Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road

( 63 )


This bold narrative written by the drummer and lyricist for the band Rush shows how Peart tried to stay alive by staying on the move after the loss of his 19-year-old daughter and his wife. The book will be sold as part of the band's official merchandise during its 47-city American tour. 20 photos. 15 maps.
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This bold narrative written by the drummer and lyricist for the band Rush shows how Peart tried to stay alive by staying on the move after the loss of his 19-year-old daughter and his wife. The book will be sold as part of the band's official merchandise during its 47-city American tour. 20 photos. 15 maps.
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Editorial Reviews

CNN Headline News
An account of Peart's self-imposed exile and travels to grieve the deaths of his wife and daughter, who both died within a year of each other.... Peart's story reminded me of Theodore Roosevelt's travel West to overcome the sorrow of losing his wife and mother, who both died on the same day....Why is it that many troubled souls seek out the open road for comfort and clarity? ...When the chemistry of outward experience and inward soul searching combine, it makes for good traveling on the healing road.
—Mike Fink
Well-written, harrowing and filled with just-right touches of levity, Ghost Rider is a necessary story about the human condition.
Library Journal
Peart (The Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa), drummer and lyricist for the rock band Rush, suffered unthinkable tragedy in 1997: his only daughter, Selena, died in an automobile accident and, shortly thereafter, his wife of 22 years died of cancer. Feeling that he had no reason to live and unable to sit still, Peart climbed on his BMW motorcycle and rode 55,000 miles in 14 months in an attempt to escape the pain by remaining in motion. The motorcycle journey took him from Quebec to Alaska, down the Canadian and American coasts and through the western regions, to Mexico and Belize, and eventually back to Quebec. This touching book is a collection of his journal entries and letters to friends as he rides through all kinds of topography and weather and meets various characters and relatives along the way. Peart's writing is lyrical and his tale poignant, fully capturing an extraordinary journey, both as travel adventure and as memoir. Recommended for most collections. [This book is already a best seller in Canada.-Ed.]-Melinda Stivers Leach, Precision Editorial Svcs., Wondervu, CO Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781550225464
  • Publisher: ECW Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2002
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 416,513
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.33 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Outside the house by the lake the heavy rain seemed to hold down the darkness, grudging the slow fade from black, to blue, to gray. As I prepared that last breakfast at home, squeezing the oranges, boiling the eggs, smelling the toast and coffee, I looked out the kitchen window at the dim Quebec woods gradually coming into focus. Near the end of a wet summer, the spruce, birch, poplars, and cedars were densely green, glossy and dripping.

For this momentous departure I had hoped for a better omen than this cold, dark, rainy morning, but it did have a certain pathetic fallacy, a sympathy with my interior weather. In any case, the weather didn’t matter; I was going. I still didn’t know where (Alaska? Mexico? Patagonia?), or for how long (two months? four months? a year?), but I knew I had to go. My life depended on it.

Sipping the last cup of coffee, I wrestled into my leathers, pulled on my boots, then rinsed the cup in the sink and picked up the red helmet. I pushed it down over the thin balaclava, tightened the plastic rainsuit around my neck, and pulled on my thick waterproof gloves. I knew this was going to be a cold, wet ride, and if my brain wasn’t ready for it, at least my body would be prepared. That much I could manage.

The house on the lake had been my sanctuary, the only place I still loved, the only thing I had left, and I was tearing myself away from it unwillingly, but desperately. I didn’t expect to be back for a while, and one dark corner of my mind feared that I might never get back home again. This would be a perilous journey, and it might end badly. By this point in my life I knew that bad things could happen, even to me.

I had no definite plans, just a vague notion to head north along the Ottawa River, then turn west, maybe across Canada to Vancouver to visit my brother Danny and his family. Or, I might head northwest through the Yukon and Northwest Territories to Alaska, where I had never travelled, then catch the ferry down the coast of British Columbia toward Vancouver. Knowing that ferry would be booked up long in advance, it was the one reservation I had dared to make, and as I prepared to set out on that dark, rainy morning of August 20th, 1998, I had two and a half weeks to get to Haines, Alaska — all the while knowing that it didn’t really matter, to me or anyone else, if I kept that reservation.

Out in the driveway, the red motorcycle sat on its centerstand, beaded with raindrops and gleaming from my careful preparation. The motor was warming on fast idle, a plume of white vapor jetting out behind, its steady hum muffled by my earplugs and helmet.

I locked the door without looking back. Standing by the bike, I checked the load one more time, adjusting the rain covers and shock cords. The proverbial deep breath gave me the illusion of commitment, to the day and to the journey, and I put my left boot onto the footpeg, swung my right leg high over the heavily laden bike, and settled into the familiar saddle.

My well–travelled BMW R1100GS (the “adventure–touring” model) was packed with everything I might need for a trip of unknown duration, to unknown destinations. Two hard–shell luggage cases flanked the rear wheel, while behind the saddle I had stacked a duffel bag, tent, sleeping bag, inflatable foam pad, groundsheet, tool kit, and a small red plastic gas can. I wanted to be prepared for anything, anywhere.

Because I sometimes liked to travel faster than the posted speed limits, especially on the wide open roads of the west — where it was safe in terms of visible risks, but dangerous in terms of hidden enforcement — I had decided to try using a small radar detector, which I tucked into my jacket pocket, with its earpiece inside the helmet.

A few other necessities, additional tools, and my little beltpack filled the tankbag in front of me, and a roadmap faced up from a clear plastic cover on top. The rest of the baggage I would carry away with me that morning had less bulk, but more weight — the invisible burdens that had driven me to depart into what already seemed like a kind of exile.

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Table of Contents



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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 63 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 63 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2002


    This book was nothing but disappointing. After reading Mr. Peart's previous book, 'The Masked Rider,' I had high hopes for this one, only to have them dashed by over 400 pages of what I can only call 'not much.' What makes the book even more disappointing is to see the clearly talented author's writing gone to waste on this material. There's very little story here or plot in a traditional sense in this book. Instead, what the reader gets is a slice of the inner workings of Mr. Peart's mind from a period covering a little more than a year during which the author attempts to recover from the deaths of both his wife and only child by removing himself from town and driving around North America on his motorcycle. Readers will undoubtedly understand just what he saw on his travels and just how he felt. This is what the reader gets, plain and simple. It is an unfiltered, raw, painful, intimate and very honest account. This is no lightweight material. The author has terrific talent for putting words together and conveying just exactly what was on his mind at the time. The book's brazenly and almost proudly unapologetic style is unmistakable; the author really doesn't care what the reader thinks. Most of these things are promising ingredients for this or any book. But after a while, one is reminded of a teenager far too full of his own bluster and self-purpose not to share it with the rest of the world, yet too immature to understand that the rest of the world has its own share of problems and that life does not and should not revolve around himself. When reading the book, one eventually feels like saying 'enough about you already, what about something for me!' And that's the main problem here and the key ingredient that's missing: the author has nothing to say that's of real interest to anybody. There's nothing for a general audience. They can't learn anything or grow from anything in this book because it doesn't seem as though it's written for the actual people who will be reading it. It seems to be a gift to a husband or a wife only; an intimate sharing of oneself that is satisfying and full as an offering to someone close, yet empty and meaningless as an offering to strangers, presumably the vast majority of the readers. It's as if only a mother or a lover could enjoy this book. To sum it all up, one can only wait eagerly for the next book and hope that it will be much better.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2002

    Ghost Book, Too

    As a drummer, I am aware of Mr. Peart's impressive musical skill and imagination. I also have long appreciated his considerable talent for condensing abstract concepts into song lyrics clearly and concisely. So it was with eager expectation that I ordered this book, wanting to experience the wordsmithery of Mr. Peart unfettered by rhyme and meter. And in reading it, I was astounded... astounded at its utter lack of depth. This book has no storyline. Nor does it have a point. This is not, as one might reasonably assume from the title, a sharing of insights obtined through hardship and endurance, from which others may gain hope, strength or guidance. Half the book is a dry iteration of Mr. Peart's meanderings. The other half is a collection of letters most of which were written to a beloved former traveling buddy who is in jail facing life in prison after being busted the third time for dealing drugs (oh, the unfairness of it all!). The Limelight can be deceiving to onlookers, but Mr. Peart, apparently inadvertently, reveals a lot about himself in "Ghost Rider"--not flatteringly. Bigotry rears its ugly head; he seems incapable of using "American" in a sentence unaccompanied by "fat", and jokes that the main thing wrong with Mexico is its proximity to the USA (seemingly unable to grasp the significance of the ever-widening stream of humanity stealing north across the Mexico/Texas border). It was eye-opening to learn that the author of the words, He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure considers two cartons of cigarettes a necessity for a bike trip and, by the picture he paints of himself, teeters on the brink of alcoholism while scoffing condescendingly at those in recovery. Nor is accepting personal responsibility a strong suit; his pristine driving record is marred by a ticket due to the "[illegitimate son]" ( won't let me quote the word) highway patrolman who wrote it for 15 miles over the limit; Peart's speeding evidently had nothing to do with it. Throughout the book, the author routinely reveals by illustration or discussion how little regard he has for the rest of humanity. The reader's initial assumption that this springs from his loss and suffering is dispelled by a deadpan declaration, toward the end of the book and well on the way down his "healing road", of his steadily diminishing respect for humans individually and as a whole. It is especially ludicrous to see him returned to his Canadian home and trying to keep busy, wrestling with the tough decision of what to do to ride out the winter. His choices: Go snowshoeing? Skiing? Birdwatching? Practice on the drums? Write some more on this book? Read some classic of great literature? Write another letter to Brutus? (This interspersed with grumblings about how he's living beyond his means and money's getting tight) He tries to tell us about an early venture into the dating game, but never fleshes out the woman enough for us to get to know her. When things don't go smoothly between them, he takes to referring to her in his writings as "that woman". He never explains why, though, and we don't know her well enough to guess; so we're left to watch him from a distance, wondering, "Why's he doing that?". At length it comes time to end the book so it can get out on the store shelves; and in one final quickie chapter some (but not all) of the loose ends of the non-story are tidied up in the style of a b-movie: "Brutus got probation. I met a nice girl and got married. Deb couldn't handle it. Oh, well..." It's eye-opening that one who seems to me, from his lyrics, to have such clearsightedness and a solid grasp of what's important in life, reveals himself here to be startlingly shallow and in serious need of some personal work. If there is any reason for reading this book, it is that those who know Mr. Peart only from his musical career may get this closer, clear

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2006


    If you're fan of Peart because of his drumming (such as I), and are looking for something related to drumming, you're not going to find it here. If you're a motorcyclist looking for stories about a motorcycling adventure, you're not going to find it here, either. This book was written from the perspective of a man that lost his whole world and was attempting to find himself and his way, by escaping into the 'unknown', and traveling 55, 000 miles using his 'vice', a motorcycle. He wasn't on the road simply touring north american highways and hotels. He was on a journey of self discovery, hoping to find something left inside of himself, to let him know he really did have continued purpose, and to carry on. Along the way, he let us in on many private letters, thoughts, and emotions. Also along the way, he included very nice imagery and descriptions of the landscapes he was traversing. I enjoyed the book very much and found it to be very revealing of Peart in a most personal way. I've been a fan of his, and Rush for some 25 years, so I was acutely aware of his passion for reading and writing. As much as I've respected him as a musician and player, I have even more respect for him as a human, dealing with tragedy. I would recommend this book to someone looking for a deeper insight into who Neil Peart is, aside from the person we, as music fans, think he is. Hope you enjoy.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2006

    Yeah, he rides...

    After reading Peart's earlier book, The Masked Rider, I took up Ghost Rider in search of more adventure, and perhaps an insight or two on grief. I slogged through the entire thing, certain there HAD to be a jewel or two in all that verbiage, but came away sorely disappointed on both counts. In The Masked Rider, Peart proved himself capable of being one of the guys. In Ghost Rider, he shows he can be an elitist prig, as well. The book is littered with disparaging references to people he encounters on the road. There's also precious little 'adventure' here. The author travels the width and breadth of North America, and never once camps out, mingles with the natives, or stays at anything less than a Best Western or Super 8 Motel. His biggest 'gamble' is whether he'll get a proper wine with his poached salmon. Worse yet, while his motorcycle eats up the miles, Peart travels not at all. He begins and ends his account in the same emotional and spiritual place. He survives his grief, but gives no indication that he's grown through it, or learned from it. Another failing, in my opinion, is in editing. I couldn't tell, with a visit to their website, if ECW is a 'vanity press' or an actual publisher, but it's obvious no one there reined in Peart's penchant for excruciating minutiae, and outsized excerpts from letters to family and friends. I do give Peart props for two things. First, he is a SERIOUS long-distance rider, and with almost 30 years of motorcycling behind me, I know what that means. Second, as a storyteller, he would probably make a pleasant enough dinner guest, provided we serve the proper wine!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2008


    I cried uncontrollably throughout the first chapter as he talks of Selena and Jackie's deaths. I laughed at all of his little pitfalls he enounters on the road. I feel a big connection with him because he writes and describes details in the same manner in which I would and I have also suffered a major tradgedy however not nearly as devastating as his and the fact that he made it down the healing road and found a second soul mate is a god send, and a beautiful happy ending. I love how he is so shy and reserved about women, despite the fact that he is an international known musician. I am still on my personal healing road, and this book has even helped me some. I laid out a map of Canada to help me follow him along so I would know exactly where his travels took him. I recommend this book to everyone because it makes you think, laugh, and cry.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2007


    This book was enjoyable to if your a fan of the author. The one thing we have to remember is... It doesnt hurt to be rich wile riding your motorcycle across the the US, Canada and Mexico. If you break down who cares. Yes he does ride a long way, but he has all the resources in the world to help him.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2006

    Don't waste the money

    If you are a motorcycle enthusiast hoping for at least a good travel yarn, or if you are a literature enthusiast hoping for a well written memoir, or if you are a real idealist and looking for both in one place, this isn't it. 3 strikes, you're out. Plodding, pedestrian, self-absorbed... what's the point? I wanted to sympathize with the author, but found myself just irritated at his poorly veiled whining. One needn't include one's 'notes' as textual asides when the entire work is so poorly written it might have been just that - a scrawled out journal. About the best I can say is, as a motorcyclist, I'll give him credit for riding a long way in bad weather. I will admit. I quit trying to read it about midway through. I scanned the rest and it didn't get any better. If I can read Gravity's Rainbow and Infinite Jest I ought to be able to slog through this, eh? Not. The author should stick to playing drums. I gave it 1 star because they won't let you post a review without it.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2004

    Okay but not great

    Neil is an outstanding lyricist and drummer but I have found this book, as well as his past books mildly entertaining. The first chapter was the only chapter that consisted of truely good writing. The rest of 'Travels on the Healing Road' was a long, long journey which described hotel rooms and Niel's menu choices... as well as his drink choices.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2003

    Neil Peart is a Genius

    This book is not just for fans of the rock band 'Rush'. Neil Peart, the band's lyricist, takes you on an unforgettable journey. From the two tragedies that shatter his life, through the unbelievable motorcycle trip he takes to find the means to keep living. For anyone who has lost someone close to them, a must-have book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2003

    The Toronto Tonto

    Unlike, So many rock bands Rush sets a very high example of Intelligence, Especially Neil Peart. Growing up in Toronto during the 70`s I saw Rush play High schools and free shows on the water front(lake Ontario) Alex lived next door to my girlfriend and Geddy I always saw out at the clubs listening to other bands. During this time Neil was not with Rush yet and when he finally hooked up with Alex and Geddy it was magic 2112, A Farewell to kings. These albums just blew everything away. Becoming friends with Alex and Geddy was very cool because they went to school with my 2 older sisters, They were rock stars at 18-19. Neil is by far a huge influence and if you know all 3 the intelligence is amazing, We lost touch and they had the world at their feet and it all began. I saw Alex back stage at a concert in Florida and he was so excited to show me the model plane he was working on, We talked for a while and I remember they loved sports and my father was a Canadian football super star in his own right Dick Shatto who passed this past march. The time I spent with these guys was great if you love conversation and music. They were always funny and I always got them tickets to football games and them concert tickets for me. Neil was a happy and faithful man and I was not surprised when his first book came out, I was very impressed to say the least! We all go through life and it eventually ends sometimes too early. I always wish them the best.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2003

    Were it not Rush, we'd not read it...

    Great book, well-written. Tough at many times to read.. very descriptive writing, open. Suffice it to say were it not Neil, a guy from Rush, I would certainly not have read it, nor would I choose to read it in the future. Therefore, it's bit ironic that his fame 'allowed' him to publish this book, despite what he might otherwise believe. I cannot imagine going through what he did... I would not read the book again.. it gets a bit pathetic at times, and the publishing of letters found me wanting to 'Turn the Page' [without reading them].. again, I am not making light of what transpired in the man's life. We all know Neil is articulate, calculated.. but when they started selling 'Ghost Rider' tshirts during their latest tour, I just rolled my eyes.. nothing against him.. I just found the book to be lamenting vs soul-searching. And understandably so. I don't think Americans are portrayed in any manner within the book.. and we all know Neil lives in CA, has for some time. We wish him well, but I wish he could simply NOW write about why we WANT to read his writing.. his drumming, writing, and work for Rush. Great book, thoughtful, recommended, just very long. There is one part where he rides in America and mentions Toronto's countryside.. also too many other depictions and excerpts from others' works (long-winded at best). Get thee.. an editor, please.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2002

    Neil Peart in Dreamland

    Neil Peart, drummer for the rock group "Rush" is seemingly devastated when both his daughter and wife die nearly consecutively. He hops on a motorcycle and drives across Canada and then south into SW America as a form of therapy. The first half of the book is very good and insightful. After that, its all pomp and pretense. He writes many letters to his friends, often with asinine and ridiculously stupid topic headers and content. It seems as if he's already forgotten his pain and is all ready to party. Its obvious to anyone by mid-way that the man hates Americans, especially if they're fat or tourists. He even thinks: "die, die, die!" when addressing Americans in a buffet line. He even goes far enough to trash somebody's child. Why didn't he pummel into submission the Canadian gas station kid who gave Neil the Diesel fuel pump(instead of gas) to put into his motorcycle? This guy is as confused as they come. At the end of the book he ends up getting married to an "All-American" girl and moves in with her at Santa Monica, CA (America). Go figure! I used to have a decent respect for this guy, but he proves his massive hypocrisy in these pages. There isn't even a fleeting glimpse of anything remotely close to being intellectual from a man who's thought to be so. He even goes on to berate or ignore his fans, they few times that he mentions them. I wonder if his intent is to ostracize his following. He's sure done this to me... Good Luck

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2002

    200 Pages Too Many

    Neil covers the same ground more often than he should in this book. What initially draws you in becomes tedious towards the end. Still, his is a compelling and enjoyable story to read. At least half of it anyway.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013


    Ghost Rider was truly a mesmerizing journey of a deeply effected by tragedy father and husband that I could relate to. Everyone has tragedy in their lives and deal with it differently. In some ways you never fully recover and unfortunately tragedy strikes the people who are suffering. Neil was close to that. You learn here how one copes in his own way, and pulls himself from his own tragedy after a long journey across Canada & the US. The story gives you a defined picture of that journey. You will learn not only about places you may never hear of and their beauty, but how one person fights to keep his sanity while trying to find answers to why this has happened. Yes Neil Peart is a very wealthy successful man. Many people strive for that in their own lives. This book will show you that family is everything and not a trillion dollars could replace what was taken or cure the deep hurt that one encounters when losing a family. Awesome book!

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  • Posted December 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I am a lifelong Rush fan from the first time I heard "Worki

    I am a lifelong Rush fan from the first time I heard "Working Man". I knew the basic story behind this book Neil Peart lost his wife and daughter within a 10 month span of time and took to the road on his motorcycle as part of his healing process after those tragic losses.

    As a Rush fan I wanted to know where the lyrics for the last three albums came from. How do the lyrics relate to Neil's experience as the Ghost Rider. Some lyrics on the "Vapor Trails" album seemed obvious like "Ghost Rider" but others were more obscure like the reference to Tarot in "Peaceable Kingdom" or what inspired "Earthshine".

    Reading "Ghost Rider" answered those questions and gave glimpses into others such as, "Faithless" from the "Snakes and Arrows" album and even "Halo Effect" from "Clockwork Angels".

    Not only is Neil Peart an exceptionally gifted Lyric writer and musician, he is an equally gifted prose writer. After reading "Ghost Rider" I feel that I know Neil Peart. I feel like he has allowed me into his life in a personal way. I laughed at his humor and I wept for his pain.

    In one passage Peart writes to an author friend congratulating him for the ultimate feat as a writer, which is to make the reader wish that the activity that he enjoys was over so that he could go back to reading the author's work. I felt that way about this book, of all places at a Rush concert. Now that is powerful writing, I congratulate you Mr. Peart.

    Mostly I would like to thank you Mr. Peart for sharing your story, your pain, your thoughts, your humor, and your adventures.

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  • Posted November 27, 2012

    Sad story but a great read for a real getaway.

    Sad story but a great read for a real getaway.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2012

    A great read. A friend recommended it to me. A Non Motorcycling

    A great read. A friend recommended it to me. A Non Motorcycling friend. She really liked the book. I was pretty stoked because it talked about a bunch of rides and places that I;ve done myself. But the key is the journey of the heart that Mr Pert takes. You can see in his writing the healing that takes place.

    I am ready for the meditation of the healing road. Thanks for the inspiration and the great music.

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  • Posted June 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    4 out of 5

    A great read, though the ends of several chapters were missing at the time of my reading it.

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  • Posted May 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    a ghost of a man left after the unexpected death of Neil Pearts nineteen year old daughter, followed by the death of his devastated and broken-hearted common-law wife, all that's left is survival instinct to just get moving.

    a profoundly sad but true story as told by Neil Peart after the deaths of first his daughter as she drives back to school and his wife just fourteen months later from cancer, his dog dies and his best friend goes to jail. From his lake-front home in Quebec, survival mode kicks in telling him to just move, just keep moving.thus the beginning of a five-month motor-cycle journey thru Canada, Alaska, America, Mexico to Belize.This moving tale of moving thru grief by just moving. Decriptions on beautiful scenery, wild animals,good food , interesting places and people and a suprisely good reading list of books as not only does Peart move, but he also reads and shares, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who appericates travel and non-fiction. A good meaty book with plenty of substance. I would also place Neil Peart in the same league with Paul Theroux.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2009

    Ghost Rider

    After I read the book I wanted to know what else was in stored for neil peart. He went through alot and travel on the motorcycle that his wife bought him. The story for me meant alot to me because as I was reading it I was losing someone very dear to me and it help me through it alot. The person I lost was like a father figure to me because he was there alot when I need it him but also he was my grandfather on my mom father. But I hope that who ever pick-up this book it is an awesome book every time I readed it I was there with Neil Peart Riding with him so I could find my way back. Right now I am reading his another book done by him and so far it is still good it seem's again that I am there right there with him again.

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