September 5, 2013

#BurningMan 2013, part 3

Here is another part of our trip in USA.

Luckily we did preparation ahead!
It had been 6 months since we had been anchored in Pompeii,  Micronesia buying tickets for this event and now the day had finally arrived to see what Burning Man was really all about.  

I had heard of this event many years ago and vaguely new what it was all about…  Fire, art, self expression are just a few of the words that simply describe it but like they say,  pictures are worth a thousand words so I will let Daria’s photos explain it all further.  

What we did know for sure was that the event was a week long and located in Flat Rock City on a dry lake bed about 60 miles NE of Reno, Nevada.  The idea for the event was conceived over 20 years ago and back then only 10 or 15 thousand people attended.  It has since grown to over 60 thousand, people show up in all varieties of vehicles burdened and bulging with everything they need to live in the desert for the next week from all over the world.  

Traffic was backed up 20 miles on the narrow two lane road that wound its way across the desert towards the dry lake bed where the event would be held.  The road turned off into the desert and onto the dry lake bed that was organized with thousands of orange traffic cones separating traffic into a dozen or so lanes.  Hundreds of vehicles were patiently waiting there turn to present their $750 ticket and proceed into the well organized camping area.  

The lake bed was transformed into a self-contained city for the week and street signs and maps were provided to find your way around.  The town was laid out in a big radial with the outbound streets from the center named like time on a watch which made finding your way home easier, you just had to remember what time you are parked on. We were parked on the end of  6:30 and  found our way home pretty easily most of the ”time“…. We also had a book, 200 pages, with all events, where and when you can find it… 

Once parked which was wherever space was available, we unloaded out our bicycles which would be the only form of transportation allowed for the week to have a look around.  Thousands of people were already here and the party had begun.  

One of the first things we noticed was that there was a that there was no dress code.  And when I say no dress code I say it in the most liberal form. It went any where from totally naked to people being pulled around on leashes by their masters to elaborate costumes.  We kept our clothes on a went for the crazy hat look. And one night we were the pirates! Agrrrr…

The main theme of the event is that you are to share what you have with everyone and money is of no use for the week.  Camp sites we rode by would each have a different theme and most had snacks and beverages set up for whoever wanted them.  In return you traded something you had either with swag or at a later time with an event you brought to the party.  The veterans really got into it and we attended some amazing events like one camp that fed sushi to hundreds of hungry campers off of the naked bodies of volunteers.  In the morning there would be bacon hanging on clothes lines and plates of just about anything you wanted to eat somewhere in this crazy town. 

The main and biggest attractions were located north of the center of town a place called the Playa.  In the very center was the main meeting area, a place where coffee was served 24-7 and couches and shade to lounge around on were plentiful.  Just off center was the main structure of Burning Man. The structure is built a little different every year but with the same small stick figure of the Burning Man on top.  This structure is made of 1000’s of board feet of wood and three stories tall.  On the last day the whole creation would go up in flames like many other of the pieces of art  this week. 

Located further out on the Playa was the temple. The temple was built with interlocking high strength laminates and had a stairway you could climb up and  look around on two floors and to exit you went down a big slide from the second story.   It was amazing to see this life size puzzle that was held together with engineering instead of nails, bolts or screws.   It was a place that was very spiritual and would also be burned like a big sacrifice at the end of the week. Every surface in the temple within reach was written on or had notes and pictures placed on them. These notes and pictures were respectfully  placed to remember loved ones who had been lost that year.  

There were other works of art placed randomly around the Plays and most had some relation to fire.  We put lots of miles on the bikes that week but do not feel we experienced but half of the events that went on at all hours of the day.  The nights came alive and the Playa would be the meeting place for many fire breathing creations. Rolling works of art would slowly roll across the Playa and belch  huge fire balls into the sky.  You could tell some people live the rest of the year for this one week since some creations must have took thousands of hours to build.  And a lot of $$$.

It was another big piece of wood art called "Station Peace", built by Russian people.

The younger crowd would party into the wee hours of the morning to blaring music dancing the night away.  Most of these people would sleep the following day away nursing hangovers getting ready for when the sun went down and be ready to do it all over again.  The day people like myself did not mind because if everyone was awake at the same time the place would have been way too crowded.  

The mornings were cool and crisp even in the desert due to the 5000 foot elevation.  It would warm up during the day to the mid 80’s and most afternoons the wind would blow creating massive dust clouds on the Playa.  The busiest roads on the  ancient dry alkaloid lake bed would turn to fine powder after having been loosened by hundreds of bike tires and feet.   The efforts of the water trucks only created mud that would actually make your bike tires actually grow bigger as you rode through it but it did help keep the dust down.  One afternoon we were out and were riding 50 feet apart across the Playa and a wind storm came up and we lost each other in the cloud it generated.  Visibility was cut down to a few feet and you had to just wait it out because you had no idea which direction you were going. 

Thankfully we had an RV and were part of the minority that had enough water to shower each day. After riding around for a few hours our clothes,  legs and feet would be white and caked with the fine dust.  Most campers had limited water or shower facilities and the “leave no trace” rule would not let you even dispose of shower water on the lakebed.  

 We spent 5 days taking it all in and the thought of a 60 mile traffic jam was something I did not want to experience so we loaded up the bikes and left a day early.  By this time there was a fine coating of dust on everything and getting to a place with a hose to wash it all off sounded really good to us both.  

Looking back, if I was to do it all over again, I would skip the first two days and leave after the crowd just to see the big burns.  But that is for a later time I guess, one Burning Man is more than enough for most people in a lifetime. And Daria wants do it again with bunch of friends, can be a lot of fun too.

We continued our journey back west on the road to Lake Tahoe another place I had never been.  This decision came from a friendly encounter 10 years back when I was sailing in St. Martin and met this couple Mike and Donna at the Little Bit Inn.  One of those encounters when you meet someone and immediately hit it off and stay friends for life.  I remember them saying all those years ago, “If you are ever in Tahoe give us a call”  Well, we were in Tahoe and I called.  Mike and Donna had a cabin 20 minutes from where Daria and I parked the RV and we wound up having dinner and spending the night at their cabin in Fallen Leaf lake.   

What a wild week it had been of meeting new and old friends!

In our next adventure we continue driving west to the wine country of Napa Valley and throw all California.

Until then, Peace

Daria and Pete