Rush and a Mountaintop

Two great Rush concerts in one week and summiting a 14,264-ft peak; it’s tough to decide which part I enjoyed most.  (On the other hand, I don’t have to decide.)

It’ll come as no surprise to my fans that I have long enjoyed the music of Rush.  I’ve been going to their concerts since 1983, and Neil Peart’s lyrics have inspired a great many stories and scenes in my writing.

My first novel, Resurrection, Inc., is closely based on the Rush album “Grace Under Pressure.”  (It’s been out of print for a while, but we’ve just made it available in ebook format on the Kindle and for other readers http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/17515.)  I mentioned the Rush inspiration in the acknowledgments of the novel, and when I received my author’s copies, I autographed a copy each for Neil, Geddy, and Alex, and sent them off to the record label…and about a year later I received a letter from Neil, and we’ve been in touch ever since.  In fact, I’ve known Neil longer than I’ve known Rebecca…and she and I just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary.

Neil bicycled down to my townhouse in Livermore, CA during their “Presto” tour in 1990 (where he slept on a rickety sofa bed…these days, fortunately, we have a much more comfortable guest room).  We’ve seen them on every tour since.  He and I collaborated on a creepy story about a drummer bicycling through Africa, “Drumbeats,” (also recently available on Kindle and Smashwords), and we’re talking about a more extensive project.

The two recent concerts were held at the spectacular Red Rocks Amphitheater near Denver.  For the Monday night event, Rebecca and I went up early during setup to chat with Neil and his riding partner Michael for a while, watch the soundcheck, and have dinner with the band crew.  Though we’ve done this quite a few times, it’s still quite a thrill.

Sound check: Rebecca is on the right, in purple. (Photo by Chris Stankee)

The concert was excellent, as expected, and our seats were the best in the auditorium (dead center, 6 rows up from the stage).

We drove home, exhilarated, and it took a long time to get to sleep…even though I had to get up less than five hours later for Part II of the grand scheme—taking Neil on a hike up to the summit of Mount Evans, one of the most prominent mountain peaks on the Denver skyline.

Over the years, we’ve gone up to Lick Observatory in the mountains near the San Francisco Bay, to Yosemite National Park, and other interesting places, but I was determined to get him to the summit of one of my beloved Fourteeners.  Our rendezvous early the next morning was at a small 1950s-era motel in a town outside of Denver, and I drove us off to the Mount Evans Road, reputed to be the highest paved road in the US.  Our trailhead started at Summit Lake (elevation 12,830), and we trudged off under beautiful weather and clear skies.

Considering Neil burns off a few thousand calories every night while drumming, he’s in excellent shape and had no difficulty making it up the trail, even with the major altitude gain.  While talking, and brainstorming, and panting, we climbed up and over a line of boulders on top of a ridge and came face to face with a white-fleeced mountain goat, which unfortunately turned and fled before we could get our cameras out.

We ascended Mount Spalding (13,842’)—one of Colorado’s 100 highest peaks—on the way, and followed the rocky trail to the summit, where we ate the lunches I had packed.  (I had asked the day before, “What kind of sandwich do you prefer?  Peanut butter and jelly, or deli meats and cheese?”  He said, “Why not one of each?”  We were certainly hungry for them.)  We found a shelter of boulders away from the crowds to sit for a while, then completed our loop route by taking a steeper, direct descent down scree from the summit back to the car.  This trail was much shorter, and much less pleasant; I realized that I would have a great many Rush fans angry with me if Neil happened to break an ankle…fortunately, that didn’t happen.

Photo by Neil Peart

When we got back to my house, Jonathan and Jessica had made an excellent dinner for us, and we all relaxed.  Next morning, following some tips Jonathan had given us, Neil and I attempted to make the perfect poached egg (and did rather well, thank you).  Then he rode off on his motorcycle, intending to ride up the Pikes Peak Highway before heading back to Red Rocks for that night’s concert.

For the Wednesday concert, I took Jonathan and Jessica, our friend Jay (who works on the wordfire.com website), and my coauthor Doug Beason.  I’ve known Doug for about 26 years; he retired as a colonel in the Air Force, has worked for the White House, is now chief scientist for the Air Force Space Command.  In all the years I’ve known him, I have never seen him so excited.  For two weeks before the concert, he was busily reading up, listening to tracks, getting himself warmed up for Rush.  His eyes were like saucers when we picked up the tickets as “guests of the band,” then getting to the seats—again, center and six rows up—he couldn’t believe it.  He texted his wife, both of his daughters, both of his brothers, a couple of his friends, and then when the concert started he snapped photos from his phone and sent them out.  After Spirit of Radio, he yelled in my ear “I have never had an experience like this!”

Jonathan and Jessica were also very excited.  During Neil’s incredible drum solo, Jessica leaned over and said “Wow, we cooked dinner for him last night!”  I could gush about how much I enjoyed the concert myself, but I this time drew more even pleasure vicariously.  When we went backstage during the intermission (where Neil had set aside an absolute embarrassment of swag for us), many of the road crew members had already seen Neil’s photos of the mountain climb.

After the concert, the band was off to the next venue and we went home.  My book tours seem frantic to me, but it’s nothing compared to the rigors of a touring band.  I was very happy to get back to writing.

If you’d like to read an excellent and detailed account of a Rush tour, I highly recommend Neil’s book Roadshow.

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