On Tap for PedalGR – Moonlight Rides

Moon Over The Lake (by Jheat)
Flickr user: jheat/ / CC BY-NC 2.0

Sunday night I invited Amy to go for a cruise to Millennium Park to take advantage of the nearly full moon and awesome weather.  We headed out around around 9:20pm and enjoyed one of the best rides I’ve had all summer.

The new trail from the Coca-Cola factory is silky smooth.  I can’t wait for all of Kent Trails to get the same treatment.  When we got to the entrance to the new Meijer Millennium Trail, I turned off the lights.  The moon lit up the night like a mini-sun.  When it shone on the trees at the right angle, it turned them an eerie silver color, almost like they were made of aluminum.  Once our eyes adjusted, even the areas under the tree canopy seemed lit well enough to see adequately.

The night was almost perfectly still and when we stopped at the observation deck overlooking two old gravel pits we could hear the fish splashing while the moon and the brightest stars were reflected in the water.   Despite the faint sound of I-196 and the mosquitoes who thought it was dinner time, it was a truly beautiful experience.

We encountered a deer on the way back, bounding across the trail 25-30 feet in front of us.  Just close enough to scare the crap out of us.  I’m sure we did the same to it.  We came across another rider as we were leaving the trail by the Coca-Cola plant, the only person we encountered the whole ride.

More people need to learn the joy of bicycling by moonlight.  To this end, I will be scheduling some PedalGR full moon night rides to Millennium Park where we can all go without lights if there is enough moonlight to do so safely.  I’ll figure out the exact times and post them here.  I’m thinking that XC ski trips may be a possibility once the trails are hidden by the cold, white stuff.  The moonlight can be even more dramatic when the landscape is covered in reflective snow! Plus, my skis didn’t leave the garage last winter and that’s just a shame!

Of course, I geeked out a bit.  Researching the date of every full moon from now until next October, I compiled the sunset, moonrise, astronomical twilight (complete dark), moonset, and sunrise into a spreadsheet using sunrisesunset.com.  Then I added in graphics showing the path of the moon through the sky from WolframAlpha (an amazing tool).  Check out the results below.

Click to geek out to my tables and graphics

Route Ideas

This is the interactive part of the PedalGR, where you tell me where you want the next rides to go.  Here are a few ideas I’ve been batting around in my head:

  • Riverside Park and surrounding neighborhoods
  • Tour de Hummus – this is my favorite but also the most work.  I would ideally like to line up 6-8 restaurants that serve hummus and are willing to serve up some samples to our riders.  We would ride from one place to another sampling the hummus and then there would be a vote at the end.
  • Heritage Hill – A ride focusing on the streets and houses of one of the largest continguous historic districts in the nation.
  • Downtown GR – This ride would stay close to home and focus on exploring the downtown and immediately surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Alleys of Grand Rapids – This ride would focus on touring the backalleys of Grand Rapids, exploring the more up-close and personal side of the houses and yards of the city.
  • School tour – This ride would focus on visiting as many schools as possible in a couple of sections of town.  With enough lead time, I could try to arrange for a tour of one or two facilities.
  • Ice Cream – Everyone loves ice cream.  This ride would visit a couple of my favorite places, and pass by a few more.
  • Garden Tour – Pick and choose a few spectacular gardens in different neighborhoods and visit them up close.
  • Photography Tour – Pick 3-4 ideal sites and spend 15-20 minutes at each doing a sort of mini-photowalk where the focus is taking pictures of the site.
  • Millenium Park and Orchard Tour – Ride Kent Trails to Millennium Park and then visit an orchard or two just to the NW.

So, I want your feedback.  Which ideas do you like?  Which don’t you like?  Would you be willing to help organize a particular ride?  What great neighborhood, site, or idea am I missing?  I’d love to see lots of comments following this entry.  Don’t disappoint the ride captain! 🙂