Neil’s Early Privately Published Travel Memoirs
Neil says he started dabbling in prose writing shortly after joining Rush but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that he hit on a genre that worked well for him: the travel memoir. He says he practiced his craft for a while before privately publishing a few short works, which he distributed to family and friends. After these trial runs, he published his first commercial book, The Masked Rider, in 1996, with a small publisher, The Pottersfield Press. Book rights were later sold to ECW Press in Toronto and that publisher released a new edition in 2004. Peart’s other books have all been published by ECW Press: Ghost Rider (2002), Traveling Music (2004), Roadshow (2007) and Far and Away (2011), a collection of essays from his blog, News, Weather & Sports.
Here are summaries of Peart’s five privately published early travel memoirs. Information on the books is from John at Cygnus-x1.
Riding the Lion (1985)
39 pages with black and white photos
Limited edition of 50 copies
“‘Your bags have been checked right through to Shanghai,'” said the agent at the check-in desk. ‘Shanghai!’ The word rang in my head—this was the first time I think that the reality of where I was going really sank in. During the months of planning this trip I had been immersed in the writing and recording of an album, frantically finding time to fill out the forms and applications, make the arrangements, and collect the necessary equipment. I really hadn’t had much time to dream about the reality.
“Shanghai. The name alone is magic, one of those places you look at on a map and it conjures up an image, an atmosphere. “The Lady Came From Shanghai” – romantic, mysterious, and somehow dangerous, the exotic lure of the Orient.
“And here I was about to fly there, to start an eighteen day trip by bicycle (and boat, train, and bus) through the northeastern part of China and the capital city of Beijing.”
Raindance Over the Rockies (The Cumberland Press: 1988)
50-100 copies, privately distributed
“1. Raindance, Sundance (Rocky Mountain Hop)
“We left Hope behind us.
“That is, we left the town of Hope behind us, and pedaled westward at 6:30 on a dark, wet morning. Steel wool clouds hung low from an anthracite sky—the recent dawn had brought no sun, and little light. Ahead the shining surface of the Trans-Canada Highway reflected a dull and grainy world, a hasty watercolor in the early morning dimness.
“The wooly sky poured—no; bucketed, torrented, deluged, waterfalled, cat-and-dogged, showered, flooded, cascaded—down on us, but we were used to that. The sombre western skies had parted and wept on us at least once on five of the eight days since we had rolled out of Calgary. Averaging about ninety miles a day, on heavily laden bicycles, we were tired now on the final ride, and looking forward to arriving in Vancouver. With another hundred miles to cover that day we could have done without the sobbing skies. But it was not ours to choose.
I rode up beside Gay on the wide shoulder of the drowned highway, and we talked for a few minutes as we pedaled behind four other riders, my brother and her son among them. Each pair rode slotted between the rooster tails of spray arching up from the rear wheels of the bicycles in front. Droplets of water were flung face-high in a steady fountain, a silvery arc shining against the steely dark road and the wrought-iron and green wash of the trees on the far side of the highway. With the pressure of each pedal stroke I felt the water welling up inside my shoes.”
The African Drum (1988)
205 pages, with black and white photos
“Through the thick warm blanket of tropical night, I walked across the runway to reboard the KLM jet in Dar es Salaam. It was still very dark on the grounds but so near the Equator sunrise is a swift performance. By the time the plane was in the air I could see light spreading from the east.
“And suddenly I could see it. Rising through the mass of grey clouds, the two peaks of Kilimanjaro stood out dark and solid. The jagged tooth of Mawenzi, and the wide, snow-capped bulk of the main peak-Kibo. I felt a thrill of excitement, with my eyes fixed upon this mystic and majestic vision.
“Three weeks from now I hoped to be standing right there, on the highest point of all Africa-the snows of Kilimanjaro.
“1. Into Africa
“Kilimanjaro International Airport, Tanzania. Wet black runway, red earth and brown grass. Grey terminal building, grey-green trees and pale sky. Brown hills stood in the distance under low clouds. The crowd of weary passengers streamed into the modern terminal, and formed into the inevitable shuffling lines to face the formalities. After checking your passport and vaccination certificate, they send you over to the bank to change the obligatory fifty US dollars into Tanzanian shillings (the special “Extortion Tax”). I returned with a bulky envelope weighing a good five pounds, most of my 3,400 shillings conveniently in coins.”
Pedals Over the Pyrenees (1988)
“Here follows the chronicle of a voyage across the Pyrenees by bicycle, from Barcelona to Bordeaux, and then by train to Paris. The trip was undertaken by five of us in June of 1987, and stretched over ten days and about 600 miles of cycling.
“The notes for this journal were kept by way of a mini-cassette recorder, on which I recorded thoughts and observations, passing sounds, songs and even jokes, while on my bicycle, on trains and planes, and even under the ground in caves.
“Day 1: A Thief in the Night (or, Big Bangs in Barcelona)
“Since I had driven down from Paris a few days earlier, I was already waiting outside the Gran Via hotel in Barcelona on the morning of June 20th, a Saturday. It had rained the night before, but the sky had cleared through the morning, leaving the day clear and sun-washed.
The boulevard in front of the hotel is wide, with the main thoroughfare separated from outer lanes by raised islands of paving stones and park benches, the sunlight dappling them through the leaves of the the plane trees. I settled myself on a bench to await the arrival of the others- Bob and Rose Marie Boysen, Gay Burgiel and Henry Kane. I passed the time by cleaning and oiling my bicycle, as it was a little the worse for wear after a couple of months of daily commuting across Toronto and Paris. Then I went across the street to buy an International Herald Tribune to do the crossword puzzle. There on the front page was a story about a bomb going off here in Barcelona yesterday, killing 15 people and injuring 30. Great! This made me a little nervous at each loud noise in the Street, and it happened to be a day when people were shooting off fireworks all over the place- big ones too!”
The Orient Express (date uncertain)