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Tue, Dec 10, 2019

Neil Peart news update

Tue, Dec 16, 2008@3:26PM | comments

Neil Peart's new BMW on Dante's Peak[NEWS, WEATHER, and SPORTS - December, 2008: December in Death Valley]

Neil Peart has updated the News Page on his website, chronicling a recent 3-day motorcycle trip he took to Death Valley on his new BMW R1200 GS (which he had to have painted since they don't come in red!). One of his first stops was the ghost town of Amboy, California:

... For forty miles I cruised through the rocks, Joshua trees, fuzzy cholla and prickly-pear cactus, and tall, spindly ocotillo. Leaving the park at Twentynine Palms, I continued north on the road to the ghost town of Amboy, and Roy’s Motel, which appeared in Ghost Rider. In fact, unknown to most people, Amboy also appears on the booklet cover of the Snakes and Arrows CD, and lately, on the new concert DVD, plus at the beginning of the “What’s That Smell?” film that played before “Far Cry” during our concerts this past summer. I watched it every night from my “waiting-chair” behind Geddy’s ampline (er, rotisseries), before the second set, and it always gave me a smile.

Back in 2006, when Hugh Syme and I were trading ideas for that Snakes and Arrows cover, we discussed a surreal desert highway scene. As a reference, I sent him one of my Ghost Rider photographs, taken on a stretch of old Route 66, looking west toward the cluster of crumbling buildings at Amboy, with the unmistakable Amboy Crater in the distance. Hugh ended up “building” the scene on that original photo, which had been taken in 1998 (as a slide, in those days). Like the Monument Valley ten-years-apart photo that appeared in a story earlier this year, “South by Southwest,” I decided to pause for a ten-year anniversary shot of Route 66 and Amboy. ...

Neil also stops at Devils Hole and Dante's View, and takes a hiking trip in the Panamint Mountains. He also encounters 2 fellow BMW riders from Canada no less, and breaks out of normal shy mode to chat with them a little:

... That day I was giving myself a “talking to” about something, and resolving to kick myself out of my usual shyness, my usual comfort zone. The previous night, as I walked from my room at the Furnace Creek Inn to the main building for dinner, I saw two BMW GSes like mine (one red) in the parking lot. They had Ontario plates, and I thought, “Hmm.”

I walked into the lobby a few minutes before my 7:15 reservation, and had a look through the gift shop, and at some of the old photographs on the lobby wall. From the corner of my eye, I saw two guys hesitantly moving my way, and I thought, “Hmm.”

One of them called out my name, and I gently corrected his mispronunciation, then nodded, “Yes,” and offered a small (careful) smile. They were in their thirties, I would say, quietly friendly and polite (Canadian, after all—we’re famous for saying thank you to ATMs), and introduced themselves, shaking my hand. One of them said, “We’ve read your book!” and I guess he meant Ghost Rider, where I talked so much about Death Valley. Though embarrassed as always by attention from strangers, I have to admit I was secretly a little pleased by this fresh kind of fame—not about hitting things with sticks, or writing mildly cryptic lyrics that people interpreted their own way (for better or worse!), but as a traveler, a travel writer. That was nice. I was still embarrassed, but it was nice.

They went off to the dining room (unusually busy for the time of year, as a marathon was being held the following morning), and I saw them across the room as the host led me to my table. They left me alone to scribble in my journal, while I enjoyed a fine dinner of tortilla soup, lamb with couscous, ice cream with cherries, and pinot noir and coffee. On my way out I stopped by the two riders’ table, smiled and said, “Have a good ride!” They returned the sentiment, and that was it.

But when I thought about it later, I wanted to know their story. For one thing, how did they get their bikes from frozen Ontario to Southern California in December, unless they had been traveling a while—like I had done in ’98 and ’99? (“The Wilderness Years” just occurred to me as a title for that time. I see it was the title of a movie about Winston Churchill, and his famous quote also fits well: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”)

Where did they come from? What did they do for a living? What about their families?

So as I hiked up the steep trail, I decided I wanted to make myself do something bold. I promised myself that if those two guys were still at the Inn when I got back that afternoon, I would invite them to join me for dinner. That was about the most unlikely thing I—or anyone who knows me—could imagine me doing. ...

Unfortunately for the 2 riders and for Neil, they were gone when he got back. All in all, another great bit of prose from Neil. No Rush news to speak of, but an entertaining read regardless.

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