Sunday, July 13, 2014

Antelope by Moonlight

There's not much I like more than riding my bike - except riding my bike with my family!

This weekend brought Antelope by Moonlight, a novel and family-friendly bike ride that promised glow sticks, a late night, and lots of fun - the perfect combo for our family!

Antelope by Moonlight is held on Antelope Island, the largest island in the Great Salt Lake.  We decided to camp on the island to make it a proper adventure (and avoid a sleepy drive home at 2 am).

As soon as we arrived we let Daddy set up camp while we got down to business - it was time to decorate the bikes! Two tubes of glow sticks later we had glow-tastic bicycles, a campsite ready for our very late night/early morning bedtime, and it was time to head to the ride.

Here's the "after" picture of Ben's bike. He took his spoke decorating very seriously.
Daddy was such a trooper hauling both the Trail-a-Bike and trailer! I'm pretty sure that all of the glow sticks Sasha and WanYing put on the bike handlebars were a continual source of inspiration for him.
Off we go! It was such a beautiful night for a ride.
Perfect weather, relatively low bug levels, and 4 very energetic kiddos made for a fantastic 26 miles. We started the ride at about 9:30 and got back to our campsite tired (or asleep in the case of the girls - that's why we brought the trailer) and happy at 1:30 am. The boys were such troopers pushing through all 26 miles with just a few short breaks to rest on the asphalt (Ben described the pavement as "pillowy" - I think his butt was pretty sore by that point so anything felt good as long as it wasn't a bike seat). And Daddy was the real hero towing 100 pounds of girl and trailer!

The best part of the ride was definitely seeing all of the decorated bikes in a glowing line stretched out all down the island road. The crowd was fun and friendly. And the giant full moon illuminated the whole landscape.

What an amazing evening!

Of course, camping on what is basically a desert island meant that we had no shade and woke to bright sunshiny skies at 7:30 am. Groan. Steve and the kids graciously let me sleep in a little longer and our new trailer provided us all with some extra room to play and lounge, but by 8:30 it was getting hot and it was time to go play in the Great Salt Lake.

The boys love sleeping in "The Annex"

All packed up and ready for the second half of our Antelope Island adventure
I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but although we've lived in Utah for a dozen years we've never gone swimming in the Great Salt Lake. We decided this was the year to fix this clear failure in our kids' upbringing.

So we grabbed umbrellas, snacks, towels, and all of the beach paraphernalia and walked out to the lake.

The verdict? The Great Salt Lake is weird and a little bit gross, but a lot of fun. We managed to find a good place to set up our umbrella after the line of bird carcasses but before the clouds of gnats. Both of those are categorized under the "weird and gross" parts of the lake. The gnat clouds are strangely memorizing and most of them move out of the way in billowy waves in front of you so you don't actually have to walk through them. Mostly.

But once you get through the gnats to the water it's not so bad. The temperature is great, the water is clean, and the whole lake is beautifully shallow and calm. Just don't get any water in your eyes, otherwise you have to make it back to shore through teary eyes and gnat clouds to your towel (don't go past it or you'll end up amid the bird carcasses!) to pour some precious water from your bottle into your eyes.

And the floating is amazing. The Great Salt Lake is somewhere around 20% (for comparison, sea water is 3.5%) and it was worth braving the bugs and dead birds for the sensation of floating in those waters. It's tough to describe the feeling - Steve and I could float while sitting indian style in the water without having to tread water. It was so cool.

It's tough to see, but if you click on this picture you can see the clouds of gnats rising around Sam
After showers (thank you, God, for coin-operated showers) and root beer floats to replenish our energy stores we headed out on the final leg of our Antelope Island expedition - buffalo hunting. Antelope Island is home to about 700 buffalo from a heard of 12 that was brought to the island in the late 1800's. Already that trip we had seen antelope and deer and it was time to track down some tatonka.

I think we're on the right track
Ta dah! Our adventure is complete! Buffalo, antelope, and deer spotted. 26 miles conquered in highly luminescent style. Great Salt Lake experienced. Yep, our first Antelope by Moonlight was a stunning success.

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