You simply cannot know what kind of ride you are going to have when you start the engine.
I woke up at five o’clock this morning feeling excellent. Hard to say why but I see no reason to harass this gift horse to open its mouth just to find out. Even better, it was a perfect time for a dawn ride. When it was time to leave, it began to rain. I checked the radar and discovered a small cell had moved in but would pass in a couple of hours. I just was not up to getting wet first thing, so I decided to wait out the rain.
The rain stopped an hour later and it was finally time to go. As I was pulling out of the garage, I noticed the bike felt sluggish and resisted my efforts to move it. This sluggishness was worrisome and left me not trusting my bike to do what I would be asking of it. Not sure what was going on, I carefully went forward with the ride. By the main road I was riding in an apparently normal manner but that odd feeling remained. I suspected the rear tire was involved. When I arrived at the coffee shop twenty minutes later, someone passing by said, “that tire looks low to me.” In fact, now the tire did look low to me, too. This was all feeling too uncomfortable for me, so I decided to ride to the motorcycle shop five miles away so the problem could get sorted out. Sure enough, we come to discover the rear tire had a screw in it. Motorcycle tires do not get repaired, they get replaced, so by now it was clear I would be at the shop for at least 90 minutes — finding eudaimonia today would not be happening on my Vulcan. The thing is, though, a ride rarely takes you where you think it will be taking you.
After the mechanic was done, the Vulcan functioned perfectly in every regard, as if it had just received a tune-up. And nothing excites a rider like a tuned and tight bike under him. With the excitement fueling my every movement, I felt my body and mind searching for a pocket of eudaimonia to drop into in the mist of all that downtown traffic. The pocket I found was truly out of the blue but one familiar to any bike messenger, a job I did forty years ago.
I did a brief stint as a bike messenger in Manhattan during the 1970’s, an experience I recall with great fondness. In becoming a bike messenger, you developed some pretty impressive bike handling skills. You have to because It is a simple matter of survival: you cannot ride eight hours a day, five days a week, delivering a dozen packages a day without those skills. It was here I learned what it meant for me and my bike to join in a Zen manner as I danced down 42nd Street, pirouetted around car doors while identifying blind spots before they even occurred as well as the occasional rolling off a car hood only to get back on your bike before anyone knew what just happened. While downtown Sarasota is no Manhattan, and I certainly do not want to be rolling off car hoods on a 600 pound motorcycle, midday traffic still presented me with its share of challenges.
I begin to dance through traffic with smooth, quick moves in relatively tight quarters. I entertained myself for a good thirty minutes doing this and was reminded that the experience of speed is more a state of mind than your actual velocity. The “speed” I am talking about is in reference to assessing and acting on the traffic situation unfolding around you. The bike velocity is not that relevant as you can experience this kind of speed without ever going above 35 mph: the conversation between you and your bike is happening as if you both just had a triple mocha with extra chocolate.
As a matter of fact, this frame of mind may have helped avoid a crash. I noticed a driver in front of me who did not appear to notice me. I cannot tell you what I exactly saw as I do not believe I was conscious of it: I only had an intuitive sense to move to the far edge of my lane. As I did this the driver begins to change lanes with a noncommittal drift, all without signaling and creating the perfect confused communication. My safest option was to gun it pass the car, which I did in less than two seconds. As I passed by I caught the shock on her face in seeing someone there. As often happen at these moments, drivers who know they are at fault slow down and sheepishly drop off wanting to create distance between both of you. And this is fine since you usually you are wanting as much distance as possible between you and such drivers in the first place.
What I find interesting about such a minor traffic tempest, as well as the bike messenger experience, is you get to know first hand how much of your riding is not conscious. You process quite of bit of information when riding, too much to be conscious of all of it all the time. Consider we only attend to and recall about seven items (referred as Miller’s Law in honor of the researcher who described this in the 1950’s). Unconsciously, however, we process a lot more than seven pieces of information, so it really is the way to go if you can let it happen that way — exactly what evolution did for hundreds of millions of years before consciousness arrived pretty late to the party of life itself. The thing is not to let the tail wag the dog here: you need to trust your non-conscious processes to do their job. That intuitive sense you have riding? It is likely a vague sense of your non-conscious mind at work. By the time of the near accident, I was well into my eudaimonic state of mind in which I fully trust my intuition decisions and not getting in the way of acting on them. Remaining present for such golden moments is a vital skill because it is the beginning of nurturing them into further fruition.
Heavy stuff, I know, so let me end this on one of my favorite Popeye and Bluto cartoons. Popeye and Bluto are having one of their wacky battles, throwing everything they can get their hands on from their respective burger joints across the street from each other. Wimpy (remember him?) is standing in between them with all sorts of items flying overhead, simply wanting a burger. In the middle of this chaos Wimpy sticks his hands up and starts to pull specific items out of the stream of flying objects to assemble a table with chairs, table-cloth, a centerpiece, utensils and finally a plated burger on a bun. Those clever cartoonists were making a statement: you get the things you want by astutely capitalizing on whatever the moment gives you, however it gives it to you. I certainly didn’t expect a Popeye Bluto and Wimpy moment that would result in my reliving the eudaimonia of being a Manhattan bike messenger, all kick started by going to the shop to have a flat fixed. But I did stick my hands up to grab what I needed as it was flying by, and that is point when it comes to achieving eudaimonia.
May You Always Enjoy The Ride