Burning Man 2009 – Part II – The Road to Adventure

It took Danielle and I many weeks of preparation to go to Burning Man. It started with the official “Burning Man Survival Guide”, which is actually published byBurning Man. Danielle and I are both avid campers but even so some different conditions on this particular excursion made it so that minor outfitting was in order. For instance, Dani needed to order a good set of goggles to deal with the dust. She also purchased dust masks although I went with just bandanna’s to shield myself from the dust. I bought a Zulu pith helmet. That is the name of that funky hat you’ve seen me in.

Pith helmets are made of “pith” wood which is the tender heart of certain types of softwood trees. The wood is spongy and if you dunk the hat in water it will soak it up. Wearing it throughout the day will keep your head cool as it evaporates. Perfect desert attire and just zany enough for an event like this.

We had most of our other provisions already. I had MREs to bring for food and water/booze we would purchase in Reno before heading out.

While on the plane we reviewed some of our more interesting provisions. For one, our “gifts”. Dani made me a bunch of frogs:

She had made herself a bunch of flowers in similar form. She decided that compared to my dashing pith helmet her head piece was far too dull so she dressed it up. Frogs and flowers:

Luckily we made it only checking 1 bag each. Our flight left at 4am and we made it Dallas in quick time to meet up with our friend Michele (zkitty). And from there we flew into Reno and picked up our rent a car at the airport. While Michele was getting the car I commandeered her hat to see how it compared to my helmet. You can also see most of our junk. Michele brought more than we did.

Upon leaving the airport Dani went nuts taking photos. The mountains were a novel sight to her eyes. She’d never been out this far west and certainly not hiking in the mountains like I’d been. So it was a flurry of photos, which turned out to be nice “pre-playa filth” photos:

1. Leaving the Airport

After we left the airport we headed over to “Trader Joe’s” for their famous 2-buck chuck wine. I picked up a couple of bottles of scotch, a few bottles of wine, port, vodka, and rum. 3 cases of 2-buck chuck (though now it is more like 3 buck). We had to go to WalMart because the grocery selection was crap at Trader Joes and picked up things like water and propane. We brought so much wine because one of the requirements of staying at our “camp village” was to bring a case of wine per person. You see when you go to burning man you want to stay at “theme camp” as I had mentioned in Part I. We found this theme camp through Michele who found it through some other friends and got signed up to stay there.

Then it was time to start the driving! What better way to drive then with your good driving hats.

2. Driving with our snazzy hats

3. Tons of RVs en route. It was so easy to spot the other “burners”.

4. Into the foot hills. This area of the country is known as “big sky” for a reason.

5. I promised I wouldn’t share this one but I had my fingers crossed.

6. More big sky

7. Here is where we first saw the “line”

We made it!!!

When you drive up to Burning man you present your ticket, go through a gate and then meet a “greeter”. Our greeter was a topless 30-something English woman. And I do mean quite literally that she was British. Upon arrival a dust storm kicked up and she knocked on the window of the car enthusiastically with a huge smile.I was reluctant to roll it down for all the dust that would come in, but what choice did I have? A woman was mashing her boobs on my window for God’s sakes!

So I rolled the window down and we were formally welcomed home. It is said that the playa is home to the burners. Usually a virgin burner is made to get out of the car, roll around in the dust and ring a bell. Ringing the bell is a symbolic act of leaving something from the outside world behind when you enter the playa. And I can see the worth in the act. Leaving the real world behind is important. You’re about to become childlike again in many ways. If you bring too much protocol and conservatism into this place you’ll ruin your own experience as well as put a damper on others. Its just not the spirit of the place.

Luckily we didn’t really have to ring the bell or roll around. We made M promise to lie to the greeter that we were veterans. But I did make a silent promise to myself that I would let go of some of my stoicism and judgement. I wanted a light and free heart and new eyes to see and feel what might come. And with a shimmy the greeter was off and we continued on, with a car full of dust!

The drive to our camp seemed to take an eternity in the dust. We had to stop frequently because I just couldn’t see anything in front of me. I put on the flashers and prayed we weren’t going to be rear ended, but luckily we made it easily. What did we find?

Well we had a privileged position, 8:30 and Esplande. That is to say at the 8:30 clock position and on the front row. Our camp was called “Spanky’s Wine Bar”. Most of it was already set up and we found our designated camping area and pitched our tents. I paid extra attention to the stakes and driving them into the hard playa. Dani was wise and observed a prevailing west wind so we put our entrances perpendicular to this wind.

After that we relaxed. Explored our camp site. Had some wine at the bar. It was nice. And it set us up for the start of our real adventure.

Part III tomorrow along with more photos..