Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Final Approach

The Burning Man vehicles of the previous night were gone Monday morning. The smirk and shaking head overcame me again, lamenting how everyone else was on their way while we had to go off and try to buy survival essentials for the coming week. I savored my last breakfast at the local diner like a condemned man, and we finally located a massive Wal-Mart in hopes of acquiring essential gear. My spirits finally picked up somewhat in Wal-Mart, where we encountered numerous cool-looking people from various far-off places also shopping for supplies. $200 later, we'd gotten a bicycle, some dried foods and other items, and I felt a little more prepared, and along the drive on I-80 back to Fernley where we'd turn north towards Black Rock City (BRC), there were plenty of other BM vehicles in sight. At Fernley, we located a supermarket and picked up some perishable foods for the first few days, and set off on state highway 447 north to Gerlach, the last outpost before the playa. I really did slow down to 25 mph going through Wadsworth, right behind an airstream trailer, but we must've started to pick up speed when it looked like the town was "over" instead of waiting for the next speed sign, and a squad car pulled us both over. The cop was pleasant enough, and we were lucky he clocked me at 44 mph, since 20 mph over the limit would have meant an automatic reckless driving violation also; so I "got off easy" with only a $170 fine to mail in. I watched the speedometer really closely from then on.

On the 75-mile drive north we joined a caravan of BM vehicles, and I couldn't help but feel the anticipation swell inside me as I headed into this unknown adventure with so many others. At the last near-non-town before Gerlach, Empire NV (big sign over the gas station - WELCOME TO NOWHERE), many others were also stopped for gas and water, and shopping at an impromptu vintage clothing store set up adjacent to the gas station. The festival spirit was steadily growing in me, and I found myself looking forward to the playa on the remaining miles to the site. The sun was near setting as the long line stopped many times on the little county road out of Gerlach, and I chatted with others while stopped. When I told another driver it was my first time, I was identified as a "virgin", and got my first welcome hug of the week from the dude. I had feared some scorn would be directed at my gas-guzzling car by attendees of the Green-themed fest, but this guy admired the Caddy, even saying he had planned to buy a camper for next year but thought he might get a big convertible instead!

The sun was setting behind the mountains by the time we took the turnoff onto the Black Rock Desert and joined the mile-long line for the entry gate. The line of cars crept along at 5 mph, each vehicle keeping its distance from the one before in order to avoid ingesting the cloud of dust the wheels kicked up. We were diverted onto a line for tickets, where I picked up my prepaid $280 will-call ticket, and bought another for Gosia at the "door" price of $350. Returning to the car, we were greeted by a hippie-looking type, who welcomed us and asked if we wanted any shrooms. So, this was to be just like I'd heard! No thanks (he could've been a cop). After creeping 1/2 mile back to join the entry gate line, we crept along to the gate as dusk fell and the full moon appeared over the opposite mountains.

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