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…
 
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. 
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 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 the valley.

 
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!” 
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” that morning.
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.

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.
 
 
 
Prologue  Aug. 22  Aug. 23  Aug. 24  Aug. 25 
Sunday  Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday  Sunday  Monday 
Sept. 4  Sept. 5  Sept. 6  Sept. 7 & Epilogue
Original material (c)opyright 2012 by Tim Frayser
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LINKS: Hurricane Isaac Midwest Burners CORE Project 
Last updated: September, 2012
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