Saturday, November 04, 2006


Burning Man Blogs Begin! (yeah, two months late..)

Okay, after finally uploading my pictures from my camera to the computer last night, I've decided that this will come out over the course of several (perhaps eight or nine) posts :)

Uhm.. don't think I'm going to get into how or why I decided to go to Burning Man (may have addressed that in earlier posts and I just don't remember.. and right now, I don't actually remember how I got to this point so...) Right. Onward.

Organizing was supposed to be easy. There was a ton of advice for Burning Man Virgins (henceforth referred to simply as "BM" and "Virgins") available online, at both the main BM site, the ePlaya (chat forum links to the main BM site) and a couple sites on geared towards Virgins. I had (still have, actually) a folder in my "Favourites" for all my BM stuff, including links to Packing Lists, Camps to Visit, Costume Ideas, Food Ideas, Travel Plans, and more. I was prepared.

Okay, I was prepared mentally. In reality... I was in panic-mode. Didn't have the day-glo pink ripstop nylon (19meters!) sewn into a shade structure, didn't have the three-different-colours-and-pile-heights of fake fur sewn into anything, and didn't have really cool boots. (in hindsight, I did okay.. the two things I really could have taken and been happier with, were proper goggles for the dust, and better daytime costumes so I didn't feel like an observer. More on that later).

We had a roommate leave at the beginning of August (sniff, bye Lindz!) and another coming at the beginning of September (yay Brendan!), so I had a spare room to use as a staging area for all my gear.... and it worked wonderfully. On the last night before we left, I pared down my clothing to what I was actually ready to wear, attempted to make a couple last-minute things that didn't work (and one that did!), and got the rest of the "potentials!" out of the room. When my friend and travelmate Heather arrived on Saturday morning, I was ready to haul it all out and stuff it in the car.

The car. The little, small, not-so-big car... did a really good job of containing stuff. We spent at least an hour repacking it, all her stuff out, then sorting what we would need for the drive down vs what could hide until we arrived at BM, and then got everything back in with some sense of logic. Jammed in, in fact.. from the imaginary wall created by the front seats, to the roof, to the hatchback, it was solid. On the bike rack that H picked up for $20, were our two bikes, and seven hoops. Posed for pictures (though we can't figure out whose camera they are on).. checked for passports and BM tickets, and we were off! (okay, almost.. ran into two of H's friends walking down 33rd about a block down the road, so we stopped to chat.. and THEN we were off!)

Stop for Starbucks, try to remember which street actually led to the border, decided to go for the main crossing rather than try to find the truck crossing, and find out 500m later that it was a poor decision.. construction along the way gave us an hour and a half wait.. but once we got into the actual Peace Arch area, we took turns inching the car forward while the other person spun poi, did cartwheels, danced.. whatever. The Border dude was actually utterly cool - after our fears of "We're going to Burning Man!" resulting in a full car- and body cavity-search, it turned out that he was savvy about the event, and checked in with us that we knew we had to bring everything in, and asked if we had enough water. (stranger checking water supply #1) With assurance that we knew everything and had everything, we were through! On with the road trip!

I had made travel plans (according to one of the sites on my aforementioned collection of links) that included camping overnight at a Burner-friendly hot springs. Unfortunately, our unplanned delays put us about three hours behind getting there, and with neither of us being really happy about driving in the dark, we started looking for camping options that were closer. The travel guide mentioned three along the Washington/Oregon border point we were heading to, so we aimed for those.. passed the first one, didn't see signs leading to the next two, then Oops! We're in Oregon! And then Oops! We're on a stretch of highway with a meridian so no U-turns are allowed! And then Oops! I'm getting cranky 'cause I've realized I really really don't want to be driving anymore 'cause I'm scared I'm going to crash into something due to sticky eyes!

.. and THEN.. I make a wish, something along the lines of "I wish that we get to the next pokey town and find a RV site or SOMETHING that has a place we can throw down the tent and take really hot showers.

Three minutes later, the universe delivered. Rufus, Oregon has a lovely little RV site with tent sites (though we couldn't figure out which was which in the dark, so we just pitched on some grass in an RV site) and hot hot showers and the sounds of highway and insects to lull us quickly to sleep.. and we did. Breakfast the next morning in a truck stop, 'cause Rufus catered to the truckers (highways crossed nearby), with yummy greasy eggy food. Num.

More driving, and a stop at the hot springs around lunchtime.. lots of Burners pulling in, all sorts of interesting vehicles, and a bit of cash got us access to the barn, which was filled wall to wall with a big concrete pool, smelly mineral water pouring in through a pipe, and carvings ("GK loves BT" etc) EVERYWHERE.. it was hot, and slightly greenish and dim, but felt SO GOOD. Chitchat with others ensued, including a guy who had only heard about BM about two hours earlier but was now planning to buy some supplies and go... with a day of prep, whoa.

Stopped for groceries.. and pulled out the list of supplies we needed to pick up for the ePlaya Bar Camp, the group of people we'd met online and would be camping with. We had both committed to bringing a lot of mixer, and after collecting all of that, AND all of our own groceries.. we had two shopping carts full. Remember how full the car already way? Yeah, full. Two and a half hours later (now in darkness), we have completely emptied out the car, packed all the tents and sleeping bags and soft things inside a tarp, strapped it to the roof, jammed stuffed crammed packed all the food and beverages and the remainder of our gear back into the car (now including water, after the nice manager of the Safeway saw us rolling our carts out of the store and stopped to ask if we already had water.. stranger checking water supply #2.. and I had COMPLETELY forgotten that I had planned to fill all my collapsing water jugs, so she kindly pointed out that "someone" had turned on their faucet around the back of the building, and it was going to take her "a few minutes" to find someone with the tools to shut it off... and that she'd look the other way if I happened to keep all that water from going to waste.... so, thanks to Safeway and the three people who loaned me their containers for the week, I got free water. Woo!

There was a restaurant sharing the same parking lot as the Safeway, so once we had the car loaded, we CAREFULLY drove over the speed bumps to test out the handling, then pulled in for dinner. Staff at this place (and another we stopped at on the way out from BM) looked like they would be quite happy if the hoards of weird people would stop coming by, thankyouverymuch. We were careful to say please and thank you and show our appreciation.. but they closed up early anyways, so a bunch of fellow Burners were turned away.

It was now dark, and we were both tired and somewhat cranky, though pretty amused about the packing of the car, but I really wanted to get into BM just around midnight when the gates opened, because some of the other Bar Campers had told me it was "magical" to arrive in the dark with the electric energy of everyone's excitement... so I pushed on, and H dealt with me pushing, and after a bit more snapping at each other, and driving with sticky eyes... we got to this:

Oh. Hm. There appears to be something wrong with my picture uploader. Grr. Okay, I can deal with this...

Imagine, in your mind's eye, a long empty road. You are the only vehicle around. You see one other vehicle in the space of two hours or three hours. Then, you come to a town, and stop for groceries and dinner. Now, when you pull back onto the road, you have company.. and they usually pass you, since your car is overloaded and can barely move. But hey, that's okay, 'cause if you breakdown, at least now there's traffic on the road to stop and help you out. Another two hours of driving, and the traffic gets thicker.. the people who pass you are staying within sight now, as they catch up to the last people who passed you... more curves, more sticky-eyed driving, then you see a sparkling chain of lights in the distance! That must be it! We can see it already! You drive more... and once you get close enough, you realize that the sparkling chain of lights is the line of headlights of cars, bumper to bumper, now crawling in a slow lineup to an as-yet-unseen destination. A sign says "This way to Burning Man", pointing to the left. You merge (with some bickering about "Go now!" "Now!" "Now!" and a tight response of "Christa, *I* am driving.. I will decide when it is safe to go..").. and drive quietly along, now part of the glittering string of headlights yourself, following a red snaking line of taillights off into the distance....

Oh, there we go.

More, more!!!
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