Burning Man 2001    Labor Day Weekend

For the last 5 years or so, I have been told "you should go to burning man!" In July of 2001, Daniel was the one that finally made me take the leap. What follows are a number of photos and a string- of-consciousness journal of the journey. 

I made a costume with big silver wings, which is a story unto itself, packed up the car, and headed into the desert.


Wed Night- Drove up.  I met a guy in the Safeway parking lot packing his car with food. We exchanged, "see you there" sentiments. Left Sacramento at around 8:20pm.


I got to Reno around 10:30 pm, and I filled up the gas tank because I was a little paranoid about running low on fuel in the desert. Out of Reno, about half of the cars on the road appeared to be bound for burning man. Turning up the road towards Gerlach there was a thin caravan of cars, each headed North. This was exciting. I felt like part of a vast team. Arriving at the edge of a large plain, there were small booths and structures with lights.  I was asked if this was my first time. The greeters said there weren't many people who were new to burning man this year.  Suddenly the wife of my greeter realized she knew me. 

"Rob Cockerham! You are Rob Cockerham!"

She was very excited to see me. This was a fantastic way to be welcomed into a huge campground of artists! I was smiling for about an hour after that.

I couldn't find the Stars Upon Ours camp where Daniel's friends were staying and it was already 2:30 am, so I camped near Pantaloon around 638 on the map (anywhere I wanted). Setting up the tent was easy.

 There were rows of outhouses every so often.

I ventured out, looking for a little glimpse of the night life. I hit the center arts area where camping is not allowed. People trolled around on their bikes, there was a lot to see! I was most impressed by the giant iron flaming heart (12 feet tall) and Burning man (maybe 40 feet tall).

Slept at 3:40am
I was confounded by the clanking zippers and flapping tent, but eventually I found my earplugs & slept. 

Waiting in the line of cars to enter. 2am

My first look at the man, maybe 40 feet tall.

This array of fluorescent lights was operated with controls. One could spell whatever they wished.

Four people trying to work the controls

The giant burning iron heart, it is sitting on an 8 foot square base.


Thursday - Awaken by the sunlight at 6am, I went back to bed after taking a few photos and peeing.
Inside the tent it was dusty, somehow the dust was coming through the nylon.


I arose for real at 9am, wandering around on my bike and in my winged hat . Saw the giant goat with the red fabric anus. funny. Fiberglas.

Daytime at burning man consists of many, many groups of people sitting in  shade structures.

I got coffee at center camp and wandered around amongst the sights for hours. It was windy but I decided to try to wear the silver wings anyway. It didn't work out.  Within 300 yards of my tent, the strong wind broke them.  I was beginning to fear for my upcoming enjoyment of this event. I had to withstand some Icarus jokes on the walk home.

I made a silver sun shade out of the rest of the plastic/foil panels. It was kind of cool to at least be making something neat out in the desert.  

I was beginning to feel that the back of my legs were sunburned.  A sunburn appeared to be the worse possible thing that could happen to you at burning man, because there is nowhere to hide from the environment.

When I was tired of working on my tent, I visited with a guy with a remote control car near my tent. I quickly drove my car over & we had some little races.  I was beginning to suspect that every single person out here was outgoing and friendly. 

Near center camp I stumbled upon the supersnail tent & met Julian again and Jackie. Julian gave me a gift! A poster of photos from previous burning man costumes. Made plans to return with full wings for this fine photo opportunity.

I left a note for Daniel at center camp & soon after tracked down the Stars upon Ours camp and Daniel!

Walked around giving away ice with Pirate Daniel.

Met Janus, he was talking up cockeyed.com. I glowed.

Got asked about the "rest of my costume" was a little saddened to think of my poor broken wings at my tent. I vowed to fix them if the wind ever let up.

Went to a barbeque with Daniel's friends, sat listening to music. It was strange to see entire computer setup in the desert. I got ready to go to a dance tent with a group from SUO camp & took a ride out to the furthest edge of the city. Danced for about an hour and lost my enthusiasm. My chapped lips were starting to really bother me, so I started to make my way home. It was very dusty and uncomfortable outside.

Dark.
windy & dusty. Neat stuff to see on the playa

About half of the costumes were thrown together with glow sticks and glitter, the rest were great.

About an hour after I left the dance party, I went home to my tent. My silver sun shade had blown down. I secured it and went to sleep. Dust dust dust.

This is what I look like when I wake up in a tent.

6am in the desert, on Wednesday, I was on the edge of town, but as the days passed, others parked around me.

One bank of porta-potties and Johnnie on the Spot.

Camps with shade structures

The Suzuki had a sign on it indicating that it had struck a cow.

The Twinkie Stonehenge at center camp.

People chasing the water truck.  They were spraying to keep the dust down.

The base of a tesla coil. The engineer was predicting million volt sparks. Check out the tiny lead wire going up to the coil!

A large black pyramid shade structure

The giant fiberglas goat.  It's anus held the answers to many mysteries of the desert.

Inside center camp, they sell coffee

This colorful translucent plastic building lit up magnificently.

A close-up of the iron heart

Skydivers landed in the desert from time to time. 

I climbed up one art-structure and got this photo. Having a bike was key.

Self portrait relaxing in my tiny square shade area.

A view across the non-camping part.

Inside the mausoleum, a structure made of intricately carved plywood.

Inside the mausoleum.

Many of tiny blocks of wood bore the names of people who had passed away, they would be burned on Sunday.

Monkey tree sculpture. Giant. Organic. Neat.

Biking between artwork.

55 gallon drum tree of unknown source or destination.

naked guy! naked guy!

pirate express.  It is amazing what sheet metal can do for your vehicle.

Daniel and friends' camp, the star-on machine.

Sunset on the road between camping and non-camping

desert


On Friday morning I was ready to leave. I slept until about 9am, after being awoken several times by the flapping tent...even with the earplugs.

The water truck came to spray down the roads & I ran outside and joined the 6 people running after it. It was quite nice to have a funny shower like that.

I walked back making muddy footprints and smiling. That was fun.

I got dressed and went to get coffee. Saw the world's oldest naked man. 

Came home, worked on the sun shade, determined to block the morning sun tomorrow. A man rode up on his bicycle offering to trade mushrooms for whatever I had of value. I enjoyed his offer, but didn't want any mushrooms. I gave him a pack of American Spirit Cigarettes. I had brought them along to trade.

The back of my calves were Ok, but I was keeping my eye on them. It is strange to rub suntan lotion onto skin that is dirty. Pretty icky. I ate a dusty meal of Vienna sausages, cheese and crackers. I drank lots of juice. Is this coming out as glamorous as you thought it would be?

Went out with the bike and winged hat to check out more art on the playa. Helped pull the Styrofoam lion. Delays hurt the crowd dynamics.
Got ice cream.

Climbed a four-story scaffolding tower, scary, but once on top I realized that the wind was calm enough to try & repair the wings. 

Biked home in mushy dusty streets & tried to fix the wings. I stood up and the wings broke, re-repaired them. Got to Daniels, and got called a "giant silver eagle" by a kid. 3 kids tried to pull down Daniel's skirt. Heh heh. He was losing patience. My wings broke again, & dragged them home. It was a twisting PVC problem that demanded a drill. I was worried. 

I finally fixed them but night was falling. I had two big tenuous wings, ready to take on the crowds on the streets of burning man.

I locked up my bike in preparation to leave it behind, the key was too dusty to work, so I had to clean it.

Walking amongst the prowling masses, I enjoyed 3 offers of rum from Clowns, a pill bottle party guy & a guy that interviewed me about my wings.  A kid gave me beads. At last I felt like I fit in! Hoorah!

My wings broke twice in the desert, but I was able to fix them "in the field" instead of walking back to my tent. The wings were too large to bring into a party shade-structure.

 Eventually I got bored of just walking around & decided to head home, and then go out with the remote control flare car. (see ketchup packet bear for photos). 

When I got home I decided that this was my last night at burning man. It was midnight. I went out with the remote-control car and 12 flares. 

I went to a community burn platform & drove around for about an hour chasing people with the flare car. Fun. Very dusty. I packed up and went to bed around 1.30am

This looked like a movie prop with an orange icon. I liked it. It stood about 10 feet tall.

 

Tyvek Shade structure. Complicated engineering that is nearly invisible.

Almost everyone took photos.

A merry-go-round we had to pedal ourselves. Neat.

Entering the comfortable sanctuary.

Self portrait with winged hat. The red parade went wacky when they caught me in this shirt.

This large structure is mounted on that car! I didn't see the end result.

The world famous camera van.

Dust storms

 

On top of the dragon.

Dragon from a distance.

the view from my shady chair.

tents and shade

My aluminum and corrugated plastic shade structure

Azteca camp and the mini-golf course. Note the windsock indicating windspeed.

acrobats in a dome

My wing-backpack leaning against my tent.

More tents in the morning.

Lining up to buy ice at the igloo.

Only at burning man will you see a skywriter write SEX 

The more dust that was blowing, the fewer people were out and about.

RVs and tents make the camping area a bit like a swap meet.

Roach coach car

Giant missile car.

Dust

View from a scaffolding tower.

the camping area

camping and some open space

This fire cannon was trying to make smoke rings! Awesome. I could feel the heat from where I took this photo.

Polystyrene lion with princess that I helped drag.

lion dragging chaos.

Golf club wings and diaphanous fabric wings.

My fellow lion pullers, note burning man on right

The photographer was suspended to tape his lion being dragged.

Large light brite made from bottles.

pose next to this!

Friday night, the wings and the tent were thrashed!

 

Saturday morning

I woke up around 10am, it was windy, hot, but the shade structure was finally working. Terrific dust storm made me feel helpless and bored. Wanted to leave. I felt trapped.

Packed inside tent, took down shade structure in high-wind with goggles, dust-mask and hat. Threw everything into the car. Tent was saturated with dust.

One guy tried to get me to stay for the burning man. He encouraged me to stay at the center camp, but I was not convinced. I felt like one of the people that leave the basketball game before it is over.

I drove out, didn't even wait to get coffee, just wanted to get home.

About 20 minutes out I saw a massive traffic accident aftermath, with a triple-trailer truck on the side of the road.

I stopped at an Indian taco hut on the side of the road. Cold grape soda tasted great!

Got a speeding ticket before I got out of Nevada, 70 in a 55. Lame. I was being very careful too!

At the agriculture stop, my car was totally covered in dust, he said, "is this from that burning man thing"?  I said "yeah". He said, "go ahead".

Dirt on the top of the tent.

dust in my nose and earplugs in my ears. Ugh.

Dust storms make the outdoors uncomfortable.

the wings mounted on rebar pegs outside the tent entrance.

Shade structure didn't withstand the wind.

The capper.

I got home safe, with a carful of dusty camping gear and a camera full of memories.  The experience was not a total disappointment, but I think I have satisfied my burning man yearnings for many years to come.



Read other, better written travelogues: Europe 1999 | Costa Rica 2000

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