Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road

Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road

by Neil Peart


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A bold narrative written by a man trying to stay alive by staying on the move. Within a ten-month period, Neil Peart suffered family losses so devastating that they left him a ghost — physically a man but with nothing inside: no hope, meaning, faith, or desire to keep living. One year after the first tragedy, Neil was choosing between life and his own death. Finally, all he could decide was motion. He got on his BMW R1100GS motorcycle, and over the next 14 months, rode 55,000 miles, in search of a reason to live. On a journey of escape, exile, and exploration, he travelled from Quebec to Alaska, down the Canadian and American coasts and western regions, to Mexico and Belize, and finally back to Quebec. While riding "the Healing Road," Neil recorded in his journals his progress and setbacks in the grieving/healing process, and the pain of constantly reliving his losses. He also recorded with dazzling, colourful, entertaining, and moving artistry, the enormous range of his travel adventures, from the mountains to the sea, from the deserts to Arctic ice, and the dozens of memorable people, characters, friends, and relatives he met along the way, and who increasingly contributed to his healing and sense of meaning and purpose. He begins the journey with nothing, "the Ghost Rider." What he finally attains is joy, love, and indelible memories of the most extraordinary journey of his life. Ghost Rider is a bold, brilliantly written, intense, exciting, and ultimately triumphant narrative memoir from a gifted writer and musician, who started out as a man reduced to trying to stay alive by staying on the move. 2002 Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize finalist. Over 80,000 copies sold. Globe & Mail and bestseller.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781550225464
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication date: 06/01/2002
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 293,139
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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Ghost Rider 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
thorisalaptop on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Compelling, heartfelt examination of a life destroyed by double tragedies. Mostly also entertaining & very readable, with a lot to take away. Begins to drag as a travelogue after a while, but still lots to enjoy & take away for serious travelers, motorcyclists, and those going through trying times.
DanaJean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Neil Peart, drummer for the band Rush, wrote this amazing book after experiencing the loss of first his daughter and then 6 months later, his wife. Struggling with day-to-day living, wondering why and where he fits into the world, Neil becomes a Ghost Rider, traveling highways and byways on the healing road, a journey to make peace with himself and the randomness of life and death. When looking for this book, I found it in the travelogue section of Barnes & Noble, which surprised me as I was looking in the Grief section. His honesty about his feelings, even the ugly ones, are what I connected with most and I understood his analogies of riding with ghosts and encountering many along his path. Good days, bad days, he rode his bike trying to outrun the pain of loss, but in the end realizing that there will always be a place in us that holds that pain, sometimes quietly, sometimes in-your-face. He does learn that if we can just stay engaged in living, time will help broken hearts and life can still hold something special. I enjoyed his descriptive writing about the places he visited. I understood his journey.
WCollett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not a book I would normally read - a high school friend from years ago mentioned he had just finished reading this book and I should read it. I was amazed at how much I enjoy the style, pace and descriptions used in this book. I did recommend it to a number of people - A great story- written with clarity, compassion and understanding of the human mind and how we deal with tragedy in our lives.
placo75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Love Rush? Well, so do I, but the more I read Neil's writings the less I find to like about him. Yes, he went through some tough stuff, and this is a powerful depiction of the healing journey. Along the way, however, prepare to discover that you, me, and pretty much everybody else is pretty much ruining it all for Peart and the two or three people fortunate enough to be called friends by him.We shouldn't be surprised that a person who takes himself so seriously writes books in which he is the main topic, the protagontist. It's just a bummer that by expressing interest in the same topic you, fan, become the antagonist.
Mockers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Powerful journey through grief to recovery and rebirth. Hate Rush? Well you should read this book anyway!
aob on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good read. Some parts tend to drag, but worth checking out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ghost Rider by Neil Peart is the story of Peart's Journeys after losing his wife and daughter, and how he dealt with the grief and loneliness. It is told through multiple letters, postcards and journal entries, which provide a very personal look at what was happening in his head as he goes from city to city town to town. The emotional range that is presented is phenomenal, and most lines come off as tragic poetry which, if you have ever heard the lyrics Peart has wrote for his band Rush, will come as no surprise. What remains the key defining point of this book is how it is told. Not years after in memoir style of text, but in the form of personal communication between family and friends. This offers a very unique experience that is definitely worth a try. All in all I would say this book is a solid, it ignores the musician and highlights the man in an unfiltered, honest light. 4/5
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
UncleHammy More than 1 year ago
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.
jokearney5 More than 1 year ago
Sad story but a great read for a real getaway.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago