Every full moon, a horde of howling creatures on LED lit bicycles gathers in front of Eichardt’s Pub on Cedar Street, in Sandpoint, Idaho. The creatures start out pretty tame as their number slowly rise from 8 pm until 9. Some full moons, they wear funny dresses, others, Hawaiian shirts, some ride unicycles, and some wear coattails and top hats. At 9 pm, they start to ride, lights blinking, whooping and honking, a mass of hundreds of bikes, young and old alike. This is the full moon bike ride, a monthly event that has gained quite a bit of popularity since I arrived to town, just over a year ago.
The first time I joined the horde, I knew no soul in this area. I rode my bike along the river, flat as glass, reflecting the teal blue western skies, the cool twilight air chilling my skin, listening to old friends spot each other in the crowd and exchanging warm exclamations. Most riders traveled in groups or pairs and talked about their kids, or last weekend on the lake, while others spoke without words, through brightly colored and highly ornate costumes that matched the theme for that month. I found it oddly comforting and yet poignant to be part of a crowd of 300 people following each other to an unknown destination, (always a bar), together, on a twisted trajectory. I felt like I belonged, for the span of 30 minutes, to a community I had just joined.
Tonight, a year to the full moon since then, I was part of a group riding together, talking about the fancy LEDs that spelled out words, shouting hello to friends, whooping at cars that were forced to let our entire horde pass (we respect traffic rules, but since we don’t know the way, we risk losing the lead if we stop), waving at parents who stepped outside holding their kids to watch our moonlit parade, mindlessly following the lights in front of us because we belonged. I realize now that the comfort comes from the tribal mentality with which we are encoded. It is so easy to belong to this tribe: have bike, will ride under the full moon. Of course, more than just a clever vehicle unites the horde. A great number of revelers stop at the watering hole destination and drink together. I hear that is a bonding experience as well. My group and I just bike back home, once the crowd disperses with glasses of beer and satisfied smiles. The streets then seem bare, the only sounds: the hum of our tires and the whoosh of the wind in our ears. And for 30 minutes, I belong, lit by the bright moon, embraced by a crowd of strangers on bikes.