It may not look like much but there are 50 thousand people down there on the playa. This is Burning Man 2012. My cousin was in town from Germany and by complete spontaneity, since we didn’t have tickets, we made plans anyway to take the 200 mile drive [my fav] and go to Gerlach and the hills of the Black Rock Desert.
There are two roads around the Black Rock Desert and train track that runs through it. I had been on the northern route before in February which is the main way onto the playa. Traffic was at a minimum at 9am but wanted to take Rte 49 to Winnemucca anyway. It’s not well marked or maintained but fun to drive. Two or 3 miles later as Black Rock City grew larger on every ridge I drove until I saw my shot. On a clear day you can see Steamboat Mtn, Mormon Dan Peak and Burnt Rock Peak but today was clouded by the activity on the playa. The dust plume looked like it was reaching 200 feet up in the air and the scene was difficult to see.
It was an amazing sight to barely grasp the amount of people, art, trailers and bicycles that amounted to a city 11 times larger than the little town I grew up in. We got back in the Baja and drove up the road a couple more miles to get closer. Parked in the middle of the road and hiked up the ridge for a better perspective. Here we photographed and took in the mighty sight of Burning Man. We could see that there was a temporary landing strip for the plethora of planes and helicopters flying around. I could of stayed on that ridge all day but we photographed all we could and headed down.
The drive back to Reno was just as fun as we stopped frequently and intermingled with the burners that either were coming in to town for supplies or had had enough of the playa dust. You can spot a burner a mile away as they are covered in the fine white dust that clings like glue for weeks if you don’t know how to clean it off properly. Our first stop was just out of Gerlach in the town Empire a dot on the map that consisted of storage units, a convenience store/restaurant, gas station and a couple vendors set up with white canopies selling their Burning Man necessities. We stopped for cash in anticipation of stopping at one of the many mini oasiss’ on the Indian reservation selling Fry Bread Tacos. If you have never had fry bread this is something indulgent everyone must try at least once.
We stopped at Oasis 29 which was the busiest. Ordered our delectables’ and chatted with the burners while our tacos were being freshly prepared. Julian, being from Germany, had never had fry bread and was willing to try a Taco. We dropped the back of the Baja with the giant tacos as the seating area was full and proceeded to indulge. Personally it was the best lunch I had had in some time but not so healthy. We enjoyed them anyway and Julian liked it so much he was craving one the next day! so was I….Growing up around Blackfoot country in Montana I had plenty of opportunities to enjoy fry bread on the reservations there but it had been quite a long time.
Before we left Oasis 29 I had to photograph the vehicle of one of the burners. It was a deluxe RV with a cherry red VW bug hitched to the back. Not so much cherry red with all the playa dust enveloping it and the owners didn’t think it was looking too good as I complemented them on what a nice bug they had. I photographed it anyway in all it’s playa glory. The Texas licence plate read Goddes.
I told them if they really want to clean up their beauty asap they could stop in Nixon for a rinse down. They rolled out and were on their way as we finished our lunch and let the dog wonder and stretch her legs a bit. Continuing down the road we reached Nixon. A small quiet town on the edge of the Truckee river. The people of Nixon were cashing in on Burning Man with temporary tents advertising car washes, garbage collection and fry bread taco stands. Passing signs that read “We love Burners, stop for a wash” I spotted Goddes at one of the RV washing stations. Tickled to see that the bug had been partially cleaned up we rolled in to see her in what she was meant to look like. Cherry Red and shiny wheel covers. I had to get a before and after…….
It was a great day out and was happy to show Julian the beauty of the Black Rock, Pyramid Lake and the road to Gerlach. We zoomed back to Reno so Julian could catch the Wild West Rib Festival with our friend Bruce before it got too late.
Next year….next year I will take the plunge and endure the dust and experience Burning Man. Maybe…..if anything photograph it at night from the hills. We’ll see.
- Burning Man: The 20 best pictures from Nevada’s Black Rock Desert festival (mirror.co.uk)
- Desert art of Burning Man 2012 (flickr.net)
- Burning Man 2012 (arthurvanmegen.wordpress.com)