Neil Peart of the rock band Rush dealt with not one but two tragic losses in a ten month period. After the untimely death of his teenage daughter followed by the loss of his wife, Peart was left feeling empty and alone with nowhere to turn. The next logical step? A cross country motorcycle trip of over 55,000 miles covering Canada, The United States, and Mexico. Peart recounts this trip in his book "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road."
Peart's journey is outlined through narrative cobbled together from his journal entries as well as letters to his colleagues. His recollection and attention to detail is superb and he has a knack for pulling you into the surroundings with engaging descriptions. He is extremely passionate about small things, some of which you would expect, others not. For example, he is sure to note if a meal in a particular restaurant or hotel is especially good...or bad. He also makes note of the value vs price of several of the hotels he stays in. As someone who has ridden a motorcycle to one side of the country and back I can tell you, this is no small thing. Sometimes you get the deal of the century, other times you get bent over. It was interesting to read him talk about his experiences with this.
The book is not all about the motorcycle trip. There are sections of the book that delve deep into the grieving process. He talks candidly about his strides and setbacks. Though it may be a big new age-ish for some, Peart outlines the different personalities within himself and discusses how they are affected by the loss and he swaps from time to time to deal with moments he encounters. A unique mechanism, it seems to have served him well over the years. By far the most guarded member of the group, it is a bit of an oddity that he is so reserved in the spotlight yet so open in his books. It is easy to imagine he deals with social awkwardness, a troublesome condition for someone in a high profile profession.
While I spent the majority of the read deeply engrossed in the book, there were sections that lagged. His letters get repetitive. Back to back to back, he recounts his days and the time spent at his home skiing, snow shoeing, and birdwatching. After the first letter, it became unnecessary. The other thing that got under my skin was the overuse of key phrases. It seemed like they were purposely worked into every chapter. It just got old.
The book ends on a good note but seems abbreviated. There is an event that seems to shift Peart's focus and you can't help but wonder if that was what took him off course from a proper ending. That being said, it doesn't ruin the experience or take away from the book. It just leaves you wanting a more fleshed our resolution and end.
The right motorcycle can take you anywhere you want to go, physically and emotionally. For many, it is a cheap and highly enjoyable form of therapy. Peart was the first person I had ever heard make the connection that the soothing feeling of motion is first instilled in us during our time in the womb and a motorcycle can replicate that soothing. Additionally, on a long ride you are left in the solitude of your helmet, you are free to ponder whatever questions or work out whatever demons are in there with you. Peart's book is a fine recounting of one man's quest to do just this. I highly recommend it for anyone who is a long distance rider or aspires to be.