2004 has, thus far, been a banner year for the armchair explorer. Historical scientists, working around the clock and funded in part by a grant from the RFT, have determined that the ratio of events commemorating the 1904 World's Fair compared to the total population of the St. Louis metro area stands at 1.4 to 1 for the first 8 months of 2004. If you factor in the Lewis & Clark and Corps of Discovery events, that ratio jumps to 2.1 events per individual citizen. At these rates, scientists project a year-end ratio of 3 to 1, which translates to near-total knowledge of every meal eaten by every Corps member and instantaneous recall of World's Fair trivia by children as young as three.
Like moths to a flame, thousands of cyclists are drawn
to Poelker Plaza every year at this time.
Which brings us to the Moonlight Ramble. The annual nighttime bike ride through downtown St. Louis is the Gateway Council's (St. Louis' chapter of Hostelling International USA) largest fundraiser. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the two-wheeled classic. Do you really not see where we're going with this? Lewis & Clark celebrates 200 years, the anniversary of the World's Fair is a clean 100 and the Ramble stands at an even 40; friends, the River City duality of Spirit of Discovery/Spirit of Celebration commingles in the whirling wheels of the Moonlight Ramble, as the bike ride tips its cycling helmet to both events while tooting its own brassy horn. According to Gateway Council executive director Mark Cockson, this year the Moonlight Ramble rolls where it's never rolled before.
"For the first time ever," Cockson confides, "we're taking the ride into the county!"
OK, so St. Louis county is not exactly the unknown wilderness that it was in Lewis & Clark's day, or even the bucolic farmland of 1904. Still, a first's a first, and the idea of pedaling from the Ramble's starting point at Poelker Plaza (13th and Chestnut streets) into the county could be adventurous when you factor in the race's 12:01 a.m. start time and the route taken. What's that route again, Mr. Cockson?
"It's a secret," Cockson laughs.
But with some research and a map, a clever cyclist could probably figure out exactly where the course will cross into the county. Or you can just wait until Saturday, August 28, and follow the guideposts, which should be an easy task for even the tenderest of tenderfeet. The Gateway Council has arranged for every building and institution (hint, hint) bordering the nineteen-mile route that dates back to 1904 to remain lit up until 3 a.m. This is a subtle, and no doubt beautiful, nod to the 1904 World's Fair, where electricity was a new development that dazzled fairgoers throughout that magic summer.
And even at the Ramble's conclusion, adventure is in the air. The ride ends at the City Museum, St. Louis' greatest current adventure, with an afterparty and continental breakfast courtesy of Saint Louis Bread Co. Discovery, adventure, bicycles and bagels: Surely, this is what Thomas Jefferson had in mind 200 years ago.
Registration for the Saint Louis Bread Co. Moonlight Ramble begins at 10 p.m., and tickets are $25. For more information go to www.moonlightramble.com.