Charley’s ride across america 5. Flow


Day 8 feb 4.   51.5 miles 4:40 temp 40-60, sunny perfect , 3 pit bulls, very close. stay in Bonifay

Day 9. Feb 5.  60 miles 5:40 cloudy, 60 degrees high, lots of traffic. Stay in Crestview

Running total 443

“ Start slow, then taper” 

A mantra I borrowed from the ultra- runners That I can apply to long distance cycling.

Dear friends and family,

Picture this

It’s the end of a long hard sweaty day and I am within a couple of miles of my hotel for the night in the center of Tallahassee. I  pedal hard with gravity’s help down a long hill to a traffic light at the bottom. It feels good and I’m in a high gear- almost there. I have to wait for the light so I unclip from the pedals. The light turns green and as I step down on the pedal I realize I’ve left it in the highest gear, so barely move forward across the street while standing and pushing on that hard pedal crazily weaving back and forth. As I grip the handlebar I accidentally bump my key fob alarm and a loud noise similar to a car alarm comes squawking out of my bike from the middle of the intersection. All I can give is the biggest grin to all the people in waiting cars as I wonder what they must be thinking.

Email what you think they might be thinking.

How on earth could the experience of sitting on a bike, pushing and pulling pedals, dodging traffic, weighing nearly 296 pounds (bike 28, gear 60, me at 208)and  rolling over roads and trails for 5-7 hours at a time, be so darn enjoyable?

Frankly, the first five miles of the day, and depending on my undercalculations of distance, the last 7-10 miles per day  can be tough, but the middle 4 to 6 hours can bring eudaimonia, for those of you who like Greek words.

Pushing the body. Sweating so much that there’s no need to urinate all day. Being within feet of potential killer vehicles. And still…

When I was in college I studied philosophy ( I have a minor) looking for a philosophy of life, a way to think about life, a path to follow. All the philosophers I studied had great discussion material, but never a strategy for living that could bring happiness ( there it is, the rough translation for eudaimonia). Neither FLOW or Stoicism ever came up in college

A writer I’ve studied a lot ( read all his books, often several times) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is thought to be the father of FLOW,. He defines the flow state as “ a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter, the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”.

Is it possible that long distance bicycle touring can bring one into that FLOW  state?

To achieve the flow state Mihaly believes that there are eight factors to achieve.

 Let’s look at them and compare to this trip:

  1. Complete concentration on the task: I would say I have complete concentration due to risks involved
  2. Clarity of goals with immediate feedback: I want to continue to make progress, don’t overwork my body, get towards my destination, track speed and distance.
  3. Transformation of time,speeding up and slowing down: sometimes two hours can slip by, other times it takes a seeming hour to ride for a minute
  4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding: I like riding my bike across the country. There’s something magical about the bicycle as a means of movement.
  5. Effortlessness and ease: I don’t usually think about the power being used to push pedals around.
  6. There is a balance between challenge and skills: I’m just learning and sometimes feel like I’ve jumped into the deep end. Physicality, navigation, steering, all challenging.
  7. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self conscious rumination: see all of the above
  8. There is a feeling of control over the task: feels obvious ( pay attention to a future writing about who controls the bike😏)

The pursuit of eudaimonia, or happiness,  is the goal of achieving the FLOW state. It is also the goal of a practicing Stoic. Both use the same word. It’s wonderful when words and worlds seem to come together. 

So then to summarize: long distance touring can bring one into a flow state to achieve happiness above our normal threshold. If added to practicing Stoicism  maybe two levels above the base happiness threshold?

Or maybe solo touring causes…             you fill in the answer.

I’ve got my experiment to try out!

Stay tuned.

Love to you all,

The Monster

( as I rested in the shade next to a convenient store a big red truck pulls aggressively right next to me. Out comes a big cowboy, six foot six, muscles,tattoos, boots and hat. Walks right up to me and says “ where’d you ride from?” 

I answered “ St Augustine”.

Then “ And where ya headin?”

“ San Diego”

“ You are a monster”

And he walks in the store.

FLOW state

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