Long Beaches, Redwoods and Rocky Points on California 101… The North Coast Series

Treasures are often found by those who wander off from well-tred paths. This bit of driftwood I found on Clam Beach north of Eureka, California is an example.

Treasures are often found by those who wander off from well-worn paths. I found this bit of driftwood on Clam Beach north of Eureka, California. I am forever taken by grains and texture in wood. What better way to find them!

Far too often, travel consists of hurrying through a number of must-see stops. I understand this. Some places are rightfully renown for their beauty, history shopping, etc., and time is limited. So you have a check-off list and a timeline. If you are on an organized tour, your travel is even more directed and options for wandering are close to nil, which is one of the reasons that I rarely travel that way.

Sometimes I like to travel without an itinerary and stop willy-nilly when something captures my attention. I realize that I run the risk of missing something worth seeing, but I also open the door for new adventures. When Peggy and I visited California’s North Coast in October, Mendocino was our must see stop. We even had a reservation, which is rare for us.

After Mendocino, it was wander time. We followed Highway 1 as it wound its way up the coast and then cut across the coast range to Highway 101 at Leggett. We zipped up 101 to Eureka so we would have more time on the coast north of the city. Eureka, BTW, was apparently what Archimedes, the Greek mathematician, shouted when he discovered a way of determining the purity of gold. It means, “I found it!” California 49ers shortened the concept to mean, “I found gold!” It became the state motto.

Our first stop above Eureka was at Clam Beach for no other reason than we hadn’t been there before. What we discovered was something of a rarity for the North Coast, a beach that went on and on. A small trail wound its way through brush, eventually leading us out to the beach.

Clam Beach off of Highway 101 north of Eureka, California.

We found golden Dune Grass…

Pampas Grass growing on the California Coast.

And golden Pampas Grass. Its beauty is countered somewhat by the fact that it is an invasive plant from South America, often replacing native plants.

Pampas Grass on Clam Beach in Northern California.

For fun, I shot the same Pampas Grass backlit the sun.

And then had Peggy stand next to it for perspective.

And then had Peggy stand next to it for perspective.

A final shot of Clam Beach.

A final shot of Clam Beach with golden Dune Grass and Pampas Grass in the distance.

Usually when we are in this part of California, we spend some time in the Redwoods. Our views this time, however, were limited to what we saw from the road, except for one ancient giant we found at a rest stop. It had burned years and years ago, leaving nothing but a charcoal remnant of its once magnificent self. Still, it stood as a testament to the miracle of life…

This ancient victim of fire amused me when I noticed that its top was creating a new forest!

This ancient victim of fire amused me when I noticed that its top was creating a new forest!

Patrick’s Point State Park returned us to the rocky shoreline I associate with the North Coast. Peggy and I followed a muddy path down a steep cliff to get to the action!

Patrick's Pt. State Park north of Eureka, California on Highway 101.

Hiking down to the ocean at Patrick’s State Park, we spotted a rock that was lit up by the sun.

Close inspection showed it to a home for California Brown Pelicans.

Closer inspection showed it to be a home for California Brown Pelicans.

Edging my way around a cliff provided another view.

Edging my way around a cliff provided me with another view.

Waves breaking at Patrick State Park north of Eureka and Arcata, California.

Including this…

And this.

And this. I really liked the dark and light contrast, along with the massive rocks.

Inching my way back to where Peggy was, the ocean waved goodby.

When I was inching my way back to where Peggy was, the ocean waved goodby.

NEXT BLOG: “There are elk!” Peggy yelled, almost causing me to crash. “There must be 300!”

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.

Timothy Leary Goes to Burning Man… but Wait, He’s Dead!

1 Burning the Totem of Confession at Burning Man 2015 c DG

As the Totem of Confession burns at Burning Man 2015, a pair of eyes seems to be staring out of the flames. Could it be Timothy Leary taking a last look around before he drifts off into space? The dust devil tornado on the right is a spin-off of the tremendous heat. (Photo by my friend Don Green.)

Susan Sarandon put on a low-cut white wedding dress. Her camp members walked beside her, stirring up the Playa dust. Timothy Leary came along behind, his ashes riding in a casket. A New Orleans style jazz band led the joyful procession of live and dead people making their way out to the Man and then on to the towering Totem of Confession. A 26 foot tall Octopus rolled along behind. Leary would have loved it. Maybe he did.

This photo of Timothy Leary was hung in the Totem of Confession.

This photo of Timothy Leary was hung in the Totem of Confession. The sign beneath declares, “Gone Fishing.”

Here's a view of the giant octopus, El Pulpo Mechanico, at night, with flames coming out of his tentacles and his head. El Pulpo transported Sarandon around Burning Man when she first visited Black Rock City in 2013.

Here’s a view of the giant octopus, El Pulpo Mechanico, that accompanied Leary out to the Totem of Confession. This is at night, with flames coming out of his tentacles and his head. El Pulpo transported Sarandon around Burning Man when she first visited Black Rock City in 2013.

They had toasted Leary a few minutes before the parade began, a communal act of mixing a pinch of his ashes with water (and possibly a tiny amount of LSD?) and drinking the concoction. It was bottoms up and goodbye. It wasn’t Leary’s first send-off, however. The majority of his ashes had already been shot into space, along with those of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. Leary had been promoting space travel and colonization at the time he passed way. He was looking for a one-way ticket into the outer beyond. “A few of us managed to accomplish that,” Sarandon reported in an interview. He died on May 31, 1996, just two days after he heard the news that he would be joining Roddenberry and a number of others on their journey into space, the final frontier.

Leary was to be re-cremated at the Totem of Confession. Before dying, he had requested that his remaining ashes be divided among friends. Sarandon had received a packet and kept it for almost 20 years. During her first venture out to Burning Man in 2013, she had decided to “gift” Burning Man for the experience. After pondering what to give, including a giant ping-pong table, she decided on Timothy’s ashes.

It was a major Burning Man event— and I missed it, wasn’t even aware it was happening. I would have been there, excited to toast the man Richard Nixon once claimed was the most dangerous man in America. Unfortunately, I had obtained my ticket the day before Burning Man started and hadn’t had the time to do the normal research I do on Black Rock City’s seemingly endless list of activities.

For those of you a bit fuzzy on Timothy Leary’s history, he is considered the father of LSD, or at least the man who brought it to the forefront of public awareness. The CIA had decided that the powerful hallucinogen might work as a mind control agent and experimented with it extensively in the 1950s and early 60s— often on Americans who weren’t aware that they were taking part in a CIA experiment, or, for that matter, weren’t even aware that they were being given the drug. In the mid 70s, when Congress decided to investigate the abuse, the CIA destroyed their files.

Leary, a psychologist, had begun his experiments as a professor at Harvard when LSD was still a legal drug. He was interested in whatever medical benefits the drug might have, and even more interested in the drug’s ability to lead people to a higher level of consciousness, something like Tibetan monks reportedly achieve after decades of meditation.

Research into whatever medical or psychological benefits might derive from the use of LSD came to a halt when the drug was made illegal in the mid-60s. Anti-drug advocates achieved a similar ban into research on the medical benefits of marijuana. (Different, but interesting none-the-less, the NRA was able to get legislation through Congress that banned research into the health benefits derived from reducing gun violence.)

My research on Leary for this blog brought up a few interesting facts in his history that I wasn’t aware of:

  • Gordon Liddy, Nixon’s lead burglar, organized drug raids against Leary as a local assistant DA several years before he joined Nixon. Liddy would later hit the speaker circuit with Leary in the 80s.
  • Leary made a short run against Ronald Reagan for the governorship of California in 1970. John Lennon wrote “Come Together” as a campaign song for him. (Leary’s run was cut short when he was thrown into Folsom Prison for marijuana use. Jerry Brown released him in 1976.)
  • Leary’s famous turn on, tune in, drop out rallying cry was suggested to him by Marshall McLuhan, famous for coining the phrases the medium is the message and the global village.

Susan Sarandon had befriended Leary in the mid-80s. By then, she was already an A-level Hollywood actress. I was amused that one of the first movies she starred in had been the cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Numerous other movies followed including Bull Durham, Thelma and Louise, Little Women, and Dead Man Walking, for which she received an Oscar. At some point along the way, she had an affaire with David Bowie. A strong advocate for liberal causes, she was selected to be the 1999 UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Sarandon had originally planned to place Leary’s ashes in the Temple Of Promise, Burning Man’s main 2015 temple. A friend, however, had suggested that she get in contact with Michael Garlington of Petaluma, California, who at the time was putting together a 40-foot tall temple-like structure that he was calling the Totem of Confession. Michael was excited about the proposal and immediately said yes. Susan did more than simply offer ashes; the 68-year old showed up a week before Burning Man to help construct the temple and was handed a nail gun. She stayed in a tent that was constantly filling with dust and even blew down twice in high winds. I doubt many Hollywood types would participate in such an endeavor unless a movie contract and a few million dollars were added as an incentive. I admire her. Weeks later, she was still coughing up Playa dust during media interviews.

While the Totem of Confession had both a spire and a confessional, few people would consider it a church. It was too whimsical, and I might add, irreverent. Garlington used the word totem as in totem pole. It was chock full of strange photographs, plaster skulls, a goat head, Leary’s photo, hidden nooks and other miscellaneous items. I felt like an archeologist or possibly an anthropologist as I wandered through. Pictures tell the story best.

A day time view of the impressive Totem of Confession created by Michael Garlington and his partner

A day time view of the impressive Totem of Confession created by Michael Garlington and his partner

Each of the open spaces in Totem of Confession, as shown above, contains one of Michael's photos.

Each of the open spaces in Totem of Confession, as shown above, contains one of Michael’s photos.

A close up of the dress. Interesting, huh?

A close up of the dress. Imagine wearing it to a prom, or the symphony.

Another of the photos.

Another of Michael’s photos with a curious owl providing a photo-bomb.

This albino alligator, like the owl, and several other animals, decorate the temple.

This albino alligator, like the owl, and several other animals, decorated the temple.

Panel of door at Totem of Confession Burning Man 2015

The door into the Totem of Confession featured this elaborate front.

The confessional booth inside the temple included this tower of skulls. Strange, yes, but I once visited a church in Evora, Portugal whose walls and ceilings were made of skulls, real ones.

The confessional booth inside the temple included this tower of plaster skulls. Strange, yes, but Peggy and I once visited a church in Evora, Portugal whose walls and ceilings were made of skulls, real ones. More skeletons looked on from above.

The opposite side of the booth had quite the collection of "other" things.

The opposite side of the booth had quite the collection of “other” things.

The confessional booth. "Have a seat my dear, and tell me what you've been up to at Burning Man. Oh my, that will require 10,000 Hail Marys."

The confessional booth. “Have a seat my dear, and tell me what you’ve been up to at Burning Man. Oh my, that will require 10,000 Hail Marys.”

The best of horror stories my require a goat like this.

This guy would do well in the most pagan of temples.

And what is with these eyes. Is someone staring at you? Are you being recorded? Are you on Candid Camera? Do you dare look through the peep hole?

And what is with this eye? Is someone staring at you? Are you being recorded? Are you on Candid Camera? Do you dare look through the peep-hole?

Of course I had to look.

Of course I had to look. I suspect one could spend hours finding everything that had been hidden, incorporated into the nooks and crannies of the Totem of Confession.

A view of the Totem of Confession at night.

A view of the Totem of Confession at night.

The Totem of Confession was burned immediately after the Man burned Saturday night. Sarandon's wedding dress was included.

The Totem of Confession was burned immediately after the Man burned Saturday night. Sarandon’s wedding dress was included in the pyre. (Photo by Don Green.)

The temple burned quickly and fell to the ground. I wonder if the Burner was warming his hands or applauding. (Photo by Don Green.)

The temple burned quickly and fell to the ground. I wonder if the Burner was warming his hands or applauding. (Photo by Don Green.)

A final photo by Don. I really liked the way he captured the Totem of Confession in the broader Burning Man context.

A final photo by Don. I really liked the way he captured the Totem of Confession in the broader context of Burning Man. (Photo by Don Green.)

NEXT BLOG: Let’s take a detour and admire some Mutant Vehicles/Art Cars.

The Murals of Burning Man 2015… From Dali to Pigs that Fly

Destined to last a week, Burning Man murals provide mural artists with and opportunity to display their work, and for Burners to enjoy the murals.

Destined to last a week, Burning Man murals provide mural artists with an opportunity to display their work, and for Burners to enjoy the murals.

Somewhere around 30,000 BC, a group of guys and possibly gals, decided to try their hand at creating murals deep in the caves of southern France. Apparently folks liked what they saw. The art form caught on. The ancient Egyptians placed murals in their tombs; they were found in Pompeii before Mt. Vesuvius blew her top; and Michelangelo undoubtedly got a kink in his neck from daubing away at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Peggy and I have even found some very interesting UFO-like murals left behind by early Native Americans.

We found this Roman mural in a museum in Naples.

We found this Roman mural in a museum in Naples.

Today murals have become ubiquitous, if I may use that two-bit word, i.e. they are everywhere. Small towns use them to attract visitors and relate their history. Urban areas have found them great for freshening up blighted areas. And the best of graffiti artists are now paid big bucks to wield spray cans they once used for free— two steps ahead of the police.

Murals have a way of slipping into my blogs when I come across them. I appreciate the efforts of both major cities and small towns to support artists. I recently featured murals I found in Puerto Vallarta. Two other examples include one from the small coastal town of Bolinas and one featuring People’s Park in Berkeley.

Mural Peggy and I found in Puerto Vallarta. We enjoyed its sent of humor.

Mural Peggy and I found in Puerto Vallarta. We enjoyed its sense of humor.

Mural of early Bolinas, California. Photo taken by Curtis Mekemson.

A mural depicting how Bolinas would have looked in the 50s. Not much has changed. As for the guy in a brown suit carrying a blue surfboard… artistic license?

Murals have been used to reflect local history and political protest.

Murals have often been used to reflect local history and political protest.

Alien looking forms in an early Native American mural (pictograph) from Sego Canyon in eastern Utah north of I-70.

Alien looking forms in an early Native American mural (pictograph) from Sego Canyon in eastern Utah north of I-70. I am going with UFO visitors.

Given the creative bent of Burning Man, it isn’t at all surprising to find that mural art thrives there. Each year, the Burning Man Organization, BMO, makes a long fence around the back side of the Center Camp Café available to artists. Other murals can be found throughout Black Rock City. I make a point of including works that strike my fancy in my annual Burning Man blogs. This year my choices ranged from Salvador Dali to pigs that fly— and other strange stuff. (Grin) Pigs that fly, BTW, have been a favorite of mine ever since I memorized this poem from Lewis Carol as an impressionable teenager:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
”To talk of many things:
 Of shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

Peggy’s mom, who is a retired high school English teacher and is now 95, doesn’t remember much, but she remembers this verse. We often recite it together.

Three angelic flying pigs.

Three angelic flying pigs. I think the nose masks are there to deal with the dust storms of Burning Man.

A not so angelic Salvador Dali.

A not so angelic Salvador Dali and his message.

Arriving early at Burning Man in 2015, I was able to watch a number of mural artists at work.

Arriving early at Burning Man in 2015, I was able to watch a number of mural artists at work.

Note the number of paints.

Colorful mural, colorful clothes.

A view of one of the walls featuring a number of artists.

A view of one of the walls featuring a number of artists.

These clowns fit into the Burning Man theme of Carnival.

These clowns fit into the Burning Man theme of Carnival.

A bear riding a unicycle while juggling flaming bottles— another carnival theme.

A bear riding a unicycle while juggling flaming bottles— another carnival theme. Apparently the world burns as well, while the middle bottle urges people to have a nice day.

Want strange, this one qualifies.

Want strange, this ‘BMO insider’ mural qualifies. Check out the statue of Bliss dancing with Homer Simpson on the hat. El Pulpo Mechanico lurks in the background.

Handsome bugs. Number 4, not seen, BTW, was a mirror.

Handsome bugs. Fig 4, not seen here, was a mirror. Burners were invited to join the collection.

Let's have a party.

Let’s have a party. The two in front are playing their noses like flutes. And then there is the nose harp…

Unfinished but interesting.

Unfinished but interesting.

A study in black and white. Check out the details.

A study in black and white. Check out the details.

Incentive?

Incentive or trap?

The peaceable kingdom? Or not?

I’ll conclude with this version of what I view as the peaceable kingdom. Whether the artist saw it that way…

NEXT BLOG: A strange cathedral, Susan Sarandon, and the ashes of Timothy Leary.

R-Evolution at Burning Man 2015…

 

The 48 foot sculpture R-Evolution looks across the Playa at Burning Man

The 48 foot sculpture R-Evolution looks across the Playa at Burning Man.

“Art can illuminate the human condition and be a catalyst to social change… it can foment revolution… it can make a difference in individuals’ lives… in your life.” —Marco Cochrane

She stood there in her nakedness, looking out across the Playa, all 48 feet of her. She was a tall woman.

R-Evolution is the third in a series of giant women sculptures created by the Bay Area artist Marco Cochrane for Burning Man. Marco named his three-part effort the Bliss Project after his first sculpture, Bliss Dance, which appeared at Burning Man in 2010 and later graced Treasure Island.   Truth Is Beauty appeared in 2013 and R-Evolution in 2015.

Bliss sculpture at Burning Man in 2010.

Bliss Dance sculpture at Burning Man in 2010.

Truth is Beauty sculpture at Burning Man 2013.

Truth is Beauty sculpture at Burning Man 2013.

Working out of his studio on Treasure Island, Marco used the same woman, Deja Solis, as the model for each of his giant woman. The purpose behind his monumental work, according to Marco, is to “challenge the viewer to see past the sexual charge that has developed around the female body… to inspire men and women to take action to end violence against women, making room for women’s voices, thus allowing both women and men to live fully and thrive.”

Marco starts with a clay model and then works upward and outward, constructing the final sculpture of steel rods and balls, which is then covered with a stainless steel mesh. For those who like details, the 55-feet tall Truth is Beauty weighed 7,000 pounds and was constructed using 55,000 single welds, 25,000 feet of steel rod and pipe, 6500 steel ball connection points, and 2000 square feet of stainless steel mesh. 1500 multi-colored LED lights were distributed throughout her body for nighttime illumination.

I feel lucky that I was able to be at Burning Man the three times that Marco brought his art work to Black Rock City. I felt compelled each year to revisit the statues again and again. As I look back over my photographs (there are a bunch), I’ve come to reverse their presentation in my mind. I start with the quiet and contemplative R-Evolution, move on to the enlightened and celebratory Truth Is Beauty, and end with the joyfully dancing Bliss. Maybe I’ve made this choice because Marco uses as his motto on his website one of my all-time favorite quotes and guidelines for living life:

“Follow your bliss and doors will open where none existed.” –Joseph Campbell

I like this photo because it shows the meditative quality of R-Evolution.

I like this photo because it shows the peaceful, meditative quality of R-Evolution.

This photo by Don Green captures the sunlight in an interesting way.

This photo by Don Green captures the sunlight reflected off of R-Evolution’s structure in an interesting way. Can you spot the heart?

Cochrane's use of hands in his sculptures always tell part of the story.

Cochrane’s use of hands in his sculptures always tell part of the story.

A close up showing the internal structure of the hand.

A close up showing the internal structure of the hand.

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

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

R-Evolution, Bliss and Truth Is Beauty were all designed to take on a variety of colors at night, providing a completely different perspective on the sculptures.

R-Evolution, Bliss Dance and Truth Is Beauty were all designed to take on a variety of colors at night, providing a completely different perspective on the sculptures.

I thought this was quite dramatic.

I thought this was quite dramatic with its black sky background.

A final view of R-Evolution looking across the Playa at the distant mountains of the Black Rock Desert.

A final view of R-Evolution looking across the Playa at the distant mountains of the Black Rock Desert.

NEXT BLOG: The murals of Burning Man.

Medusa at Burning Man… Where Snakes, Art and Myth Join Forces

 

1 Medusa at Burning Man 2015

The Medusa by Kevin Clark and the Rhino Redemption Camp was one of the most impressive sculptures at Burning Man 2105.

You are probably familiar with the myth of Medusa. She was one bad dude-ette. The story is told that Medusa, a beautiful woman, had sex with Poseidon (Neptune) in Athena’s temple— an event that seriously irritated the goddess, which was never a wise thing to do. Athena responded by giving Medusa a permanent bad hair day, turning her beautiful locks into a nest of squirming snakes. Even worse, she gave Medusa a look that transformed people into stone. Neither of these actions was conducive to encouraging normal human contact and Medusa developed a nasty attitude, using her newly acquired powers willy-nilly.

The Greek hero Perseus was tasked with chopping off Medusa’s head. The gods helped. He set off for battle armed with a sword from Zeus, a polished shield from Athena, winged slippers from Hermes, an invisibility cloak from Hades, and a sack from the Hesperides. The latter was to stuff Medusa’s head into. Three old sea goddesses with one eye and one tooth between them, the Graeae, told Perseus where to find Medusa when he stole their eye. By cleverly using Athena’s shield as a mirror, he approached the snake-haired woman and hacked his way to success. Afterwards, Perseus used his grisly trophy to do in enemies. He’d yank her head out of the sack and point it at them. Zap, you’re a rock.

Burners from Petaluma, California, creators of one of my all time favorite mutant vehicles, the Rhino Art Car, were responsible for bringing Medusa to Burning Man. Kevin Clark and his fellow members of the Rhino Redemption Camp, felt that Medusa with her mirror tie-in was a natural for the 2015 Burning Man Theme, Carnival of Mirrors. Burning Man honchos agreed and Clark went to work in his Petaluma workshop. He used a cast of the face of his friend and co-worker on the project, Michele Ramatici, as a model for Medusa’s face, and set about gathering 800 barrels for making 25 snakes. The snakes would reach as high as 27 feet into the sky; Medusa’s face, close to 15 feet.

2 Rhino Art Car at Burning Man 2014

The Rhino Art Car crosses the Playa in 2014.

3 Rhino Art Car camped out at Medusa Burning Man 2015

This is the Rhino Art Car in 2015 as it provides a temporary home for the crew that was working on Medusa.

4 Horn of Rhino Art Car at Burning Man 2015

A view of the Rhino’s horns. Also note its eye.

When I arrived on Sunday, the first day of Burning Man, work was still underway on the giant sculpture. Bits and pieces of snakes and snakeheads were still strewn all over the ground. (It isn’t unusual for large-scale art projects to be under construction the first few days of Burning Man.) I watched with fascination as a tall crane lifted snake sections into place. Even partially complete, the sculpture was impressive. It became more so as the week progressed.

5 Building Medusa at Burning Man 2015

A snake head up close… complete with wicked looking fangs. Eventually, it would connect with its body.

6 Medusa being built at Burning Man 2015

The ground, in fact, was still strewn with snake parts when I arrived at Burning Man 2015 on opening day. 

7 Building Medusa at night Burning Man 2015

Work continued far into the night as the Rhino Redemption Camp worked to have Medusa’s snakes up and ready to strike. 

8 Early Medusa with white face at Burning Man

Even partially finished, Medusa was impressive. Eventually, the white cover of Medusa’s face would come off.

9 Early building of Medusa at Burning Man 2015

But first, she had to grow a lot more snakes, as shown in the next two photos.

10 The snakes of medusa

11 Medusa close to being finished at Burning Man DG

My friend, Don Green, captured this photo of the almost completed Medusa. All that remained was to remove the white cover. I liked the contrast of the red umbrella.

12 Medusa's Cobra at Burning Man

A different kind of snake was found just above Medusa’s head: a King Cobra.

13 Night view of Medusa's face at Burning Man DG

Night provided a totally different perspective. (Photo by Don Green.)

15 Night view of Medusa's snakes at Burning Man 2015

The snakes were quite colorful.

16 Close up of Medusa's snakes at Burning Man

The ‘tongues’ were designed to shoot out flames. Unfortunately, I was never around to witness the phenomena. 

17 Threatening Medusa snake at night, Burning Man

It wasn’t hard to imagine that this fellow thought of me as dinner.

Starting with ancient Greece and then moving on to Rome, the Renaissance and modern times, there must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of images of Medusa created. I even found a GQ magazine cover that featured Rihanna wearing Medusa hair. Regardless of all the art generated since the beginning, I believe that the ancient Greeks would have loved Kevin Clark’s version.

18 Medusa's face revealed at Burning Man

Medusa’s face unveiled was made of burnished steel, which created a perfect mirror.

19. Medusa and her snake hairdo

Medusa, hiding out in her snake hair. 

20 People admiring Medusa at Burning Man 2015

A final view as Burners check out the sculpture. Even a dragon fly had stopped by to visit. 

The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2015

The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2012.

The Temple of Promise at Burning Man 2015: light, airy, and beautiful.

I had rolled out of bed at 5:30 and ridden my bike out onto the Playa to take photos of Burning Man’s 2015 Temple of Promise. It was truly beautiful and promised to be even more so at sunrise. There were lots of folks already there when I arrived (even mutant vehicles), but none of the hustle, bustle and noise that normally accompany Burner events. As the sun hit the spire, the people present spontaneously formed a large circle and silently held hands. No one said let’s hold hands; or let’s form a circle. It was unplanned, a response to the beauty of the moment, yes, but more, something transcendent, a reflection of how Burners feel about their temple.

A crowd had gathered at the Temple of Promise when I arrived as the sun climbed over the mountains. A dragon mutant vehicle is outlined by the early morning light.

A crowd had gathered at the Temple of Promise when I arrived as the sun climbed over the mountains. A dragon mutant vehicle, filled with Burners, is outlined by the early morning light.

Burners spontaneously joined hands as the first rays of the sun hit the Temple.

Burners spontaneously joined hands as the first rays of the sun hit the Temple.

And continued to as the Temple was bathed in light.

And continued to hold hands as the Temple was bathed in light.

I use the word ‘their temple’ on purpose. The people responsible for building the temple each year— the architects, master builders, and volunteers who donate thousands of hours— and the people responsible for funding it (somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000), generously contribute their work of art to the people attending Burning Man, as part of the event’s unique gifting society. Every year, the temple is different, a unique creation, and every year I have attended, the temple has been something special, a thing of beauty. Here is a selection of the temples.

The Temples at Burning Man are unique and quite beautiful.

The Fire of Fires Temple at Burning Man 2009

One of the first Temples I saw at Burning Man.

The Temple of Hope at Burning Man 2006

This temple was pyramidal in shape.

The Temple of Whollyness at Burning Man 2013

And this one resembled a sand dune.

The Temple of Flux at Burning Man 2010.

Burning Man's Temple of Juno in 2012

The Temple of Juno at Burning Man 2012. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

The Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.

The Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014.

The significance of the Temple goes beyond its beauty, it becomes a refuge, a place to say goodbye to friends and loved ones (including pets) who have passed on, a place to ask for forgiveness and leave messages of forgiveness, and a place to celebrate and say thank you. Literally thousands of messages are left on the temple walls during the week. Photographs, perhaps a dog’s favorite chew toy, even someone’s ashes are left as remembrances.

Morris the Cat was born in 1998 and passed away

Morris the Cat was born in 1998 and passed away on October 5, 2014 at the old age of 16. He was still loved and missed by the people he had considered his family.

Someone has memorialized a number of species that had become extinct.

The Earth Guardians of Burning Man have memorialized a number of species that had become extinct.

A garden of metal trees stood in the Temple's patio and provided more opportunities for people to remember their loved ones.

A garden of metal trees stood in the Temple’s patio and provided more opportunities for people to remember their loved ones.

Photographing the Temple at different times of the day and from different angles only added to its beauty.

The entrance leading into the Temple. (Photo by Don Green.)

I really liked this shot by Don that emphasized the entrance leading into the Temple and the contrasting mountains behind. (Photo by Don Green.)

Another morning shot from a different angle. I also like the drama provided by the clouds.

Another morning shot from a different angle. I also liked the drama provided by the clouds.

Morning sun catching the copper face of the temple provided the rich color here.

Morning sun catching the copper face of the temple provided the rich color here.

Inside the Temple at midday... shadows and light.

Inside the Temple at midday… shadows and light.

The Temple at night from a distance.

The Temple at night from a distance.

The front of the Temple at night.

The front of the Temple at night.

Inside the Temple at night.

Inside the Temple at night.

A black and white rendition of the Temple top for fun.

A black and white rendition of the Temple top for fun.

On Sunday evening the Temple burns. It is a solemn occasion. Tears run down cheeks, people whisper goodbyes, and friends hold each other tight as flames leap into the air, lighting the night and  carrying memories of loved ones into the sky. But it is also a celebration of life, a letting go, and permission to move forward. I had planned to attend the 2015 ceremony along with my friends Tom Lovering and Don Green, but we had the wrong time and the temple burned quickly. Here are two photos from the Temple burn of 2012.

The temple of Juno from 2012 burns, shooting flames high into the sky.

The temple of Juno from 2012 burns, shooting flames high into the sky.

A final shot. Soon the Temple will fall, helping to bring closure to the thousands of people who had left messages.

A final shot. Soon the Temple will fall, helping to bring closure to the thousands of people who had left messages.

 

A Carnival of Mirrors… Burning Man’s 2015 Theme: Part II

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most ferocious beast of all? Cat dreams. I thought this carnival poster at Burning Man 2015 was particularly relevant to the theme.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful kitty of all? Or is that most ferocious? Cat dreams. This carnival poster at Burning Man 2015 made me smile. I thought it was perfect for the theme.

“From the looking glass to the selfie, people seek answers to the riddle of identity in their own reflections. Yet even the most perfect mirror shows only the persona, not the person.” Larry Harvey, cofounder of Burning Man

 

Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and make faces? Come on, confess, I know you have. We are drawn to our image like a moth to flames. Sometimes we like what we see, other times— maybe not so much. I remember checking a mirror once when I had started my solo bicycle journey around North America. It scared the heck out of me. It was my second day out and I’d ridden 65 miles. My sole preparation for the trip had been to increase my daily consumption of beer from one to two cans a night. Somehow, I had missed the message that you are supposed to ride your bike before starting off on a 10,000-mile journey.

I could barely get off the bike that night. My right leg refused to reach high enough to get over the crossbar. It had gone on strike. Laughing so hard I almost fell down, I stumbled into the office of a cheap motel and got a room for the night. My first priority was a shower, even before I hit the restaurant across the road and ordered beer, lots of it. After taking my clothes off, I made the mistake of glancing in the mirror. A great white whale was staring back at me. It was both my persona and person. “You damn fool,” I said to the whale, “what in the world do you think you are doing?” It didn’t have an answer. I declared the third day of my six-month trip a layover.

There were lots of mirrors at Burning Man, playing off the Carnival of Mirrors’ theme and doing what they do best— encouraging people to stare at themselves. It was pretty humorous, especially when Burners started posing. I looked at as many mirrors as anyone, but I avoided ballerina and butt shots, wisely so.

Of all the mirror at Burning Man 2015, this one seem to attract the most attention for both posing and photo ops.

Of all the mirrors at Burning Man 2015, this sculpture by Kirsten Berg seemed to attract the most attention for both posing and photo ops. The irreverent thought of this woman displaying her best assets flitted through my mind.

"Hmmm, I wonder what I look like upside down," this woman seemed to be saying.

“Hmmm, I wonder what I look like upside down,” this woman seemed to be saying. Or maybe she was praying “I hope I don’t fall down and break my head.”

On the other hand...

On the other hand…

I am on the left, leaning over on the handle bars of my bike and amusing myself taking photos of people posing.

I made it into all of the photos, a sort of photo bomb waiting to happen. I am on the left, leaning over on the handle bars of my bike and amusing myself taking photos of people posing. The vastness of the Black Rock Desert spreads out behind me. The guy on the right is dutifully taking photos of the woman pretzel.

I also found more carnival posters where my friend Tom stood in as a model. Close by was a Museum of Cultural Appropriation and Dead Things. The latter would have fit right in to a circus sideshow.

This carnival poster is a takeoff on P.T. Barnum's first major hoax in the sideshow business, the Feejee Mermaid who had the tail of a fish and the head of the monkey. You may recall it was Barnum who said "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

This carnival poster is a takeoff on P.T. Barnum’s first major hoax in the sideshow business, the Feejee Mermaid, who supposedly had the tail of a fish and the head of the monkey. You may recall it was Barnum who said “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

While I am dealing with mermaids, this cigar chomping cutie represents the fact that tattoo covered people became a part of the sideshow business in the 1950s. Check out my blog on the Triangle Tattoo Museum if you haven't already seen it.

While I am dealing with mermaids, this cigar chomping cutie represents the fact that tattoo covered people became a part of the sideshow business in the 1950s. Check out my blog on the Triangle Tattoo Museum in Fort Bragg, California if you haven’t already seen it.

As you might imagine, there are lots of tattoos on display at Burning Man. I was particularly impressed with this guys art.

As you might imagine, there are lots of tattoos on display at Burning Man. I was particularly impressed with this guy’s art.

My friend Tom Lovering, good naturedly posed with some of the sideshow art.

My friend Tom Lovering (known as Adios on the Playa), good-naturedly posed with some of the sideshow art. He was hoping for a little faith and charity.

Here, Tom checks out Eve's apple (right?) afraid that she might offer him a bite.

Here, Tom checks out Eve’s apple (right?) afraid that she might offer him a bite.

I found Hammerhead at the

I found Hammerhead at the Museum of Cultural Appropriation and Dead Things, where I also found Butthead, featured below.

Okay, I admit this is a little outrageous, and has no place in a decent blog like mine (grin), but it is exactly the kind of thing you would have found in the old carnival sideshows.

Okay, I admit this is a little outrageous, and has no place in a tame blog like mine (LOL), but it is exactly the kind of thing you would have found in the old carnival sideshows.

As you might expect at a circus or carnival, there were also entertainers galore, jesters, and clowns. I’ve always thought of Burning Man as a three-ring circus and Burning Man 2015 was hardly more so than any other year. The Center Camp Cafe and Black Rock City are constantly filled with people performing circus acts, Barnum and Bailey would have loved to feature mutant vehicles in their circus parades, and the entrance to the media tent at Burning Man 2015 would have made a great entry to a fun house (or political campaign?).

There is a great deal of talent at Burning Man and the Center Camp Cafe is always filled with people performing, as much for themselves as others.

There is a great deal of talent at Burning Man and the Center Camp Cafe is always filled with people performing, as much for themselves as others.

I will have a whole blog, or maybe two or three on mutant vehicles at Burning Man, but I thought this jester fit in here.

I will have a whole blog, or maybe two or three, on mutant vehicles at Burning Man, but I thought this jester fit in here.

The perfect clown. Check out his eyes. (Photo by Don Green.)

The perfect clown. Check out his eyes. (Photo by Don Green.)

My last photo for this essay. I loved the media tent, appropriately labeled the media circus. I almost expected to see the 'The Donald' or some other prominent politician hanging out there. The teeth drew back to provide a door.

My last photo for this essay. I loved the media tent, appropriately labeled the media circus. I almost expected to see the ‘The Donald’ or some other prominent politician hanging out there. The teeth drew back to provide a door.

NEXT BLOG: Where to go is the question? I think I will take you out to the Temple, one of the most beautiful ever at Burning Man.

 

Burning Man Themes… Reflecting the Mind of Larry Harvey

One of four gateways to the 2015 Burning Man carnival. William Blake's poem "TIGER, tiger, burning bright. In the forests of the night,. What immortal hand or eye. Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" was printed around the edge.

One of four gateways to the 2015 Burning Man Carnival. William Blake’s poem “Tiger, tiger, burning bright, In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” was printed around the edge.

Larry Harvey created the first theme for Burning Man in 1995, ten years after he had co-founded the event. Ever since, he and his crew have been churning out a new topic every year. I picture him sitting somewhere in San Francisco, puffing away on his ever-present cigarette, and waiting for inspiration to strike. Finally, the proverbial light bulb flashes. Why don’t we make this year The Nebulous Entity, or Caravansary, or Beyond Belief? It would be interesting to track Harvey’s thought process.

The first theme was Good and Evil. Undoubtedly, there were costumed angels and devils wandering all over the Playa and Black Rock City. There still are. I recall one year when every other woman seemed to have sprouted wings. Maybe there was a sale on. I ran into a bit of good and evil myself at 2015’s Burning Man. I spun a wheel of fortune and was told, “you will soon discover if you are the good twin or the evil one.” Did I really want to know? Later I found a graphic sideshow poster of how it might look.

A wheel of fortune at Burning Man suggested I would soon find out whether I was a good or evil twin.

A wheel of fortune at Burning Man suggested I would soon find out whether I was a good or evil twin.

Carnival or sideshow art has been used for over a century to pull people into sideshows where all sorts of unusual sights were promised.

I must say, being evil looks a bit more interesting. Carnival or sideshow art has been used for over a century to pull people into sideshows where all sorts of unusual sights are promised.Vintage original art is now worth thousands of dollars to collectors.

Burning Man invites individuals, groups and artists to participate in and interpret its annual theme through their costumes, camps and creative works. Here’s a complete list of themes since 1995:

2016 — Da Vinci’s Workshop

2015 — Carnival of Mirrors

2014 — Caravansary

2013 — Cargo Cult

2012 — Fertility 2.0

2011 — Rites of Passage

2010 — Metropolis – The Life Of Cities

2009 — Evolution – A Tangled Bank

2008 — American Dream

2007 — The Green Man

2006 — Hope & Fear

2005 — Psyche

2004 — Vault of Heaven

2003 — Beyond Belief

2002 — The Floating World

2001 — The Seven Ages

2000 — The Body

1999 — The Wheel of Time

1998 — The Nebulous Entity

1997 — Mysteria

1996 — The Inferno

1995 — Good and Evil

The 2015 theme was built around the concept of carnivals and mirrors. A city of tents grew up around the Man featuring carnival posters, mirrors and games of chance. Four large gateways invited Burners in to where hucksters pushed their games of chance, or just strangeness. I checked my image in each of the mirrors but skipped the ring toss where the posts took on a definite phallic look. I stopped to watch a show where a talented acrobat displayed her skills, and I helped pull ropes that made a giant skeleton dance.

A devilish gateway into Burning Man 2015.

A devilish gateway into then Burning Man Carnival. Note: I arrived early at Burning Man this year before the crowds gathered. Many of the Carnival attractions and other installations throughout Black Rock City were still being set up.

I found this humorous guy hanging out inside.

I found this humorous guy hanging out inside.Nice tongue.

Taking a page from Dante's Inferno, this gateway switched the words from

Taking a page from Dante’s Inferno, this circus elephant gateway switched the words from “Abandon all Hope” to “Abandon all Despair.”

The fourth gate into the carnival was this nerdy looking young woman.

The fourth gate into the carnival was this nerdy looking young woman.

A stage in the carnival featured ongoing shows such as this flexible acrobat.

A stage in the carnival featured ongoing shows such as this flexible acrobat.

A large skeleton puppet had ropes that Burners could use to make the skeleton dance.

A large skeleton puppet had ropes that Burners could use to make the skeleton dance. Carnival poster art surrounded the Man and what Burning Man called its Fun House.

Following are three sideshow posters that I found particularly amusing including this tattooed cat.

Following are three sideshow posters that I found particularly amusing including this two-headed tattooed cat.

Ancient Aliens...

Ancient Aliens…

A Playa Chicken.

And a Playa Chicken.

My friend Don Green took this photo of the Fun House entrance. I will be featuring many of Don's photos throughout this series.

My friend Don Green took this photo of the Fun House entrance. I will be featuring many of Don’s photos throughout this series.

Don seems a little worried about the doctor that was prepared to operate on him in one of the carnivals side tents.

Don seems a little worried about the doctor that was prepared to operate on him in one of the carnivals side tents.

I was taken with the detail in this painting that welcomed Burners into the Fun House.

I was taken with the detail in this painting that welcomed Burners into the Fun House. (See Don’s photo of the entrance above.)

A closeup of the face.

A closeup of the face.

And even more detail featuring a gypsy woman.

And even closer shot featuring a gypsy woman with her incredible detail.

Various mirrors welcomed Burners inside the Fun House. I took this photo of Squirrels on my T-shirt. The caption was "Birdseed, what birdseed?"

Various mirrors welcomed Burners inside the Fun House. I took this fractured mirror selfie of my see-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil squirrels  T-shirt. The backward caption is “Birdseed, what birdseed?”

A final shot for today, this one looking up at the Man from inside the Fun House.

A final shot for today, this one looking up at the Man from inside the Fun House.

The 2016 Theme, “Da Vinci’s Workshop,” is designed to draw a parallel between Medieval Florence and Burning Man in terms of art, technical innovation, and patronage. (No one has ever accused Larry Harvey of being shy, modest, or lacking in ambition when it comes to promoting Burning Man, but seeing Black Rock City as the equivalent to Florence, and as “the epicenter of a new renaissance,” is something of a leap.)

Still, the art being inspired by Burning Man is very impressive. And the 2016 Man being “surrounded by a public square, a piazza lined with workshops, each representing a guild…” with the guilds being “self-invented and devoted to the interactive manufacture of whatever participating artists and inventors can imagine, ” sounds like fun.

NEXT BLOG: We will travel into Black Rock City and out into the Playa to explore other ways the 2015 theme of Carnival and Mirrors was represented.

On the Road to Burning Man… Along with 70,000 Other People

Just a 30 foot robot boy walking his robot dog at Burning Man 2015. The boy holds a flower in his right hand that he raises up to his nose and 'smell.' The endless creativity at Burning Man has brought me back to event time and again over the years.

Just a 30 foot robot boy walking his robot dog at Burning Man 2015. The boy holds a flower in his right hand that he raises up to his nose and ‘smells.’ The endless creativity at Burning Man has brought me back to event time and again over the years.

I’ve been making the trek out to Black Rock City since 2004 and blogging about the experience for the past five years. Today marks the beginning of my series on the 2015 Burning Man event (along with more general stories). I’ve waited until now because January and February are the primary months when people will make their decisions about going in 2106 and begin to scramble for tickets.

Newbies, or Virgins as they are known on the Playa, are now scrambling around for every scrap of information they can find. Veteran Burners are thinking fondly of past years, or rambling on about the good old days— back when the Man was young and wild, back before he became an international icon and media darling, and back before Silicon Valley giants, Hollywood Stars, and other one-percenters started landing on the Black Rock Desert in their private planes.

If you’ve read my past blogs on Burning Man, you know that I am a big fan of the event, particularly of the art and creativity it generates. But I don’t make the decision to go lightly. Getting there can be expensive and cleaning up afterwards is always a chore. I can live with these challenges, however; they come with the territory. It’s obtaining a ticket that drives me wacko. BMO, the Burning Man Organization, has yet to figure out a way to make the experience painless or even fair. The challenge is that there are a lot more people who want to go than the 70,000 Bureau of Land Management limit.

I blogged last year about my Kafkaesque experience in trying to get tickets. I only ended up going because of the persistence of my friends Tom Lovering and Don Green. Tom found two tickets and a vehicle pass that weren’t outrageously priced (scalped) on Craig’s List the day before the event. Don made an hour trip from his home in Lafayette California to South San Francisco with a thousand dollars cash in his pocket to meet a guy he had never met at a Starbuck’s he had never been to— at midnight.

I had one day to get ready. Food for eight days had to be purchased, 40 gallons of water loaded, the van and bike prepped, baby wipes packed, and a load of gear ranging from goggles to costumes gathered up from numerous places around the house. Because Peggy had just returned from touring Cotswolds in England, she opted out of Burning Man. It was all about me. I scrambled.

Late-morning on Saturday found me waving goodbye to my best buddy. I was on the road to Burning Man! People come from all over the world to attend the event. Some travel thousands of miles. My trip is a mere 300, a short journey of around six hours. From Medford, I cut across the Cascade Mountains to Klamath Falls and then travelled southeast to Alturas in the remote northeast corner of California, cowboy country. I then crossed the Warner Mountains to the town of Cedarville, a small enclave that sits on the edge of the vast and lonely Nevada desert of the Great Basin. It is the final jumping off point for most Burners travelling to Burning Man from the Northwest US and western Canada.

Businesses along the route to Burning Man have learned that Burners are are a potential source of income. Pappy Gander's Restaurant in the small town of Merrill has a Burners welcome sign.

Businesses along the route to Burning Man have learned that Burners are a potential source of income. Pappy Gander’s Restaurant in the small town of Merrill, Oregon has a Burners Welcome sign.

I stopped for lunch and was amused to find this 'duck decoy' painting.

I stopped for lunch at Pappy’s and was amused to find this ‘duck decoy’ painting. BTW, that’s a mallard holding the shotgun.

I opted to spend the night at Cedarville, as I usually do. I prefer arriving at Burning Man during the day. Plus I like Cedarville. The folks in the small town welcome Burners with open arms. (We’re an important part of their local economy. A gas station owner once told me he obtains 50% of his annual income during Burning Man week.) An even better reason for staying was the Modoc County District Fair was underway, and I love county fairs. I parked Quivera (our van) next to the small town park where I planned to spend the night. I asked some folks coming out of a local church if the local sheriff would hassle me. “Hopefully he has better things to do with his time,” a man told me. “If he does bother you, just drive around the corner,” his wife added.

I quickly walked the two blocks to the fair entrance where I paid three bucks to get in. It would be hard to imagine a better use of my money. A three-person band was playing Pistol Packing Mama and other country-western classics in a free outdoor concert. I sat down on a wooden bench and listened. Pigs, goats and sheep greeted me at the animal barns. I wandered around looking at kids’ art, prized vegetables and other treasures that fill county fairs. I even said hi to Smokey the Bear before I returned to Quivera. I went to sleep to the sound of stock cars roaring around in the Annual Mud Race. It would prepare me for the nightly noise of Burning Man.

A horse came galloping across a pasture to greet me as I walked to the fair and gave me the eye. If I understand horse language correctly, it asked, "You wouldn't happen to have a carrot in your pocket, would you?"

A horse came galloping across a pasture to greet me as I walked to the fair and gave me the eye. If I understand horse language correctly, it asked, “You wouldn’t happen to have a carrot in your pocket, would you?”

I sat under this attractive cover as I listened to Pistol Packing Momma.

I sat under this attractive cover as I listened to Pistol Packing Momma. The barren looking mountain in the background is part of the Warner Range.

Goats have always been one of my top reasons for visiting county fairs. This fellow was very curious about my camera. Shortly afterwards he tries to nibble on my shirt.

Goats have always been one of my top reasons for visiting county fairs. This fellow was very curious about my camera. Shortly afterwards he tried to nibble on my shirt.

Modoc County Fair pigs

Pigs are also a major reason I visit fairs. I like to arrive when they are eating but missed this time. Still, their curly tails more than justified my visit. You might say they were hamming it up.

I often skip the sheep barn, but how could I resist taking a photo of them all dressed up?

I often skip the sheep barn, but how could I resist taking a photo of them all dressed up? They were ready for a fashion runway.

 Modoc County Fair art

You usually have to go to an Elementary School to find great art like this. I’m serious.

And how about these prize onions? A local farmer probably grew these in her backyard garden.

And how about these prize onions? A local farmer probably grew these in her backyard garden.

And finally a challenge. Less you have any doubt that this is horse and cowboy/cowgirl country, how many horses can you find in this collage?

And finally a challenge. Less you have any doubt that this is horse and cowboy/cowgirl country, how many horses can you find in this collage?

I was up early to make the 80-mile drive across the desert to Gerlach, which is just ten miles from the entrance to Burning Man. Tom had said he and Don should arrive around 8 from Reno. I think they made it by 11. I hung out and watched thousands of Burners pass through town. It took us a couple of hours to make it the last few miles. I was sort of reminded me of being stuck in a LA freeway traffic jam. Almost.

Once you leave Cedarville and a couple of other even much smaller towns, this is the kind of country you see on the way to Burning Man.

Once you leave Cedarville and a couple of other even much smaller towns, this is the kind of country you see on the way to Burning Man.

For 50 weeks out of the year, Gerlach is a quiet town with about as much action as you see in this photo.

For 50 weeks out of the year, Gerlach is a quiet town with about as much action as you see in this photo.

For one week out of the year, however, its streets are packed with Burners and thousands of vehicles pass through the town.

For one week out of the year, however, its streets are packed with Burners and thousands of vehicles of all types, sizes and shapes pass through the town. As the sign notes, Gerlach is the last chance to pick up any vital supplies, such as beer or water.

A large Bazaar (for Gerlach) is placed on the edge of town to supply almost anything a burner might need, including...

A large Bazaar (for Gerlach) is placed on the edge of town to supply almost anything a Burner might need, including…

Fine used bikes ideal for traveling across the dusty playa...

Fine used bikes ideal for traveling across the dusty playa…

And the latest in Playa wear.

And the latest in Playa wear.

So let's say you reduce the number of RVs and bikes, put down pavement, and eliminate the dust storm, couldn't this resemble a traffic jam on an LA freeway.

So let’s say you reduce the number of RVs and bikes, put down pavement, and eliminate the dust storm, couldn’t this resemble a traffic jam on a LA freeway?

And then the dust storm hits. You can barely see the car in front of you. Can you imagine what might happen on that same LA freeway?

And then the dust storm hits. You can barely see the car in front of you. Can you imagine what might happen on that same LA freeway? In an hour or so we might even make the last three miles into Black Rock City.

NEXT BLOG: We arrive in Burning Man and I introduce the 2015 theme: A Carnival of Mirrors. Welcome to the circus.