I woke at 3 AM to go potty. The park was next to the highway, and sometimes
the whoosh of a passing vehicle sounded like the rush of an oncoming breeze
rustling through the trees. I’d hear a whoosh and wait for a breeze, and
then… nothing. The light from the lounge shone right through the windshield,
so I put a box lid on the dashboard to shade me. It got cold in the night,
so I pulled out an extra sleeping bag. I heard wind chimes off in the distance,
unless I dreamed that, too…
While recharging my phone in the laundry, a trio of backpackers came through.
“The thing about quarters is that they’re a quarter of a dollar,” explained
one backpacker at the change machine. “It’s in their name that’s what they
are.” They were trying to pile all their dirty clothes in one washer. “What
is this Burning Man?” another asked as an SUV towing an art car passed
by the windows. It was 67 degrees at 8 AM Nevada time. I tried to get some
news on the lounge TV. Hurricane Isaac was headed for Haiti, where 400,000
people lived in tents. Breakfast was a hard boiled egg and a V-8.
|I was up just before sunrise Saturday, August 25th. I figure I got
about 8 or 9 hours of sleep, some of it restless. I had a slight sinus
headache. I took a shower, relishing the hot water. Travelers passing through
the RV park were mostly older, retired folks. One very fit gentleman was
out early, powerwalking with a pair of weights. Another man felt embarrassed
using the handicapped shower stall. “I can’t believe all the others are
in use,” he said. The park was pretty full.
I took my time leaving too early, in case there was some last-minute
thing I needed to get. I loaded up the water jugs and headed out just before
8:30. A train rolled eastward alongside the highway. There seemed to be
an auction going on at a storage facility. At the truck stop outside of
Fernley, I stopped to fill up on gas (on debit card). There was a big art
car that looked like a ship at the pumps, and I thought I saw Ranger Beauty.
I headed out of Fernley, through Wadsworth, and turned north on Fuel Pump
Road. It was 77 miles to Gerlach.
Traffic was light. I forgot to check the tires on the bike, but it didn’t
worry me. A few cars were stopped at the Nixon Store, and there were already
folks selling Indian tacos beside the road. A sign read “Welcome Burners.”
A tribal police officer had a car pulled over and was talking to a girl
with very red hair. (I later saw her in Center Camp.) Pyramid Lake came
into view over the mountain. At the reservation border, a guy in a truck
was selling “sunscreen for the playa.” My approaching car interrupted three
vultures having a roadside snack. I was soon the only car on the highway.
The wind picked up, and there seemed to be a lot of blowing dust ahead.
The mountains were barely visible, and it was like a curtain fell across
Just before Gerlach (“The Center of the Known Universe”) a passing train
had traffic held up for a couple of minutes. The little town was abuzz
with activity: vendors setting up, campers securing loads, RVs lining up
for last-minute gas. Leaving town, mine was the only car on the road until
I caught up with a trailer right before the turn-off to the playa. The
dust really kicked up. I couldn’t remember it being that bad. The wide
lanes were mostly empty as I made my way to the Box Office and Will Call.
Everything was already covered with playa. When I opened my door, dust
fell out of the car. The girl at Will Call said it was “very busy”
I saw the big black scorpion car, and a shuttle art car that played the
Star Trek theme. I got past Gate and Greeters in no time, and headed up
the 5:30 road. At Rod’s Road, I had to get out and ask directions, but
I was only a couple of camps off. I knew I was in the right place when
I spotted the Sparty panel truck. I found Hair of the Dog. I saw Steve,
Steph, Sweets and Captain Apocalypse. After helping put together a couple
of shade structures, Steph placed me along the back property line. My car
would be an anchor for a big shade to be put up later. We figured out where
Lisa D’s RV would be situated. I set up my tent, got settled in, and then
went for a bike ride. I saw the Pier and the wrecked pirate ship. Out on
the inner playa, I found the Midwest Burners CORE project. That’s where
I saw Wild Childe, who gave me a hug. She took me to the top of the highest
tower on the project. Somebody pointed out someone might try to jump from
one tower to the other (and later that week, someone did). A gust of wind
blew over a ladder.
||It was a quarter after 10 when I passed the "Snoopy Rock." Two BLM
Rangers passed me, as did a red Subaru. When I passed the western range
of mountains, the playa should have come into view, but the sky was obscured
until I got to Empire. That’s where I stopped to look through the store.
The lady behind the counter said that wasn’t dust in the air—it was smoke,
from the California wildfires. “At night, the air reeks of smoke,” she
said. “You’d think the tent next to you was on fire.” I had on my Ranger
hat, and when I left she said, “Don’t work too hard!”
The ride back to camp was very hot. A passing girl warned of a “big
storm on the edge of the playa,” so we covered up all the music equipment
and tied everything down. The storm never happened, but the wind was constant.
A quick white-out blew through. Clouds moved in, and the temperature dropped
noticeably. I seemed to have pitched my tent in full view of the morning
Sun, again, but I hoped the main stage and other tents would fill in to
shade me. All I wanted was a couple hours of shade first thing in the morning.
I helped Steph set up some stuff, and was horrified when I broke the lid
of a plastic container. Steph just laughed and said, “First casualty!”
A guy rode through on a bicycle looking for spare flour—he needed
it to finish a paper Mache project. I went for a walk, and passed a girl
picking up moop. A girl with a megaphone corrected me: it was a “homophone.”
I met Blurose and Nadine, who arrived with a very colorful trailer. It
looked like the right rear tire on the van was low—that bothered
me. Those tires were brand new. I got out my stove and cooked up some basmati
rice. I settled down, put some moisturizer on my feet, and relaxed in my
camp recliner. It was too windy for me to completely fall asleep, but it
was very restful. Our camp was next to a big canvas pyramid with a red
light on top and a bunch of tents inside, so I figured it would be easy
to find at night. The Captain asked me to get him up early in the morning,
so that he didn’t miss Ranger training. As I got settled in, the wind continuously
flapped the walls of my tent. I didn’t smell any smoke.
Last updated: September, 2012