Vote Charlie!

The journey ‘home’

Posted at age 28.
Created . Edited .

We planned to leave Saturday before noon and have plenty of time to arrive in Black Rock City when the gate opened at midnight. Packing, of course, took longer than I hoped it would. We actually left four hours late, but most of the journey was remarkably smoother than the previous few years, and for a while I thought we would only be a little late. I was wrong. After being on the road 14 hours, we set up camp after sunrise. As a wonderful bonus, we managed to camp with friends and mark off plenty of space for others to join later.

This entry is No. 2 in a series of 14 entries.

Saturday, August 27: Slept 04:06 to 8:59.

I woke to my alarm at 9 a.m. after sleeping less than 5 hours. I rushed to put away the stuff I had strewn across the living room and finish packing my own things. I showered at some point and started packing the car around noon. Steven arrived around then also, not the night before, as he was also behind schedule.

I started packing the inside. Once that was mostly full, I attached the bike rack and started working on the roof while Erik mounted the bikes. The roof was a little tricky since I ended up needing to put two coolers and a large bin up there unexpectedly. I secured them to the back with straps and felt reassured that should they come loose, they should get stopped by the bikes. Another surprise layer consisted of solar panels, a table, tarps and a canopy.

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Loading the vehicle was a multihour process of Erik bringing me things, Erik skipping more and more things fearing there will not be room for necessities, me noticing things are missing and getting them myself and magically finding more space on the roof.

Next we put up the yurt, and on top of that I strapped some odds and ends: the PVC pipes for the shower, pieces of wood for the evaporation pond walls and a wood pallet. The load was definitely precarious, as evidenced by the faces of passersby.

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Loading the vehicle was a multihour process of Erik bringing me things, Erik skipping more and more things fearing there will not be room for necessities, me noticing things are missing and getting them myself and magically finding more space on the roof.

Finally, after 4 p.m., we were ready to go. Up to this point I had trusted mostly in Erik to review the packing list we keep in a Google Doc and have been using for years. Erik went through the bins and made note of what we needed to order, while I worked on the power setup and electronics for a camp identifier. Now that it was no longer a likelihood we would be early but rather a certainty we would be late, I was eager to get on the road. Erik and Phillip hopped in the car. It looked OK, but one wheel seemed flatter than the others. I checked the pressure and found it to be the same, so I attributed this to the road’s slope, and we took off, slowly.

Not being my car in the first place, I was not totally confident it felt right. I proceeded with caution, only to have to make a U-turn within the first two blocks since there was a firetruck blocking my route. We moved along, and Erik perhaps jokingly asked if everyone had their tickets. I realized I did not.

With so much to do in so little time, the ticket was far from my mind, and I was confident we had everything since we used the same list many times. Only I did not actually look at the list myself recently, and Erik assumed I would have. Oops. At least we had only gone a short distance, and then I could make a quick examination of the car once again.

It took nearly an hour to get across the Bay Bridge due to Friday afternoon traffic, and we didn’t move very quickly for a few hours after that. This was all right with me given our large load. We met Steven at a Chick-fil-A in Fairfield, California, where I spent more for myself than Erik spent for him and Phillip. I probably could have skipped the chocolate chip cookie and the shake. Steven was happy to add my extra sauce packets to the small fortune of condiments he had already collected from the restaurant for his playa meals to come.

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I would not have picked this restaurant myself, but I did at least find enough to order. Somehow I spent more than Erik and Phillip combined.

We continued on, eventually unable to reliably text and coordinate with Steven, but managed to meet him again at a Target in Sparks, Nevada, around 10 p.m. We spent about 40 minutes there getting some pillows, notebooks and pens, ice and some snacks.

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Just after 10 p.m., we made a pit stop at Target in Sparks, Nevada, to pick up a few things we forgot: pillows, notebook and pens.

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I also grabbed a gallon of water for the 50K race.

Squeezing just those few extra things into the car was another challenge.

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Erik trying to find space for extra purchases from Target

Not long after 11 p.m., we reached the turn off Interstate 80 onto Highway 447 by Wadsworth and Fernley, Nevada. In years past, we would stop at the I-80 Smoke Shop & Market and get a hopefully last gasoline refill. Despite being 90 miles from Black Rock City, standstill traffic used to start around here. But this time, drove almost 50 miles per hour till we had only 30 miles to go and finally hit a short standstill around Empire. Then we kept moving, though slower than before.

This felt pretty strange, but good. It was after 1 a.m., so the gates had been open for an hour already, but I had hope we might get in fairly quickly. We had another standstill somewhat after Gerlach, but it probably only lasted 15 or 30 minutes.

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At 2 a.m. Sunday morning, the highway just past Gerlach featured standstill traffic, giving us time to enjoy looking out upon our beautiful galaxy. I didn't have my tripod, so I tried to stabilize the camera on the vehicle.

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After a couple of shots, I had to start moving again, else I would have gotten one without the gear on the roof being in the shot!

But of course the line was long, and my early arrival hopes gave way to resignation we would get in after sunrise. I thought that at least meant we would be able to see, but then the playa welcomed us with a dust storm that reduced visibility to a few feet. As we arrived in the gayborhood around the 7:30 radial, where we hoped to camp, the air cleared, and we started searching.

Immediately I could see many people setting up on the outer rim around J, K and L streets. We hoped to find space much further in, perhaps around F or G, but I thought that search would be futile and was nervous the spaces out here would be claimed any minute. Erik suggested we divert to see what it looked like a few blocks in, and I reluctantly consented. I left it to them to look for spots as I focused on driving slower than 5 miles per hour and not getting pulled over by law enforcement. After just one block, Erik was convinced, and we turned back out to K. He got word some others had arrived and were camped by 7:45 and K, so we went there and found the described trailer, though everyone was asleep.

Our final approach into the city. Note: I'm not sure why the streets are messed up on this Google Map. Perhaps it's some sort of cyber vandalism or a joke, as I checked the maps of Black Rock City back to 1998 and none was irregular like this.

Our final approach into the city. Note: I'm not sure why the streets are messed up on this Google Map. Perhaps it's some sort of cyber vandalism or a joke, as I checked the maps of Black Rock City back to 1998 and none was irregular like this.

Space looked ample, perhaps enough so even for all the others who hoped to join us, so we set to work marking it off and building the yurt. It took more than 14 hours to drive from San Francisco, but the playa was looking grand at 6:20 in the morning, and I was excited to get out there. But first, excited to sleep.

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At 6:20 in the morning, after driving more than 14 hours, we finally arrived in Black Rock City and found a place to set up camp.

I can’t remember if Steven had already found the others or he met us after we arrived, but he helped us prepare the yurt walls before Erik helped him with his tent.

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The wind wasn't horrible, but we had to prop the roof up with some heavy bins and Phillip inside till we got it taped together and ready to mount on the walls.

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This year I replaced our thick iron posts with 12 inch nails. They were much easier to pound in and remove, but seemed to hold just fine.

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I hoped to replace or supplement the computer fans with standard furnace filters for more passive airflow, but we didn't have time and Erik wasn't keen on the idea.

Once the yurt roof was attached to the walls, I started toying with using my 24 foot parachute for shade, and Erik and Phillip went to Center Camp to register our location. Before they returned, I had withdrawn to the thin air pad I would call home for the week.

The story continues in Social apprehension.

Entries in this series

  1. Unpacking Burning Man 2016
  2. The journey ‘home’
  3. Social apprehension
  4. Race prep by day drinking
  5. Third ultramarathon fastest yet
  6. Feeling astonished, validated, home
  7. Recovering, welcoming
  8. Lost at day, seeking friends
  9. Lost at night, seeking joy
  10. Joy, right at home
  11. Man burns, desert chills
  12. The Temple
  13. Return to default world
  14. Bonus: The golden stool

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