The Nugget Casino Resort in Reno has been taking great care of me in the past 3 days, so it’s indeed a bit (subconsciously) sad, that I need to leave to continue travel to Burning Man. This base of operation, temporary studio, and war room is one of the comfiest places I stayed in my life. The sadness is subdued by anxiety and an essence of stress. I need to pack all procured goods into two containers, that will be allowed onto the Burner Express bus that’s scheduled to leave in 2 hours sharp.
Ziplock Spacebags are a work of magic.
I’m packing more clothes and less air, so the mass of costumes is effectively cut in half. The one thing that’s not willing to fit is the sleeping bag. I bought a thicker one because I had no idea about the conditions during the night. I was still suffering from a nasty cold slowly turning into an acute sinusitis (my unfortunate problem), so I chose to be rather safe than sorry. For next year, though, I’ll opt for a thin bag, and thick pyjamas instead. Ultimately, I made it work: large parts of the sleeping bag did stick out of the backpack, but it resembled something that would pass as one piece of luggage. And pass it did.
The hotel did have a lot of Burners checking out that day. Obviously, if the checkout is until 11 am, everybody is going to check between 10 and 11. I realised this the hard way, after desperately waiting and letting full elevators pass for about 20 minutes. In a brief moment of being logical, I hopped onto an elevator going up instead, which turned out to be a cool idea. What comes up, must go down… I almost missed the shuttle, but as Burners tried to fit in their luggage and bikes into the trunk, this gave me the few minutes to get on board. 10 minutes later, we’re parking at Reno Tahoe Airport – seeing nothing but weirdly dressed people. I’m in the right place!
Travel to Burning Man
The Burner Express is one of the best ways to travel to Burning Man. It gets both your sorry ass and stuff into the desert. 15.000 people did use BxB this year, which means about 8.000 less cars in Black Rock City. We do that for mother nature, don’t we? Of course, being able to have a 1 hour stop to buy crap that was sold out at Walmart yesterday, skipping the line at the Gate, and eventually being let into the city when everybody else is put on hold due to whiteouts (dust storms when you don’t see shit that’s 5 meters away) is a very nice bonus.
The organisation of BxB is fantastic.
You immediately get the snarky taste of experienced Burners trying to hold our Birgin (Burner Virgin, a person who is heading to their first Burn) hands. It’s also the point, when you get your Will Call tickets. My god, it’s the most beautiful ticket I ever held in my hands. I get the same goosebumps while recalling the emotions from when I got my burner starter pack. Minutes later, we’re on our way.
After the 1 hour shopping stop, I did have the bare minimum of burner survival material. All of it, but one item – a collapsible water container. See, BxB lets you buy water in 5 gallons quantity and pick it up in the desert. Turning on the much needed MacGyver skills, I bought a solar shower, which is exactly 5 gallons. This worked, except the water tasted like shit (but it was water). I solved this problem later on in the week when we had some empty containers in the camp. Btw., BxB also lets you bring your bike in and out, which was funny – cause I did buy that extra, but I didn’t get a bike. Since Walmart was out of bikes, I needed to rent one last minute for a huge pile of money.
The real travel to Burning Man (Starts at Gerlach)
I thought passing Gerlach meant being in Black Rock City in next 5 minutes. Wrong! I didn’t really know what I was looking at when the bus stopped in the endless traffic jam. It was, in fact, the city covered in a nasty dust cloud. After about 30 minutes, Rangers (the good ones) started to turn trailers around back towards Pyramid Lake. Just as I thought we’re being turned around as well, the ranger made a gesture and the bus bursted into a mad party.
We’re being let in! As we were passing cars, and dusty burners waiting in line, some of them were not looking super happy. Well, fuck their burn. As we were slowly rolling towards the Gate, I opted for rather watching yoga girls doing their art, and really hoped to get to know some of them later. Our bus got checked (tickets), and as we didn’t have anybody stupid unlucky enough to have falsified tickets, we were good to go.
We parked at the depot, and quickly ran to see the Greeters.
There was none of them at the bell. Well, let’s hug and greet ourselves. And ring the bell. “Virgin” does not seem to be a popular word around here. Every Birgin is kind of whispering the magic formula while they smash the bell with a rebar. “Fuck iiiit, I’m not a virgin anymoooore”. I’m shouting without any shame. The bell rings, I’m covered in dust from rolling around, accidentally kicking another burner’s head. 5 seconds in, and I’m already a jaded Burner (it’s those bitter folks who’ll always tell you how last year was way better). I’m Home.
The dust storm is settling. I have all my stuff, including a cardboard box with everything I bought during the shopping stop. I have 4 pieces of luggage, which I’m trying to tie together on a journey that should only take me across about 8 blocks. What I didn’t know – it was about 4km of walking. The people I’m passing by are mostly nice. They greet me with “welcome home” (except for the Redneck camp where I’m told to “fuck my burn”). About half way through, I’m passing by two really nice ladies, who ask me if I need help.
As you would expect from a good comedy movie, at that point all my luggage collapsed, and all the canned food started to roll down the street. “Ok, we help you!” Those two awesome chicks were from Mexico. They were hot, super nice, and after they helped me, hugged me and kissed me, I never saw them again. Good for me, I’m a married man without a Burning Pass (when your significant other gives you a free pass to fuck other people at Burning Man).
Minutes later, we’re in the camp. It’s in an awesome location (almost next to Center Camp), in an awesome neighbourhood (google Planned Playahood and Orgy Dome), and it’s deserted. It’s about to get dark, so I better get going to build tents. I bought two of them: one large, serving as a dust cover, and a smaller one to be put inside where I only am going to sleep, dust free. As you might have guessed, I never even unpacked the smaller one and trashed it as first thing back at Reno.
Midway through, my campmates come back and we hug. In Black Rock City, everybody hugs and it’s nice. While remembering my childhood, where you were supposed to procure tent poles out of nearby wood, I was facerolling through the process, inhaling dust the amazing atmosphere of this District 9 – like city. It got dark, and still felt so surreal…
I am pretty tired. I did not manage to pick up my bike, so I’m thinking to call it a day. Or not? Let’s just head out for a short walk to see what’s around. Since I see quite some bikes rolling, I decide to take whatever light source I have. This is always a good decision in Black Rock City.
Darkwads are a problem, especially early days. After that (and few unnecessary bruises), even tourists get the message. With a headlamp and a glow-stick tied to my ass, I make my way out of the camp for a short walk. At least, I planned it to be short.
What I immediately notice are the colors. There is a fortune worth of EL wire on the Playa. Suddenly, I’m all surrounded by light. It’s becoming overwhelming already. “It’s just day one, wait for Saturday”, my campmates tell me later. Residing near Center Camp, I thought it might not be that bad of an idea to get closer to the Man.
It’s getting chilly, but there’s a fair mass of people converging on the biggest orientation point in Black Rock Desert for coming days. From afar, the Man looks intimidating. Coming closer, I realized I expected him to be much taller, though. To be absolutely honest, I felt lost within the mass of happy faces, but felt accomplished for making it out here.
Walking around the perimeter, I caught a glimpse of Galaxia – the Temple. At this point, fatigue was irrelevant and I stepped ahead towards the pilgrimage. Construction was still ongoing. But my god, it was already the most beautiful piece of architecture I’ve ever seen. It’s almost midnight, so I’m making my way back to the camp. Some clubs along the way are already buzzing, others (like Neu Verboten and Ego Trip) are still being built.
Ok, so maybe I might go out one more time tonight 🙂
While we don’t have a real fireplace at the camp, there’s something like a fireplace talk going on, as we try to get to know each other. It’s a diverse gang of very nice people I’ll be spending 9 days with. As I notice coffee withdrawal symptoms, I get some more water and think of laying down, when folks decide to go dancing. I’m hesitant, but they offer me a bike that’s waiting for a campmate. I’m curious how city exploration works in a larger group, so I’m in.
It’s hard to believe money does not work in a place like this. Hell, even barter is frowned upon here. Everything is gifted, and I’m struggling with the concept (as much as probably every other first time Burner), so I observe.
“Hey guys, would you like a drink?” “Yes please, what you got?”
It’s surreal. I’m getting a Sake and a cocktail moments later, as I’m vibing to breakbeat music. We’re drinking in a place called “Duck Pond”, which is a mid-sized club with a very thoughtful layout. Breaks aren’t really our thing, so after finishing drinks, we’re going next door to Celtic Chaos. While I don’t know the DJ, the music is nice. Time is flowing, so I’m surprised at first that some people are heading back to the camp.
Suddenly it’s 3 in the morning and I’m falling asleep. Like a baby.