Driving Across America

Saturday, September 2, 2000

I would have saved a lot of time had I had access to the Internet all of the time, but since most of the time my cel-phone is in Analog mode or out-of-range, I can't.

I would get so much reading done if only my truck could drive itself. Someday!

I think I'm scaring this family in a van. I keep passing them, then stopping to take pictures, then they pass me, then I pass them back. This has happened about five times.

I'm definitely in the dessert now. There are some major heat waves coming off the road now. There are dust devils swirling all about. I'm constantly seeing water mirages in the distance.

The clouds are moving at 40 mph. How do I know this? I followed a cloud shadow and checked my own speed.

I've discovered that you can't follow computer-generated instruction literally. They are merely a guide. I got taken on one hell of a detour. I ended up driving down this steep cliff, across this lake, and up a steep cliff on the other side. The whole time I'm driving on this single lane road with a steep cliff to one side with no railing. Very Scary! The view was amazing though, but this detour cost me about an hour.

When generating directions, the software usually gives you 3 options: quickest, shortest and preferred. I don't know what preferred means, but there should be a simplest option. The directions with the least number of decision points.

In Nevada, they have these concrete blocks hanging off of the power lines. I'm guessing this is to prevent them from swaying in the wind.

I stopped at this biker bar for a bite to eat. I was wearing my Hawaiian shirt. I'm not kidding when I say that everyone in the place (which amounted to about 20 people) were staring at me simultaneously. The ceiling was covered in dollar bills. They handed me a marker and a staple gun, so I hung my own.

They really take littering seriously out here. I keep seeing signs that say the fine is $2000.

As I approach Burning Man I keep passing thru these cattle ranches, which surround the highway. There are no fences so the cattle can cross the road. Signs warn about "Free Range Zone". The speed limit is 70 mph in these zones and the cattle stand at the side of the road. It really makes you think twice about blasting over the top of a hill at 70 mph. If there was a cow in the road, you would not be able to stop or turn in time. I did see one cow dead off to the side of the road. It looked as though it had been struck.

As I get nearer to Burning Man, I'm passing traffic heading out of Burning Man. Just about every vehicle has a bicycle strapped to it. I'm really starting to regret not bringing mine. I'm also seeing an Ambulance go by once in a while. Cool! It wouldn't be the Burning Man if it weren't dangerous. My ticket to Burning Man says: You voluntarily assume the risk of serious injury or death by attending.

One of my favorite slogans for Burning Man is "Burning Man, where survival is optional". You must bring in your own food and water. They provide no trash cans so you must pack out what you pack in. Everyone who attends is expected to donate 2 hours of their time to cleaning up the playa. Leave No Trace! If you smoke, take the butts with you.

I pass a store that says "Last store for 90 miles". Wow! This town is in the shadow of the nearby mountain. Good choice for a location!

I had another driving close-call. I was messing around with my camera and almost drove off the road. This would have been bad because there was a 2-foot drop off. I was going 60 mph. If one wheel had gone off the edge, it would have been bad. I hope I can survive the drive there!

5:30 PM - Burning Man officially spotted on the horizon!

The speed limit is 5 mph in order to keep the dust down. I pull up to the gate and give the guy my ticket. He hands me a map of the camp and gives me a few rules and warns me "security is tighter this year than previous, so if you're going to do anything illegal, do it in private." I ask him where I should park and he says "Anywhere you can find a space".

I stay on the perimeter and decide to drive awhile to scope out the situation. After driving for a few minutes, I notice that the road ahead is completely blocked by an oncoming parade, so I pull off into an available spot and get out and watch the parade.

I'm immediately baptized by urine as a naked guy in a trench coat standing atop a truck pees on me as he passes. I take my camera out and start shooting him. Everyone on the truck is smiling and giving me the finger. He's holding his 10" penis and swinging it around. Then I notice there are other people peeing off the truck as well. Then I notice that they're not peeing after all. They have fake penises, which have tubes to a water supply. They're merely penis shaped water guns! When held between the legs of a naked guy wearing a trench coat, you can't tell the difference!

People are very friendly at the Burning Man. When you meet someone new, they give you a hug instead of a hand-shake. You are not allowed to sell anything at the Burning Man. It is a non-commercial event. They encourage you to give instead of barter. If you need something, just ask. If someone asks you for something, give if you can. I knew this, so I bought a pack of cigarettes before I arrived at Burning Man and wouldn't you know it, the driver of the second "vehicle" in the parade yells to me "Hey Man! You got a cigarette?" This was the 6th day of the Burning Man and most people who had gotten here on day 1 had run out of cigarettes so they were a valuable commodity. Plus, he could tell I was a newbie. I had that "I just got here" look about me. About every 30 minutes, someone asked me for a cigarette and I was happy to give. I ran out of cigarettes by the end of the night.

I tuned my radio to the Burning Man radio station to get some news. I checked out the schedule of things to do and started planning my day. I looked at the map and decided to scout on the camp. That was my big mistake! I had no bike and walking the entire camp after sitting the car for a few days wasn't a good idea and I was going to pay! This camp was HUGE! The size of it all totally impressed me. Walking from one end to the other would take you about two hours.

The Man was going to be burned at 9 pm, so I headed out to the playa at around 7 pm to check out some of the art. As darkness came, I noticed this artwork lit up in the distance, far from anything else. My curiosity got the best of me and I started walking towards it. I sooned learned that things look closer than they actually are here on the playa. I was over half way there and I really wanted to turn back, but I figured I had come this far, I might as well go the distance, so I pressed on. I had expected to find a small party of people dancing since there was loud music blaring but as I got near enough to it, I noticed that I was alone. The structure was a small wall of TV sets with psychedelic visuals and blaring techno. It was very surreal!

I didn't have a watch, but my sense of time told me that I had like 15 minutes to get back to the man for the burn. It had taken me about 25 minutes to walk to this structure, so I started to jog back to the man. I was about 5 minutes away from the man when it went off! I stopped and took a picture, then jogged closer, took a picture, jogged closer, took a picture, until I finally got up to the border around the man.

They had a circular perimeter of about 100 feet around the burning man. The man stood about 50 feet tall. They didn't want anyone to get hurt when he falls. The crowd cheered as the man went up in flames. Huge flames were being generated by other pyrotechnics near the man creating large balls of fire. You could feel the heat!

The instant the man collapsed, the crowd rushed in! At that same instant, someone lit off a pack of fire crackers in my vicinity and there were suddenly fire-crackers flying everywhere! I just ducked, closed my eyes and held my ears until it was over, then I joined the crowd in running up to the man. It wasn't log before I was getting crushed by the people trying to get closer to the flames.

There were people standing around the fire pushing people back to protect them from getting too close. At the same time there are people behind me pushing to get closer so I'm caught between the two. Eventually I worked myself out of the crowd.

I took about 350 pictures but only got about 250 at the end of the night. At some point, I realized that my camera was not accepting any more pictures. I figure there is a bad spot on my cameras hard-drive that prevents pictures from being written out. It's too bad, because I lost a lot of good pictures. From now on, I'll have to try not to exceed 250 pictures so I don't lose any.

I wandered around for a few more hours and eventually limped back to my truck. I had definitely walked way too much. I was really regretting not bringing my bike. I had not setup my tent and I was exhausted, so I just tilted my seat back and slept in my truck.

Date Created September 15, 2000
Last Updated April 12, 2006
Contact: patcoston@gmail.com