Welcome Home: Mired in Mud… Burning Man 2014

Burners are welcomed to Burning Man by a wild group of volunteers who withstand wind, dust, and sun to make sure that Burners are greeted enthusiastically.

“Welcome Home!” the Burning Man Greeter grinned from ear to ear. “Are you a virgin?” she asked.

Dark clouds stretched across the horizon as we made our way across the northern Nevada desert to Black Rock City on Monday morning. A road sign just outside of Cedarville, California had warned, “Flooded.” Some Burners or a local teenager had added at the bottom, “with love.” We laughed. Everyone can use a little love.

Located on the eastern side of the Warner Mountains in the far northwest corner of California, Cedarville may be the most remote town in California but it provides a hearty welcome for Burners.

Located on the eastern side of the Warner Mountains in the far northwest corner of California, Cedarville may be the most remote town in California, but it provides a hearty welcome for Burners.

This Cedarville mural suggests even the local livestock are welcoming Burners. Or maybe this horse and chicken are amazed by the strange procession of people and vehicles passing through their normally quiet town.

This Cedarville mural suggests even the local livestock are welcoming Burners. Or maybe this horse and chicken are jaw-dropping amazed by the strange procession of people and vehicles passing through their normally quiet town.

Dark clouds over the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada suggested flash floods and a muddy Burning Man.

Dark clouds over the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada suggested flash floods and a muddy Burning Man.

But flash floods in the desert are not to be trifled with. Lack of vegetation and poor soil combined with a downpour of rain can turn a trickle of water into a car tumbling torrent in a matter of minutes. Common wisdom is to stick to the high ground and avoid gullies. We proceeded with caution.

We were more concerned about the rain’s impact on Burning Man. A quarter-inch of rain on the Black Rock Desert turns the Playa into a quagmire. Everything comes to a grinding halt. Nothing moves. Walking cakes the bottom of shoes with one to three inches of cement-quality mud. If a mobster picked you up and threw you into a lake, you’d be guaranteed to sink. It’s worse for bikes and vehicles.

Our worst fears were confirmed when we arrived at the cutoff to Burning Man. A really nice BLM Ranger and a not so nice roadblock greeted us. “I am sorry,” the ranger announced, “Burning Man has been shut down and will be for at least 12 hours. We are recommending that you drive into Fernley and wait.” Fernley was 78 miles away. Towns are few and far between in Nevada. We turned around and pulled off the road to seek a second opinion. “Black Rock City will be shut down until 12 noon tomorrow,” the official voice of Burning Man declared on Twitter. Damn. The 12 hours had grown to 24.

But you know the old adage: if life hands you lemons, make lemonade. That’s certainly what the folks stuck in the thousand or so vehicles caught between the entrance to Burning Man and the welcoming station did. Their cars were packed with food, booze, and God only knows what else. Why stress when you can have a party?

Burners on the inside had a similar attitude. Their only concern was the rapidly filling port-a-pots. Things were getting shitty, so to speak. Not surprisingly, the first vehicles that Burning Man approved for travel were sewage trucks. It may be the only time in history that sewage truck drivers received a standing ovation.

On a more serious note, I met a Burner on the Esplanade of Black Rock City who told me she and seven other people had been struck by lightning during the storm. It had hit nearby and travelled through the ground, knocking her down. A couple of days at the clinic and she was fine. “The guy carrying the umbrella that lightning struck wasn’t so lucky,” she told us.

Peggy and I decided to make our own lemonade. We would drive an extra 25 miles past Fernley to Fallon and the Bonanza Casino. The Bonanza featured cheap RV camping, liberal video poker machines, and enough free drinks to drown our sorrows about missing Burning Man. True to its Old West image, the casino’s restaurant was decorated with cowhides and served humongous cow-burgers. Bossy had given her all. We didn’t. Peggy and I left the next morning a hundred dollars richer and headed back to the now open Burning Man. The adventure was about to begin.

I found this particular cow hanging out near the Man at Black Rock City. Apparently she was a little high from all the grass she was consuming.

I found this particular cow hanging out in the souk/marketplace surrounding the Man at Black Rock City. Apparently she was feeling the effects from all the grass she was consuming.

Traffic into Burning Man from Interstate 80.

Passing over Interstate 80, we joined the long line of several thousand Burners who had been held up in Reno and Fernley because of the closure of Burning Man. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Strange, hoodoo-like rocks greet Burners along the road into Burning Man. Somehow, they seem appropriate. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Strange, hoodoo-like rocks greet Burners along the road into Burning Man. Somehow, they seem appropriate. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The rocks gave way to Shrek as we entered the small town of Empire a few miles outside of Burning Man.

The rocks gave way to Shrek as we entered the small town of Empire a few miles outside of Burning Man. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Ticket check at Burning Man 2014.

Things went amazingly fast until we hit the line for checking tickets. At least six lines of vehicles stretched into the distance.

Ticket checkers search for non-ticketed Burners at Burning Man 2014.

As long as I have been going to Burning Man, ticket checkers have come on board to make sure I am not smuggling any Burners into Black Rock City. I’m okay with that. But checking my cabinets and refrigerator was invasive. Was this an undercover cop searching for illegal drugs? Or maybe he thought I was hiding the seven dwarves. But let’s get back to the question posed in the first photo about my virginity…

Virgin Burner rings bell, Burning Man 2014.

The question the greeter was asking was whether I was a Virgin Burner, a first timer. Having first gone in 2004, I had long since lost my ‘virginity,’ however. Virgins are expected to get out of the car and ring a bell.

Virgin burner rolls in dust at Burning Man 2014.

Rolling in the dust is a new virgin burner experience that has been added to the ceremony. Since you will look like you have rolled in the dust after a few hours at Burning Man,why not?

This blog marks the beginning of a series of blogs on Burning Man 2014 that I will write over the next few weeks. Here are a few photos to provide a taste of what’s to come. Think of them as appetizers.

Embrace sculpture being prepped to burn at Burning Man 2014.

Art and costumed people are two of the major reasons that Peggy and I go to Burning Man. You will see a lot of both in my blogs. This is the Embrace sculpture being prepped for burning.

The Man surrounded by a souk/marketplace at Burning Man 2014.

Burning Man is many things, and I will explore several, but central to the Burning Man experience is the Man and his ultimate consummation by fire. Here I pictured him through an art piece. The Man stood alone this year surrounded by a souk, or marketplace.

The Elvis Wedding Chapel at Burning Man 2014.

Wandering the streets of Black Rock City is endlessly fascinating and you never know what you might find— even Elvis. Or, as it turned out this year, P. Diddy, Will Smith and Leonardo DiCaprio. There are much stranger things to be found at Burning Man…

… such as what I could only guess was an amoeba with a vagina. Then there was the 20 foot sculpture of a penis.

… such as what I could only guess was an amoeba with a vagina. Then there was the 20 foot sculpture of a penis. There was no doubt about it.

El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man 2014.

I’ll conclude this small teaser with my all-time favorite mutant vehicle, El Pulpo Mechanico. El Pulpo will have a whole blog devoted to him.

28 comments on “Welcome Home: Mired in Mud… Burning Man 2014

  1. “It may be the only time in history that sewage truck drivers received a standing ovation.”—Ha, I imagine so!

    I can’t believe they searched your cabinets. Seems a bit invasive. But the real tragedy is the skirt and fanny pack he has on. 😉

  2. I’m glad you got there safely, and enjoyed yourself. I read a couple of reports about the mud, the delays, etc. etc., and figured the folks would cope just fine. It sounds like you did. I’ll look forward to seeing some of the art.

  3. One of your funniest and most unusual posts! You’ve been to so many strange and little known places. This is really cool. Your photos are always great but here they are also lots of fun. I’m away from the West Coast since June so I have a quick question: I follow very closely the news related to the drought but I had no idea of mud at this time of year.
    In any case this Burner Man art event looks intriguing enough. Thank you for sharing another one of your adventures.

    • It’s easy to take ‘cool’ photos at Burning Man, Evelyne. The challenge is to figure out which ones to post.:) There will be many, many more. While rain in the desert is rare, there can be thunder storms and it doesn’t take much rain to have a major impact. In the ten years I have been going to Burning Man, I’ve seen rain at least five times. Many thanks for your comments. –Curt

    • Thanks Linda. Norquist did a wonderful job of capturing the event. I urge people who read my blog to check the link. Burning Man is a unique experience that simply can’t be found anywhere else. While I recognize that it isn’t for everyone, I have been an advocate for over ten years. People who go with an open mind will discover a once in a lifetime experience and may end up going again and again. –Curt

  4. Been so looking forward to your report on Burning Man! Thank goodness you didn’t lose too much time to the muck and mire. You’ve given us a tantalising glimpse of what was on offer this year – look forward to more.

    • Thanks AC. Burning Man is always a mind-blowing experience but I am glad to be back at my wilderness retreat after one heck of a busy summer. Now I can catch up on what my WP friends have been up to. –C

  5. Lemon and lemonade, eh? Then why is it that a bowl of cherries end up as pits? 🙂

    It sounds as you and Peggy made a go of things. The two of you must be O/C…not! I’m glad you made the most out of the detour… but that amoeba with a vagina… Couldn’t you have described it as that silicone life form on Star Trek instead, the Horta? LOL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s