The next morning, we had a lazy breakfast at a
converted jailhouse, then took the scenic route to Salt Lake City
over to Route 191. It was my turn to lead now, and not having ridden
many twisty roads the previous day, I took it easy at first, unsure
of my companions' skills. but I needn't have worried because both
turned out to be very capable.
This stands in marked contrast to the
story Peart tells in his book. The spring after Jackie gave him the
R1100RS, he and Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson (who had just bought
a Harley) enrolled in a new-rider course, and Neil failed on his
first two attempts. Despite being one of the world's preeminent drummers,
Peart insists he's actually quite uncoordinated, and has convinced
himself that drumming is really more "dis-coordination." This struck
me as humorous considering that my brother Paul had just taken an
MSF course, and told me that the instructor had stated that riding
a motorcycle is "a lot like playing the drums." Yeah, says who?
Price, bus-driver Dave joined us on Neil's old R1100GS and led us
on the final leg of our journey into Salt Lake city. We arrived at
the Delta Center early that afternoon, and Neil and Michael got straight
to work - changing their oil!
"Ah, the life of a rock star," I remarked as I watched. "If ever
there were a term that I despise, that's it," Neil shot back. He
prefers the unadorned title, "musician."
Oil change completed, Neil
escorted me inside, introducing me to Alex, Geddy, manager Ray Daniels
and the various members of the 50-member crew. He took me up on stage,
where I snapped a photo of him wearing a CW cap behind his drum kit,
then invited me to have a seat on the stool. I declined on the grounds
that it was "his" place - and besides, I'm a bass player, not a drummer.
I didn't tell him that, though, figuring that telling Neil Peart
you played an instrument would be like telling Valentino Rossi you
rode a motorcycle.
We then went backstage to the dressing room.
"Make yourself at home," Neil said. "Sound check is at 5:30. If you
need anything, I'll be in the bus."
I showered, changed into my street
clothes, then headed back to the bus, where Neil was on the phone
and Michael on the computer. Neil finished inscribing a copy of his
book for me, and then we hurried inside for sound check, where I
grabbed one of the 15,000 empty seats in the arena and watched, an
audience of one. We then adjourned for dinner in the dressing room
- just Neil, Alex, Geddy and me. I felt like the fifth Beatle, the
talent less one.
Grabbing my digital camera, I showed the photos
of the previous day's "desert crossing" to Alex and
Geddy, remarking that if they knew what Neil was really doing on his bike, they'd
make him ride in the bus.
Geddy smiled and said, "We couldn't stop him anyway."
Time came for the show,
and with Neil planning to depart immediately after the final cymbal crash, he
invited me to come backstage during intermission to say our goodbyes; which I
did. We shook hands, he encouraged me to keep in touch via e-mail, and then,
out of the blue, said, "Aw, give old Neil a hug." So much
for that whole "stranger" thing...
At the end of his book, the Ghost Rider symbolically
rides off the end of the Santa Monica Pier, never to be seen again. Peart, though,
is still riding. Truth be told, he's been riding with me for years - seldom have
I traveled without a Rush CD in my case. But it was nice to finally get a chance
to ride with him.