I cycle therefore I think
By Ron Cunningham, GLOB Correspondent
EDITOR's NOTE: Ron Cunningham is a Gainesville cyclist, journalist, and the Executive Director of Bike Florida. The GLOB's bicycle boy is ready to share the contents of the cranium of a long distance cycler.
So one day I was on my way home, sitting on my bike, and waiting for a traffic light on University Avenue to change. Minding my own business as it were. And this woman standing next to me - who apparently recognized me from my column photo in The Sun - asked: "Are you writing something in your head?" As a matter of fact, I was indeed writing something in my head at that moment. I do that a lot. I just couldn't figure out how in the world she knew it.
"Yes," I admitted. "But how did you know?"
"Because your lips are moving," she said.
First, I want to thank that lady for giving me the benefit of the doubt - for not assuming that I go around mumbling incoherently to myself and then edging cautiously away from me. And the truth is, she blew my cover.
To paraphrase Rene Descartes "I cycle therefore I think."
Listen, I could go on all day about the joys and benefits of cycling. It keeps you physically fit. It is the most efficient and self-sufficient personal transportation machine ever invented. It saves you a ton of money on gas. It makes you more attractive to the opposite sex (OK, I made that last one up).
But all of the above is not really why I ride. In this always-connected, 24-hour-news-cycle, friend-me-this-instant world of ours, my bicycle gives me the most two precious gifts imaginable:
The gift of solitude and the gift of introspection. I'm not one of those guys who loves to ride in packs, in a pace line, milking my body and my machine for maximum efficiency. I don't particularly enjoy the pack mentality.
No, I ride because I am extraordinarily comfortable in my own company. And, frankly, I don't get enough "me time" in my daily life. Whatever else it has done for me, cycling has made me a better writer (even when I"m not moving my lips) and a more keen observer of the world around me. It's made me a a more creative person. I've been a professional journalist for more than four decades, but I believe my writing moved to another level when I became a cyclist.
There's something about the mechanics of moving across the landscape under one's own power, the attraction of the road, that lends itself to thoughtful contemplation. And it's not at all the experience you get when you encase yourself in the cocoon of a modern day automobile/entertainment center.
I cycle therefore I think.
Case in point: I have a tradition of riding my age on my birthday. Most recently that meant a 67-mile ride from my house in Gainesville to the community of Hastings, several miles east of Palatka. It took me about six hours to get from here to there. And along the way, among other things, I:
Composed my next Sunday column for the Gainesville Sun (probably with my lips moving).
Came up with three other column ideas.
Mentally edited a speech I had already given and rewrote it in case I ever had to give it again.
Came up with new ideas for Bike Florida small group bicycle tours.
Worked on a new media strategy for Bike Florida.
Went over the details of our upcoming week-long Bike Florida Caverns to Springs Tour (there are a thousand and one details, and more...it's like moving a small town every other day).
Tried to remember the lyrics of every Beatles song I ever knew. Sang some of them outloud (with lips moving). Got some of the lyrics wrong.
Thought about shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings.
Contemplated life, the universe, and everything.
Wondered why Rick and the other survivors of The Walking Dead keep heading toward D.C. when they could hold out against the zombie apocalypse much better behind the stout walls of Fort Clinch, over in Fernandina Beach.
Processed random thoughts.
Solved the world's problems.
Wondered why Barack Obama hadn't called yet.
Contemplated writing the great American novel. Decided not to.
The point being that there was a lot going on upstairs while I was covering all of that territory. I wasn't texting, emailing, updating, checking in, or streaming. I was thinking thoughts deep and shallow, silly and sublime. And not for an instant was I bored with the company I was keeping.
Back in the day, when my kids were long-distance swimmers, I used to wonder what went through their minds while they were swimming the mile competition. If they were anything like me, they were thinking about everything And anything.
The art of cycling concentrates the mind. And the art of cycling alone concentrates the mind wonderfully. I cycle therefore I think.