Burning Man 2012 Recap #7.

Before I get into California and Reno, I want to impart some helpful tips that, had I known, would probably made Burning Man a far better experience for me. If I ever go again, I will be far more informed.

1. If you live on the West Coast within ten hours driving distance from The Black Rock Desert, you must go. You cram a bunch of stuff in your car and head out. Easy. If you’re from the East Coast, you might want to reconsider. It’s a massive hassle, with the flying and the luggage cost and the car rental and everything. Not to say it’s not worth going, it totally is, but it’s more frustrating.

2. If you rent an RV (which is crazy, the rental places jack the price up to $4,000 or more for that week), don’t use the bathroom. Just don’t use it. There’s nowhere to dispose of your tainted poopwater. Use the Porta-Potties or gas stations on the road on your way there, the way people in cars do. You can shower and use the sink, but then when you get to Burning Man you’ll need to make a gray water evaporator.

3. The sun is a cruel mistress who wants to crush all your hopes and dreams. All you want is shade. We had two places to hide for the six hours a day that the sun was beating down on us – the car (bad idea, metal box) or the tent. The tent was directly in the sun, so it was hot, too. What Cricket figured out is we needed a tent for our tent. You know those four-cornered tent-things you see at street fairs? Put one of those over your tent, and then it will be in the shade and cool. If you rent an RV, make sure it has an awning attachment that you can unroll and sit under during the hot bits.

4. Another option to beat the heat: buy, like, three five-gallon containers of gas and strap them to the roof or shove them in the trunk of your car. During the day, run the air conditioning for a couple of hours without fear of running out of gas in the middle of the desert.

5. The dust is highly drying and it is blowing around you all the time. Your hair will get dusty and feel like straw that’s been pressed in a panini machine. Do not try to comb it or brush it. Before you go to Burning Man, find a middle-school girl and have her braid your hair into a bunch of French braids all over your head. Don’t take them out until you leave. I crammed my hair into a ponytail and didn’t touch it again until we got to a hotel. Bring a bottle of conditioner and Neutrogena shampoo with you. The conditioner doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be Suave. When you get to a post-Burning Man showering facility, lather that conditioning glop into your gross dirty hair and work out all the knots gently with your fingers. Then shampoo with the Neutrogena and wash out the conditioner/dust/hair grease soup you’ve just created. If you do not follow this plan, your hair will turn into a lightly matted giant dreadlock that you cannot untangle. Try to avoid that. Don’t fret, this whole process took me ten minutes. It’s not a whole-evening-occupier.

6. Since there are no trash receptacles and you must keep all your trash with you, Cricket and I opted to only eat dry food (granola bars and Pirate’s Booty predominantly). That way, when we were done we only had empty wrappers and nothing that would rot and have a nasty odor. While it gets kind of tedious on the palate after a while, our trash did not stink, so maybe consider that as an option.

7. When you go to rent your car, LIE. Lie right to their faces. Dress conservatively. Don’t let bits of your costume or anything peek out. They are waiting for you. Why? Because none of their vehicles are permitted to go off-roading and it is a colossal pain in the keister to clean all the dust off the car. Seriously. Here’s one of several warnings printed on our rental paperwork.

The smart thing to do is to bring a giant tarp with you and cover the whole car with it so when the dust storm kicks up, some dust might swirl up under the tarp, but the wind isn’t actively cramming the dust with force into the nooks and crannies of your vehicle. We had the back of the car facing the wind during our dust storm, so when we got back to Reno Cricket power-washed the minivan and we went through the car wash. Then we waited for the van to dry and hand-wiped down dusty remnants with wet paper towels. The next day, Cricket power-washed the van AGAIN. We went through the car wash AGAIN. Even after all that, dusty water was seeping out from behind the lights and the mirrors. It was infuriating.

Cricket recommended wrapping clingwrap around the mirrors and lights where dust can go and hide, and while that’s an option, it isn’t terribly environmental, so try the tarp thing first. Make sure the tarp is secure either to the ground or the vehicle, otherwise when the wind kicks up it will become a giant festive kite.

8. If God forbid you forgot to buy a thousand LEDs or weird club outfits, don’t panic. At the two gas stations you will pass on your way from Reno to The Black Rock Desert there will be people with booths, and those booths will be selling light-up things and glow-sticks and fake fur booties and hats and skin-tight shirts and pants. I’m sure the prices are higher than they would normally be, but at least you’re not screwed if you forgot something.

9. This is a culture of gifting. I saw several helpful useful gifts that you may want to consider. It’s hot and dry, and dark at night, so anything that alleviates either of those is a good idea. Those fans with water bottles built in that run on batteries, good. Necklaces or glasses with blinky lights, good. Filling up a weed mister and misting people in the middle of the day with water, good. Small flashlights that you hand out to people who have no lights on them (referred to as Darktards), good. Anything like that.

10. Listen to the Burning Man radio station as much as possible. Not only do they play a wide array of music, they do little PSAs on the art pieces, and people announce different activities that didn’t make it into the book. It’s extremely professionally run.

Since we busted out the desert at about 9:00 in the morning, we had the whole day ahead of us. We went to Reno, blasted our vehicle with water in an attempt to eradicate the dust (fail) and then decided to check out Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe straddles Nevada and California, and we ended going to California. (Sad moment: Cricket told me we would end up in California, and I turned to him all panicked and said, “We can’t! I didn’t bring my passport!” Waa-waa.) We drove for a bunch of hours through some seriously picturesque American landscape. I wanted to sing songs about Paul Bunyan and Babe the Big Blue Ox, but I didn’t know any. Lucky for Cricket, because I would have sang lustily and loudly and antagonized him.

On our way to Lake Tahoe we came to the Land of A Thousand Donners. The Donner Party, in case you don’t know, were pioneers who were moving out West. They got caught in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter and many of them died. The rest were forced to resort to cannibalism to survive. Only half of the original eighty-something people that started on the journey made it out. Everything in that specific area is Donner This and Donner That to commemorate this unfortunate experience.

Lake Tahoe is very, very high up and is one of three largest bodies of freshwater in America. The water is clear up until 67 feet deep. And it is COLD. But in a good way, if you can imagine, really crisp and biting and refreshing. And highly photogenic. It smelled amazing too, all pine-y and fresh. I would not want to be there in the winter, but in the late summer/early autumn, it is blissful.

After our sojourn in the state of California (where I thankfully did not need my passport), we headed back to Reno to sleep for the night and then catch the 7:00 a.m. flight back to New York. That evening there was a rib festival in front of The Nugget Hotel and Casino. Not one to pass on a food festival, we went. It was okay *weeble-wobbles hand*. The food was good and all that, but the lines were long and the sun was harsh. It was tough for us to decide which rib joint to patronize. Each one had their awards plastered all over booth area on every available inch of space. Some of them had big ole trophies too.

Since I had no knowledge about which booth to go to, I made the choice to go to the Texas one solely because they had a giant inflatable armadillo on top. And I made a wise choice because their ribs were excellent. They made their own sauces too, and the honey chipotle was lip-smackingly good.

That’s it. That’s my five-day trip to Burning Man (plus a touch of Reno and a splash of Lake Tahoe). It was a great experience.


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