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Monday, February 26, 2007

Grand Canyon - Rim to Rim

(first posted to Sudden Lifestyle 10-21-06)

01 Path to the Other Side

Each year I set out to do some type of extreme hike or climb. Several have failed because of weather or other reasons. Here's what happened this year.

The plan for this hike began with a visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in May of 2005. I happen to buy a "Rim to Rim" tee-shirt but didn't feel right wearing it until I'd actually walked it.

The standard approach for a Rim to Rim hike is to take two or three days, but that requires a campsite - 30,000 apply each year, only 10,000 win the lottery. The odds didn't seem good. But that's just an excuse. If you've read about any of my other hikes, you'll remember I like to travel light and fast, so that was the plan. My objective would be to do the whole thing in one day. After reading other day crosser experiences, it seemed like a reasonable challenge.

My first plan was to drive to the North Rim (the highest side), hike the North Kaibab Trail south to Phantom Ranch then take the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim for a total of 24 miles. After spending the night in a hotel, I would take the shuttle ($70) back to the North Rim and drive home.

Now 24 miles is not an extreme hike, but rough ground and a steep hike still made it a challenge, sort of an upside-down mountain climb. It should make for a fun and certainly beautiful power hike.

When I told An about it, she wanted to hike it too. So I reserved shuttle tickets for two and a Holiday Express room through Orbitz on the web. About two hours later I discovered the gate to the North Rim didn't open until the day AFTER I'd planned to hike, and more importantly the day AFTER my hotel reservation.

When I called Orbitz they explained they had a minimum one night cancellation fee so would offer no refund. Then I learned An couldn't extend her days off past that weekend and no other weekends worked until way into June when it would be too hot for a power hike. At least for me doing my first time across. Also I wanted to avoid the mule trains which can only be done at the very beginning or very end of the season.

Fortunately, Holiday Express allowed me to reschedule for October 15th, 2006. With a long lead time, the schedule worked out. Then Dave Orel offered to drive the car around to the South Rim for us. This allowed us to take the South Kaibab Trail instead of Bright Angel. It was steeper, but also shorter which seemed like a good idea.

02 Peter Grub Hut

We did several practice hikes in the Reno area to get in shape. One was up past Peter Grub Hut north of Donner Pass. Another was to the top of Carson Ridge at Thomas Creek. This second hike was nearly as long and had the same altitude gain as our objective. We were ready.

03 Snow-proof Potty

Getting There

When October 12th rolled around, we got packed and headed out. Grand Canyon is a long drive from Reno. To break it up we planned a couple of stops. We saw strange things along the highway which were a good excuse to strech our legs.

04 Shoe Tree

05 Shoe Tree Closeup

06 Horny Gate

Out first campsite was Spencer Hot Springs which is east of Austin, Nevada. Our bad luck started two miles off the highway when we got a flat tire. We still made it to the springs but only just before dark - still, no major harm done.

We surveyed the hot tubs with a short walk. One was WAY too hot and the other was WAY too cold. Valves had been turned up too long or down too long. Unlike Goldilocks, there was no happy medium, so we went to bed early.

We woke up before dawn and found then the cold tub was back to "just right". We enjoyed the sunrise in hot water. Hot springs are a nice way to camp.

After breakfast we stopped in Ely to replace the spare and have lunch. Next we headed to Bryce Canyon for our planned second night. We didn't get settled in camp until after dark and didn't get to see the canyon that night.

This was unfortunate. We never did get to see Bryce Canyon even though it was only two miles away. Bad luck, part two. It began to rain. And rain. And rain. It rained all night. By morning we had lots of wet sleeping bags and spent the next couple of hours at a laundromat drying out.

By the time we were done it was raining hard again. When we stopped at the visitor center, we got soaked just getting across the parking lot and into the building. After checking the weather we decided to head south and try to get out of the storm. Things weren't looking good for the Grand Canyon hike.

It rained hard all the way to the town of Kaibab. We decided to head east, again trying to get out of the storm. It rain all the way to Glen Canyon Dam. We headed south again - yep, trying to get out of the rain. Finally, the rain let up just enough at our stop at Horseshoe Bend to get a walk in. And then the sun came out. Was it over at last?

07 Lee's Ferry

Lee's Ferry

Coming down the hill into Lee's Ferry, a rock half the size of a car had fallen into the middle of the highway. There are often rock falls with heavy rain. The cops were just pulling up. We drove around before they could close the highway and continued to the camp-ground where the sun finally came out.

We learned from the Lee's Ferry rangers, flooding had washed out the water supply for both Cottonwood and Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon. We would have to carry enough water for the complete hike IF the trail was still open. They didn't know.

The past twenty four hours had produced 1.3 inches of rain which was quite rare for this desert. The good news was, the worst of the weather was over. Or so they said. We had hope for a dry night, but we set up camp under one of the campground's metal shelters just in case.

It turned out to be a good call. About mid-night a huge thunderstorm hit with lightning, heavy rain and wind. Doesn't bad luck come in threes?

The rain encouraged us to get up early. Well before dawn, we just wrapped up the wet stuff in plastic and headed for the North Rim. If we had to cancel, I wanted to make the decision at the trail head.

The final drive was dark, wet and the road was muddy. The rain continued. So much for breaking weather. At one point a flash-flood had washed across the road. Off to the side were blinking lights.

A car with five teenagers had slid off the road and high-centered on a berm. We stopped to check, but no one was hurt. Since neither car had a rope and we were in a small Subaru, I suggested they wait for a larger pick-up to stop by. The right truck with a chain would have them on their way in a couple of minutes. Two more cars were stopping as we left. It was a minor problem but just one more side-effect of this nasty storm.

The rain turned to fog as we got higher. The temperature dropped below freezing. At the summit it began to snow. Even worse, the snow began to stick. The probability of this hike happening was dropping by the minute.

Fortunately, the snow only lasted a few miles and the clouds began to lift. Or we began to drop. The result was the same. As we drove on, the road dropped below the snow line. The sky got lighter.

08 Starting Out

Hiking At Last

At the gate we were told there were some washouts but the whole trail was open and the weather improving. They also said water was back on, but in a limited fashion.

Farther on at the trail head we saw just a bit of sunshine through low clouds. It was enough. No matter how it turned out, I was happy to get started on the hike, instead of doing a long drive for nothing. An and I packed our gear and headed out. It was 7:35 AM. We were finally on the trail.

I have a problem with the beginning of any hike. I'm always way too hyped up and often take off too fast. Later I pay for burning my energy too early. In this case there was the added factor of a long down hill, but the mud puddles kept me from breaking into a run. Our pace was fast, but consistent and safe. The trail is mostly sandy or rocky, with no clay.

The temperature warmed fast as we dropped into the canyon. We were in shirt-sleeves but had a back up layer of clothing as well as extra food and lots of water. Even with the extra weight, it was a quick descent. I was concerned that it might be too quick. We passed at least 20 other hikers in that first third of the hike, most of which were crossing the canyon too.

I quickly noticed signs of other hiker's objective. I began asking questions just to verify my observations. Those with heavy packs were headed for one of the camp-grounds or on their way out. They would be doing less than 7 miles for the day, but coming out they would be working VERY hard with all that weight.

The ones with small packs would either be staying in a cabin at Phantom Ranch, dipping below the rim and returning, or day crossing like we were. You could tell the day crossers by how fast they were moving. Rim dippers went slower. Three that day were actually running. They were the only ones who passed us during the decent.

There was good water at Supai Tunnel but at only a mile in, it doesn't matter much. Well, unless you're dry coming out for some reason. The next water was at Roaring Springs which was about 5 miles in. This is actually the source of water for both Cottonwood and Phantom Ranches. A water main runs 8 miles along the trail from there. You can see the access valves every few hundred

09 Mile Three

10 Mile Four

11 Pack Adjustment

Roaring Springs certainly earned it name this morning. Maybe it should have been name Thunder Creek. We still had plenty of water so didn't bother to stop. Not long after this we met a "Volunteer Ranger". She asked our objective as we went by. We were about to find out why.

Sucker Hole

If you read the Grand Canyon sites, you'll find lots of warnings about descending into the canyon without being prepared and supplied. The warning should be taken seriously.

Back in the early days of aviation there was something called a "sucker hole". It's where the sky is overcast except for one patch of blue sky. For visual pilots (no instrument training) these holes look like a good way to get above the layer so you can get to your destination. The problem occurs when the hole closes up while you're on top and you have no easy way of getting down. Lots of pilots died this way before modern avionics.

The Grand Canyon can be thought of as a gigantic sucker hole in the ground. With a mountain, you work the hardest on the outbound leg. Coming back is easy since it's all down hill. The Canyon is just the opposite. It's so easy going down hill, if you don't save some energy, you might not get back out or at the least be hiking in the dark. Either way, it can spell trouble.

Just before we got to Cottonwood Ranch we found the perfect example of what I'm describing. This first "ranch" (ranger station) is about five miles in and 4000 feet below the North Rim. A hundred yards before we got there we noticed this older gentleman moving quite slowly. He had a younger guy with him so I didn't think anything about it - maybe just on a walk from the Ranch.

12 Cottonwood Ranch

13 First Break

When we got to the ranch and took a snack break, two younger guys asked if we'd seen this old man. I'd already forgotten about him, but An described him perfectly. They were concerned since they'd been waiting a long time for the other two to "catch up". The four of them were on a day crossing like us. Oops - "catching up" in the first third of the hike should have been a warning bell.

Just then the other two came around the corner. Someone offered the old guy a stump to sit on, but he refused heading for a patch of grass instead. At this point his stride was down to about 8 inches on level ground. I don't think he could go uphill at all. He just laid down on the grass and said his legs were too weak to get up.

That's when the Ranger lady came out and chastised these younger guys for bringing him this far down into the canyon. Apparently the Volunteer Ranger we met had advised them to turn back. But they pushed on instead. Did they think it would get easier?

The old man had been swallowed by that big sucker hole in the ground. His young friend has lead him into it. Even a return to the North Rim would take him until WAY after dark. And that was only IF he got his energy back - which wasn't likely.

I talked to this old guy for a minute. He looked to be about 80, but maybe that's just how he felt at that point. He said he had been "working out" several times a week and didn't understand why he felt so weak. I'm not sure what his "work out" was like, but if he hadn't climbed Whitney and back in a single day or something equivalent, he didn't belong this far down in the canyon.

MOST of the people we met on the trail looked like they were prepared. I've done 35 miles of rough ground in a single day. On another extreme hike I did 51 miles of mostly road in just over 16 hours. Last summer, An climbed BOTH Whitney AND Shasta in the SAME week. I had confidence we could make it. But what were THESE guys thinking?

There wasn't anything we could do, so we left it to the Ranger and the old guy's friends. We got back on the trail. About fifteen minutes later we saw a helicopter coming up the canyon about a hundred feet off the ground. Ten minutes later they flew over again heading for the South Rim. Another Ranger rescue complete. I wonder what it cost the old guy. The rumor is, it's a couple of thousand dollars - one expensive lesson.

Bright Angel Canyon

After Cottonwood the trail got more gentle and we slowed down some. Next was 7 miles of Bright Angel Canyon which is one of the larger side canyons leading to the Colorado River.

14 Still Feeling Good

About this time we noticed someone lost their lunch. No, not like that. I mean literally. First was a sandwich in a Ziploc. Then some trail mix followed by a banana and other Ziplocked food. Occasionally, people dump stuff along the trail just to make their pack lighter; but we guessed in this case a zipper slipped open.

Normally when you find stuff along the trail it's best to put it in some obvious place so the owner can come back and pick it up when they discover it's missing. But not in the Grand Canyon. When it happens here, they are not likely to return any time soon. You just don't know how far back it fell out. It's rare anyone hikes this far into the canyon twice in the same week. It's also likely they had someone who would share lunch. So we picked everything up in the interest of Leave No Trace. Besides, it looked yummy.

15 Bright Angel Narrows

The narrows literally go on for about seven miles with some wonderful views. There were also some side trips but we stayed on the objective - maybe next time. Most of the trail was good, but with puddles from yesterday's rain. You could also see where Bright Angel Creek has been much higher the day before.

We passed more day crossers going our way but then it changed. First we passed fewer people. Then we started encountering day crossers coming from the OTHER way. We had definitely made the halfway point.

There was mud across the trail in a few places but most of the trail was good. One exception was a swampy detour by a spring where the creek had totally washed out the trail, water main and all. I think this part had already been fixed but we saw three guys working on the water pipe a little farther down the trail. There were also water tanks for the mules but they were already locked for the season.

It felt like we should be getting to Phantom Ranch soon, but no. These narrows canyon walls went on and on and on and on and on. Well, you get the idea. These things are subjective. Maybe I was just ready for lunch.

Phantom Ranch

When we did get to Phantom Ranch it was a surprise. I had always thought the ranch was on more open ground so I kept waiting for the canyon to open up. But the ranch is near the edge of the narrows so you come on it fast.

The "Ranch" is really just a restaurant, a bathroom and some cabins with picnic tables. It's all set under some cottonwood trees. There were about 25 people here with more showing up behind us as we had lunch.

The weather was now beautiful with only a few clouds here and there. We found an empty table, got comfortable and had lunch.

We had come 14 miles in 4:40 for a speed of 3 MPH which isn't bad on rough ground. So far only the three runners were faster. But we took a full hour for lunch and may have gotten passed in the process.

16 Dressed to Climb

As we left the Ranch we noticed people were starting to put out tents for the night. It was 1:15. We still had plenty of time.

17 South Kaibab Bridge

At the river, boats were loading for rafting trips. Their approach looked like more fun that the cliffs we were facing. But we had eaten and rested. We were ready for a climb. We had also topped off the water bottles since the rest of the trip was dry going up South Kaibab.

18 The OTHER Way Out

The Hard Part

In any case we were in good shape for the hard climb so we hit it hard - maybe too hard. It's my same old problem. I bolt out of the gate. We zoomed up the steps. An did an amazing job keeping up. In retrospect, she should have held me back some. I kept trying to get her to lead and set the pace but she liked being in back.

19 Gaining Ground

It was quite steep and mostly stairs. Some of it was in the sun so we did a lot of sweating, which was to be expected. What wasn't expected was how fast we were climbing. We were still passing people. And these weren't day crossers. Most had just dipped below the rim or were doing the Bright Angel - Kaibab loop. Still, I was feeling good. And An was keeping up. At least for a while.

20 Bright Angel Bridge

About a third the way up we both began to run out of energy. That's when I started a little game of push hard in the sun and take it easy in the shade. It broke things up nicely.

At halfway on South Kaibab (three miles) we had definitely slowed down. Looking back, it took only 1:15 to get this far - WAY too fast for this type of climb. I didn't even realize it at the time I just typed the numbers into my Treo and kept pushing ahead. Adrenalin can be a dangerous thing.

Soon we were both feeling the "wall" which is similar to what happens in a marathon - but not as dramatic. We stopped and had a snack in the shade. It helped. But we never got our pace back. It now became a grind where you check each switch-back to see how many more there were to go.

And just like climbing a mountain, the top seems to slip ever upwards away from you. But unlike a mountain, when we got to the top of this trail, we would be done. We continued to grind.

20 Bright Angel Bridge

I started noting the color of the layers. I knew there was a final white cap of about 300 feet at the top. We could now see it just above us.

During this time we got passed by about five hikers but passed very few ourselves. One guy passed me and I went into race mode just to see if I could. I passed him again and cleared about a hundred yards before I stopped and waited for An. I'm sure she thought I was crazy. We took another snack break.

21 Down River

22 Down Canyon

23 Starting Point in the far distance (click to enlarge)

24 Up Canyon

End Game

25 Almost Done

Finally we were into the white layer and even though we had slowed dramatically, we steadily gained ground and then passed one more couple who had only come halfway down from the South Rim. They knew where the top was and pointed it out. I think this helped An's attitude. I know it helped mine. It's nice to actually see the goal.

As we approached the top we kept looking for Dave but didn't spot him. I got ahead of An and tried to call him on my phone. I wanted him to drape toilet paper across the trail for An to break through. You know, like at the end of a race. It seemed appropriate after this much work. But he didn't answer. I was sure hoping he hadn't gotten lost. I didn't want to walk an extra three miles to the hotel.

I held back for An and we topped out together with a cheer. And there was Dave with the car right were we planned. No walking to the hotel. We actually had energy left, but you don't realize it until you know you've got it done. An even RAN to the dumpster to throw away some garbage AFTER she'd gotten to the car.

26 Excess Energy

It definitely wasn't as bad as a marathon, but it was close. For power hikes it was my forth most difficult. And that was mostly because of the climb.

In miles it was about 21, in hours it was exactly 9 (plus one for lunch) for and an average speed of 2.3 MPH. But that last three miles had taken over three hours. I should have paced it better. Over all, it was a great hike that almost didn't happen. I think we were both please with the outcome.

I got stiff waiting in line to check in at the hotel. It happens fast when you stop moving. We then got dinner before cleaning up and getting into the hot tub. You don't want to get dressed again to go out once you start relaxing.

27 Tame Elk

The next morning we were a little stiff but otherwise feeling great. As we were leaving, An spotted an elk behind the hotel. I got a picture. It was sun-shining again. But don't worry. Our luck hadn't changed completely. We got rained out one more night on the way back home. It also happened at three o'clock in the morning. So again we got up and took turns driving home.

The camping was wet, but the hike went well. That's what counts. If you plan to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim in a single day, be prepared. There's no van to pick you up if you crap out, and only an expensive helicopter which can only land at two points along the way.

Enjoy the hike.

And leave me a comment below.

Lizard Lee's Lawn at Saline Hot Springs

(First posted to Sudden Lifestyle 08-11-06)

Some of you have heard about my hikes around Saline Valley and the hot springs. There's 60 miles of bad road getting in but the drive is worth it.

A guy named Lizard Lee watches over the camp and hot springs. He also maintains a nice lawn which helps to keep things cool with it's evaporation in the hotter months.

There are three major springs, five developed tubs, three potties and about a hundred camp sites.

Thanksgiving is a major potluck and a good time to visit. Avoid June, July and August because of the heat.

Take plenty of water and check your spare before you head out.

Here are some pics to give you a feel for the place...

Sudden Surprise! - The Zen of Trail Mix

(First posted to Sudden Lifestyle 08-11-06)

Everyone's got at least one secret recipe - and a reason for creating it. I share my secrets, and the reasons. This is my recipe for trail mix. Here's why.

Lots of people go with standard GORP (good old raisins and peanuts). Others just settle for whatever Raley's or Trader Joe is mixing up this week. But not me.

I do a lot of hiking and I've found that adrenaline keeps my appetite down. I never eat enough to keep my energy up on long hikes. That's why it's important to take food that's not only appetizing; I shoot for "interesting" or even "entertaining". So I look for the exotic, even somewhat decadent.

OK. Raisins and apricots are in my mix as a base, but that's as plain as it gets. This year Bing cherries are my exotic fruit. Other years I've done raspberries which don't quite have the flavor I'd hoped for, but DO produce an interesting texture.

I've never bothered with peanuts because they get stale too fast. Pecans and pistachio are my favorite nuts. They are always included. This year the pecans get some cinnamon, and the cashew get honey and sesame seeds. The pumpkin seeds are plain and need no excuse.

You have to be careful with cereal. Most of it will get kind of rubbery as it to pulls the moisture out of dried fruit. Granola works fairly well. This year it's my own blend with maple syrup, blueberries and raspberries added in. And these raspberries DO taste like raspberries.

Sugar is food too, and VERY entertaining food as a reward for all that hiking. Choc Rocks are new this year. And the Jelly Bellys have 31 flavors so it's tough to guess what you'll bite into next. Some are even a bit nasty as far as I'm concerned, but they create contrast.

And of course, each year I like to also throw in an element of Disruption. One year it was red hots, but they were literally hard on the teeth when not expected. So was the beef jerky last year (not to mention the reaction from the veggie friends).

This year I found some special Easter Reeses Pieces that were the same size and shape as Peanut M&Ms. Such deception serves my objective. And I threw in some peach and watermelon fruit chewies for good measure.

The ratios of these things are fairly important. I don't like to get heavy in any one element. Each finger-pinch should produce something different.

I wip this up each spring and freeze most of it, breaking it out batch at a time. And I like to quantify the calories, so I add them up then fill Zip-locks with 400 calories each. This helps to maintain an Average Diet.

Well, you get the point. The idea is to have fun and surprise people at the top of some mountain. I also give them away at Burning Man and other events. And it's great to take to the theater. In the dark almost everything is a surprise.

Anyway, I started passing this year's vintage out a few weeks ago. My friends have already guessed at the flavors by now. It's time to let them know for sure.

Give it a try. Or take the idea and create something YOU find special.

2006 Sudden Surprise! Trail Mix

Ingredient Weight Calories

Raisins 48 oz 4290
Apricots 16 oz 990
Bing Cherries 8 oz 780

Pistachio 16 oz 2880
Honey Sesame Cashews 16 oz 2550
Cinnamon pecans 10 oz 1900
Pumpkin Seeds 16 oz 2550

Choc Rocks 12 oz 1760
M&M Peanuts 14 oz 1980
Reeses Eggs 31 oz 4200
Jelly Beans 20 oz 1960
Peach & Watermelon 9 oz 780

Granola 32 oz 3840

Total 248 oz 30,460

15.50 lbs 123 cal / oz

Give Me a Sign!

(First posted to Sudden Art 10-21-06)

In the movie, "Blast From the Past", Archbishop Melker (Joey Slotnick) is praying with his flock and crying out, "Give me a sign!", in an attempt to verify that Christ had truly arisen from his basement.

Just then Adam (Brendon Fraser - aka "the Son") opens the door to verify he's found the way back to his bomb shelter. Seeing the group in prayer, he quickly offers an embarrassed smile and a little wave before he leaves. It's one of those all time magic moments in movie comedy when someone begs for a sign in their life - and gets it!

As most of you know, I've become more and more involved with Burning Man art projects over the last few years. That's why I've been looking for a new home. I need a garage and space to stage Burning Man art as it's developed.

A few weeks ago I found this home on the market and was immediately attracted. I took these pictures to share with some of my friends, but it wasn't until my son walked through and pointed out "the sign" that I knew it was the right place.

The "sign" is in one of the photos below and is a remarkable likeness of the "man" considering it was constructed 13 years BEFORE the first Burn on the beach in San Francisco. The human mind looks for patterns in the fog. It MUST be a sign. See if you can spot it.

The property has excellent access, but a quasi-industrial horse farm setting. It's on the low-rent edge, of the up-scale side of Reno. The front presents a very modest exposure to a gravel street.

At a half acre, it has plenty of room to work on things. When the horse moves out, I'll have room for the art.

Even though simple on the outside, the inside looks like a transplant from Tahoe with it's expansive greatroom. Other parts are cobbled and cramped, more like something from Santa Cruz. I like the mixed message.

It has three bedrooms plus a studio with loft bedroom for a total of four.

Much of the interior is knotty pine with a LOT of VERY detailed and non-standard finish.

Someone liked to express themselves with a table saw and sandpaper. Most of the woodwork is still in excellent in condition. With the rock, concrete block and fire brick added in, it's almost as if they built the house out of what was at hand at the time. I suspect I like the effect more than most, but it's so much fun to see all of these materials brought together in such a willy-nilly fashion.

The Great-room is held up with what appears to be ex-railroad bridgework and stone. Some of the original mounting points are still visible. I don't know how old it was when it was put in place, but after 40 years the beams still sight true with very little cracking. There's only one point where it's been reinforced with steel.

The fireplace and BBQ speak for themselves. OK. I'll give you a hint. I suspect someone was reading Tolkien at the time.

The exterior could use some work, but the charm factor inside overwhelms everthing else.

Let me know what YOU think.

Burning Man 2006 - Best Burn Ever!

01 Articulated Flower Called Hope

{NOTE! Click on the pics to get them full size}

Theme : Hope and Fear
Favorite : Euchronia
Second : Beat Glasses at Man

For my my other Burning Man stories...


After four years at Burning Man, I've gained some confidence that I know what to expect on the playa. After living through wind storms, failed structures and stolen art, I realize there's a downside.

But having discovered the amazing positive energy, community and serendipity that pervades the experience, I knew the odds were in my favor.

What I didn't count on is that the very nature of Burning Man is unpredictable since everyone is constantly trying new things in new ways. Burning Man is a moving target which is what keeps it fresh.

You can count on fantastic art, unbelievable parties and a great vibe. It's as predictable as dust, wind and heat. What you can't count on is how it will all play out.

The best approach is to treat it like an adventure - prepare reasonable well, then adapt as you go. This year that approach worked amazingly well - the best Burn ever.

01J Welcome Home

Welcome to a NEW Home

After the struggle, pain and only half-assed success of last year's Tyvekian Radiation Shield, I wasn't discouraged at all. That's how it is with adventure - you regroup, redesign and try again. I knew what NOT to do this time around.

My failure even encouraged others. Now Kiwi wanted to try his design for a central structure to house the International Burn Hostel. In order to NOT have dueling shade structures, I decided to fine another camp to shelter.

I could have gone solo, but such a large structure would have been a waste for just me. I needed campers to shade. If you're going to experiment, you might as well make it count. Plus being part of a theme camp would allow me to get in early again. So I have my selfish reasons.

It didn't take long to find an alternative. Right after last year's event, An and I met Tim Hunter and his wife Debbie at a local Burn party. They were the ones who hosted Club Verboten which I'd enjoyed the last two years. I didn't realize they lived in Reno when I was out on the playa.

Over the next few months we got to know each other well; I got an invitation to put up my Radiation Shield at Club Verboten. It seemed like a good match. We had a new home.

Tim started Club Verboten as a "forbidden East Berlin night club" because of his interest in techno and how it challenged the status quo of the Eastern Block. OK, maybe he just liked the music.

Here's how it evolved in his own words emailed to each camp member...

History of Club Verboten

2001 - Begins life as "Boom Boom Room". High hopes and ambitions to play "good techno" lands us out in Sound Art section with 300 watt speakers up against our neighbors 5,000 watt variety. We give up the ghost on Friday. Tired and frustrated I threw on a Kraftwerk CD and just let it play over and over. Lo and behold largest crowd of the week stumbled in and Club Verboten was born.

2002 - Now known as Club Verboten we experienced a miserable year (again in Sound Art) and a miracle Verboten ever showed up again in 2003. In a trade off with 2 English DJs I offered playing time in for use of their generator on their RV. What I got was a wired, out of control, speed freak DJ whos RV generator lasted less than a day. In its place we borrowed a small very noisy generator which was a nightmare all week in terms of sound and necessity to pour in gas (in the dark no less) every 1/2 hour or so. The week ended on Friday afternoon with a gigantic dust storm which hit Verboten straight on. Cleaning it all up again was not considered. Only highlight it seems was our first Depeche Mode Night. Our only crowd of the week and a harbinger of things to come.

02J Club Verboten Central Committee

2003 - Our luck finally turned as we were given, for some reason, nice keyhole/Esplanade location where we still reside today. Our camp was down to Action Jack and myself as 2002 saw many bailouts. We added two from Ohio later in the week but for most part this was a two man operation. Great crowds for DM, Kraftwerk, and 80's night. Our new Honda quiet generator made life much easier. Time now to replace cheap piece of crap tent we were using.

2004 - Despite our address being omitted from our events in the "Who What Where" guide Verboten experienced a break through year. A new custom tent saw some very well attended "retro avant garde" music dances and we finally felt like we belonged.

2005 - Club Verboten given another break when shifted to the 3:00 Plaza. Our retro theme proved very popular as all events well attended with many so crowded that people were unable to get in. A long way from keeping your head down playing to an empty tent and hauling bicycles out front to make it look like someone was there!

So that's who we were camping with. Here was my primary gift...

Radiation Shield - Part Two

As noted last year, the biggest problem with my design was trying to put up 3000 square feet of fabric all at one time. This year I decided to buy cheap Costco tarps (12' x 16' at $8 each) and attach them using ball bungees. By putting it up in smaller sections I'd have less trouble with the wind.

The rest of the design stayed pretty much the same. It still had 60' PVC ribs made up of three twenty foot sections with four foot internal links. These would be anchored the same way using steel fence posts and multi-layered PVC foundations.

03 Rib Design

This year I would only have five arches but now with twelve foot centers for a length of almost 50' including rib spacing. It was a bit smaller than last year's design but still significant. Moderation in all things.

Also this year I would widen the base from 38' to 40' which would lower the top of the arch a bit to make it easier to work from the top of the RV.

One last significant change was to drop all internal surface ropes and external x-ropes, turning the Radiation Sheld into a true stressed-skin structure. I would only use end ropes and some emergency drop ropes to be tied down during major storms. This would allow the tarps and bungees to distribute the stress as needed instead of trying to rig parallel ropes with the right tension. This was a bit of a gamble but I felt the approach was less likely to rip out grommets.

My original objective was to create as MUCH shade using as LITTLE material as possible. The Costco tarps were three times heavier but the design was still reasonable light, cheap and hopefully - effective.

The Belgians

Just because I shifted camps didn't mean I bailed on the Burn Hostel. About ten days before departure Fred sent out an email asking for help with a group of 40 Belgians.

They had a big art project that had gotten stopped in U.S. Customs and were without gear and supplies. They had no reason to go out to the playa without their materials, so they came to Hagy's for a few days where they were farmed out to local Burners or camped there.

I took potluck over several times that week and got a chance to talk to some of these guys. They planned to build something called the Space-Time Ship from Euchronia. It was mostly funded with a grant of $300,000 from the Belgian government to represent their country at Burning Man.

I cornered the artist in Fred's kitchen and tried to get a description. There is no end to my curiosity. He gave me not a clue, but said I would probably like it. He was right. It turned out to be my favorite piece this year.

Also at Hagy's, Kiwi showed me his new design for a shade structure. It was impressive indeed but totally different from my work.

In the back yard Irish was working on something he called Metalthusla. It was a nicely done collection of threatening steel. Here it is once he got it out to the playa...

02 Metalthusla

Prep and Packing

Prep of the tarps and PVC only took a couple of weeks. The rest of my gear came together nicely too. What else would I need? There would be ten others in our camp but I had the only motorhome with stove and refrigerator so I decided to provide some meals.

I bought about twenty pounds of chicken, pork and beef as well as some potatoes and several pounds of cheese and salad. I pre-BBQed the meat, then cut and froze it for simple and quick preparation on the playa. This would allow me to make fajita salads and baked potatoes a couple of nights.

Next I pre-fried four pounds of bacon and froze that too. No need to take all the extra grease. I also stocked up on bread, eggs and milk to make french toast as well as a few big cans of juice for breakfast.

An brought fixens for coffee. We were ready to create some unexpected meals. I ended up doing salads twice, breakfast twice and baked potatoes once. Every little bit helps. It was the best way to gift my resources.

There was one other change in packing this year. Instead of putting all that PVC on the top of the motorhome, I loaded it INSIDE. It fit in the hallway nicely but we couldn't get to the bathroom or refrigerator. Still, this approach was MUCH faster to load and unload as well as much safer to transport. Which brings up another topic.

02J Neverwas Haul

Safety Third - Evil Christine

Tim (aka Omar Suarez and President a' vie) was having a BBQ Friday night at his house for our send off. He had three others to ride out with us and I'd offered a ride out for "Evil Chris" from another camp. I had to pick her up at the bus station and do one final stop for veggies and fruit.

As Christine was helping me load the PVC, she said, "Safety Third" as I was about to smash my fingers. I laughed at the time but it stuck with me. Later that evening I heard the term again from others. Cute words get around.

At first I simply enjoyed the joke as I wondered what was one and two. Get it done? Party ON? Push the limits? Have a great time?

Then I realized, the term DOES make you think about safety, especially when climbing around on the top of a motorhome in the wind with tarps in your face and a hand full of bungees. It was just such a situation that lead to the only death at Burning Man this year.

Apparently, a guy fell from a ladder and struck his head during camp construction. He seemed fine at the time and kept working, but the next day fell unconscious and later died. Or at least that was the word around camp when we got there.

What's amazing is, there aren't more accidental deaths at Burning Man. First consider all the improvised construction techniques and marginal equipment; later add in all the partying and climbing on interactive art; finally take into account the general state of health and awareness that evolves after a few days in the desert with 40,000 half-sober people; what are the odds?

I always expect more serious injury or death. Maybe it's THAT expectation of danger that keeps us safe. Or maybe we're just a lucky group. In any case I think we beat the odds.

My take is, "Safety First" from the default world lost it meaning long ago. "Safety Third" keeps the topic in mind. It's a subtle yet excellent example of how Burning Man concepts can challenge yet be effective at the same time.

Friday, August 25th - Unexpected Delays

Like childbirth, packing always seems to require more labor than you remember from last time. And with a fixed schedule, it has to accelerate at the end. Chris and I were two hours late for the BBQ, but the party and vibe were well underway. There's a lot of excitement when the playa gets this close.

02J Swirl Fyre and Tim

It was time to meet some new Burners. Swirl (James), Fyre and Kat were all virgins from Halifax. Swirl was a certified First Responder and volunteering with the medics near our camp.

John Leon came in from Texas with Action Jack (Fred). Fred would be driving the truck out with Tim the next day. Swirl, John, Evil Chris, An and I were ready to take the RV out that night so we could take advantage of the calm winds at daybreak to put up the Radiation Shield.

But as late as we were for the BBQ, we weren't late enough. One of Tim's hitch hikers was even later. This put us two MORE hours behind in our departure. That's why it's important to treat a Burning Man schedule as more of a guideline.

Our guideline slipped even more when we stopped at In & Out for burgers - one last fast food fix. But then finally, we were on the road. And once you're on the road to Burning Man you're never late. It's a good thing I was still too buzzed to fall asleep. But everyone else did. I enjoyed the drive. Safety third.

Saturday, August 26th - Getting to Bed Before Sunrise

It was well after three in the morning before we got checked in at the gate and Chris dropped off. I just turned off the RV and got in bed. The five of us were asleep within seconds. At least I was. It would be a short night. I needed to make the most of it.

I awoke 150 minutes later just in time to see the sun come up. It was a beautiful red ball behind some dust. I felt GREAT! Time to get to work.

03 First Sunrise

Jimbo from Iowa was already there too. Though technically he was the camp next door, we all worked together. His camp was called Das Grube because of the big iron fire pit and iron mask art. Jimbo also helped out with Club Verboten and brought a lot of great food to share.

03J Jimbo and His Pit

03J Jimbo's Spirits

The shield needed to go up first. John and Swirl picked up on the design immediately. Things went up fast with no problems at all. It's great to have good help.

Swirl was like a perfect dance partner with the tape during layout. He also had the muscle to quickly set the fence posts in the playa. The four of us placed the ribs in only a few minutes.

04J Ribs Up

John got so good snapping down bungees while hanging from a rib, we started calling him Playa Spider. I still think it's a good name.

05 Adding Tarps

As you can see, I alternated the tarps so they would form a silver and blue checkerboard.

06 Radiation Shield Complete

One Hard Day's work is Better Than Five

When Tim and Fred arrived at about one in the afternoon, the Radiation Shield was up and functional. It had taken only six and a half hours.

They had brought with them Fyre and Kat as well as Maggie from Pennsylvania. Maggie was quite young and seemed a bit disoriented as far as desert survival was concerned.

06J Taron and Jeff

Taron and Jeff from Oregon also showed up about this same time. I'm not sure when or how he arrived, but I also met Lasse from Stockholm, Sweden. He didn't speak much English but he was amazing with his costumes. As it turned out, our camp was full of virgins, but they seemed determined to have a good time. And attitude's half the battle.

06J Club Tent Going Up

The club tent went up even faster as I finished rigging the lights on the Radiation Shield. By sunset everyone found a spot and had their tents set up. Last year it had taken five days to get this far. This was amazing progress - quite unexpected.

But the unexpected found another form as well. Someone stepped on the "Club Verboten" neon sign. It was now dis-functional with no way to replace it. I think all of us put the thought in the back of our mind hoping for some solution. In any case everything else was done in only one day! I was pleased and proud of the progress.

After a quick meal and a shower, An and I still had time for for a sunset walk. After being buzzed with energy for so long, it's hard to relax but the walk helped slow me down.

Including prep and packing, it had been a grueling 36 hours with only two hours of sleep. But the hard part was done. Now I could recover and enjoy the rest of the week. I was determined to take it easy and not burn out too fast.

First Art

The Man was an obvious target for a walk so we headed there. Also on the horizon was a strange nest that appeared to be made of wood. I'd been looking at it all day and assumed it was the Temple but it was VERY different from prior years. It was huge and could be seen from almost anywhere. It looked like some kind of bird's nest. As I would soon learn, that was a pretty good description.

The man was closer, so we stopped there first. It had a fun house below but was not finished yet. The fun stuff would be added later. The stairs were done so we climbed up and looked around. Early in the week is such a peaceful time. It fit my mood. I was feeling good, but mellow. Exhaustion is probably a better description.

On the way out to the nest of wood we discovered the real temple. It was a very modest affair compared to previous years but nicely done. So what was this nest? I learned it was Euchronia, the same art I had discussed in Hagy's kitchen.

I wanted to see it closer, but the temple was as far as we got that night. It was dark and we hadn't brought lights. By then I was also a walking zombie. I needed to find a bed. I think that was the earliest we got to bed the whole week. By the time we got back to camp it was 10 and I slept till sunrise.

One thing I noticed on the way in was my center string of blue lights on the guy wires had gone out leaving what appeared to be a nice blue "V" next to the club tent. Hmmmm...

Sunday, August 27th - Welcome Home, Welcome Home, Welcome Home, Welcome Home, Welcome Home

Morning always refreshes me. This is especially true on the playa. And with the camp all set up, we were free to explore. Since we came in too early to get programs, we headed for the main gate. Along the way we stopped by the airport.

Burning Man is not typically an airshow but I was impressed with one unusual airplane from eastern Europe. It had brought some Burners down from Alaska so I got a pic...

07 Lithuanian Air

At the gate everyone was in a festive mood as more people poured in. I rode my bike out past the entrance then came back through as everyone cheered my arrival. It was so much fun I did it again. And Again. And again. And again. Stupid, I know. But the point was to see who would blink first. Burners go with the flow. Or maybe it was a test of ambient drug level. They lasted longer than I did. I hadn't had a drink.

We got our books and headed back around the circle. We went clockwise outside of the camps. The outer rings were still almost empty. You could ride almost anywhere and not hit a tent.

At the sound camps (left end of Black Rock City) we continued straight out to Euchronia. It was time for a closer look.

08 Euchronia

Space-Time Ship from Euchronia

Now you might wonder why this became my favorite piece this year. Was I biased because I'd met the artist? From a distance it's all a jumble and a bit of a blob. In terms of "pretty" or visual it's only above average. But that's just the start.

09 Euchronia

Scale is the next thing to appreciate. It's big on the horizon but it keeps getting bigger as you approach. That makes it REAL big. You quickly realize it's bigger than the Man and even dwarfs the larger temples of prior years. But anyone with money can create scale so that in itself doesn't count.

The next thing you notice are patterns in construction as if this thing evolved - which it did. The most impressive thing about Euchronia for me was HOW it got built and what it says about the art of making things.

Yes, I'm a geek, and I think in terms of engineering, so I expected to find hidden structure as I got closer - something like the two by four triangle frames of the 2002 Temple hidden under it's lace; but maybe on a larger scale.

I was specifically looking for glue-lams or other trusses to hold this monster up. But they were NOT to be found. The closer I got, the more amazing the structure became.

Not only did it look like a bird's nest, it was BUILT like a bird's nest - one stick at a time! It must have been some mega species of bird that spit nails attaching ten foot two by threes at fairly random points. I say FAIRLY random because there WAS some order but not much; at least on a macro scale. If you stood back, you could see waves of boards in fanning patterns creating complex surfaces, but you had to look for it.

On the mega scale, the surface became a french cure in three dimensions forming columns rising to hold a roof. Think of string art with no frames forming fluid surfaces in a willy-nilly sort of way. It was fun to study.

The cool thing was there was no reference or typical pattern seen in virtually all human construction. This pseudo-random macro form extended to become a wondrous mega structure.

10 Euchronia

I dropped my bike in the dust and just walked around with my mouth hanging open looking for the clues to it's engineering. Then I saw it. The workers had used units of lumber to form a covered construction shack a few feet away. Inside I found the plans and bills of lading. I began laughing.

The plans were just a couple of sheets showing the mega results - that's all. There were no detail drawings because NONE had been created! The artist let the demand for strength provide the detail as it progressed.

I finally got it. It was built the way early versions of Black Rock city were built - in response to the stress of demand - in that case, people's wishes to be close to the Man... or not. The final mega-vision was the only objective. This was brilliant construction indeed.

I've never seen anything so large built in this way. Actually, I don't think I've ever seen anything of ANY scale built this way, except by birds. They have some idea of what the nest should "feel" like and just keep adding sticks and mud as needed for strength and size. It was truly an original piece and far more significant than it's elegant finished appearance might imply.

11J Euchronia Construction

A couple of days later I manage to corner (truly false pun of "corner" not intended but left for effect) one of the builders on the site.

He verified that the artist came up with the mega concept, and they just started nailing boards. If an area was too weak, they would just add more boards until it was strong enough to keep going skyward. Any engineer would tell you, this approach is audacious indeed! Burning Man is wonderful.

If you want specifications, I learned it was made up of 150 km (about 93 miles) of wood. This was assembled on a footprint of 30 by 60 meters and was 15 meters high. But that doesn't really tell you much. It's the kind of thing you have to see.

By the way, someone had taken a black marker and written all over the structure, "15,000 Trees", but they were WAY off in their estimate. My guess is there were fewer than that many boards, NOT trees. The construction guy said it was mis-cut lumber from some broker they found in Canada. The wood was going to be destroyed because it wasn't worth moving. I suspect that's why it was made of two by threes (an unusual size). The only place THAT size is used for significant construction is in Japan so the story makes sense.

Plus their website claims they are to planting more trees than they used. To me none of this mattered. Euchronia was worth FAR more than the cost of production. The value of planting this construction method in the minds of 40,000 people (plus the millions more that read about it here and other places) was easily worth the wood.

We should all "waste" wood in such expression.

I just thought of one more way nature uses this method of construction. When muscle and bones are stressed, the human body builds tissue and calcium migrates to support that stress. What if DNA is NOT an engineering drawing for a human, but a collection of internal pseudo-stress triggers reflecting the evolution process since the beginning of life, to which far more simple biological systems responds. Could a human be "lead" into existence in the womb reflecting four billion years of evolution? Talk about time warp! Just a thought. But see what I mean by the value of wood on the playa? How many other ideas will flow from this art?

12 Euchronia

Yes, I took a lot of pics but like many things on the playa, a two dimensional photo does not do justice to the concept or the effect produced. Find a video if you can. Or better yet, just visit it before it burns. After all, it IS a piece out of space and time. Visit it ANY where-when you like.

As any good Monoshawan from the "Fifth Element" knows, matter creates space; space creates time; and time doesn't matter. Only life matters. And life will find a way. The Euchronians and Mondoshawan probably studied at that same school of art.

Euchronia alone is worth the price of admission.

11 Euchronia

CV - Club Verboten

I rode back to camp. I didn't want to see any other art right now. Urconia needed to be bracketed in time, as well as space, for it to matter. At least for me.

Back at camp I did almost nothing except reading, napping, and relaxing in the heat of the day. I was still catching up on my sleep. Most of the city and art were not yet up anyway.

An started through the Burning Man program. She doesn't like to miss anything; which is an impossible task at Burning Man. But she tries. Soon she'd be zooming off on her bike to one event or another.

13 Club Verboten and Camp

Others noticed my guy lights looked like a "V" from the playa, so John and I took down a string of lights from the back and tapped them to a length of PVC we formed into a "C". Now we just needed to get it attached to the top of the rib. I had an idea.

14J Black Rock Bookmobile

I rode over to the Black Rock Bookmobile where Roland and Shy have this art car which was actually a scissor lift. Tom drove it over to put up our "C". Thanks guys. Now we had a "CV" for Club Verboten, which was better than nothing I guess.

13J CV for Club Verboten

Sometime that day Swirl managed to somewhat fix the neon sign with light wire. We looked a bit like a Road Warrior camp, but were back in business.

14J Sign Repair

Later that afternoon An and I made fajita salads for the camp along with a big bowl of guacamole. Kat liked the guac so much she took the bowl out and licked it dry (as you might expect a Kat to do). Forget imitation. Licking the bowl is the sincerest form of flattery. And I don't even think she had noticed my "Lick Your Plate" sign in the RV from last year. But maybe.

15 Kat Licking Guac Bowl

Sitting in the shade, I started flirted with Fyre while she tried on different costumes. We played this game about how she needed to bend over to test her range of motion. She always faced away for some reason. I would suggest things for her to pick up off the ground. Fyre flirted well. She's a natural party animal. Here are some pics of other camp members.

16 Tim - President a 'vie

17 Maggie and Fyre

18 Tim Maggie John Fred

Later An and I rode around the playa some more. Sunset and sunrise are my favorite times because that's usually when the wind dies down, as does the heat. But the light is great.

18J Maggie Kat Lasse

Monday, August 28th - Burning Stupid

Another good nights sleep in the bank. Tim reminded me this was the time to pre-charge your sleep for later in the week. And it's SO true. If you aren't fresh on Wednesday, you'll crash before the weekend's over. So far, I was ahead of the game.

At sunrise we headed counter-clockwise on the outer streets to compliment the day before. It was beginning to fill in more with campers, but not much art so far.

We continued on around the end of the city finding ourselves once again at Euchronia. OK, I went there on purpose. I can't help it. I liked it. What we found was a surprise.

There was a bit of a party still going on. Well, more like yelling and challenges with some music thrown in. The difference between alcohol and pot was being vividly demonstrated.

There were only about ten people which is typical at sunrise this far out. But two of them were getting out of hand. It was the result of too much alcohol. Pot heads never get this stupid.

With one drunk, you get obnoxious. With two, you get a contest for stupidity. In this case they were climbing up the side of Euchronia. Their friends below were yelling at them to get down - which of course just made them climb even higher.

Those two by threes were not likely to hold their weight once they made it to the horizontal part of the structure. This would put them about 50 feet in the air with only the playa below.

I suggested to the friends they were getting way too much attention and everyone should simply leave. If they lost their audience, they'd likely give up the contest. No one listened. They were drunk as well. They kept on yelling. If you look for the edge, drunk or not, sooner or later you'll find it. Safety third.

I followed my own advice and we took off. In a few of minutes I found a couple of BLM cops driving around. I sent them out. I'm a narc, I know. Everyone has their lines.

We didn't stay to see if they lived. But I didn't find a hole in the roof of Euchronia later on either. So I guess they survived. That's what counts.

19 Drunken Euchronians

The Cathedral

Coming back we stopped at the Conexus Cathedral. From a distance, it appears to be made of wood but is surprisingly made of steel wrapped in white plastic. Again, what you find at Burning Man is often NOT what you expect.

It's a beautiful piece representing the structure of a European cathedral without the walls or roof.

Once again, the scale was impressive; probably the second biggest piece I've ever seen on the playa. It was all held up with guy wires. It also had a mellow vibe. Later in the week we saw yoga and a wedding performed here. Definitely a Hippie piece.

20 Conexus Cathedral Going Up

Ice Lines

One of the objections I get from people when I tell them about Burning Man is, "I don't like crowds". Surprisingly enough, Burning Man doesn't have many.

OK, the Burning of the Man, Temple Burn and Critical Tits Parade all raise a pretty good crowd. And the rave camps sometimes get over a thousand dancing at one time, but mostly these 40,000 people are scattered over several square miles in small groups of fewer than a hundred; much of the time even less.

21 Mobil Rave Crowd

Even center camp usually only has a few hundred and they are spread out over an area the size of the Colosseum.

One final exception is the line for ice at center camp. When they open, you can see the line wrapped all the way out to the playa but most of the time it's shorter and fits in the cattle shoots they've created for the purpose of crowd control. You know what I mean; they have guard rails wrapped back and forth in a long "S" shape like they do at Disneyland. The only difference is the characters are IN line instead of outside entertaining.

Seriously, if you stand in line waiting for ice, you can't help laughing at how diverse these characters are. It feels like a Fellini movie. It's built-in entertainment. And the line goes fast.

So don't worry if you hate lines and crowds. Mostly they can be avoided. There's always something else to do. And you can't do it all anyway. Crowds are rarely a problem.

Deflowering Maggie

When I got back to camp everyone was sitting around trying to figure out how to get Maggie a bike. She had neglected to bring one; and now had regrets.

Tim took her in the club tent. In a few minutes she came out with a sign strapped to her ass saying, "Deflower me for a bike".

At the time she had on an apron and garter belt. She flipped up the apron and showed she was naked underneath... except for a small flower in the garter belt.

Everyone was laughing as her and Tim set off to solve the problem. It took them about an hour but they came back with a bike. And we learned she didn't even have to do anything sexual in return. She's found a "nice guy" with an extra bike. It's just one more thing I like about Burning Man - everyone pitches in and finds a way. The gift economy works!

22 Maggie Getting a Bike

This night Jimbo made chili in his fire pit. I added cheese and chips. Others added their potluck.

As the sun went down, the wind came up so we donned masks and goggles. Then An and I went swing dancing in a wind storm. I should say An went swing dancing. I sat and watched.

It's bizarre to see such dramatic dance in white dust backed by blinking lights. She got lots of dance partners and had a great time. Sweat formed tiny brown rivulets on her neck as the dust got wet.

When we got back to the club, Tim had a full house for Disco Night with lots of people even dancing outside. And this was only Monday! The week had started well. We got to bed by twelve for another good night's sleep.

Tuesday, August 29th

Another Morning; up at sunrise; another ride around to check the state of the art. It changes from day to day as it's completed. The process is often as educational as the art itself.

Again, we went out and to the right but E street this time. Using this approach we cover most of the city at least once by the end of the week.

We didn't ride very far before we were stopped by a football flying over us. An dropped her bike and we started playing catch. These breaks often happen without a word being spoken. It was three way catch. Then four way. In a few minutes we said thanks and rode on.

The streets were filling in with campers and the playa was filling in with art. Here are examples...

23 Mantis

24 Birth and Death on Wheels

25 Camp Touch This

25J Lionfish

26 Snuggle Muffins

These Snuggle Muffins are a great example of artistic chill spaces placed out on the playa. They are almost always full in the morning. And sometimes at night.

26J Mobile Muffins

Later we stopped by center camp but it was still pretty quiet. They had moved my favorite piece from last year right out front.

27 From Last Year

27J Detail

Standing in the ice line I realized one of the things that makes Burning Man so different from any other event is it's lack of focus.

It's not just about party till Lent; it's not just about music; it's not just about art; it's not just about community; it's not just about creative engineering. It's not just about anything at all. It's about almost everything. If "Art is that which everything else isn't", Burning Man is more so.

Later that afternoon An went to a pole dancing class. Again, I'm not much of a dancer but I stopped by later to watched. It was entertaining. And once again I discovered there's significant skill behind most human activity - certainly this one.

It was Rolling Stones night at the club so we spent a fair amount of time there between walks. I was still being mellow. We still got to bed early again.

Wednesday, August 30th - Deception

Up at sunrise, out and to the left. There's lots of new stuff every morning. Here are more examples...

28 Seven Foot Rebar

29 As Fast As They Could Spin

Some picture are NOT worth a thousand words. This one for example. And for some art, words just won't do. This piece made of empty Pepsi bottles is a great example. I had seen it last year but it wasn't working very well. This year it was hitting on all cylinders. Make that jugs. OK. I'll give it a try with only words.

The effect is of wind chimes that sounds like a bee's nest. The artist had suspended these bottles (which had vanes cut in them) on small hubs at the top. The wind made them spin VERY fast and caused them to make a sound somewhat like a bee but more dull. When they were all going at once it's quite impressive. Like I say, sometimes you just have to be there.

30 Not What it Seems

Here's another example of deception. It's an art car! This is actually a Ford truck (under the dome and black tarp) with structures from two different worlds attached. I guess it just happened to be what the artist had in his back yard. Later in the week we visited this beast and rode it's dome on the playa.

Later as I waited in the ice line, I noticed a huge crowd near the playa. In a few minutes An showed up with ice cream. They were scooping it out as fast as they could; An got me one. Ice cream is a rare treat out here; especially when you're standing in the sun.

Back at camp, Kat said the Golden Shower camp was handing out lemonade. Just another example of creative giving. Or is it deception? In either case, it happens a lot.

31J The Devil is in the Dust

Getting Tested

Dan, who is a friend of ours from Reno, came by and we went to the Hookadome next door. I'd seen this place for years but had never given it a try. It's a beautiful tent with big Hookas inside where people are trying different tobaccos. Around that are people relaxing after their smoke. A guy was spraying everyone with rose water. It was a VERY nice chill space. And it smelled good.

While we were in there, the tent began to move dramatically and they sealed down the doors. This was a sure sign of a big blow. When it didn't end after a few minutes we headed back to check on the Radiation Shield.

31 Wind Storm

It didn't look good. The north end had collapsed with the ribs forced into an "S" curve from the wind. The rain gutter on the truck caught the tarps and tore a hole. The whole thing was forced down on the other other trucks and tents. Oh well. It had held up for a few days at least.

I tied down some of the storm ropes. There wasn't much else we could do at that point so we got in the RV and fixed dinner. Other camp members stopped by from time to time to get out of the wind. THIS is where a motor-home pays off. You have room to move around without being blown away.

31J Surviving the Storm

Everyone else found a safe spot and waited out the storm. The three of us went back to the Hookadome. You might was well have good time.

And the storm continued. A couple of hours later we went to bed since there wasn't much else to do. Most places were closed up against the storm.

We woke up about midnight and the storm had backed off a bit. The ribs had popped back up and things seemed pretty normal. I got out and look around but the winds started again. Once again the structure collapsed. I went back to bed.

Thursday, August 31h - Not a Problem

The next morning I awoke to the sound of cheering. I looked out the window and the Radiation Shield seemed back to normal. I went outside. Our camp-mates were celebrating the Shield's rise from the dead. They were sure I had planned it that way.

32 Not a Problem

The only damage was the one hole and a few grommets pulled out. OK, the tarps had moved around a bit so there was more slack in everything; but it was still standing, and still functional!

I'd like to take credit for the result, but it was just luck. I did work a lot on the rib design two years ago. I made it just strong enough to hold up the fabric and no more. I was trying to get as much "bang for the buck" as possible. The PVC did the rest. I DID know the ribs would form an "S" shape under too much stress. I just didn't know things would recover as nicely as they did without breaking.

Later I learned we had SUSTAINED winds of over 40 miles per hour. And I have to agree. The wind had to be pretty steady to hold the ribs in that shape for all those hours. If they had been more gusting, it might have done more damage.

This was unexpected good luck.

State of the Storm

Since there was not much to do in the way of repair, it was time to check out how everyone else had stood up to the storm.

There were lots of examples of structures down and fabrics pulled away but most were simply being repaired. You do what you can and add more ropes and rebar.

33 Storm Damage

Tim mentioned he had gone out to Euchronia after the storm broke and was out there till three in the morning. Apparently they had set up a DJ booth in the structure and had a rave most of the night. By the time we got there, the rave had moved to the temple with the mobile rave buses.

34 The Temple

As we watched the party die with the morning sun we saw a couple of people running around with big cardboard "scissors" demonstrating their lack of care. Strange things like this are always happening at Burning Man.

There was one couple sitting in the temple together. They both were wearing beautiful white fur. I wasn't sure if they were left over from the rave or come to morn with the morning. They were very still at this point, and to me reflected the calm of the morning after the storm. Such is subjective reality.

35 A Long Night

Even More Art

After we got back to camp I went for an ice run. The line was shorter but center camp was busier. From Thursday on you can feel the tension grow as construction is now completed, and more performance art comes out. We were now in the final build up to the Burn.

36 Giraffes Getting Coffee

37 Handstand at Center Camp

Back at camp someone brought out bratwurst for lunch and Jimbo cook them in his fire pit. Dave Orel came by from the Burn Hostel and we had lunch. He mentioned several things I just HAD to see. His list became my ambition for the afternoon.

On our way out to the Man we encountered the longest art of the week. It was a dragon about a mile long made up of participants holding fabric sections connected to each other. I never did get the back story or name, but it was impressive none the less. I later heard they went for and won a place in Guinness. That's one long chorus line.

40 Dragon Head

41 Dragon Body

42 Dragon Tail

Next were these glasses in the base of the man. I had seen them on a walk through but they were too busy to try. This time I waited my turn. It was worth the wait.

38 Optical Illusion

These glasses had each lens painted over and a red LED mounted at the corner for each eye. With your eye open it just looked like a bright LED, but when you closed your eyes, you began to see pulsating illusions much like you might see if you looked toward the sun with your eyes closed - EXCEPT they were far more regular, yet changing in shape.

This is one of those Burning Man pieces that's hard to describe, and can't be photographed. The only way is to live it. I quickly discovered how the patterns were changing. When I took the glasses off I saw one seat had a dial. Again, I waited my turn for THAT seat.

This time it made more sense. I had read in Scientific American a couple of years ago how it had been discovered that neural impulses cross the visual cortex about 70 times per second. This apparently is the temporal resolution of visual perception.

This artist had tapped into this fact to create a visual illusion driven by the beat frequency between the typical brain and these LEDs - that's why the adjustment was needed. I'm almost sure it controlled frequency. The experience was a lot like being on acid, but is simply the brain trying to find a pattern in this light and pulse plus some effect from blood flow in the eye-lids.

I know I'm probably rambling on too long here, but there IS a point. Most of the images are pretty random, but there was one special point on the dial which produced PERFECTLY aligned squares and rectangles. You could dial away and then come back to it.

I believe this effect was a reflection of the mind's preference for finding change on the horizon and it's vertical displacement. It certainly couldn't come from two simple LEDs. I know this may sound strange but the human mind DOES have a preference for the horizon which has been demonstrated in many optical illusions. The horizon is where movement and danger come from. This modest art project demonstrates it nicely.

This was my second favorite piece on the playa. If you want to understand why, you'll just have to come and see it for yourself. Use Euchronia to get here.

Star Wars on the Playa

When we climbed up under the Man we noticed lots of people with light sabers in many directions. They were fighting in little groups. Someone said there were 3000 toy light sabers passed out and this fight had been staged. For the rest of the week we saw lots of light sabers.

39 Star Wars

Back at camp Jimbo was cooking ribs in his fire pit. Everyone was getting ready for the evening's parties. The energy was building. We had dinner then headed out again.

That's when we saw the wedding at the Cathedral. It seemed more serious than you might imagine. Many of the "weddings" here are just for the week. Others are legal and longer. Some of each type last a lifetime.

43 Conexus Cathedral Wedding

After dark the wind picked up a bit, but this late in the week nothing stops the party. People were out in force. I can't recall all we discovered. And if I could, this log would never end. But I CAN tell you we had trouble finding potties in the dust storm. Such is the illusion dust will cause.

43J Conexus Cathedral at Night

When we got back to camp, Club Verboten was going full bast as usual. Tim got a crowd every night with different types of music. One afternoon he played the song "Cars" over and over and over and over and over. It was sort of like me coming in the gate again and again and again and again and again and again. It had much the same effect.

43J CV Ready for Action

43J Typical Dance Nights

From 80 dance, to The Rolling Stones, to Depeche Mode, I lost track of the nightly program. But Tim didn't. His art, and his gift to the playa was definitely music. And a place to enjoy it. Thanks to Tim and Fred.

Friday, September 1st - Lots of New Art

By Friday, virtually everything's in place for the weekend. Here are some examples from our morning ride...

44 Morning Heat

An liked these fires in the morning chill. Can you feel the heat?

45 Playa Vent

And a heating vent in the playa. Just one of those details...

47 Serpent Mother at Dawn

46J Serpent Mother and Egg

47J Serpent Mother at Night

This snake was most impressive at night with all it's fires going but was also beautiful at sunrise. Here's a ride An took and enjoyed...

48 An's Ferris Wheel Ride

49 Backrest

50 Playa Plaything

51 Quick Art

52 From Playa Mud

Notice the puddle of water maintained to spawn this evolution. Is this simply another aspect of Euchronia?

53 Hope at Sunrise

Hope and Fear

Next we headed across the playa to the other side. On the way I found a light saber in the dust. I picked it up and spent much of the rest of the day challenging people. I even got a few fights.

The theme for Burning Man this year was "Hope and Fear". These two articulated plants represented the respective elements.

54 Hope and Fear

55 French Toast with Hope and Fear

As we approached the large articulated flower a guy was on a megaphone calling out, "French Toast". We hadn't eaten so we got in line. It was a great breakfast with fruit toppings and a smile. You give french toast; you get french toast. Karma works on the playa. And it works damn fast!

From there we discovered more art...

56 Sleeping Spider

57 Solar Wind Art

58 What Was His Zen Tent?

59 Happy Van

60 Super Rave Bus From Last Year


Just about the time we got all the way on the other side of the city, An noticed her tire was going flat. We headed back. I stopped for these pics of "IT" which I'd watched under construction for several days. For me IT brought back memories of the original movie from when I was a kid. IT was VERY nicely done and near the top of my list for the week.

61 IT from War of the Worlds

62 Cathedral Attack

62J The Man Conquers IT

71J From the Sky

62J One Mean Art Car

Playa Failures

In camp, Kat told us about Dance, Dance, Immolation. She said they put her in a fire suit and she had to dance on an electronic pad.

When she missed a move, they hit her with a flame thrower. She said it was the most dramatic thing she had ever experienced. Swirl said he did it too and it was a blast. I never did find the place. That's how it is with adventure.

I also heard Dr. Megavolt was on the playa again this year. But I never found him. While I'm on the topic, I want to mention this big jet engine on a trailer I had seen in action at the decompression in San Francisco two years ago.

This Jet engine was parked not far from our camp out on the playa. I kept waiting to catch it running, but again, never did. I HEARD it a few times; but every time I got close, the show was over. That's how it is with Burning Man. You can't do everything no matter how hard you try.

Once An got her bike fixed we headed for naked yoga. It was a bit disorganized and everyone still had their clothes on, but we found a spot under the big tent and began to relax in preparation.

It seemed like way past time for the event to start when I looked over at the other tent and saw about a hundred people moon me all at once. It was quite a sight! You'll have to take my word for it. No, use your imagination. I didn't think a pic was a good idea.

We were in the wrong tent! Not only were we now late for yoga, it looked a bit crowded. We moved on. Close but no cigar.

This may seem like a lot of failures, but there are always at least three other alternatives to make up for each such missed event. I forget where we went from here, but there's always something more to do.

Otter Pops

I had brought from Reno two cases of Otter Pops. The RV's freezer would freeze about half a case a day. It was a hot day so I began passing out the first batch. I just found people who looked hot and handed them a pop. It didn't take long to get rid of the batch.

This was about when Debbie (Tim's wife) and Ellen (Fred's wife) showed up. They quickly picked up the vibe. You can't help it.

72J Fire Pendulum

73J Mantis at Night

62J The Man at Night

This was also my night to work the bar in the club. I had brought five cases of beer (the only camp fee). This along with the drinks from the other campers were passed out all week during the dance sets. As it turns out, John was having too much fun running the bar and kept at it. So I didn't have to do much.

After a while An and I bailed and went back to Bad Idea Theater - it was near-by. They were playing a mash-up of Star Wars and a home movie where the hero kept jumping into a fight and defeating everyone he encountered. Cute sound track too.

Later we headed out to Euchronia which had now been popularly re-christened "The Belgian Waffle". We never made it that far, but I don't remember why. I just know there were other clubs and some pole dancing in there somewhere. I forget the order. It was getting late. I remember getting back to the RV and falling asleep.

Saturday, September 2nd

We didn't wake up till well after 8:00 AM. As I opened the door of the RV, I found Jeff asleep on the ground at the side of the RV. He was about fifteen feet short of his tent. He didn't quite make it home last night. At least he had on enough clothes to stay warm. I let him sleep. He was gone when we got back from our bike ride. I guess he found his tent.

Every Toilet Tells a Story, Don't It

Speaking of not quite making it, the porta-potty I opened Saturday Morning had the evidence of those coming up short from the night before. I just HAD to take a picture. Maybe it's worth at least a hundred words...

63 A Toilet's Story

On the left is an empty roll of toilet paper. But no problem. There's a fresh roll on the floor. Too bad it's in a puddle of piss were at least a few didn't quite make it to the urinal. One more step forward please, gentlemen.

On the right is a beer bottle that probably help create that puddle. MOOP that didn't quite make it to the trash. Leave No Trace.

And if you look closely to the left of the toilet lid, you'll recognize chunks where someone didn't quite aim their cookies well enough. But they too were close. A little more to the right next time.

Anyway, to me this picture spoke volumes about the night before. So many near misses. Or maybe some just express themselves differently than others. What? You've never painted with puke? Anyway, the potty tells the story. This too is part of Burning Man. What would SATURDAY night bring?

I don't remember what direction we took our bike ride but we ended up near Center Camp. I got these pics...

65 Golden Party Animal

66 Ninja Lennon

67 Only Pic of Rod

68 Fucking Signs - click to read

Later back at camp Dave came over again. He wanted to see this airplane from eastern Europe I'd told him about, so we all rode out to the airport where we got some REALLY good snow cones and saw the Pope (as well as the airplane).

69 Pope on the Playa

70 Wild Cat

71 Electric Shade

After lunch friends started coming by the RV. There was Ken, Paula, (another) Dave, Cindy, Jana and a whole lot of others I was introduced to, but can't remember their names. I have a problem with names.

The energy was building. It was a streaming reunion all afternoon. We talked and compared notes of the prior night and the week in general as people came and went. There was lots of movement outside. Everyone was getting ready to Burn the Man. The party and vibe were in full swing. It wouldn't slow down until the next sunrise.

That afternoon Tim, John and Jimbo converted the club from a dance venue to a chill space. The entire floor was taken up with mattresses and couches. They were getting ready for the special "couples only" party which would start right after the Burn.

Just before sunset everyone headed back to their camps to get ready. We did a quick ride out to Euchronia...

72 Euchronian Sunset

73 Party Nest

It was time to get back and cleaned up before the Man Burned. Then we went out and sat with Tim and Debbie at the front of the club.

Soon the migration began. Hundreds of people began moving out the streets onto the playa all headed for the man. In prior years I went with the crowds. This year I just watched them go. This would be a Zen Burn for me, seeing things from a more distant view. It was an amazing amount of movement, light and humanity.

It was also a beautiful night - very little wind. The week had gone well. I was relaxed and feeling great. We just watched the parade, listened to the explosions and were distracted by the lights. There was a huge cheer when the man went up in flames. There were lots of fireworks this year.

We wandered to other camps after we did our time at the door of the club. It all becomes a blur of people, lights music, dust and art. It really is one damn thing after another - all night long.

I remember stopping back by and talking to Debbie. She asked how my Burn was going. Before I could think, I said, "Best Burn Ever". So it must be true. We had a great time.

Sunday, September 3rd - Bike Jump

We slept in again the next morning. I woke up feeling great. We took our ride up the Esplanade this morning. Near Center Camp was a big crowd. We stopped to see what the entertainment was.

Some younger guys had built a bike ramp out of a pallet and were trying to jump a small mud puddle. Only a few made it. The problem was, the ramp was pretty steep and most wiped out when they hit it without getting any vertical lift at all.

But the game was dynamically evolving as we watched. New riders were hitting the ramp as others were trying to improve and make adjustments. It was typical Road-Warrior interaction. In other words - chaos.

Then another couple of guys started fighting over who got to lay down behind the ramp to be jumped over. Finally, they both did.

Just then the next bike guy hit the ramp. His bike stopped dead at the ramp but he didn't. He flew over and landed on top of the guys behind the ramp where he started humping them like a dog in heat. Then someone threw a full and opened beer can, hitting him in the back as another rider tried to jump the whole mess and crashed.

Like I say, typical Road Warrior stuff. But certainly entertaining and VERY expressive. Here's what it looked like...

74 Good Jump

75 Ready to Go

76 Rough Landing

We moved on to the next event...

Packing Up

When we got back, the camp was waking up. It was french toast time again! The mood was mellow. Everyone was comparing notes. But the vibe was changing. We were getting back into work mode. You could feel it.

After breakfast, the rest of the camp started taking the club down. I did a final ice run since Sunday was the last day they sold it. We planned to stay till late Monday.

It's hard to help with someone else's project when you're not sure of the order of execution. Tim, Fred and John took the lead. The rest of us hauled stuff to the truck. By noon Club Verboten was loaded up.

Most of the camp also left by noon. There were hugs all around as they departed. We had apple sandwiches for lunch. It was a more quiet afternoon but still some friends came by.

Things looked different. Things WERE different - more solemn, more relaxed. Tonight would be less partying, more memories. I went out for some more pictures...

77 Getting High

78 Liberty Silted In

79 Flames from the Sun

This photo is more about how the sun was hitting ONLY the brass wings of this work than the work itself. It produced the effect of flame, but then maybe that's what the artist was after.

80 Pickle Camp

81 Drumming His Heart Out

82 One With The Wind

I really enjoy fabric art and this one was especially well tuned for the wind.

83 Sand Crawler

84 Amazing Wheels

The wheels on this vehicle were hand made from other objects. It's a detail that might get lost in the rush but is amazing once you notice it. The playa looks flat. But it has SUCH depth.

85 Snake Head

86 Why Are You Here

Again, there's nothing like being here to read why people think there's nothing like being here, which is why there's nothing like being here.

87 Zen Perfection

This one captures the essence of the week. The idea is a VERY powerful tool on the playa.

88 Dan After a Hard Week

Dan came by after dinner. We rode out and watched the temple burn; but again, from a distance. Then we went to Euchronia. Well, as close as we could get. They were preparing to burn it too, but not until 11:00.

They had used the extra units of lumber as a perimeter. We sat on the lumber and watched the parade of art cars. There were still lots of people, lights and interaction but it was more subdued. Still, it was a constantly moving feast for our eyes. After a while we joined it's flow and moved on.

88R Hope in Action

88J Euchronia Burns

We were back closer to camp when Euchronia finally burned. I think it was the largest fire I've ever seem on the playa. The "Belgian Waffle" cooked to a crisp!

We got to bed early that final night. The party was finally over. I slept well.

89 Time to Pack Up

Monday, September 4th

I was feeling more back to normal and woke up just before sunrise. It was time to pack up the Radiation Shield and maybe make an early departure. If we didn't get out by ten we might as well wait until evening because of the exit traffic.

Last year I left Tuesday morning and had no problems. This time some of our camp had early flights on Tuesday. We'd have to get back by then at the latest.

90 Jimbo's Exit

Jimbo offered to stay and help me take things down, but he had a lot farther to drive than we did. He didn't need to lose a day in the exit line. I convinced him to leave at sunrise.

91 Drop the Tarps

Swirl was still on duty at the medical camp so I started dropping the tarps by myself. The work went fast. An came out and started catching the bungees. I had all the tarps down within 40 minutes. This new design worked even better for tear down than it did for construction. I took a break for breakfast.

92 Drop the Ribs

Swirl showed up just in time to take the ribs down. That was completed in another 20 minutes. This was going much quicker than I had thought. But a surprise was in store.

Last year the ribs came apart easily and the process was done in only a few minutes. This year it didn't work. It didn't work at all. I hammered until I broke my adapter tool, yet NONE of the ribs came apart. I had another tool, but this was the wrong approach. The storm had apparently jammed the segments together so hard I couldn't bang them apart with normal hammer forces.

We were thinking about cutting them with a hacksaw when Swirl suggested pulling them apart with the motor-home. It was worth a try.

Swirl used something he called a timber knot which he tied to one end of a rib and the other end to the base of one of a fence post. He tied another to the other end of the rib to the hitch of the RV and I drove slowly away. I didn't think we'd get traction on PVC. I figured the rope would just slip. But I was wrong. With the right knot the rope held. The ribs popped apart!

The method worked well, but it took quite a while to rig and pop all fifteen pieces. Still, it was a great example of adapting to the conditions and discovering new techniques. It's part of what makes Burning Man fun. We make it up as we go along. Swirl gets a gold star.

Unfortunately, by the time we packed up all the gear it was well after ten. The line out was already backed up almost to our camp and we were three miles from the highway. Rangers were reporting four hours to move those three miles. It made more sense to relax in the shade of the RV than sitting in a dusty hot line all day. So we got the chairs back out and watched Black Rock City disappear. An and I went for another bike ride...

93 The Reaper

This was the most dramatic costume I saw all week. I was also impressed with the dedication to be out showing it off Monday morning.

94 Face Time

95 Art of Art

96 Yet One More Dragon

97 Dust Art

98 Drop The Ladder

This was the first time I saw IT with it's ladder down all week. We climbed up to look around. A couple were already up there playing guitar and chanting. The artist started deconstruction just as we climbed down. IT too, was going home.

Cooling Our Heels

Back at camp, An fixed sandwiches for everyone. We had lunch in the shade of the RV. Fyre, Swirl and Kat all took a nap. An went riding around. I watched the Burners get in line to exit.

The Perfect Couple

As I'm enjoying the shade of the RV, an attractive young couple with matching red umbrellas caught my eye. They were both topless and seem to not have a care in the world as they walk along the Esplanade.

All of a sudden she stops; but the contents of her stomach does not. I've never seen such a vivid eruption from a human mouth. The torrent flies almost straight out before she could turn her head down. It was as if she weren't expecting it. Either was he. He almost walked into it, jumping back just in time.

In a second she's bent over completing her mess on the playa. He's rubbing her neck in sympathy. I don't know about you, but this is not what I expected from this perfect couple strolling on the Esplanade. Maybe Saturday night but NOT Monday afternoon.

Being topless, she has no extra clothing so she wipes her mouth on her bare arm. As she stands up, he leans in and gives her a kiss. OK, I don't think it was on the lips, but it was very close and she seemed a bit shy to accept it.

Such devotion was also a surprise. Burning Man is full of the unexpected. It makes you smile all week. And then some. They were gone when I came out of the RV with a paper towel.

Not Quite Done Partying

About this time I realized I had one last batch of Otter Pops to get rid of, so I did another walk about. It wouldn't take long. It was getting hot.

The first ones to notice was a guy sitting backwards on the handle-bar of his bike pedaling forward - strange I know; but not here.

His girlfriend sat on the seat in the normal way. There are a lot of ways to ride a bike and many of them are creative at Burning Man. I almost felt bad when he had to hop down to get their Otter Pops. They thanked me and then kept going in this strange configuration.

Just when I thought Burning Man was over, I saw a fairly bizarre sight. I'm not sure if they had already packed their tent or what, but a woman had a naked guy tied to a rack right out on the street.

99 Sweet Torture

Someone had dumped a lot of water and there was a big mud hole next to the rack. She was taking the mud and rubbing all over this guy. And I DO mean ALL over. Another guy was watching the process. Or was he waiting his turn?

I offered them all Otter Pops. She took one and began teasing the tied up guy. I guess not everyone was ready to get back to the default world. Some just party on. And on. And on.


Near sunset I rode out toward the gate and found more than half the line was gone. It was time for us to go too. We packed up and left at 7:05.

It was still slow going. We stopped every few minutes. But even the exit line was entertaining. There were three lines going out. We were on the left. Some people in the middle were pushing a small sports car up the line. Someone got a rope and the car in front began towing it. The gift economy at work one more time. I'm not sure what they did when they got to the highway.

Other people were running around with squirt guns up and down the line. About an hour later Kat had to go pee. Since we had the PVC in the hallway, the bathroom door was blocked. I suggested the playa. It was almost dark.

She hopped out and ran ahead. Everyone in line watched. And I do mean EVERYONE. What else was there to do? Entertainment's where you find it. And when you gotta go, you gotta go.

We finally got to the highway at 8:37 and Empire by nine. After that the traffic wasn't bad. We got back to Reno just after midnight.

Best Burn Ever

It had been a great Burn. No, it had been the Best Burn Ever!

OK. It wasn't as exciting as my first year. And I didn't have as much interaction with my art as the second year.

But I also didn't have the loss of my art or the nasty wind conditions of my third year, nor the structure frustration of my forth year.

And True. I didn't watch The Man, The Temple or even Euchronia burn. At least not up close. I certainly didn't see ANY Critical Tits bounce.

But I DID have time to explore a wealth of interesting art in a relaxed fashion. I've become a veteran of the playa. I'm getting good at Burning Man.

I took over 300 pictures most of which were unique. You only get to see 99. And I did so many things I don't have time to write about. But this is a start. It'll have to do for now. If you want more, you'll just have to be there.

My structure worked well, I stayed healthy and I had a fantastic time with a great bunch of people.

THAT makes it the Best Burn Ever!

Thanks to everyone that made it so.

It's been more than two weeks since I got home and I'm still literally dreaming about the playa each night. There's a local decompression party tonight. Tim and I are already making plans for an art car. I hope to see you at Burning Man next year.

If you've read this far, please take time to comment below or send me an email. I would REALLY like to know what you think.


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