Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush -- and the drummer most rock drummers consider the greatest of their generation -- passed away on Tuesday at age sixty-seven after a long battle with brain cancer.

I met Neil by accident about twenty years ago. I was riding my motorcycle through the mountains in West Virginia and stopped at a small country store for a sandwich. It was a warm fall day, so I decided to eat outside.

"Mind if I sit here?" I said to a man at a weathered picnic table.

He gestured, palm up. "Please," he said.

I said thanks, then stared. (Gracelessly, I might add.) "Are you...?"

"Yes," he said. He looked at my bike, a souped-up GSX-R 1100. "Don't you think that's a little overkill?" he asked, clearly trying to change the subject.

I thought for a second, still a little stunned. (Neil Peart? In the middle of nowhere?) Then I said the first thing that came to my smart-ass mind.

"Don't you think burying yourself behind a hundred or so drums was a little overkill?"

He laughed. "Touche," he said. "Have a seat."

We talked about motorcycles. We talked about our favorite roads. Neil liked scenery and speed: He was a touring enthusiast -- later riding motorcycles and bicycles across the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa -- as well as an auto racing enthusiast. 

We didn't talk about music. I know little about music, other than what I like. We didn't talk about him. Later, I realized Neil had an admirable trait few possess. He already knew what he knew. He wanted to know what you knew. 

So while I never got past the fact I was talking to Neil (freaking) Peart, he made me feel a little less starstruck and a lot more at ease.

We both finished eating at the same time and stood to go. "Which way are you headed?" he asked.

I nodded towards the east. "Back to Virginia. That's where I live. Why?"

"I just wondered," he said. "Sometimes I meet people and they end up following me."

I laughed. "I guess that kinda sucks," I said.

"Comes with the territory, I suppose." Then he paused. "Can I give you some advice?" he asked.

"Sure," I said.

"Never follow anyone," he said. "Be your own hero."

Years later, I realized those were words he lived by.

In a 2015 interview he shared two questions he liked to ask himself: "What is the most excellent thing I can do today?" and "What would my 16-year-old self do?" 

That's why he traveled between shows on a motorcycle. That's why he wrote books. That's why he was a constant learner.

That's why he said this:

It's about being your own hero. 

I set out to never betray the values that 16-year-old had, to never sell out, to never bow to the man.

The best way to stand out is to do things differently. Unashamedly, unreservedly, unapologetically.

That, in a nutshell, was Rush.

The best way to live the life you want to live is to stop worrying about what other people think.

That, in a nutshell, was Neil Peart.

Both are attitudes we should all try a little harder to embrace.