Burning Man Sketchbook: Monday
The line of cars spread out into about five lines of cars. I seemed to have found the slowest line; it must be my secret superhero power. All the other lines seemed to be making progress. I even saw the green bus pass me. A van painted to look like the Mystery Machine from the Scooby-Doo cartoons sat nearby. Dust blew thick across the waiting vehicles. My car was shaking in the wind, it was so high. I even heard the scraping of sand blown across the windows. Little by little, a car-length at a time, we inched forward, then… stopped. We waited. Some people got out of their cars to walk around, but the wind and dust drove them back. After an hour, we were still in the same places. I saw Gate people assembling off to one side. I got out and asked what was going on. “The city is closed,” he said. “It’s unsafe to drive.” I spoke to a guy in the van ahead of me; he was from San Francisco. It turned out 2003 was his first year, too. Over in another line, I talked to a nice couple named Piers and Lucy. They had traveled all the way from London for Burning Man.

Clouds of dust would descend on us, obscuring all visibility, and then move on. The Sun disappeared several times. During one white-out, the girls in the car over to my left got out to pee, crouched behind their front bumper. As we sat there, a line of cars appeared, directed off into the Will Call area. It looked like they were getting to go in, but really the Gate crew was just redirecting vehicles into a holding area to clear the congestion back on the highway. They weren’t getting in any earlier than us, but after sitting in one place for so long, it was sure upsetting to see somebody else moving. Gate crew people stared going down the line, explaining the situation to everyone. It was just too dangerous to let cars drive around in the city when the drivers couldn’t see where they were going. I got out and walked forward to see how long the line really was. I counted 48 cars in front of me, and I still couldn’t see the city.

Three hours after turning down the gravel road, we were still sitting there in line. The Sun was going down. People got down their bicycles and were riding around. Some folks opened up their coolers and began drinking beer. Another guy got out his guitar and started playing music. Different girls peed in the dust. The girl on the bicycle showed up—she made it! It didn’t look like the Gate crew was letting her in any quicker than us, though. A Gate guy in overalls walked down the line, promising, “We’ll be moving shortly.” A car pulled out of line and moved over to the side, letting the car behind it move forward. A blonde girl in the moving car shouted at us in glee: “Maybe you’ll be able to go 40 feet soon!” I asked her how it felt to be moving again. “Wicked!”

Just as it got dark, the lines started moving again. The Gate said Greeters were letting cars in three at a time. Slowly, we inched forward. I finally made it to the Gate with my ticket right at 8 PM. I could only see the tail lights of the car in front of me, so I followed them to the Greeters station. They were indeed only letting a few cars in at a time, but I didn’t have to wait long. I still couldn’t see the city. Past Greeters, the lines of taillights ahead of me split left and right. I followed the cars to the left and turned in toward the center of the city when they did. The car immediately in front of me stopped at a crossroads to ask directions. “This isn’t exactly a street,” I heard a lady tell the driver. It seems I’d followed them through one of the empty theme camp areas. I knew I needed to head for the intersection of 6:30 and Dart. I found I was on the “F” street, so at 6:30 I turned inward—and the next street I found was the “B” street. I tried to turn around and very nearly sideswiped a biker zooming past me. I finally stopped to ask directions to Silicon Village, but it turned out I’d found it, and actually parked right in front of Hair of the Dog. The bar was already up and running. I immediately recognized Anne standing at the bar. I walked up, and she gave me a big hug. I made it!
“Have you eaten?” she asked. Anne led me over to a little kitchen and got me a plate of noodles and meatballs. I didn’t realize how hungry I was as I wolfed it down. Hot food really changes your disposition. After eating, I turned to getting my tent set up. I ended up towards the back of the camp, along what was supposed to be an internal bike path. I had to borrow a sledge hammer to pound in my rebar. My mallet failed. It was a fail mallet. My camp was situated between a super nice lady named Dot and a guy I called Rusty. In the dark, with the wind still blowing, I got the dome tent up and staked down. I felt kinda proud of myself. I put the tent close to Satori, so that I could anchor the poles to the vehicle.

Once the tent was up and secure, I went for a walk. I walked through Center Camp and checked out the surrounding camps on the Wheel, wishing the camps were labeled. By noon Monday, there were already 17,000 people in Black Rock City. There was a big crowd of people congregated at the Man, that year perched atop a flag-draped tower. The design was simple but impressive.

I walked across the playa to an interesting sculpture that looked like a dancer spinning, her skirts twirling up. When I got close, it seemed to be some kind of plant, sculpted in steel. I took off walking across the playa, headed back towards the Esplanade, and I was glad I’d brought my lantern. The surface of the playa was chewed-up into thick, slippery drifts. I headed for a camp decorated with a big, neon heart. It wasn’t what I thought it would be, but off to the side was Pandora’s Fix-it Shop. That was the camp of Midwest Burners that Becka was staying in. A pretty girl in goggles and pajamas was behind the bar, and the first thing she said to me was, “Are you Tapestry?” It turned out to Miriam, whom I had met at Interfuse two years earlier. I had a cup of their punch, which had a kick to it. I walked back to Hair of the Dog and had a whiskey and coke with Khan and Ben, two guys from England. They had flown to New York, then flew to San Francisco, then rented a car to drive to Burning Man. Ben was very impressed with all the wide, open spaces in California and Nevada. A girl called Aqua showed up and started talking to them, so I walked back to Pandora’s where I met a blonde girl named Siren and her pretty brunette friend. They were camped at the Lost Penguin. The bartender said a meteorologist friend of his told him we were due for one more big white-out dust storm, but then the weather should be okay the rest of the week. The whiskey and coke was starting to hit me, plus I found out it was after 2 AM, so made my way back to camp and crashed in my tent.

 Beatty to Black Rock City 
The Journey West
The Sketchbook
The Journey East
Broken Arrow to Albuquerque
Black Rock City to Provo
Albuquerque to Las Vegas
Provo to Pueblo
Las Vegas to Beatty
Pueblo to Broken Arrow
 Beatty to Black Rock City
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