Mutant Vehicles IV… The Creativity and Magic of Burning Man

The thing about mutant vehicles is you never know what people are going to come up with, like this telephone: Off ‘Da Hook! Burning Man is an “Off ‘Da Hook” kind of place.

I could go on and on with mutant vehicles. Their sheer numbers and variety speak to the creativity and magic of Burning Man. But the camps, sculptures, temples, painting, costumes, performance art, the Man, and even bicycles also speak to the creativity, so I need to move on. Mainly, up until now, I have focused on vehicles that tend to stand out and draw crowds. Nothing is better at this than El Pulpo Mecanico.  There are dozens of other vehicles that also deserve attention that I haven’t covered yet, however. (And I wasn’t around in 2016 to see the latest creations!)

One mutant vehicle I haven’t featured yet, Never Was Haul, is right up there with El Pulpo Mecanico and the Rhino Redemption from my perspective. It’s here today, but there are also dragons and bugs and ships and animals and some really weird stuff. Oh my! Enjoy. (Unless noted otherwise, all of the photos are by Peggy and me.)

I selected this photo of Never Was Haul from my longtime friend Tom Lovering because it is one of his all-time favorite mutant vehicles. I would describe it as a combination of a steam train engine and a Victorian house.

Caboose mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Trains are one of the themes for mutant vehicles. This caboose fits right in.

Steam engine Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man.

As does this steam engine. The grill on the front of this steam engine and Never Was Haul is known as a cattle catcher, BTW. I am not sure that the cow is in any better condition after a collision with a train, but the engine is. They also work for moose and buffalo!

Dragons are also a common theme for Burning Man mutant vehicles. (Photograph by our friend Don Green.)

Scary dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This is one of the more scary dragons that roam the Playa. Most of these fellows breathe fire as an added attraction.

Green dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This dragon was ,um, green and horny. His/her dark snout came from breathing fire. It is standing next to an array of solar panels and the Black Rock Desert serves as a backdrop.

This ferocious looking dragon had chains for reins and palm trees for wings. I think it is a creation of the NOLA camp at Burning Man.

Sparkle Pony Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man.

Numerous animals wander the Playa. This is a Sparkle Pony. (Sparkle Pony is the name for Burners who show up at Burning Man and expect to be waited upon.) Our friend Leslie Lake thinks that is a great idea and has adopted Sparkle as her Playa Name.

Rabbit mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Some of the animals are just plain friendly looking, such as this rabbit.

Dog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And this buck toothed dog.

Cheshire Cat mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The Cheshire Cat is, of course, noted for its huge grin.

Giant bull mutant Vehicle at Burning Man.

My guess is a giant cow. Her eyes flash out beams at night, giving this friendly beast a more scary persona.

Steampunk mechanical horse mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This mechanical horse with its carriage represents the heavy steampunk presence at Burning Man.

Chicken Pox mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

I finish off my animals with this humorous Chicken Pox.

Sailing ship mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Once upon a time, this section of the Black Rock Desert was a huge inland sea. So why shouldn’t there be sailing ships at Burning Man?

The yacht Christina, a mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And yachts. This boat is named Christina and looks quite gorgeous at night.

Crab with shell mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

As might be expected in an ancient sea there are also numerous creatures of the ocean at Burning Man, such as this crab with its colorful shell.

Articulated fish mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And an articulated fish.

Many of the fish swimming in the Black Rock Desert feature large teeth, such as this Disco-Fish.

Fish eating fish with provocative tongue mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Big fish trying to swallow equally big fish. What puts this mutant vehicle into my weird category is the tongue, however. Note the stirrups so a Burner can hop on for a ride.

Sea creature mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

I am not sure what this creature is, but I think it belongs in the sea. I’ll go with seahorse.

Praying Mantis mutant vehicle at Burning man.

There are numerous insect mutant vehicles at Burning Man. My favorite is the praying mantis. So I will let it represent the bugs.

VW Bug art car/mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Speaking of bugs, here is a VW Bug art car.

Walter the mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And his bigger cousin (much bigger), Walter the VW Van. (Photo by Don Green.)

Mutant vehicle hot rod at Burning Man.

While I am on vehicles, I’ll include this dream of a hot rodder’s hot rod.

Pucker up mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Often, it’s the faces on the mutant vehicles that capture my attention. Pucker up.

Joker mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This joker has another memorable face.

I think ‘Kilroy was here’ of Kilroy fame may have been the inspiration for this face with its large tongue.

 

NEXT BLOG: I’ll finally get Sully landed on the Hudson River and off of his plane.

 

 

Ten Favorite Burning Man Activities… Updated!

The classic female nude has always been a favorite subject of artists. This beautiful woman was over 50 feet tall and was one of a series of three at Burning Man.

The classic female nude has always been a favorite subject of artists. This beautiful woman was over 50 feet tall and was one of a series of three at Burning Man. Art, more than anything else, has been pulling me back to Burning Man since 2004.

With two laptops down and this one heading for the doctor, I have to revise my publishing schedule for the next week. I’m reaching back into my archives and pulling out three former posts that are at least in the spirit of what I have promised. Today is on Burning Man. I’ll follow up with an historical blog on Philadelphia’s Fort Mifflin and then a backpacking tale that includes bears, lots of them.

I may be totally off the Internet for the next week. If I don’t respond immediately, that’s the case. 

It’s time to buy tickets for Burning Man again, which is always a harrowing experience. At least it has been for the past several years. I made my first trip to Burning Man in 2004 and have been back numerous times since. I can’t resist. It is one of the most unique events I have ever attended. Following are some of the reasons why. Today kicks off a Friday series on Burning Man I will be running over the next couple of months during the ticket sale time that feature favorite photos from my archive of thousands. Enjoy!

I should probably name this blog Curt Mekemson’s Ten Favorite Burning Man Activities. When it comes to Burning Man, things get personal. One person’s preferences might very well be another person’s boring, with just the right teen-age emphasis followed by, “Was that guy actually there?”

For example, I don’t like loud music but there are camps at Burning Man with humongous speakers that blast out ear shattering decibels 24/7. Fine, it’s their thing and they have lots of fans, not to mention some of the best DJs in the world. Many Burners list these venues among their top choices. They joyfully dance the night away, literally. I like stopping by but my ears soon send me scooting for quieter locations— like the opposite side of the Playa.

Dancing and music are an integral part of Burning Man. The event attracts some of the top DJs in the world who spin their tunes for free at Burning Man.

Dancing and music are an integral part of Burning Man. The event attracts some of the top DJs in the world who spin their tunes for free at Burning Man. The hanging speakers give an idea of the volume that can be generated.

I don’t run around naked at Burning Man, either. That would be scary— for both me and anybody looking in my direction. But I have no objection to other people being nude. Some Burners are quite attractive while others are at least, uh, colorful. I assume all are enjoying some form of liberation, or at least a bit of exhibitionism.

Outrageous costumes make people watching at Burning Man a number one activity. The guy 'looking the wrong way' helped make this photo. Note the platform shoes on the woman. She wears them well.

Outrageous costumes make people watching at Burning Man a number one activity. The guy ‘looking the wrong way’ helped make this photo. What was he thinking? Note the platform shoes on the woman. She wears them well.

The thing about the Burning Man experience is that it depends on the individual. My recommendation for new participants is to come with an open mind and explore. If you want to get naked, go ahead; but you don’t have to and most don’t. Your experience can be as radical or conservative as you wish to make it.

So, having established my parameters, here is my top-ten list of things to do at Burning Man (assuming one can finagle a ticket). They aren’t in order of preference.

1. Attend the Burn: First, you will want to visit the Man during the week. There are usually a number of activities taking place that reflect the year’s theme. Plus you can often climb up into the base and enjoy some of the best views available of Black Rock City! The burning of the Man on Saturday night is the climax of the week where everything and everyone comes together. Hundreds of fire dancers and drummers kick off the event and are followed by an elaborate ceremony where the Man is set on fire.  Things start with a bang, literally, as rockets explode and light up the sky. The Man then moves toward his ultimate demise, slowly. His last seconds are met by silence from 70,000 people, possibly the only time when Burning Man is quiet, followed by oohs and ahs building to a crescendo as he comes crashing down, completing his annual sacrifice. Don’t worry, like Frosty the Snowman and the Phoenix Bird, he’ll be back. The burn is only part of the show, however. Elaborate costumes, giant mutant vehicles, and total  bedlam compete for attention.

 

For six days the Man serves as a gathering point on the Playa and as a landmark for lost Burners. On Saturday night he burns in what has become one of the world’s best known New Age rituals.

Burning Man's roots go back 27 years to the burning of an 8 foot tall statue on Baker Beach in San Francisco. Today's man stands some 40 feet tall and rests on a 60 foot pedestal. The wooden man and his fiery demise symbolizes the annual event that takes place in the remote Black Rock Desert of Nevada.

Burning Man’s roots go back 31 years to the burning of an 8 foot tall statue on Baker Beach in San Francisco. Today’s man stands some 40 feet tall and rests on a 60 foot pedestal.

My friend Don Green took this photo of the Fun House entrance that was built around the Man in 2015.

My friend Don Green took this photo of the Fun House entrance that was built around the Man in 2015.

The night sky is lit up by fireworks during the burning of the Man at Burning Man 2014.

Suddenly the night sky and the Man are lit up by fireworks. The burn is about to begin.

A close up of the Man burning at Burning Man 2014.

Don Green captured this photo of the Man Burning.

The Burning of the Man on Saturday night gives the event its name.

Huge flames light up the night.

People perch on El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man and watch as the Man burns.

People perched on El Pulpo Mechanico at Burning Man and watched as the Man burned. Even the mutant vehicle, El Pulpo Mechanico, seemed entranced.

2. Enjoy the People: I don’t know where one could find a more interesting cast of characters than Burning Man. But then again, there aren’t many places where you are encouraged to be yourself and pursue ‘radical self-expression’ in a region where temperatures top 100 and 60 mph windstorms kick up massive dust storms that create zero visibility. Tribes, events and volunteering create numerous situations where it is easy to meet people and make friends. While Burning Man preaches involvement, you are also totally free to wander around and simply observe.

The folks who come to Burning Man represent a broad spectrum of people representing all ages and occupations— from broke college students to billionaires. this fellow is a veteran Burner who works with the Department of Public Works that helps build Black Rock City.

The folks who come to Burning Man represent a broad spectrum of people from all ages and occupations— from broke college students to billionaires. This fellow is a veteran Burner who works with the Department of Public Works that helps build Black Rock City.

This young couple stood next to me as we watched a burning piano be tossed 50 or so yards up the Playa. Glasses form an important part of Burner's costumes.

This young couple stood next to me as we watched a burning piano be tossed 50 or so yards up the Playa.

Costumes are an integral part of Burning Man and some people such as my friend Ken (aka Scotty) Love to dress up.

Costumes are an integral part of Burning Man and some people such as my friend Ken (aka Scotty) love to dress up. Scotty, BTW, is Ken’s Burning Man name. Almost everyone has one. Mine is Outlaw.

3. Appreciate the Art: Burning Man art comes in all forms, from monumental to small, from sculpture to painting to performance. Most of the major pieces and performances take place on the Playa or along the Esplanade. But there are many smaller pieces (and performances) found throughout the camp and at the Center Camp Cafe. Much of the art is interactive. Be sure to check out the playa sculptures at different times of the day. Many of the pieces are schizophrenic with radically different day and night personalities. And many are making there way into communities around the world.

Burning Man has become a major center for what is happening in today’s art world. Selecting a piece to represent what is happening in the Nevada desert is close to impossible. These two oil tankers welded together and stacked on top of each other, meld environmental concern with art, two of Burning Man’s major themes.

Medusa with her snake hair was one of my favorite sculptures in 2015.

Medusa, with her writhing snake hair, was one of my favorite sculptures in 2015.

Burning Man Fantasy sculpture

Monumental sculptures, many you can climb on, are among the most popular art works at Burning Man.

4. Save Time for the Desert: The Black Rock Desert and surrounding mountains are beautiful. Look around. Once the Playa was part of the huge Lake Lahontan, which was over 500 hundred feet deep. Mammoths wandered the lake’s shore. Early morning and late evening provide the best times for desert viewing. An early morning walk, while Burning Man more or less sleeps, is the best time to appreciate what the desert has to offer. Embrace rather than dread the weather. When else in your life will you experience a massive dust storm or see a desert rainbow?

The evening sun bathes the surrounding mountains at Burning Man in soft light.

The evening sun bathes the surrounding mountains at Burning Man in soft light.

I think Burning Man  fails to emphasize (or assigns to footnote status) one of the event’s most spectacular assets… the beauty of the Black Rock Desert.

A massive dust storm crosses the Playa and hides the camp.

4. Visit the Temple: The folks who build the Temple deserve a huge vote of thanks from all of us. Visiting is both an aesthetic and spiritual experience. To start with, the temples are gorgeous, with each year’s building a unique creation. Thousands of written messages are left on the walls to honor loved ones who have died or to give thanks for blessings. The messages are both sincere and touching. Take along a pen or a marker if you wish to honor or thank someone who has had a significant impact on your life. On Sunday night the temple burns, sending messages skyward in what I can only describe as a sacred experience.

The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2012.

The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2015.

The Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.

The Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.

The Temple burns on Sunday Night. Unlike the Burning of the Man which is a bit on the rowdy side, Burners watch silently and respectfully as the Temple Burns.

The Temple burns on Sunday Night. Unlike the Burning of the Man which is a bit on the rowdy side, Burners watch silently and respectfully as the Temple is consumed by flame.

5. Check out Camp Center Cafe, Often: Whether you want to perform, show off your costume, pick up the latest news, attend a show, enjoy art, have a cup of coffee, meet friends, have your fortune told, apply pasties, watch people or just hang, Camp Center Cafe is the place to go. It’s open 24 hours a day. Something is always going on. I visit two to three times daily. Be sure to watch the costume contest and the talent show.

This robot with his dog and a flower was in front of the Center Camp Cafe. He would raise the flower up to his nose and sniff it.

This robot with his dog and a flower was in front of the Center Camp Cafe. He would raise the flower up to his nose and sniff it. Each year Center Camp Cafe features a major sculpture.

“Yes Master.” Camp Center is a great place to watch people, show off your costume, and live out your fantasies… and it is always entertaining.

A show of some kind of the other is pretty much guaranteed when you visit the Center Camp Cafe. Here couples practice partner yoga. Are the two guys center-right twins?

A show of some kind of the other is pretty much guaranteed when you visit the Center Camp Cafe. Here couples practice partner yoga. Are the two guys on the floor center-right twins?

Center Camp is also a prime location for Burning Man art.

Center Camp is also a prime location for Burning Man art.

6. Stroll or Bike The Esplanade: This is Burning Man’s other major center of action. It provides the border between the Camp and the Playa. It is a theater, circus and walkway all in one. Stop by and watch people pummel each other with foam sticks in the Thunder Dome, enjoy a troop of fire dancers, go roller-skating, play games, try out a balloon ride, hear how loud music can actually get, dance, watch a movie, become lost in a maze, meditate… etc.

Hundreds of people lined up for an opportunity climb into the sky on this balloon ride that was offered on the Esplanade. Entertainment along the Esplanade varies from dancing, to roller skating, to circuses. Once there was even a booth that would spank you, assuming you needed it.

Major tribes with hundreds of members build elaborate camps along the Esplanade.

Major tribes , some with hundreds of members, build elaborate camps along the Esplanade.

A number of impressive buildings including the Sacred Spaces building are found along the Esplanade at Burning Man.

Another example.

7. Check out and/or Ride on Mutant Vehicles: Undecorated vehicles are restricted to camp. If you are going to drive you have to decorate. What’s not to love about a giant, wooly mammoth or a cat car with fur? Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man come in all shapes, forms and sizes. Some people spend weeks/months creating their fantasy transportation systems and even bicycles are elaborately decorated.  Various vehicles become dance floors, spout fire, look ferocious and even appear friendly. A polite request may land you a ride.

The Cat Car is a perennial favorite at Burning Man. This year she had a makeover and was looking quite snazzy.

The Cat Car is a perennial favorite at Burning Man. This year she had a makeover and was looking quite snazzy.

The tusks on they mammoth are what make this art car one of my favorite mutant vehicles at Burning Man. People sit inside the rib cage. The driver climbs into the head.

The tusks on they mammoth are what make this art car one of my favorite mutant vehicles. People sit inside the rib cage. The driver climbs into the head.

Where's Alice?

Where’s Alice?

Never Was Haul resembles a Victorian House that has been converted to a steam engine train.

Never Was Haul resembles a Victorian House that has been converted to a steam engine train.

A rhino even more massive than its counterpart in East Africa.

A rhino even more massive than its counterpart in East Africa.

8. Join a Tribe, or not: Tribes are the major social units at Burning Man and there is a tribe for almost any inclination. Many feature theme camps based on the year’s theme and welcome visitors. You can also form your own. Let’s say you are a purple alien from outer space and can’t find a tribe. Create the Purple Alien from Outer Space Tribe. Odds are there are other purple aliens who will want to join. It’s doubtful that anyone will even recognize that you are an alien. They will just think, “Oh, he’s got a neat costume,” and want to take your picture.

The Peripatetic Bone, held here by Boots and featuring his leather vest, has his own tribe… the Horse-Bone Tribe. He has been visiting Burning Man for years and was even married there to Bonette, a few years ago.

9. Go out into the Night: The Burning Man night is magical. Everyone and thing includes some kind of lighting system including art, people, bikes and mutant vehicles. Most blocks provide entertainment. Is it going to be pole dancing, jazz or vodka creations that capture your imagination? You will think you have entered a different universe.

The front of the Temple at night.

The Temple of Promise at night.

A large group attended an evening discussion on the issue of violence against women.

R-evolutuion lit up at night. Here, a large group attended an evening discussion on the issue of violence against women.

Burning Man dragon created by Flaming Lotus Girls for Burning Man.

A fiery dragon.

Burning Man mutant vehicle. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And a mutant vehicle vase.

10. Peruse the Catalogue: You are given a catalogue when you arrive that includes literally hundreds of things you can do at Burning Man ranging from attending a lecture on solar power to having your breasts painted. The various tribes sponsor these events for free as part of Burning Man’s gift-giving culture. You can practice yoga, learn the samba, improve your fire twirling skills, watch a show, and even improve your sex life, regardless of which way you lean. You can also drink. The catalogue lists dozens of bars featuring everything from Bloody Marys to craft beers. One year I found a casket that featured beer spouts.  Drinks are free; bring your own cup. One of the first things I do after setting up camp is to go through the catalogue and check off things I might want to do. Hmmm, I wonder what bondage is like? (Just kidding… but there are opportunities to learn about it, and practice.)

Burning Man may be the greatest show on Earth. Bring along your imagination, sense of humor, and willingness to experience new things.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, are planning on going to Burning Man for your first time, want to learn more about the event, or want to reminisce about past events, I invite you to join me on Fridays for the next couple of months.

One Hundred Thousand Thank-Yous… for One Hundred Thousand Views

Bone proudly displays his life jacket in preparation for his trip down the Colorado River

The first blog series I ever wrote was on an 18 day rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon that Peggy and I made, along with Bone… featured above wearing his life vest.

I reached the hundred thousand mark on blog views Saturday. While this hardly reaches the definition of viral, it is a significant milestone for me, and I want to thank each and every one of you who have joined Peggy and me on our journeys. So here you have it:

THANK YOU x 100,000

I first started blogging right after I had attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in 2010.

I had learned at the conference that publishers no longer did publicity for your book unless you were a really, really big name… such as J. K. Rowling, or the President, or a mass murderer. It didn’t seem to matter which. In fact the odds of a new writer even picking up an agent or publisher were pretty close to zero unless he or she met the above qualifications.

But, we were told, there was a dim light at the end of a very long tunnel. The Internet was changing how the book industry functioned, just like it had changed how the music industry functioned, and every other business it touched. Think about travel agents. When was the last time you used one?

We now had the power to market our own books. We also had another way of capturing the interest of an agent or a publisher. It all revolved around building a following on the Internet, or a platform as the book people called it.

It wasn’t like blatant advertising; it was more like letting people get to know you while you got to know them. If they liked you and liked how you expressed yourself, maybe they would buy your book. Or, conversely, if agents or publishers saw that you had a large audience of potential readers, they would be more likely to take your book on as a project.

And there was more– as advertisers like to say on late night television– we could use the Internet to self-publish our own books. All of the gatekeepers of the publishing industry: the agents and editors and publishers and bookstores, could be circumvented.  Self-publishing was becoming respectable; it was no longer the dirty word of the vanity press days. And there was scrumptious ice cream on top of the apple pie; we could expect to receive 50-85% of the revenues generated by our book as opposed to the 10-15% traditional publishers returned.

So I went home and started blogging. My first post was titled On Being Squirrelly. It featured the start of an 18-day private trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon that Peggy and I took along with and Bone. His photo kicks off this post. Bone, for the uninitiated, is a horse bone I found while backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1977. Like the infamous Gnome, he has been travelling the world ever since.

What I quickly learned at the beginning of my efforts was that I really enjoyed blogging. It was a way to share Peggy and my adventures plus feature our photographs. It was also a way to make new friends and enjoy the blogs they produced. Blogging became an end in itself. (None of this means I have forgotten my original purpose. Within the next couple of months you should have the opportunity to purchase the book on my African Peace Corps’ adventures. Woo hoo!)

Word Press makes blogging easy, a fact that I truly appreciate. I also enjoy the statistics; besides being fun, they provide me with an overview of how I am doing in the world of blogging. Here are a few highlights in addition to the 100,000 plus hits:

  • People from 176 countries around the world have checked out my blog. The top ten in order of numbers are the US, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, India, Netherlands, Italy and Spain.
  • My top blogs have been about Burning Man. Most popular this year was Truth and Beauty, the post I did about the magnificent 60-foot statue of a woman. My National Park Series has also drawn a consistently high readership. The most all-time popular was on the California Redwoods. The trip Peggy and I took through the Mediterranean was also quite popular. The top post there was on the beautiful and unique churches of the Greek Island of Santorini.
  • The most consistent readership my blog received, I am glad to say, was when I was posting chapters from the book on my Peace Corps’ experience.
  • My all time one-day readership was 1,019 when Word Press ‘Freshly Pressed’ my blog on Burning Man’s Mutant Vehicles.
  • And, saving the best for last, I have 700 plus followers. My thanks to each of you with special hugs going to those who comment on my blog regularly.
A side view of the sculpture, Truth Is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013.

The Burning Man sculpture Truth is Beauty.

Redwood

This 1500 year old redwood is located in Redwoods National Park on the northern coast of California.

I found this church with its white rocks surreal.

I found this Santorini church with its white rocks surreal.

Burning Man mutant vehicle. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One of my favorite Burning Man mutant vehicles lit up at night.

NEXT BLOG: Peggy and I return to Puerto Vallarta and go on a walk-about. Join us.

Burning Man 2013… Is It on Your Bucket List?

The Burning Man festival, which takes place each year around Labor Day in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada, has become a Bucket List event for thousands of people.

The Burning Man festival, which takes place each year around Labor Day in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada, has become a Bucket List event for thousands of people.

Peggy and I have our 2013 Burning Man tickets!

I  dutifully checked in a week early, received my authorization code, and then jumped on the Net when Burning Man opened its general sale of 40,000 tickets. I was put in the queue line. I would have my opportunity to shell out $720 for two tickets (two are all you are allowed to buy) when my number came up… if there were any tickets left. Burning Man made it clear; there were no guarantees. Everything was on a “first come first serve” basis.

I was worried. Three days earlier I had upgraded my Hugh’s Satellite Internet Service. (Peggy and I live out in the woods beyond the reach of normal Internet.) Apparently the upgrade impacted my ability to get on AOL where I had stored my authorization code, a fact I learned 10 minutes before the sale started. Forty minutes later I had worked my way around the problem. Was I too late?

Three hours… that’s how long I waited in the queue, and I am not good at waiting. I twiddled my thumbs, read the newspaper (yes, they still exist), and read several chapters in a book by Nicholas Carr on how the Internet is shaping our brains. It’s making us less patient. Finally, I was allowed to buy my tickets. I figured I was probably number 39,998.

My friend Tom Lovering, AKA Adios at Burning Man, who had been warning me for days via phone and Email not to miss the sign-up, failed to get tickets. So it will be Craig’s list for him in August. Several hundred if not thousand people will have discovered by then they can’t go and will need to sell their tickets.

So was it worth the hassle? My response is a definite yes! Burning Man is a Bucket List kind of event. I been going since 2004 and it’s still on my bucket list. Every year is different. Burning Man is so big and so diverse, there are always new things to see and experience. Last year’s program, make that catalog, listed over a thousand different events… all free.

I will be blogging about various aspects of Burning Man every week or so over the next several months leading up to the event. I will also continue my series on Mediterranean Ports I visited a couple of months ago. This summer I will feature the trip up the Alaska Highway through Canada and the Yukon Territory to Alaska that Peggy and I are making. As always, there will be lots of photos.

Burners, as BM participants are called, watch in fascination as the Man burns (shown above) in 2012. A mechanical steam-punk octopus lurks in the background.

Burners, as BM participants are called, watch in fascination as the Man burns in 2012. A mechanical steampunk octopus lurks in the background.

Elaborate costumes are an important part of the Burning Man experience. (Photo by Don Green.)

Elaborate costumes are an important part of the Burning Man experience. (Photo by Don Green.)

Hundreds of Mutant Vehicles, such as this Mammoth, make there way through camp and back and forth across the Playa.

Hundreds of Mutant Vehicles, such as this Mammoth, make their way through camp and back and forth across the Playa. I took this photo from our camp.

Hundreds of works of art are displayed annually at Burning Man. This woman, who was kneeling, stood at least 15 feet tall.

Hundreds of works of art are displayed annually at Burning Man. This woman, who was kneeling, stood at least 15 feet tall.

Art comes in all shapes, colors and sizes. Here, a pair of mantises face off.

Art comes in all shapes and sizes. Here, a pair of colorful mantises face off far out in the Playa.

Much art is made to be interactive. Here, burners were invited to walk through the ant farm tunnels. The farm was at least 50 feet tall. Big Ants.

Much art is made to be interactive. Here, burners were invited to walk through the ant farm tunnels. The farm was at least 50 feet tall. Big Ants.

Regional art has been added to Burning Man over the last three years. This Texas Longhorn came from Texas. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

Regional art has been added to Burning Man over the last three years. This Texas Longhorn came from, no surprise, Texas. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

The Black Rock Desert can be quite beautiful, as this rainbow demonstrates.

The Black Rock Desert can be quite beautiful, as this rainbow demonstrates.

Over the next few months, I'll be blogging about various aspects of Burning Man. Join me.

Over the next few months, I’ll be blogging about various aspects of Burning Man. Join me. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

NEXT BLOG: The beautiful walled city of Dubrovnik on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in Croatia.

Next Burning Man blog: This year’s theme is Cargo Cult. What does it mean? I will use themes from other years as examples.

Wonderfully, Whacky Vehicles… Burning Man 2012

The mutant vehicles at Burning Man 2012 provided ongoing amusement, as they always do. I encountered this Woolly Mammoth at the port-a-potty. Later he came down our road.

I was standing in line for the port-a-potty when the Woolly Mammoth with massive tusks came by and dropped off a half of dozen people to join us. He was one hundreds of wonderfully imaginative ‘mutant vehicles’ that provided transportation across the seven square miles of Black Rock City during Burning Man 2012. 

At any given time of the day you find these Black Rock City licensed vehicles parked in camps, driving up and down the roads, and wandering willy-nilly across the vast open spaces of the Playa. They range in size from one-person scooters up to fifty-person busses. Each one looks like something it isn’t. There are dogs, cats, rabbits, flowers, jungles, bugs, fish, dragons, stagecoaches, ships, yachts, and even a wart hog. The list goes on and on.

One of the main attractions at Burning Man 2012 was a fire shooting steam punk octopus that went by the name El Pulpo Mechanico. Created by Duane Flatmo from Humboldt County, California, El Pulpo’s eight tentacles shot ten-foot high flames into the air. His head added a thirty-foot spout. A typical night of flaming used some 200 gallons of propane. 

Peggy came across El Pulpo Mechanico resting up for his night of carousing out on the Playa. He had also been at Burning Man 2011. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Here, our flaming friend, El Pulpo Mechanico, gathers a night time crowd of Burners.

I believe this big eyed, floppy eared 2012 Burning Man vehicle is a bunny. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Some Burners at Black Rock City require a yacht for transportation. This boat is named Christina.

Others at Burning Man are quite happy with a one-seater. I think Yummy was the name of the camp, not the vehicle. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

We were admiring theBurning Man 2012 Temple when this wart hog stopped by for a visit.

Climbing on this orange bus just has to involve a ride to somewhere mysterious and wonderful.

Check out the toothy grin on this Burning Man 2012 vehicle. The creature’s name is Disco Fish.

Sometimes mutant vehicles at Burning Man can appear downright scary, such as this dragon. Flame shoots out of its mouth at night. Note his tire tread skin.

This bear and her cubs show up annually at Burning Man. She and her babies are pulled by a bicycle so technically she isn’t a mutant vehicle. I included her on an earlier blog. I couldn’t resist her charm for my last photo in this post. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)