Driving Across America

Monday, September 4, 2000


Woke up sore.

For a while I'm undecided whether I should hang out today or leave. I have not contributed my two hours of clean-up like they want you to, but my back is stiff and I can't see myself bending over a lot.

I've become very aware that I'm almost 37 now and I'm surrounded by a 20-something crowd. I hate feeling old and I plan on doing something about it. Ever since I put on 10 or 15 pounds in college, I've never taken it off. In fact, I've continued to put on weight. At this point it time, I'm at least 30 pounds overweight and I'm fairly out of shape not having worked out for a few months. I just don't have the stamina to party all night and day like these other people.

I've tried getting in shape many times, hiring personal trainers but I've never lost all of the weight or gotten in the kind of physical shape I want to. I'll keep trying though! My intention is to exercise whenever possible on this trip and watch what I eat. We'll see what actually happens!

I've decided to leave. I'm feeling worn out. I haven't been here long, but I've done and seen a lot in this short amount of time. I pack up and drive away from my camp at 8:30 am.

As I'm approaching the exit, I get waived down by someone. They say that they're collecting supplies for the 100 people who are staying behind for a month to cleanup the playa. The guy says "If you have any food or water you can spare and more importantly, alcohol or drugs, we could use them." I give him all of the food and water I have.

I had bought way more food and water than I needed and they were quite happy going thru my bags. "Pop Tarts! Yeah! Pudding! Yeah! Cookies! Yeah! Beef Jerky! Yeah!"

Then I remember the ecstasy that a friend gave me right before I left. They said "Here take this. Use it to barter for things you need." I felt a little uncomfortable about taking drugs with me, but on the other hand, their intentions were pure. They were trying to help me out, so I said "thanks" and stuck the pill in my pocket.

I handed the guy the pill and told him what it was. "Score!!!" was his reaction. He gave me a big hug and asked my name. "Pat" I said. "Pat ... " he looked me in the eye, "thank you very much, you have made me a happy man. This will definitely make life a lot easier."

It turns out that bartering is frowned upon at Burning Man. You are encouraged to give if someone needs. I felt good for helping out the cleaning crew since I did very little cleaning myself.

Where do I head next? Well ... I haven't been in cel-phone range for many days. I think its time to update the web page, but I need to drive to some major city so that I can get a digital signal. I drive until I get an analog signal on my cel-phone and call Sprint PCS customer support to find out what the closest city with a digital signal is, but they're on vacation because its labor day. I decide to drive toward San Francisco. As soon as I get a digital signal, I'll find a hotel and settle in.

As I'm leaving Burning Man, I have a close-call. I decide to try to pass the two cars in front of me, but as I'm about to pass the first car, it decides to pass the car in front of him and nearly runs me off the road! I've had about one close-call per day ... even on the days I'm not driving. The day they burned the man, someone lit off fire-crackers. One of those could have exploded in my eye, ear or mouth. Nobody was hurt, but people do get hurt and even killed at the Burning Man. it's a dangerous event. They encourage you to drink 1 gallon of water per day. Pee Clear! They emphasize. Dehydration is the most common problem because people drink a lot of alcohol and not enough fluids.

It's now 12:30 pm and I'm on I-80 heading West and I've just left Nevada and entered California.

1/3 of the vehicles around me seem to be coming from Burning Man. How do I know this? It's rather obvious. The cars are dusty, the people are dusty and dirty. There are bikes strapped onto the back or roof. the remains of their camp are strapped to their roof. Many of the cars have been turned into works of art or have the Burning Man logo painted on it somewhere.

Nobody believes in turn signals out here! I've done well at controlling my road rage. I'm just letting people drive the way they drive and its OK with me. Traffic keeps slowing for no particular reason. Suddenly everybody will slow down, then speed up and I can't see any good reason for it. There was an accident on the other side of the barrier and yet traffic slowed anyway from rubber necking! People were hitting their brakes to see the accident. Let it go ... it's human nature ... can't be helped ... breathe.

Finally my cel-phone is getting a digital signal and there's a Days Inn. I take the next exit. I'm in Rocklin, CA. It feels good to bathe after three days of being dusty and sweaty.

Coincidence - I passed thru a town in California called Yreka. In Rocklin, there is a street called Eureka St. No biggie, but as I'm writing this to my web page in my hotel room, a TV ad for the Eureka Hoover vacuum cleaner comes on. Ooooh. Again, I attach no significance to this, but I include it here because I think it's interesting and I know some of you reading this will attach significance to it. If you're on of those people, then tell me what it means.

I'm starting to reflect upon my short experience at Burning Man and here are my thoughts:

  • It's a place where you can see art, make art and be art
  • It's a place where you feel like there are no rules, where anything goes
  • It's a surreal place where chaos, absurdity and randomness are welcomed
  • You're part of a loving community that makes you feel welcomed to join their tribe
  • It's what Woodstock wishes it could be
  • There are a lot of beating drums and fire and that seems to speak to your primitive self
  • You are in a foreign place, taken out of your natural environment You are out of context. It allows you be someone else
Conclusion: Some people find the Burning Man festival a life-changing event. I can see why. If you attend for the full 10 days and get involved and let it absorb you, you can lose then find yourself. For me, I really only attended 1.5 days of the Burning Man and I didn't come prepared to get involved, nor did I try. I was merely an observer this time around, but next year I plan to do it right. I spoke to some people who got there a week early. They let the peacefulness of the dessert take them over before the insanity of the festival took over. I hear that a lot of people remain after the festival is over. For the next week, I hear, there are plenty of post-Burning Man parties to join. People get so caught up in it, they just don't want to leave.
Date Created September 15, 2000
Last Updated April 12, 2006