Escape to Burning Man
Updated: Feb 16, 2019
Early in August I was having lunch with a few friends and they asked if I was planning on going to Burning Man. My response, “of course not!” I have never had any desire to go out to Burning Man – a week of sleeping in the desert, no showers and being covered in dust. Yeah, no thanks. But, as we talked, my friends pointed out that a Northern Nevada Travel Blog would never be complete without a post about Burning Man.
So, with that said, I figured I would see if it was possible to get a ticket. I asked Dylan’s Uncle Victor, he knows basically everyone, if there was anyway he could get me a ticket. He said “sure! No problem!” when I asked him on August 13th. He didn’t bring it up again until he called me this past Thursday. I answered the phone at 4:15 pm, Victor goes, “Caitlin, I got you a ticket to Burning Man! You have to pick it up at 5 pm!” So I did! I went and met his buddy, who handed me a ticket and a parking pass. And I was set to go.
On Saturday morning I woke up early to get prepared for my day. I went and grabbed a bike from a friend, I got 2 gallons of water, a box of Chewy bars, grabbed Starbucks, got my hair all wild, did my make-up even wilder, kissed Dylan good bye, and was out the door at 12 pm.
The drive out to Black Rock City is gorgeous. I love the Nevada terrain, so I wasn’t the slightest bit bothered by my hour and forty-five solo drive out there. I blasted my music and drank my red bull – pump up juice for the big day.
When I came out past Gerlach I could see the shadows and dust flying. I knew I had arrived. I could see tons of cars leaving the desert and emerging onto the highway. But, I really didn’t see where I was supposed to turn in. And at that point, I was the only car headed into Burning Man, not away from it. So, I drove right past the entrance! Oops! So I had to flip around, and just drive into the exit.
When you get there, you drive for a good 15 minutes going 10 mph before you hit the gate of where they take your ticket. Once they scanned my ticket, they told me to continue and follow the cones to someone that would direct me where to park and provide me with a map and list of events. After driving another 10 minutes, now going 5 mph, I arrived at the big half circle you see in the pictures. There was no guide. I had no idea where to go or where to park. At this point, I called Victor and asked where I was supposed to go. He said park anywhere, so I did! I just parked in a gap at 6:45 & K.
I got out, put my backpack on, looked around, and didn’t really know what to do. Then! This guy looked at me funny, so I asked, “Is it okay to park here?” “For payment,” he replied. “What kind of payment?” “A hug!” he said. So I hugged the man. Then I got out my bike, and took off down 6:45 to Center Camp.
As I pulled up to the middle of the whole place, I was just shocked. I had no idea how vast the place actually was. If you haven’t been there, it’s really easy to think it’s not that big. But, from side to side, the center area is a mile long. It’s HUGE. And off into the distance, I could thousands of people biking, the sculptures, and dust!
I just started biking to the nearest sculpture I saw. But I got a little worried when I got out my camera, because the wind was blowing, dust was everywhere, and my black skirt already had a fine layer of Playa on it. Making me very nervous for my camera. It was also at this point that I realized I really had no idea what the hell I was doing out there. I was wondering what made me think going out there by myself would be a good idea, and I just panicked. I texted my mom, “I feel really stupid being here.”
My mom immediately called me. Like most moms, she comforted me and told me just stay a little longer and see what’s out there. “Try to get a few good pics first. We will get your camera cleaned when you get home!” So I did. Instead of rushing back to my car and driving home, I stayed for a full two hours riding around from sculpture to sculpture taking pictures.
I actually really enjoyed seeing all the art. So many of the installations are mind boggling. I mean, they set these beautiful pieces up just to stand for a week, and some stand for 6 days and are just burned to the ground.
The temple was so moving. I knew if I took the time to stop at each memorial and story I would be there for hours crying, so I mainly just skimmed through. But, the whole temple brought me back to the main purpose of Burning Man (from what I understand as the history), which is letting go, moving on, and burning away the things that hold us back.
After two and a half hours of seeing the art, I wasn’t really sure what to do. Because I never got a list of what was going on or a map, I really didn’t know which villages or camps had things that anyone could just go visit. At this point my butt was also super sore from the bike (ride much?). So, with that I was comfortable leaving.
I really wanted to see the Man burn, and I really wanted to see all the LED installations light up at night, but, I was also sort of… Not uncomfortable, maybe just unsure. Yes, unsure of what I should be doing. I truly think I just needed a Playa buddy. Sounds ridiculous, but as a first timer out there, I think I just needed someone to walk around with. I just truly was lost on the Playa.
Since I was old enough to understand what Burning Man is, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed watching the Burners drive through Reno before they drive on through to the Playa. We see their crazy bikes, the Mutant Vehicles, and sometimes even spot parts of the installations. Burners buy up all the water in town, and almost always are already dressed funny as they buy their last minute necessities. So through that, and the images that you see floating around online, I thought I knew exactly what to expect. I was wrong. And, ya know, that’s okay. This short trip, well not even a trip, but, visit to Burning Man reminds me of what I experienced in New York City. I went somewhere maybe you shouldn’t go alone.
But, this doesn’t mean I won’t give it a second chance. My mom is dying to go to Burning Man, and wants the whole family to go with her. So I think if she ever goes, I will definitely give it a shot with her, as long as my dad doesn’t walk around naked…
Black Rock City
Distance: 124 miles
Driving Time: 2ish hours