21 Sep Burning Man, Getting to Black Rock City- Lost Ticket Adventures in the Dust 2016
Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, every year, battle it out online to get their hands on one of 70,000 tickets for a one-week event in the middle of the desert. There is no electricity or running water. It is hard to get there. It is hard to be there. It is hard to return back home….
Since attending Burning Man in 2012, I have fancied myself a “burner”. The week leading up to and Labor day weekend is reserved for playa madness. Attending Burning Man is a process. That is one of the great things about it. You have to really want to go in order to be there. It tests you on so many levels, hopefully, all so that you can learn, grow and emerge that much stronger.
There were whispers of a ticket shortage. Actually, it was more like screams and wails. There isn’t a time I can think of when tickets weren’t being scavenged, so this wasn’t all that shocking. This year I scored my ticket in the OMG Sale which is only three weeks before the event itself. It is never an option for me NOT to go to Burning Man which is probably one of the reasons I always make it to the playa.
What is Burning Man? Virtual reality manifested. A gigantic museum where everything is art and interactive. Home. Words can’t quite describe the epic nature of this gathering. Burning Man is something I think everyone should experience at least once. Which IS truly the only way to know anything.
Black Rock City (BRC)?
Black Rock City, Nevada is an ephemeral town that exists for only one week each year, during Burning Man. At its maximum occupancy, the town has about 70,000 citizens (this grows yearly at a pretty alarming rate), post office, emergency services crew, volunteer police department, roads, houses, bars, clubs, restaurants, and hundreds of art installations and participatory “theme camps”. After a week, the city is completely disassembled – much of it burned – leaving the stark, white desert exactly as bare as it had been when the event started. Embracing one of the ten Burning Man principles of LNT- leave no trace.
Getting to BRC
Black Rock City is 2.5 – 3 hours from Reno, Nevada. Even if you fly into Reno, you still have to go through actually getting to the playa. Car rental places are aware of the festival. Not only are prices exorbitant, but there are high price tags on incurred charges of going to the playa. Cleaning fees or off road fees are hundreds of dollars. One year, I rented a car then had it detailed prior to returning it. I failed to anticipate and therefore clean under the hood, the actual engine of the car. Voila, just like that, $300 cleaning fee.
In the last three years, a bus service, the Black Rock City Express, has started taking people from the Reno airport to the playa. There is a scheduled stop at the local grocery store. Which was my question: If you take the bus, how do you get supplies??
That’s the next stop. You have your ticket, you are in Nevada, now you have to have supplies for surviving and thriving for the next week in the desert. There are a variety of stores (grocery, liquor, dispensary or other) that you can stock up at.
Gerlach is the closest city to Black Rock which didn’t used to offer much. Indian tacos are offered randomly. Sporadically strewn along the road around the small town. Gerlach caters to the thousands that come through for the event. There are temporary street side shops that offer any playa needs that you may have forgotten or have yet to purchase. The sticker price on these items is what you would expect or perhaps a bit higher for any final costume, lights, or supplies.
This was one of the first years that I have seen two different lots in which you can rent bicycles. Burning Man bike rentals in Wadsworth, the first town you hit when traveling to BRC, was where I got my bike. No deposit was required and for $60 I got a cute playaized bike that read “Gangsta Barbie Bitch” on the seat to cruise around on all burn long. In good faith you return the bike upon Exodus. Once we hit Gerlach (even closer to BRC) there was another bike rental spot.
From pavement to playa and what would be the last leg is still a journey. Potentially hours, even though it is but a few miles. Will Call is first, if you can, avoid having to make that stop. There we were at the inspection check point. Happily waved to pull up after only an hour or so of steady movement. Dust storms were prevalent this year. While the storms raged well before we arrived, it was super clear (pun intended) just how dusty this adventure was going to be.
We had an issue that came to light upon arrival. A hiccup, if you will. As we pulled out our much cherished tickets, one was missing. Veteran burner and buddy, Kyle had in fact left his ticket in his backpack which at that point in time was in Grass Valley, California. A solid 6-7 hours away from our current position, one way. Nothing could discourage us especially considering at this point we had just thrown down about a thousand dollars on supplies for the rest of the week between the three of us. We explained our plight to the inspection person who then called someone over to assess the situation and give us direction.
The direction was a side lot and small station next to the inspectors where we could connect to a Wi-fi signal. The ticket was purchased from Kyle’s friend, another veteran burner. We needed to get a hold of him, he was already on the playa in the madness. An hour of ho humming about how to find this guy and correct the ticket mishap went by. Then genius struck, could we have Kyle’s parents who possessed the backpack and said ticket take a picture of the ticket i.e. barcode and have it processed that way. The answer: YES! YES YOU CAN! YAY! Just like that we were back on our way to further adventures in the dust.