Friday, March 5, 2010

Preparing for the burn

Burning Man is such a large event, and takes place in such a remote local, that all the towns for a surrounding 250 miles feel the impact.  Towns which are usually just a quiet stop of gas stations and diners are transformed into hives of activity as 50,000 hippies stop in for a last helping of supplies before heading into the Black Rock Desert for a week of . . . oddities.

Reno is the largest city in range, and serves as a base camp for many grounds making the trek.  Every supermarket's parking lot is jammed to the gills with people in various vans and trucks stocking up on the essentials; it feels a bit like a Red Cross disaster relief camp.

Inside the stores, stocks of baby wipes, sunscreen, glow sticks and flash lights were all wrecked.  The "family planning" area was similarly picked over, with only a few of the less popular brands remaining.

When attending Burning Man, you are expected to be COMPLETELY self-sufficient.  You bring in, and bring out, everything you need.  The ONLY thing that is provided is porta-potties; you need to bring your own food, water, shelter, everything.  There's no garbage service, either; pack it in, pack it out, as they say. 

This makes attending on a bike complicated.  While obviously shelter wasn't a problem, carrying the required ~10 gallons of water and weeks worth of food is hard to squeeze onto the bike.  To accomplish this, I'd linked up with someone attending the event beforehand, and we met up in the parking lot of the super market to touch base.  I headed inside and bought the things I was going to need, loaded then into his van, and made plans to link up again on the Playa.  He was heading out that night, but I still had some errands to run around town for a couple days.

First thing I had to do was find the Fed-Ex depot, where I'd had a larger tent and some cooler-weather clothing mailed to me.  The Black Rock Desert regularly hits 120f during the day, but at night it can plunge to 40 degrees, and sometimes even colder. 

If living in India taught me anything, it's that there is no limit to how much stuff you can strap onto a two-wheeled machine.

I couldn't head to the burn quite yet.  I was waiting on another package to come into the post office that wasn't going to be delivered until late afternoon the next day.  One of the nice things about a kind of skeezy town that's chock-full of casinos (like Reno) is that hotel prices are REALLY cheap.  Your standard Motel-6 type places are in the range of $30/night, and there's plenty of non-franchise places that are cheaper.  I took advantage of these cheap rates for the night, and the next day, went for a ride around Lake Tahoe.

Ouch, that had to hurt.

Lake Tahoe was . . . well, it was Lake Tahoe.  Beautiful . . .

And really crowded.  I guess the upside to all the traffic is that it prevented me from engaging in more peg-scraping idiocy.

Neat, I get my own beach!

The ride around the lake took me the better part of the day, and I got back to Reno just in time to pick up my package from the post office.  The one last errand that I needed to run was to get a proper hair wash, and braid.  The dust on the Playa is as fine as baby powder, and keeping your hair in a tight braid for as long as you can makes life MUCH easier.  It prevents (as much) crap from getting into your hair and turning it into a giant matted knot.

I went to the first hair place that I passed, which happened to be one of those hair salons run by Hispanic ladies, for Hispanic ladies.  I don't know if it was their version of a joke or just because they didn't know how to do anything else, but this is what I ended up with.

Hey, it worked.  And it's not like I'd be the only one looking silly at Burning Man.

By the time I was done with everything, including buying last-minute supplies of glow sticks and blinky lights, it was really late in the evening, and I still had the 150 mile ride into the desert ahead of me.

Long shadows by the time I was able to get on the road.

Three hours and one stop for gas later, I was there.

The endless colum of vehicles left Highway 34, and snaked off into the desert to join what is, for the one week that it exists, the fifth largest city in Nevada

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