photos by Daniela Buvat

Prom-themed, moon-lit, beer-drinking: bike ride.

This is the story of how I half-drunkenly biked 15 miles with 300 strangers in the middle of St. Louis, Missouri without water, a bike light or sense of direction.

Founded in June of 2016, the Ghost Ride Cycle Club in St. Louis exists solely to bring people together. Like their Facebook page states, “Ghost Ride Cycle Club is an illusion. We are nothing more than a few people that like to ride bikes and have a good time.”  After many attempts to get in contact with the founders of the Ghost Ride Cycle Club, I realized how truly exclusive this type of experience was about to be. Everything was to be kept a secret, until the day of the actual ghost ride. I was in for quite a journey.

Each Ghost Ride is uniquely equipped with several different stops and surprises, such as slip and slide parties and bonfires. Every full moon, the Ghost Ride Cycle Club funds and orchestrates a giant citywide bike ride to promote health, safe biking and just having a ball. On the first full moon of October, I decided to go for a ride.

save the bees daniela buvat

After aimlessly circling for miles, my childhood best friend, Calli, and I eventually found the meeting location. The other 300 riders stood below a flagpole at Tower Grove Park, dressed in ridiculously spot-on ‘90s attire.

This month’s theme is “90s Full Moon Formal,” which explains the suit and ties paired with biker shorts and scrunchies.

Everyone is drinking PBRs and craft brews. It’s pretty obvious that this is a hip and well-seasoned bikers crowd. The bikers range from young teens looking for an adventurous school night to 35-year-old eco-friendly street bikers who are seeking exercise and an excuse to drink beer.

After making a hodgepodge of friends, I learn that their experiences with the Ghost Ride were pretty varied. Some are newcomers who are eager to join this biking community, while others have done it 10 or 20 times.

Some seasoned riders explain that they never know the route or the stops. They just need to trust the pack.

A beautifully dressed man in a tuxedo named Pork walks over and tells me about “spoke cards,” a donation system that keeps this organization running.

“We ask for donations in exchange for these uniquely printed cards that you can put in the spokes of your bike to show off how many times you’ve ghost rode with us,” Pork says. If it weren’t for these donations, they wouldn’t be able to pay for the beer and lock down the mystery destinations.

As 8:30 p.m. rolls around, three men on bikes with gigantic speakers in  pedicabs circle around us. They bump smooth ‘90s R&B tunes. The Ghost Ride is about to start, and everyone follows at their own speed.

Calli and I try to find where we would fit in speedwise. We are quickly left in the dust and I worry we will never catch up. The wave of flashing bike lights and sound of antiquated tunes get farther and farther away.

A scrawny and sweaty middle-aged man named Chris pedals up next to us. He rocks nautical swim trunks and a towel around his neck. Little did I know, he would become our biker guardian angel.

“Are you with the bike gang too?” Chris asks.

“Yes, and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing,” I reply as I wipe the sweat created by my glittery turtleneck top. I’m not lying. I have no idea what in the world I just got myself into.

“Follow me, I’ll take you to them. All we have to do is listen for the slow jams,” Chris says.

After about nine miles, we see the wave of red and blue bike lights flashing in front of us and hear the deep bass of the ‘90s dance music. It’s like Chris is leading us to heaven. A sense of relief washes over me as I roll up on the unkempt crowd of bikers rocking spandex and tuxedos. A sense of relief one could only experience during a Ghost Ride.

We arrive just in time.

Everyone parks their bikes. Like clockwork, one of the giant pedi-cab speaker bikers turns on laser lights inside a floodwall tunnel and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” starts blasting. The bikers go nuts, and start shaking off the nine miles by grooving.

People in tacky prom dresses and teeny biker shorts are all around us. A bike is parked in the middle of the dance floor, proudly waving the St. Louis flag.

There are men rolling around on rollerblades, wearing velvet tuxedos and sporting mullets. It was like a scene out of an anachronistic dream. Nothing makes sense, but everyone is cool with it.

Someone rings an alarm and pairs it with a wolf howl. “Awoooo, Ghost Riders!” That is our indicator to begin the final stretch of our ride.

We begin to slowly make our ascent up a hill past the Gateway Arch. We ride by the light of the moon. Somehow,we are in downtown St. Louis, and there is no traffic — just bikes as far as the eye can see. Partiers cheer us on as if we are doing something charitable. The energy in the air is happy and vivid. All we can feel is the bass of the beats booming behind us.

Suddenly we stop. The bikers throw their kickstands down on what seems to be an abandoned street. The second stretch has only lasted six miles. Another wave of relief hits me. I can finally relax and drink some water.

Calli and I follow the crowd into the only storefront that looks like it might be open. A glowing Budweiser sign hangs above a bodega-style market with chains still covering it. It doesn’t even resemble a bar, as it has clear advertisements for sales on shampoo and spirits. Nonetheless, people begin entering through the barricades into what seems like a giant abyss of a dance floor.

Breakdancing, singing and lap dances: Everything that would normally happen at a 30-plus bar in the middle of East St. Louis on a Thursday night after riding 15 miles almost aimlessly. There is chaos and love in the air.

With a crown adorning on his head, a man named Stu dances around us. “It’s like a family you meet through this. I couldn’t imagine not doing this every full moon.”