Burning Man 1998: Reno to Black Rock City (2)

    Burning Man 1998: Reno to Black Rock City (2)

    Burning Man 1998: Reno to Black Rock City (2)

    ……………………………………

    There’s not much to see in Nixon. There’s a waterway that winds through town, supplying much-needed ingredient…

    … to the fields that surround the town.

    The town itself is tiny. It’s a hot afternoon, so we see none of the pedestrians I’ve seen in previous years. No kids playing. No dogs running around. Nothing.

    We pass the stretch of roadway where Seth’s van suffered during Burning Man 1996. A bit further along we see the start of a playa. The edges, where there’s not enough nutrients for even the desert plants, ranges in color, from salt white to a dark grey. The latter is the best car-trap known. Vehicles driving too close to the edge of the playa are quickly swallowed up. It happened to me in 1997. Luckily a local of Gerlach had his tow truck ready for the goofy city slickers. It made me feel only slightly better when his truck almost became mired in the muck. In some places water is seen, pooling atop the playa. Cows appear, nibbling on the greenery between the road and the playa. A few hundred yards of range.

    Elsewhere, the flora is darker, without the tufty grasses, only the scrub.

    The Greatful Dead’s “American Beauty” album provides a perfect accompanyment to the vista through which we drive. A horse carrier is in the convoy, another two carries pass us in the opposite direction. I wonder for what folks are moving their horses. I’m thoroughly satisfied to be back here, the place has a relaxing effect, or perhaps I’m just getting into the vibe of Burning Man. (I miss my Rose. Conditions don’t seem so bad, perhaps we were making decisions with bad data.)

    We see the United States Gypsum Mine just outside Empire.

    Entering Empire what do we see but yet another traffic stop. The clouds end, and the playa and surrounding areas are being baked by hot sun. This is more like it.

    We pass the gas station and the food store that are Empire. The metropolis of Gerlach becomes visible.

    Gerlach, too, is quiet and empty in the mid-afternoon heat. Nobody is getting gas at the Texaco station where Seth’s van got fixed. Bruno’s Motel looks deserted, as it does even in the best of times.

    Only outside of Bruno’s CafĂ© do things look up. Cars come and go. On the side of the road we’re shouted at by an enterprising couple seated in aged lawn chairs: “cold soda!” they becon. We pass their offer up, as we’re really looking forward to setting up camp.

    We pass through Gerlach and bear right, heading four miles out of town to the new turn-off. (In 1996 we drove twelve miles out of town before heading onto the playa.) All of a sudden I see a long, thin line of camps on the playa. It seems too close to Gerlach, and too big. Much too big. A sign for the New Gerlach Hot Springs flies by. (The owner of Fly Hot Springs recently died. Those springs are off limits to the teeming hoards of the playa due to ecological reasons, we’re told.)

    Before long we’re at the turn-off; we join a half-dozen cars going to the first gate. From right to left, first is an armored car, then the sheriff’s command post, then the gatekeepers. We present our tickets and proceed to the Greeters, who hand us information and a map, orient us to the lay of the land, and then send us to the camp, where our first task is looking for a place to live for the next few days.

    We drive down the path to Black Rock City.

    One sign says “SLOW THE FUCK DOWN”. Terse, clear, and with an attitude. Clearly, we’ve arrived. Another sign says “Violation of traffic patterns abolishes your right to tire pressure.” People really get touchy about folks who cruise around, raising the dust.

    The question now is where to set up .

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