Copyright By Brian Catterson - Cycle World Magazine / February, 2003 - Used by permission

And then, the music stopped.

On August 10th, 1997, Peart's 19-year-old daughter, Selena, was killed in a car accident en route to beginning her freshman year of college. His wife Jackie never recovered from that emotional blow, and just 10 months later, she passed away, too. "The doctors called it cancer, but of course it was a broken heart," Peart later wrote.

Suddenly alone, and stricken with grief at the loss of his loved ones, Peart told his bandmates to consider him retired and set out on an epic 14-month, 55,000 mile motorcycle journey. A journey that ended happily when he met and ultimately married Carrie Nuttall, a fine-art photographer whose work, "Rhythm and Light" ( captures her husband back at work in the studio. Peart chronicled his adventures in Ghost Rider, and in a song by the same name on Rush's long-awaited new album, Vapor Trails.

That album is a milestone in that it marks the return of the man who Modern Drummer magazine voted "Best Rock Drummer" so many times he was finally retired to his own personal Hall of Fame. And the man who, during his self-imposed "exile" didn't touch the drums for two years.

Equally significantly, it marked the return of rock music's most thought-provoking lyricist, because while it's bassist Geddy Lee's voice that you hear, it's Peart's words; with rare exceptions, he's written every lyric since joining the band for their second album, Fly By Night, in 1975.

Taking his penchant for the written word to the next level, Peart in 1996 penned The Masked Rider, about a bicycle journey through West Africa. Though an entertaining read, with colorful imagery and no shortage of the author's thoughts and observations, that effort was rather impersonal - his family and band mates barely rated a mention.

In Ghost Rider, however, Peart bares his soul, candidly detailing his progress on what he calls "The Healing Road." A heady read destined to rank alongside Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the book works on three levels, appealing to Rush fans, motorcycle tourers and, perhaps most importantly, to anyone who's ever suffered the loss of a loved one. Motorcycling, as many of us have come to know, is therapeutic.

How therapeutic, I'm in the process of finding out. We'd rendezvoused the previous morning at a truck stop off I-40 in Gallup. By this point, I'd been in touch with Peart's publisher, publicist, and security manager, but I'd not actually spoken to the man himself. And as I approached the tour bus door, there was only one Rush lyric on my mind. It was from a song called "Limelight" on the 1981 Moving Pictures album, about the harsh reality of fame: Living in a fisheye lens, Caught in the Camera eye, I have no heart to lie, I can't pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend.

And so it was with a apprehension that I knocked. An anxious few moments passed, and then Neil himself threw open the door and greeted me with a warm handshake and a smile. He quickly proved to be an educated CW reader, a fan of Kevin Cameron and well aware of Off-Road Editor Jimmy Lewis' exploits in the Dakar Rally and my reputation as the staff Italophile-never mind that I was aboard a BMW F650GS for this outing. Neil himself had owned a Ducati 916, which he kept parked in the living room of his lakefront home in Quebec, but had traded it in along with a K1200RS to purchase his current mount. He kept the original Christmas present RS for sentimental reasons, and the R1100GS he rode during the making of Ghost Rider now serves as a backup bike, parked alongside his and Michael's newer R1150GSs in the trailer.