The inaugural Philosophy Desert Workshop was conspired with two of my mountain biking grad school buddies (David Plunkett and Eliot Michaelson) – a spin-off on the Philosophy Mountain Workshop. We pre-circulate and pre-read six philosophy papers (from all areas of philosophy) and discuss them in the afternoons, over a period of three days. The setting (a serene desert location) and the setup (broad array of papers, pre-read required) encourages collaborative discussion among non-specialists. Participants come, because (a) they want to pitch papers to a general philosophy audience (and deeply engage with areas outside their main research areas) and (b) they want to bike, hike, etc. (Not all participants do b, but most do. In any case, b isn’t required!) The workshop is a way of countering two trends in philosophy: (1) increasing specialization (so, for example, “history people” like myself often find themselves mostly presenting papers to a history audience) and (2) hostile or aggressive conference environments (though I think this is getting better, at least in some circles). It’s basically an awesome place to present work one it trying to tailor to a broader philosophy audience.
Anyway, it seems to have been a success. The discussions were all great. All participants took the time to think deeply about areas outside their research specialties and also helped people working within those specialties re-think their projects and commitments. We also got away with temporarily squatting in the Peace gazebo at the Sedona Creative Life Center, where we were competing for space with time travelers, spoon benders, seance participants and vortex masters. No kidding! (When I was asked where the “seance” was, I had to fight duel urges to laugh and run away.)
(The tentative plan is to to continue the workshop each year. If you’re a philosopher reading this, please let me know whether you’re interested in participating. We really do not want this to be exclusionary, even though it is invite-only. Also, you do not have to be a biker, though it is possible you will be talked into hiking. :-))
We mostly stayed around Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Adobe Jack and the Mescal Trail area. I was really pleased with the diversity of trails we managed to ride, as well as the chance to spend time with old and new philosophy friends. Pictures (featuring Eliot, David, Will and Rob):
Except for fatigue-inducing allergies (I am seriously tired!), I feel great. (I’m getting an allergy shot today, just like I used to as a kid, growing up in the Southwest. I’m allergic to, like, every native species, and I do not need a Tour Divide repeat – i.e., riding blind in New Mexico!) The good news is that I feel strong physically. After a few days in Sedona (and some mild crashes), my technical skills seemed solid enough. My bike has been falling apart, but I think the good folks at Bikes Direct have finally (in record time) sorted every last thing out – new brake pads, new chain, brake bleeding, rebuilt wheels (the nipples disintegrated!), new tires, etc. Knock on wood!
I will try to post my setup before I leave (due to requests), but because of a much-anticipated talk I am giving at Northern Arizona University the night before the race and a much-anticipated talk I am giving at the University of Arizona at the end of the race, things are a bit crazy, and so I will likely post my setup after the race, with a discussion of what worked and did not work. (Notice – these colloquium talks are on the wrong sides of the course, which runs south to north! Also, they are two weeks apart, which means I really do have time constraints. Three out of the four women who have completed the race took around two weeks. But I’m okay with quitting, if I have to.)
Balancing my philosophy and biking commitments has definitely been challenging (these past two months), but I’m managing to manage. The good news is that I won’t want for things to think about during the race. Multi-day bike racing actually requires being able to (sometimes) retreat into your own thoughts. Having things to think about really helps. I recall hearing secondhand that Tour Divide record smasher Lael Wilcox thinks about books and movies. Part of what I love about the multi-day biking is having that time to let my thoughts flow – to see things I wouldn’t otherwise see. When I come back I feel as though I’ve had a mental shower. 🙂
I should say that the biggest difference this time around is – like I mentioned – my riding with only an emergency sleeping bag and super lightweight sleeping pad. I’m basically losing about four or five pounds by not taking my old sleeping bag and tent. I am also going to experiment with riding during the night and sleeping (outside) during the day. Lastly, I am going to sleep less. This is all an experiment. I may have to drop out. I just don’t know. I do know that I will try my very best. And I know I’ll love being in the desert. 🙂 I think the Grand Canyon hike (toward the end of the course) will be a huge motivator.
Anyway, hopefully I can check in here soon, and if not, you can follow the race via my public Facebook posts. I will try to check in here and there, but I don’t think I will have the kind of cellphone access I had during Tour Divide. The AZTR livetracker is here. I still need to register my SPOT, so I’m not yet listed.
Thanks for following along,