Steampunk, a Towering Octopus, and a Giant Rhino… The Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man

Burning Man's El Pulpo Mechanico.

The sometimes scary El Pulpo Mechanico in black and white.

Peggy and I were out wandering around Black Rock City when we came across the steampunk mutant vehicles that I am going to feature today: El Pulpo Mechanico and the Beamer Steamer. A flaming duck was also present. The folks that created these vehicles came from Northern California and Southern Oregon— our territory, and at least two of the vehicles had connections with the human-powered Kinetic Sculpture Race that runs between Ferndale, Eureka and Arcata over the Memorial Day Weekend.

El Pulpo Mechanico sprang from the creative mind of Duane Flatmo. His parts were scrounged from the Arcata Scrap and Salvage Yard in Northern California. Jerry Kunkel designed his electronic and flame system. His crawdad attachment was once part of one of the Kinetic Sculpture race vehicles.

El Pulpo always draws a crowd at Burning Man, especially when he is flaming. He can go through 200 gallons of propane in one night.

El Pulpo always draws a crowd at Burning Man, especially when he is flaming. He can go through 200 gallons of propane in one night.

El Pulpo at Black Rock City.

This shot of El Pulpo by our friend Don Green also shows his crawdad front.

Heres a shot of his crawdad front during the day. This creature was once part of a kinetic sculpture that participated in the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Eureka.

Here’s a shot of his crawdad front during the day. This creature was once part of a kinetic sculpture that participated in the Kinetic Sculpture Race in Eureka. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Looking up at El Pulpo provides a view of his barrel tentacles.

Looking up at El Pulpo provides a view of his barrel tentacles.

El Pulpo Mechanico fish at Burning Man.

This primitive fish is also a part of El Pulpo’s decorations.

As is this sea horse!

As is this sea-horse! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

El Pulpo's head.

El Pulpo’s head.

El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man.

A final view.

Bob and Karen Thomson of Southern Oregon had been participating in the Kinetic Sculpture Race for several years when they decided they wanted a vehicle that they didn’t have to power with their own effort and sweat. They created the Beamer Steamer to go to Burning Man.

The Beamer Steamer at Burning Man.

The Beamer Steamer mutant vehicle by Bob and Karen Thomson.

I am not sure of the history of the flaming duck but it can light up the sky at night.

The flaming duck during the day at Burning Man.

The flaming duck during the day at Burning Man. Check out its head.

The flaming duck at Burning Man.

The flaming duck out on the playa at night waiting for the man to burn.

You have to travel south on Highway 101 from Eureka to come to the home of my fourth mutant vehicle today. The Rhino Redemption was created by Kevin Clark and the artistic group that works out of the Reared in Steel building in Petaluma. Kevin was also responsible for the creation of the Medusa Sculpture at Burning Man that I have featured in the past.

This wonderful rhino mutant vehicle has become one of my favorites at Burning Man. I was once charged by one of his counterparts in East Africa and have had a special appreciation for rhinos ever since.

This wonderful rhino mutant vehicle has become one of my favorites at Burning Man. I was once charged by one of his counterparts in East Africa and have had a special appreciation for rhinos ever since.

Rhino Redemption at Burning Man.

A side view of Rhino Redemption. He can accommodate up to 20 people.

Rhino Redemption at Burning Man.

Rhino charging? It’s kind of how I remember it. (grin)

Rhino Redemption in camp at Burning Man.

A final view… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT BLOGS:

I’ve decided to take a semi-break for my birthday next week when I will be in Las Vegas. I’ll see you back here on March 6. Well, I may put up a blog or two if things are slow, but I wouldn’t bet on it. (grin)

–Curt

29 comments on “Steampunk, a Towering Octopus, and a Giant Rhino… The Mutant Vehicles of Burning Man

  1. Kinetic Sculpture races are fun to watch. I once saw one up in Port Townsend, Washington where all the vehicles were amphibians and had to do a lap out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca – fortunately not too far from shore. The participants, in their costumes, would have fit right in at Burning Man.

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  3. Curt, on each and every one of your BM posts, I continue to be amazed at the effort, attention to detail, and creativity that goes into these sculptures. It truly is astounding. Have a great birthday in Vegas Baby. ~James

  4. Happy Birthday Curt!
    I really appreciate these close-ups of El-Pupo. I’ve seen ‘him’ featured on your blog before but not with as much detail. He’s a fiery beauty! 🙂

  5. These are amazing — El Pulpo blows my mind. The crawfish touch is amazing!!! And I’m assuming from one of your statements that these return year after year? That’s also amazing — that they don’t tear up and people have someplace to store them.

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