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Bakersfield’s Full Moon Bike Ride Gives a Chance to Connect and Reflect

9:51 AM PDT on October 19, 2015

Screen shot 2015-10-19 at 9.48.11 AM

Once a month, parts of the growing cycling movement in Bakersfield are lit by moonlight during the Full Moon Bike Ride, a six-mile night ride that winds along a dark and dusty bike path near the dried-out Kern River. Cyclists of all types gather to pedal with friends and family. It is an informal community event that brings cyclists closer together, connects old friends, and can give a rider in Bakersfield a chance to pause and reflect about some of the positive—and sometimes negative— opportunities this city and county have lying ahead.

Bike Bakersfield's Facebook page alerts the community to the event, and it is about as informal as you can get for a community event. There are no sign-up fees, no teams, no bicycle classes or fund-raising for the ride. If you want to participate you simply show up to the city park where the organizers gather. All that is asked is for children to wear helmets and riders to have lights. The only agenda is bringing cyclists together.

I had never been on a community ride prior to the Full Moon ride during the so-called Blood Moon eclipse. I was a little nervous, as I am just starting to participate in the cycling community and still making friends in this world. I thought some riders might look down on my old steel frame 1980's road bike, or maybe balk at a newbie riding on the cool, peaceful night. All my notions were put to rest as soon as I showed up at the gathering place.

Fifty riders ran the gamut of bicyclist types. Families were there with wagons to pull their kids, young people shoed up with single speed bikes, as did riders with modern race bikes that are as light as a feather. As I rode up I could here everyong chattering and inspecting their rides, and I quickly realized it was not about fitting into a specific niche for that night’s ride, but just about being with other riders.

I pulled up to the back of the pack, waved to small group of riders in front of me, flicked on my light and drank in the cool evening air. Bike Bakersfield's Jason Cater laid out a few rules before the bicycle lights bobbled down the windy bike path: remember the rules of the road; don't feel rushed; be safe and have fun.

We responded with a resounding “whoo” for our pack leader.

The riders put rubber to the road, and off our mixed peloton went. As I built up little speed and started passing other riders, everyone greeted me: “Hi, haven't seen you here before,” and “ Nice to meet you.”

Gone were the judgmental days of puberty when the sleekest, coolest BMX ruled the neighborhood. Now it was just people enjoying each other's company and supporting an active lifestyle. As we all found a comfortable pace, the line of fifty riders started to stretch out.

The solitary moments on the path that gave me a chance to think about our community. The bike path snaked along the dry river bed that under normal circumstances is the Kern River. The crunch of dirt under my tires on the pavement made me wonder how many more people would care about the water in our state if they saw the dusty riverbed illuminated under the light of a full moon and starry sky. Following segments of the dry river's bends reminded me of the not-so-distant past when the river was full of life, and made me wonder how much farther we have to go until the days where county ordinances against watering your lawn are not necessary.

Lights bounced around the winding curves under the dark bridges of the path, and I began to realize that the eclectic mix of riders on this night was exactly what Bakersfield needs. People of all types were there to have fun and build important links to their communities. Perhaps their stories of a leisurely ride would be taken back to friends and family to inspire more connections to cycling and the people who do it. Word of mouth goes a long way.

Just as I began to get existential about what the future holds for riders in Bakersfield, the community drew me back to the road.

I heard my name called from behind, and a close friend I had been out of touch with since high school rode up next to me. As we reminisced, a realization shone through the dark night sky. This is how a community grows.

The power of reconnecting with someone over a new hobby, and lifestyle, can create strong bonds. We talked about our new shared passion for what is happening in Bakersfield. It may be slow to grow, but bonds of friendship are solidifying this small community one at a time. A friend I thought once lost was now a fellow rider and we had the start of a new chapter in our friendship.

The group wound its way along the path, and soon we were near our destination. As our bike traffic built up, my recently reconnected friend and I remarked on how much fun people seemed to be having, and what that meant for Bakersfield and its bike riders.
We realized events like this are what make people find new interest in advocacy. Riders from this night’s trip would take this experience back to all the places that mattered to them, and build the ties for increasing and making visible an often forgotten community within this city.

The culmination of our trip was the popular local restaurant and brewery Lengthwise, Bakersfield's answer to a craft beer pub. The bike racks overflowed with an assortment of bicycles new and old, and bikes lined the exterior fences. Some riders stopped for a meal to cap off the ride, others—the ones that are old enough—took in a pint of beer.

However, all the people who convened at the terminus of our ride were sharing one thing: A sense of community. My fear of being an outcast on the fringe of some secret bicycle society was put to rest as soon as I pulled up. Laughs and stories abounded at every table.

Families rode in, sat down and ate, and talked with their neighbors. Young riders discussed the latest trends in fixed-gear bicycles. Veteran riders spoke of the next big race or upcoming century ride. I couldn't help but think that I was now a part of this new family and that this was my inauguration into an accepting clan of easygoing, passionate bike riders.

The Full Moon Ride started that night at 8 p.m. By the time I looked at my watch it was 10:30 p.m.

The two and half hours that passed seemed a blink compared to all that I had assessed and taken in that evening. When my new-old friend and I parted ways, the solitary ride back to our starting point left me with a smile on my face and some new hope and inspiration for what this community can achieve.

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