I started packing up all my stuff and loading it into the van. The last step was to reattach the bike rack on the tailgate. If Otis had returned with my bike, I could’ve thought about heading out… except, the van was hemmed-in on all sides by tents and other vehicles. I checked Satori’s oil—it was okay—and test-started it for the first time in a week. By noon, BMIR was reporting the wait in the exodus line had increased to 5 hours. That was just to get to the pavement, and did not include the long drive back to Fernley and civilization.
A guy dressed as Jesus Christ walked by, and Alex called out, “What would you do?” Somebody complained that the previous night’s hot links had given everyone a bad case of the “firey squirts.” At 2 PM, I realized the big truck that had been parked behind my tent all week had moved. If there wasn’t a 7-hour wait to get out, I could’ve left right then. At the potties, I heard people say that the accident on I-80 was so bad that traffic was stopped in both directions. It was looking like I would have to spend another night on the playa. I would lose the money I’d spent for my RV park reservation, but that couldn’t be helped.
I helped D-Mo load trash bags into the back of Sparty, the big panel truck. D-Mo said it might be the last burn for Sparty, which was getting worn down by travels to the playa. It was time to move on. I was nervous about having enough gas, so Lisa let me have a couple of gallons. That took a load off my mind. I spotted Ranger Judas out in the street, coming off shift. He said people were being “strongly encouraged” to wait until Tuesday morning to attempt leaving. Bumblebee came by with another Ranger, who said things should speed up about midnight. What concerned me was that I knew the guys directing traffic out on the gravel road would be going off-duty at 2 AM. After that, it would be everybody for themselves, out in the dark. That’s what made me decide to go. A bunch of other people in the camp were going to caravan out after the Sun went down. I figured I would follow along.
We all got together for a group hug, a hilarious “cinnamon roll hug.” Rerun’s ambulance needed a jump, but once that got started we all started out in a line, me at the end of six cars. It was 8:30 when I pulled out of camp. I quickly lost sight of most of the others. Night quickly surrounded the van as I got in line with hundreds of other vehicles. A bright half Moon poked over the shadowy mountains. Clouds were moving in. Everyone inched along slowly. It was almost a half hour before I got as far as the Will Call office. I was listening to BMIR, which reported artist David Best would be returning in 2012 to do the Temple again. Traffic came to a halt right about then.
There was an empty lane to the left of my position. Beyond that was
a perimeter fence. A guy in a pickup rolled up outside the fence, telling
people there should be eight lanes of cars exiting the playa. Brian Bong’s
car was ahead of mine, and when he moved into the vacant lane I followed
him. A guy in an RV yelled at me about cutting in line, but I was just
doing what the guy in the pickup said to do. There were other cars in that
lane, ahead and behind me. The next time all the lanes stopped, however,
a different guy walked down the line of cars in my lane; he said we were
actually in the one inbound lane, and we’d have to merge back in. It was
a half hour before the lines moved again, but when they did, Brian’s car
didn’t move. The battery was dead! I pulled the van alongside it, but got
too close and our side mirrors smooshed against each other. As luck would
have it, my toolbox with my jumper cables was within reach. Brian hooked
up the batteries, and I had to rev the engine to get his battery recharged.
Meanwhile, hundreds of cars were passing us. (The guy in the RV probably
passed us with much satisfaction.) When he got recharged, he wanted me
to “take the point” so he could get back in his car, but the van was right
up against a fence post—I couldn’t move forward. He got back in from the
passenger side and took off. I followed, and we both merged back into the
We rolled ahead maybe a half mile or more before stopping again. Off to the side, I could see the open playa, illuminated by moonlght, empty all the way to the mountains. Far off in the distance, two police cars, lights flashing, zoomed across the flat plain. I had been watching a spotlight up ahead but lost sight of it. I also lost sight of Brian’s car. The wind died down, but it was still very chilly. I put on a second shirt. I also chugged a Red Bull to stay awake. The Moon was very bright. Above, the stars were amazing. To my right, I could see through the windows of an RV stopped a couple of lanes over. Inside, people were walking around, tired and frustrated. I had been turning off my engine at every stop, to conserve gasoline. Other cars were getting the hint, but I was concerned about Brian’s car—if he turned off the engine, would it start again?
Ahead was a steady line of red lights heading off into the distance.
I realized I’d arrived at Burning Man after dark, and that’s how I was
leaving. There were shops and salespeople along the road in Gerlach, selling
various travel accessories and offering hot showers. There were more at
the Empire store, still open through the night. It was another hour and
a half before I made it to Nixon, and after 2 AM when I rolled into the
truck stop just outside Fernley. I thought I saw Ranger Peaches at the
gas pumps. I got $10 worth of gas, avoiding the “I Survived Burning Man”
t-shirts inside the store. I rolled through Fernley and stopped at the
Fox Run convenience store, picking up a beer and a microwave breakfast
croissant, the most appetizing thing they had. I ate it in the car.
Down the road, I pulled into the Desert Rose RV park. As they said, my reservation was tacked up on a board outside the closed office. It told me my spot number, but not where it was; there was no map of the RV park. It took a couple of circuits of the park to find where I needed to be, which turned out to be conveniently near the showers and laundry. Once I was parked in place, I took a long, hot, wonderful shower. It felt good to be clean, and with food in me. With my smartphone, I was able to access the Internet, and I got to read email for the first time in over a week. Slowly, I was able to wind down, and managed to fall asleep about 4 AM.