I’m glad you had a chance to interact with Neil. It’s nice that he could “blend in” in public and interact with others as just a regular guy. I remember having lunch with him in a small restaurant. At the next table, a couple was commenting fondly on the time they got to see Frank Sinatra in a hotel lobby. Little did they realize who they were sitting near!
Rick: What a great story! I was hooked after hearing The Trees and saw them every time they were in the Philly area since their Permanent Waves tour. Nobody could match their musicianship, especially Neil’s dedication to drumming and helping others pursuing the same career. I can’t imagine what it was like riding with Neil but you helped me picture myself on the short trip you had. I’m sure it was a blessing to have him as a friend and I know his memory will continue. Rest In Peace Neil.
I’m glad you enjoyed the story–it was an exceptional experience for me.
Riding with Neil was an exercise in desperately trying to keep up! Regardless of what he was doing, he never ambled through life. It was always full speed ahead. Check the lyrics to “Workin’ Them Angels”–that was always his approach to life.
My wife and I are honored to have known him for so many years.
Great story, Rick. I enjoyed reading about your riding adventures with Neil and Michael and how you connected all those years later.
It was the live Exit Stage Left version of Red Barchetta coming from my brother’s stereo that first introduced me to Rush and I was hooked back in 1981. Through tough times and good times in life, there was always a song or a lyric that would fit.
With the recent news of Neil’s passing, I could think of nothing else to do but buy a bottle of The Macallan, sit and have a glass in gratitude.
Thanks Rick for sharing this story -and as well for “A Morning Drive” which inspired the song that started my Rush journey.
I’m so glad that my story led to Neil’s “Red Barchetta,” which prompted your lifelong interest in Rush. I still smile every time it comes on the radio. Your Macallan salute to Neil was a most fitting tribute to an extraordinary musician, who will be missed by all of us.
The Washington Post has a great article today about how a son and his father have kept close over the years through their shared enjoyment of Rush. It’s available at link to article
Thanks for sharing,
Great story. Thanks for sharing.
You’re quite welcome.
Sometimes reality comes up with the most unusual and interesting stories!
Hi Rick. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us. I have been a lifelong RUSH fan and have followed Neil’s talents with great focus and passion, the imprint he has left on me is immeasurable.
Also great is to see the “Nice Morning Drive” story come together and for you to offer this insight. I feel Red Barchetta is one of my favorite songs and always knew of the credit to you, but now we have a face too! Great work! It must be humbling to inspire such a great talent.
Finally, I also ride GS! Owning a 2009 R1200GS and a 2017 R1200GSA. I would greatly appreciate the route you guys took, if you still have the file that is. Thank you again for sharing, it has really helped me process Neil’s passing. Take care and once again, thank you. Wayne.
I’m glad you enjoyed the write-up of my trip with Neil and Michael. It was a great adventure.
Red Barchetta has shown a lot of staying power as one of Rush’s most-liked songs. I admire how Neil used elements of my story, together with his vast imagination, to come up with the song’s lyrics. He used his favorite all-time car in the song—an early 1950s Ferrari 166 MM (for Mille Miglia)—rather than the MGB from the story. Although he’s owned other, more modern Ferraris at one time or another, he never acquired a 166MM.
We had a lot of fun for several years as he was putting his “Sixties Silver Surfer” car collection together. I recommended several cars for consideration, some of which he ended up buying, and we debated the relative merits of many others. He had invited me out to California to see the collection, but I didn’t act in time. There’s a lesson there, obviously.
I’ll look for the .GPX file from our West Virginia trip and send it to you.
Very kool, thank you for sharing…
You’re very welcome. When I asked Neil if he’d mind my writing up our trip, he said it would be fine. Then he added, just using a line from the movie Almost Famous, “Just make us look [k]ool!” Well, he and Michael didn’t need my help in that regard.
I really enjoyed reading your experiences with Neil and the band. And thanks for writing the story that inspired Red Barchetta! I’ve been a fan since 1980 just around the time that song came out.
So sad about Neil’s passing. The world lost a legend and you’ve lost a friend.
Yes, very sad indeed. Neil was both proud and a bit surprised that he had survived more than 40 years as a rock star, when so many others had not. Then to be felled so early in his retirement, well, it’s tragic really.
What a great story and memory you have that will last for ever. Thank you for sharing your journey with Neil, Im sure that was one hell of a ride.
Riding with Neil and Michael was quite an adventure, all right. There was no way I could keep up with him, even though we had the same motorcycles, horsepower, etc. Michael couldn’t keep up, either, although he was still way faster than I was. When we stopped for gas, and I mentally calculated the fuel mileage each of us had achieved, mine was the highest by far, then Michael’s, and a distant “last” was Neil’s. “Riding, and driving, and living so close to the edge,” as Neil wrote. It was true. He also had the skill to ride that fast, and he racked up a very impressive safety record over hundreds of thousands of miles on a motorcycle.
Im sure it was an amazing ride. You got to spend time with someone very special!
Thank for the reply and your amazing story.
Thank you so much for sharing this great story. A Rush fan since hearing The Spirit of Radio, well, on the radio, ha. Back in the early ’80s when I purchased the LP Moving Pictures, I saw your mention in the liner notes as well and have always wondered. Now, as the late Paul Harvey would say, I know the rest of the story. You are a great storyteller and photographer. Wonderful moments in life to be cherished forever. Live well Rick.
Thank you for such a nice story, I truly enjoyed reading it and my imagination was running wild knowing that your adventure happened in my neck of the woods. See, I am from Brazil but have been living in Ohio for 15 years and the whole backroads of West Virginia, Snowshoe, etc are very familiar to me and that concert Neil was heading to in Pittsburgh was my first. Such great memories you brought back and now I can add little pieces to it with your wonderful story.
You’re very welcome, and I’m glad you’ve been able to expand the memories of your first Rush concert! I love West Virginia for its mountains, rivers, towns, and roads. There are scenery and history right around every corner.
Of all the NP articles I’ve come across lately, this is easily my favorite. What a great story about a great story!
I can’t believe you didn’t even know for 15 years!
Thank you for putting pen to paper all those years ago.
Yeah, life can be almost infinitely variable and unexpected. When I sat in that university library, writing the first lines of “A Nice Morning Drive,” I had no idea whatsoever that it would eventually lead to becoming friends with someone as talented, interesting, brilliant, and downright likable as Neil Peart.
Wow what an amazing story. As a life long RUSH fan (38 years since age 5) I am deeply saddened by the passing of Neil Peart. Neil’s genius has been a major influence on my life whether it be through his musicianship, lyrics, book writing, demeanor in interviews or simply how he played with “the guys at work. Although Neil never knew me other than a fan in the crowd, I feel I knew a great deal of him. The world is a better place with Neil having lived in it. Thank you for all you shared with us NEP.
On another not I too ride GS, I currently ride a 2017 R1200GSA and also ride a 2009 R1200GS. I was intrigued by your story of riding with Neil, thank YOU for sharing that Rick. I also enjoyed putting a face to the “Nice Morning Drive” author as I have seen your reference in the Moving Pictures note all along. What an honor to influence such a great song written by such a great man! Well done I must say. Oh yes, If you do indeed have the gpx tracks of your adventure with Neil I would really enjoy seeing that if it’s not too much to ask.
In conclusion, thank you Rick for sharing and helping us deal with the loss of our hero Neil Elwood Peart. Thank you, Wayne Zerr.
Hi again, Wayne,
So here’s one of my favorite stories about Neil. He, of course, is the world-famous drummer and lyricist, known and loved by millions around the world. Neil told me that, one day, he was standing in his kitchen with his wife Carrie. They had a little TV on the counter, which was televising a Congressional hearing in Washington, where I happened to be testifying. Neil spotted me and piped up proudly to Carrie, “Hey, I know that guy!” Oh, the irony!
Hi Rick thanks for sharing the story. I knew of Neil more for his writing than Rush. As a fellow cyclist his books were always one of my favorite reads and of course what he shared on Neil Peart.net. After the tragedies in 1997 to see him open up and see the happiness he found with his second wife and daughter was truly heartwarming. He was a highly intelligent, down to earth guy and I feel quite fortunate to have found his books. He will be missed. My prayers are with his family and friends (even though that belief wasn’t his thing!). Thanks again!
Well put. I think my favorite of his NEP News stories was the one about the bird nest outside his window, with eggs in it. And how he watched, anxiously, how the mother bird tended the eggs, then the birth of the babies, etc. It was beautiful and very moving—and it was all a metaphor for the birth of his new daughter, Olivia.
I have been rereading all of those stories the last few days. The one I just read was about Science Island, Neil and Olivia at the house in Quebec I got a little teary, she only had him for a short time but I believe got more quality dad daughter time than most kids do in a lifetime. He was such a nature nerd (I am too!) I am sure you will always treasure his friendship
What an amazing story, Rick! I’m glad you guys finally connected, because you never know how often you’ll have the opportunity. (Neil’s untimely passing underscores this point.)
It makes me wish I had taken the time to write him, but I figured he’d probably never see it. As it happens, I’m a drum-obsessed motorcyclist who writes for a living. Or perhaps a motorcycle-obsessed drummer who writes for a living. But I’m not tall enough for a GS, so I ride a Yamaha Super Tenere.
Speaking of height, Neil was 6’3″ and you TOWER over him. You must be in the range of 6’8″, which must be a challenge staying comfortable on a long journey. My knees start to complain if they are in one position for hours on end.
Sometime, I’d love to tell you about the time I met Brock Yates. It doesn’t compare to going for a motorcycle ride with Neil Peart, but it was still a cool experience.
Riding with Neil and getting to know him represented quite an adventure. He didn’t live his life in a quiet, easy-going fashion. He was full-speed-ahead, whatever he was doing. We remained friends after our first ride, right up until the time of his passing. We had many enjoyable conversations over the years, especially when he was putting his classic car collection together.
The photo of the two of us was taken on an uneven dirt road, with Neil standing in a lower spot than I was. I’m 6’6″, so I ended up looking a lot taller than he was, although the difference was only about 2 or 3 inches. I’ve often wondered why no one ever pointed out the apparent difference in height from that picture—but now someone has!
My R1200GS, with a tall seat, was a great fit for me. I could ride it seemingly forever without becoming uncomfortable. In contrast, my prior BMW F650CS would make my knees ache after just an hour. From what I’ve read, the Tenere is a great adventure-touring bike, right up there with the GS.
Brock Yates was quite a character. I never met him, but reading his books and columns gave me a good impression of the man.
Happy riding, drumming, and writing!
Reading this story 15 years after your writing seems a little strange to a 54-year-old Rush fan who has studied Neil as a writer and a drummer myself (completely unworthy) for more than 40 years.
Thanks for sharing you experience with our hero. You perfectly captured his love of adventure, refusal to accept good in pursuit of great and his complete generosity – all things I admired in him. Just for a few minutes I felt his presence and even heard that deep, distinctive voice through your words. For that I am grateful.
Thanks for your comments about the story and about Neil. He was a great friend to me, and a great inspiration for millions of people around the world. You’ve aptly noted several of his extraordinary characteristics, and it’s such a shame that he is no longer with us. The world was a far greater place with him in it.
I remember one time telling him that I was rereading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. He had read it (of course!) and immediately asked what I thought of it now, 40+ years after my initial reading. I hadn’t even considered that issue, but, before responding to him, I thought it through a bit and realized that the book’s treatment of women as fragile characters, needing the protection of male relatives, was sorely out of step with contemporary life. He didn’t just read for the pleasure of a good story; he read, thought, contemplated, etc., all of which added to his innate thoughtfulness and world views.
I miss him a lot. Thanks again,
Just read through some more of your travelogues – great stuff and nice photos.
I also noticed you love of fine autos, another thing we have in common. Mine are not as splendid as yours but include a Mercedes C250 and a 1994 300ZX (long one of my favorite cars.) Both are pearl white. My wife drives a midnight blue E350 Sport with the AMG package. A lot of speeding tick potential fills our garage. I’ll look for you n the roads…
That is a most fabulously written story about one of your most precious times! Can not thank you enough for sharing! Now I will plan the road trip (with my 87 y/o Mother) and find all those wonderful little secret places! Not only was a tremendous loss to the music world, but a great loss to all of humanity!
Thank you Rick!
Thanks! I was glad to share this story, and I’m pleased that well over half a million people have read it and perhaps gained additional insight into Neil’s life and personality. We remained friends right up until his death, and I earnestly wish he was still among us. There are a lot of musical and literary artists in the world, but few (if any) can compare to Neil’s expertise in both departments.
Have a great time with your road trip following our footsteps–and if you end up on some of those same dirt roads, go slowly so as not to jounce your Mom around too much!
Great story, thank you for sharing. I was surprised to hear how hard and fast Neil rode. I knew he was passionate about riding between shows, how he planned his routes to stay on the back roads, and was conscientious of making it to the shows. Because of that I assumed he enjoyed leisurely low risk rides tooling around the countryside. Your description of his aggressive riding puts a smile on my face knowing he was getting as much out of his riding experience as he gave to the fans when in stage.
You also answered a question me and my friends have wondered since his passing. The MaCallan profits I’m sure have gone through the roof the past two years as so many of us have raised a glass in honor of Neil, and continue to. But I have searched high and low on the internet for info about what year MaCallan Neil liked to drink. Assume the short answer is probably all of them. But fact that he was traveling w 18 year old MaCallan on your ride is as telling of information to put my question to rest, finally.
Interesting story regarding MaCallan that I think highlights how special, influential, and loved your friend was: I live in Virginia, in fact I’m certain I was at that Nissan Pavilion show. But the week of Neil’s passing I went to an ABC store to purchase MaCallan to toast Neil. I’d never purchased it before and didn’t even know what the bottle looked like. After fumbling through the scotch isle I finally went to the cashier and ask if they had MaCallan. Without hesitation the cashier said “are you one of those people following that Rock guy who died.” That left an impression on me I will never forget, and a positive one about how Neil is so admired and so loved that fans like myself are going out of their way to buy his favorite drink to pay respects. And fans are doing it in such numbers that someone could walk into a random ABC store anywhere in the country (happened to be Virginia) and ask for a specific bottle by name and the cashier knows why it’s being bought. I cannot think of any other musician or celebrity that ABC store scenario could have happened for other than Neil.
Thank you again for sharing your story and pictures of Neil and for being his friend.
Thanks for your comments. Neil was one of those rare people who truly “live life to the fullest,” whether it was performing, riding a motorcycle, climbing a mountain, or just eating dinner at a good restaurant. The BMW R1200GS motorcycles that we both rode have very impressive performance, and Neil liked to take full advantage of it. I remember getting a call from him once, asking if I knew a good lawyer in North Carolina. He’d gotten a ticket for riding more than 20 mph over the speed limit, which in that state is automatically classified as reckless driving—with loss of license. (I didn’t know any lawyers in NC at that time, but Neil managed to find one!)
As I’m sure you know, Neil wasn’t fond of touring, primarily because it took him away from home, his wife, and his little daughter for long periods. But he told me there were two distinct advantages: First, he could eat anything and as much as he wanted, because the vigorous exercise from drumming meant that he wouldn’t gain any weight. And second, he could drink the 18-year-old variety of The Macallan, rather than his usual 12-year-old, because he could charge it to the tour expenses!
Your story about buying The Macallan really does highlight Neil’s incredible popularity and impact on fans around the world. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by your experience—but I was!