Where Dragons Still Rule the Earth… Burning Man

 

The mutant vehicles of Burning Man, such as this green dragon, are marvelous creatures of the imagination.

The mutant vehicles of Burning Man, such as this green dragon, are marvelous creatures of the imagination.

Blogging about mutant vehicles at Burning Man is always fun for me. Each year brings a new crop of these marvelous creatures, as well as old favorites. How can you not love dragons and cats and fish and ships and trains and planes and tennis shoes and Mad Max vehicles as they make their way back and forth across the Playa— blasting out music on occasion, and at other times blasting out fire.

Here’s the thing: you are not allowed to drive a regular vehicle in Black Rock City or out on the Playa. You can drive to your camp when you arrive at Burning Man and out when you leave. Beyond that you have to get creative and build a vehicle that doesn’t look like one. And you have to get a license. The Department of Mutant Vehicles, DMV, is waiting for you… and hundreds of other Burners who have built the creatures of their dreams or nightmares. Is your vehicle weird enough? Is it safe? If the answer is yes, are you turned loose to wander. Thousands of people are eager to see what you have created.

The Department of Mutant Vehicles processes hundreds of vehicles each year that are applying for the right to be driven on the Playa and in Black Rock City.

The Department of Mutant Vehicles processes hundreds of vehicles each year that are applying for the right to be driven on the Playa and in Black Rock City. It isn’t unusual to see a dozen or more lined up out side of this building waiting to be processed. I wonder if LA County is missing its sign?

Mutant vehicles or art cars come in all sizes as well as shapes. Some will barely accommodate two people while others may accommodate 50. Most big ones are built by camps and provide transportation for their members. (The rule is, however, that anyone can hitch a ride.) They also provide a convenient viewing platform for special events, such as the Piano Toss, or a dance floor for anytime/anywhere. I once watched one crawl by in a whiteout with riders gyrating like the end of the world had arrived. I could barely see them 50 feet away. It could have been a scene from Dante’s Hell.

This vehicle provides one of Burning Man's popular dance venues and can usually be found parked at the same place on the Playa. Check out the speakers.

This vehicle provides one of Burning Man’s popular dance venues and can usually be found parked at the same place on the Playa. Check out the speakers.

El Pulpo Mechanico looms up in the air and provides a viewing platform. Here Burners were waiting for a piano to be tossed.

El Pulpo Mechanico looms up in the air and provides a viewing platform above the crowd of Burners who were waiting for a piano to be tossed. (More on that in another post.)

I decided to do two or three posts on mutant vehicles. There are simply too many to feature in one. Today I am going to focus on fire-breathing, magical dragons. Aren’t they all? I think it has to do with their genetic make up. There have always been dragons at Burning Man— at least since I started going in 2004. They deserve their own post.

The green dragon provided a ride out to admire R-Evolution and other art pieces on the Playa.

The green dragon provided a ride out to admire R-Evolution and other art pieces on the Playa.

A heads up view of the dragon.

A heads up view of the dragon.

How to rein in your dragon...

How to rein in your dragon… Chains are used to raise and lower the dragon’s head.

Staring off into space.

Staring off into space.

Back view of dragon shows entry and how bikes are carried.

Back view of dragon shows entry and how bikes are carried.

The dragon on the left is named Abraxas, I believe. It has been to Burning Man several times. This year it showed up with a baby!

The dragon on the left is named Abraxas, I believe. It has been to Burning Man several times. This year it showed up with a baby!

Most of the larger mutant vehicles carry sound systems. Stopping is an excuse to dance. Partners are not needed.

Most of the larger mutant vehicles carry sound systems. Stopping is an excuse to dance. Partners are not needed.

The proud mama with her kid.

The proud mama with her kid.

Off they go.

Lined up to take off. The structure on the right was used in the Piano Toss. (Photo by Don Green.)

A final head shot of Abraxas. The tube coming out of her mouth is for shooting fire.

A final head shot of Abraxas. The tube coming out of her mouth is for shooting out flames at night. Note the red-eye. A fearsome beastie indeed.

Dragons are fearsome creates at night!

Dragons are even more fearsome creatures when the sun goes down!

NEXT BLOG: More incredible mutant vehicles.

18 comments on “Where Dragons Still Rule the Earth… Burning Man

  1. I felt an immediate affinity with that green dragon, Curt. My first thought was, “He’s cute!” But when the mama and baby dragon showed up, it was “Awwwww” time. The pair is just wonderful.

    It does bring up something I’ve never thought about. I don’t remember ever seeing a child at Burning Man. I’m sure there probably are “no kids allowed” guidelines, but it’s still interesting. On the other hand, I suppose it could be argued that there aren’t anything but kids at Burning Man!

    • Love you last analysis. We are all kids. But yes, there are always a few children. There is even a theme camp for them designed with age appropriate games, etc. I wouldn’t take a kid there, but I imagine they will never forget the experience, they are always with their parents, and they seem to be having a blast. –Curt

    • There is a whole theme camp that reflects Mad Max. Not surprising. As for noise, I make a point of staying away from the venues that pump out the loudest music. Burning Man insists that they are located out on the edges of Black Rock City, but still… I’ll show a few photos. Another thing, many of the venues feature some of the best DJs in the business, which is something, I admit, I know nothing about. –Curt

  2. This is the post I’ve been dying to read: I spotted the title in my inbox weeks ago, and I am a huge fan of dragons of all sorts. I see there is another one in a more recent post that I can also read about, so I’m all smiles. I loved your note on the speaker bus “check out the speakers.” Uh, yeah, try checking out anything that’s NOT a speaker: there’s your challenge.

    The DMV is a whimsical and fantastic and wonderful thing. At first I thought it was just for entertainment value, but instantly I realized it would be necessary. I think I would like to work at the DMV, just to see the whole string of the mutant vehicles, to talk with their handlers, and to hear the stories of why they should be licensed.

    Mutant vehicles + Dragons = can’t get any better!

    My fave is the Green Dragon, who seems to have morphed to life from discarded debris. Sort of what I used to fear would emerge from my teenager’s messy room.

    • It would be fun to do a survey to see how many dragons are wandering around Burning Man, Crystal. As you saw later, junk is often used in creating Burning Man art! El Pulpo Mechanico, the giant octopus was also created out of junk, as was much of the art piece Medusa. –Curt

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