Burning Man 2015. Part 1 – Getting there

Due to numerous (four) requests, we have decided to tell about Black Rock City first, and catch up with the posts on the last stretch of Part 2 of our Tour US afterwards.

1. We are leaving our parents’ house packed to the roof with goods and chattels for the road. To be exact: mom’s specialty – pirozki with apples and homemade farmer’s cheese, bread rolls, home-made bread, cherry pie, two kinds of pickles, fresh veggies, homemade sausage, meat rissoles, pelmeni, baked drumsticks, eggplant spread and raspberry jam. Thank you, mom and dad!

In Seattle we cooperate with Tanya and Vlad, also packing their Transit chock-full. We are going for a week, but what kind of week! With us, we need to take everything, except ice and coffee: a canopy, rugs and furniture for it, kitchen supplies and food for six people, strong drinks, drinking water – a gallon and a half per person per day ≈ 24 gallons (water for other needs we will get from the melted ice in our coolers). We are taking a bunch of clothing, different outfits for every day (the ladies took along three sets for each day, just in case – you never know), tools and a generator, gas in canisters and a speaker for karaoke, camp beds and many other things. Just watermelons we took five of. They go very well in the heat.

2. Drawing distinguishing signs.

3. By our current measuring scale, the drive will not be long, only 660 miles or 1060 kilometers. With gas stations and rest area stops – 12-13 hours. You can tell right away who doing all the work in Tanya and Vlad’s car.

4. We are not even trying to get to the Black Rock City in a day, because the gates open at 10am, so we are spending the night in a historic hotel in Alturas, CA.

5. I don’t remember, if I ever stayed in such an ancient, yet authentic, very well preserved and functional hotel.

6. I took these photos in the morning. At night though, going up this squeaky stairway in complete silence was a little spooky.

7. The following is copied from hotel’s website. The Niles Hotel was build in 1912. For many generations it was the social center of Alturas – the meeting place of cattlemen, railroad workers, farmers, loggers, salesmen, tourists and local businessmen. It prospered through the roaring ‘20s, the Great Depression, four major wars, and the administration of fifteen American Presidents. In 1976, while two other large hotels in Alturas passed into history either by burning to the ground or being torn down, the Niles Hotel suffered from neglect, old age, and a series of disinterested owners, and was finally closed to the public. In the late seventies it was purchased and restored to its former glory. And by now it has regained its status as a thriving historical landmark.

8. The energy of the building accumulated over the past century is almost tangible.

9. Early in the morning we are filling up on gas and drinking water. Vlad is fixing up the writing that ran a bit from last night’s rain.

10. By now it’s mostly burners around. Cars, not sparing their tummies, are carrying all their owner’s whims.

11. For all the surrounding towns and villages this time of year is very beneficial. The amount of cars that came through this gas station in the last week could be more than what they’ll see in half a year. The Burning Man website lists all the accommodations, stores, and gas stations in these towns and encourages burners to use them as much as possible, as they really help with overall organization of the event. And we are happy to do it!

12. Meanwhile, we are beginning to see a dust cloud and floating in the haze black dots. This is our third time on the playa, so up to this moment we weren’t feeling too excited: yes, we are going, the main idea is not to forget anything, and how is the ice situation by the way? However, as soon as we got to this point, we felt the familiar butterflies in our stomachs, just like the first time.

13. We are here again! We are home! Another little stretch and we’ll fully relax and not think about anything.

14. The “little stretch” turns into a three-hour stretch. And if a part of the way we drove on half-empty lanes, then as we got closer to the gate we stopped completely.

15. Driving on the playa, it’s best to take the lane farthest to the right, so the wind carries the dust to the other side. And still, we begin feel it in filtered air inside the car and see it on the  black plastics. We may as well start getting used to it. Or we could do it like these guys, with one push opening the door and submerging into the atmosphere.

16. The road turns left and we all are in the dust cloud. The biker follows his city traffic habit and rides between the lanes. That’s no problem, as right now his conditions are harder than anyones: not just dusty, but also very hot.

17. Meanwhile, a new kind of transport appears in our midst. While everyone is standing still, it rides around, drifting and popping wheelies; we start moving – and it’s driving in the line just like everyone else. So funny.

18. We are going slow enough for people to have time to run to the bathroom and back.

All of a sudden, we see our Tanya tearing along the fence with a serious face on, stooping down to the ground from time to time. Turns out, she wanted to go to the bathroom, but Vlad wouldn’t let her go: if you won’t make it back by the time we have to move you’ll get lost. So, Tanya decided to demonstrate that she will, so she playfully jumped out of the car. That moment a strong gust of wind snatched the tickets out of her hands and almost carried them off. Tanya dashed after them with that serious face, until the tickets almost disappeared in the dust. They say that if you lose them than that’s it, you can go back home. It’s not like you can say at the entrance, “I had the tickets, honestly, but wind just snatched them out of my hands.”

19. They are pretty. Just like every year. A pleasure to collect and keep.

As for purchasing them… First, they are pre-sold for $800 each. Not sure how many, but we think, as many as they can sell. Then, in February, 40,000 tickets at $390 each are released to the hungry burner’s market, which sell out in minutes (officially – in a couple of hours, but we were buying them with our friends all at the same time, and two of them clicked the ‘purchase’ button a few seconds later than we did. We bought the tickets and they couldn’t). All that couldn’t purchase the tickets in February can test their luck in August, less than a month before the event – at this time they will sell only a thousand tickets (these are what we were trying to purchase at our stop in the New Hampshire capitol in Concord).

Those, who couldn’t get the desired “pass home” are left to scan the market and hopefully not fall for any scam. Closer to the end of August more tickets become available as people’s plans change. Mostly those people sell them in burner groups on Facebook – this is where Alla scanned posts day and night in hopes of finding tickets for two more people in our group.

A silly new requirement – vehicle passes – we couldn’t buy at any of the sales, even though we were able to buy tickets. We had to write to the BM organizers and with a couple more tries during the OMG sale we scored the pass.

In summary, Tanya’s loss would’ve been weighty.

20. The next step is greeters. Here is their sign.

21. And here they are themselves. They lure you into their embrace, as though they are your closest and most precious friends on the planet. And maybe they really are.

22. “Welcome home!” – they say.

23. Tanya and Vlad are “virgins”, meaning it’s their first time on the playa. So the dust bath is a must. And on those trestles should be the bells, which the virgins hit with a medal stick, notifying the environs that they are now in the club. In the bustle, someone probably forgot them, because they didn’t appear until later.

24. Finally, we have entered the Black Rock City. And then we understood that we were mistaken, when we thought that we were bringing too much stuff.

25. Picking the “trump” spot: Jolly street, between 2:45 and 3:00. Everything is close to this location: toilets, ice, the edge of the city and the temple (the Man is located in the same distance from all the side streets, except the 45’s) and at the same time it’s going to be, as we so hope, less dusty and relatively quite.

26. We begin to set up our camp. It’s vacant around, and seems, that we are too far from life. In reality all these spaces will be filled up.

27. We purchased a pretty good canopy for our camp – $250 in Costco. Here we will have our kitchen and wardroom.

28. As for sleep, we’ll do that in different ways: Vlad and Tanya in a proper yurt made out of foam plastic topped with a reflecting coat with, even though handmade by ancient technologies, but a fully functional conditioner, made out of two plastic buckets.

29. Michael and Tatyana (remember them from Montana?) and the two of us are sleeping in our cars, strategically located on the southwestern side of canopy. According to my observations-assumptions, the wind is most often blowing from this direction.

30. The neighbors really tried to set up for the night, but something just wasn’t working out. So, they gave up and went to sleep as is.

Closer to the evening I’m setting up the “evaporator”. It’s prohibited to pour grey water out on the ground. Collecting and keeping it in buckets, where it gets all yucky, is also not desirable. So, we are going to pour it on the black plastic sheet, where the liquid should easily evaporate. Other experienced burners doubted our efforts, saying, ‘we tried that, but all that came out was a stinky bog’.

That is exactly what’s going to happen if you use this extremely complicated arrangement incorrectly, meaning you pour way too much in it. The water evaporates faster if it’s evenly spread on the area in a thin layer, that’s why you need to pour it out gradually, avoiding big puddles. Our liquid-into-steam converter served not only us, but also our neighbors. On our way out we rolled up a dry sheet, covered the pit and that was that.

31. We left around four buckets of grey water here.

32. Okay, it seems we have settled in. It’s time to dress up and go out. The season of the most unusual, unrestrained, fabulous, and absolutely inimitable celebration is declared open!

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