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In 1964, someone had an idea for a nighttime activity in downtown St. Louis, namely bicycling through the city, starting from Union Station - at midnight.  That first time, it was a one-man show, as the only person who showed up was the organizer.  But over time, the idea caught on, and 49 years later, the event is still going on, having gone through a number of changes, with a bit of puzzlement behind it at times.  In fact, if you hadn't already clicked on the link, the event is tonight.  More below the flip....

To fill in a bit more of the back story of how the Moonlight Ramble (originally the Midnight Ramble) got started, the official history page says (BTW, HI = Hostelling International):

"In October 1964, Dick Leary, a ride leader for the Ozark Area Council of American Youth Hostels (the forerunner of Gateway Council, HI-USA), organized an urban nighttime bicycle ride, starting at midnight at St. Louis Union Station. Unfortunately, no one else showed up, so Dick was the sole participant in the first Moonlight Ramble."
Fortunately, things got better the year after, and after that:
"He tried again the next year and a few more people showed up. Even more came the following year and by the early 1970s the ride was drawing thousands of participants. Since this was a leisurely ride rather than a race, it had broad appeal. It was known early as the ‘Midnight Ramble’ but has been the ‘Moonlight Ramble’ since the 1970s."
With time, the Ramble became Gateway Council, HI-USA's largest annual event and fund-raiser.  The purpose of the fund-raising was eventually to get an HI-affiliated hostel built in St. Louis.  However, over the years, the hostel never seemed to get built.  One blogger back in 2005, "Steve" at Urban Review STL, wrote about it here, and said pretty bluntly:
"To me it says we’ve been suckered into supporting a ride with the impression that we’re supporting hosteling. In defense of the Gateway Council they do seem to appear to have a long list of local bike rides and hikes. Outdoor activities is [sic] certainly a part of the mission of Hosteling International.

Reading through the Gateway Council’s newsletter archives I found a number of references to a new hostel. All reference hoping [sic] to open a hostel by 2007. It appears attempts were made to purchase and renovate one of our many closed schools for a hostel. A 2003 annual report (page 2) says the national organization is not focusing on creating new hostels so the local group is on their own. I found one site on cheap places to say in the St. Louis area which said, “They have just signed a contract on a building in downtown St. Louis and hope to have a 100 bed, year-round facility close to Union Station by the spring of 2002.” So they’ve been trying to open a hostel for quite a few years?"

One such attempt looked at a building in Old North St. Louis, the former Mullanphy Emigrant Home, as collected in several blog posts from the Old North St. Louis Blog here.  However, the idea of converting this site into an HI-Hostel never came to fruitition, although general restoration work is apparently still going on with the Mullanphy building separately, per this blog post from January 2013.

In the end, the Gateway Council just couldn't pull it off, or survive in general, for that matter, as in June 2012, per this blog post by the past organizer of the Ramble, which mentioned that in the wake of choices by the central leadership of HI-AYH, the Gateway Council voted to dissolve itself.  The Ramble then passed into the hands of Emmis Marketing Group, which counts among its holdings a number of local radio stations, like a classic rock station, a right-wingnut (sorry) talk radio station, and the alternative station.  Emmis turned the Ramble away from a fund-raiser for a hostel into a general charitable event, where they pick charities where they'll send the proceeds from the event.  For this year, irony of ironies, if you looked at the Ramble's page, one of the designated charitable organizations this year is ..... HI-USA.  Go figure.  (The other beneficary is Kingdom House.)

So even if the Ramble no longer supports the intended purpose of building a hostel, it's still a nice community-styled event where lots of people from all over, with their bicycles, come together for a unique social happening.  (The one loser aspect of the evening, since this is Loser's Club, are the people who crash the ride without paying.  There are always those people.  So it's not the event itself, but people who cheat the event out of funds.)  This year, 2013, marks the 50th Moonlight Ramble, and thus 2014 will mark the 50th anniversary Ramble.  

We'll see how it all goes.  For one, self will be there, rather than here, so yes, this is another absentee landlord SNLC.  We'll see when, and if, I get back in one piece to follow up with comments and mojo.  In the meantime, of course, you can observe the usual SNLC protocol, namely your loser stories of the week.  Mine even involves bicycling, though not tonight (yet)......

Originally posted to chingchongchinaman on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 07:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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