Burning Man 2005

Well it 'tweren't easy but I made it back to Burning Man again this year. I'd been working on it for a solid year this time, mostly building an art car for the occasion. For more on it and how it came to be click over to the Art Car Project page. Meanwhile back at the ranch, below the paltry handful of photos I shot this year you can read on for a transcript of the blog I wrote on location. Sadly I missed many an opportunity to snap neat stuff due to the work we had to do to get the art car to a point where it was worthy of the Playa; oh, well...

Photo #1: Welcome home! The now-traditional greeting from an interesting character when one enters Black Rock City.
Photo #2: Home sweet home for a week: camped on my 30ft x 40ft bit of real estate within the huge Burning Silicon Collective
Photo #3: Wednesday, Thursday and half of Friday this was all I got to see of the Playa! Soldering connectors onto EL wire is a real pain in the ass...
Photo #4: At long last finished with the art car and on the prowl with my camera I came across a very interesting Flamenco dancer...
Photo #5: Ever drive a mammoth? This contraption has been evolving for three years now. I cruised over to see Mike Perry who's hangin' with this camp and I wound up getting mammoth-napped! Got to pedal at the left rear position, which includes running a synthesizer that honks out mammoth noises at the push of a button. The steersman took us to a big-ass dance camp up near 10:00. After groovin' on the sounds for a spell I hoofed it back to my art car. Only got lost once!
Photo #6: Mike Perry in desert-friendly kimono, enjoys a bit of shade behind the mammoth.
Photo #7: Across Dementia St from our digs: our neighbors with the illuminated grapemobile, which is beginning to shine in the early evening twilight.
Photo #8: A typical Playa hottie, decked out for who knows what and lookin' for ...love?
Photo #9: A particularly stylin' dude pauses so I can snap a photo. The only thing he's missing are a dust mask and a hat. Dust storms were infrequent but a genuine pain when they did occur.
Photo #10: The latest from the Texas Scrap Daddies. This thing required two people to operate and included a "caboose" with a V-8 engine driving many hydraulic whatchamacallits. All of this was tethered to the front end seen in the photo: a fire-snorting dragon complete with hydraulically pivoting driver's seat and many other articulations.
Photo #11: Unknown art car lurking near Center Camp. Someone who's fond of papier mache had a fun time making this one, eh?
Photo #12: There were many fantastic pedal-powered vehicles about; here's one that caught my eye...
Photo #13: One of many artworks on the Playa. Never did get the name of this one.
Photo #14: The Phoenix, the morning after the Burn. Each individual "feather" on this beastie could be made to spew fire at the push of a button; very spectacular at night!
Photo #15: This thing was a sort of flaming tetherball; the gizmo on the end of the dangling pipe could be made to shoot flames out at a fair velocity, in any of several directions. The result was a fiery pendulum that kept the throng at bay, but cheering with gusto.
Photo #16: Business end of the thing appears to be kludged from a bunch of stainless steel mixing bowls!
Photo #17: Immense sculptures of mother and child. At night the footprints were lit with flaming liquid; likewise the inner hands dripped fire from one to the other, while the outer hands dripped water.
Photo #18: A fantastically detailed clocktower that was put to the torch...
Photo #19: My personal fave, heh. After nightfall, from the pulpit, one could roast weenies and marshmallows.

Date: Mon, 29 Aug 2005: Tried to leave for BM today but it was so late by the time we were done packing that we decided to leave at the crack o' dawn tomorrow instead. Still stuff to do on art car but it's all electrical and can be done on the playa (I think!).

Wed, 31 Aug 2005: Subject: We're Heeeeeeere! First time I've managed to make a connection. All is well; have been sleeping mucho, just now getting to work on the art car. No sign yet of Trevor; hope to seee him later tonight. Have seen Bart, Soren and others from Hackers, as well as several guys I remembered from Battlebots. Don & Rebecka say Hi!

Thursday, September 01, 2005, 11:58 PM:

Got first trace of bloody nose last night; glad I dosed myself with goo so's it didn't get any worse. Don's back is feeling better he says, but one can tell he's still in some pain. I managed to sunburn my left leg when I let the shadows sneak away as I worked. Had a full day working on the car today, except for the bits when it was just too damn hot to work which in these parts is from about 2:30 until maybe 6-ish. Managed to get four good right and four left boats attached to the side displays and in working order, along with both side sequenced waves before nightfall. (That unusual barrier strip that for some incomprehensible reason can only be found at Napa Auto Parts has proven its worth: hooking additional loads to the battery is now a snap).

Don was around so I sent him "aloft" and let him be the first to take a whack at driving the silly thing, while I stayed below at the original controls in case something went awry. To my considerable delight Don said it's not all that awful and in fact, as long as he kept it in mind that you can't steer unless the car is rolling, it was actually very responsive. Gladdened by this news we swapped places and I took a whack at it, with Don below just in case. Turns out it worked much better than I had feared, so with all in readiness and with the sun already behind the hills we motated over to the DMV to get inspected.

Sadly the gal who was assigned to us took one look and said that we were much to dim and that much more illumination would be needed. Come back B4 ten with improvements and maybe we could get in under the wire. The general rule is that once you.re rejected there.s no second chance, so we went to work and, between 8:30 and a little before ten we added about 40ft of red wire, outlining the curve of the cabin sides and tops, as well as the aft section, plus another 12ft or so of the stuff to outline the roof. Glad to observe that the transparent vinyl tape works at least as well, optically, as the Scotch tape I've been using to attach EL to the ship armatures. Once red appeared to be more or less complete I snipped the end of the wire on the far end from the driver, which we were using with a 12v pack of AAs, to judge the increase, if any, in brightness. The driver I used was rated for 45ft and the coil of EL we attached started out at maybe twice or three times this length. Sure enough, as soon as EL was truncated the red stuff increased in brightness by maybe 50%.

Unfortunately I failed to change out the batteries in the AA battery pack and it appears as if they were pretty close to on their last legs: when we got to reinspection the lights appeared to have dimmed considerably. Add to that the fact that we were sandwiched between two cars running AC lights and our future on the Playa dimmed as well. I went looking for the gal whose name I had promptly forgotten who did the first inspection and who had said to come back B4 ten (we made it with 2 minutes to spare!), but she was nowhere to be seen. And then we found out she had been giving out incorrect info, as the DMV had closed at 9:30, so there we were.

But as luck would have it, I was recognized by Wagon Train, an un-met friend who knew me thru Tribe and whom I count as a friend at the DMV. And then another guy came along and recognized not me but the car, from my photos of its progress on my webpage, where I've been chronicling the build. He was very nice and, after chatting with him a bit he allowed as how if we made a few more tweaks we could most likely qualify for a nighttime permit at the very least. Armed with this renewed sense of confidence Don, who was riding below, tried to start the engine so we could buzz back to camp and start setting things to rights, but.. Well, long story short: all the tinkering with EL had drained the battery more than I would have thought possible and we no longer had the juice to start the engine! Fortunate that it was as late as it was, the two of us, aided by Rebecka's navigation, found ourselves pushing Arrrrgh back to our campsite. The best laid plans and all that, eh?

-Anyway I've got a plan and I'm hopeful that a few more ideas might strike me in dreams tonight, so tomorrow we.ll see. With luck I'll get it done with Don's help and then I'll have enough time left over to add a bit of EL to our bikes so that we can be stylin' with or without the car around. Hope all goes well tomorrow; stay tuned! Still and all I am so STOKED that the thing appears to be mechanically sound; I mean when *was* the last time I built something that worked first time? I can't remember that far back! :-)

-More tomorrow; very tired at the moment. Time now: Friday, 12:24 AM.

Notes to morning iteration of self:

--Relate Fats Domino tale to the gang; see how battery charging is going; look for a little variety in the food department; try to contact J with a "burst transmission" of all of the above; ask Trevor if he knows why this happens; ask Trevor a bit more about construction of the Tregway and about the bits that aren't on his page, etc. Also look for some way to attach silly stuff to stern, in the form of the Man head and crossed "bones", ha-ha; also gotta look for my CD collection, i.e. where the heck did they disappear to? Snoozy time; very tired now.

-Thinking back now a bit it seems to me that since I've come here this time, unlike last time where I was so excited that I basically fasted for the first two days, this time I've at least eaten one or two things, altho with the exception of a not-large bowl of that dreadful chicken teriyaki MRE, nothing I'd call exceptionally filling. Still and all, despite the modest intake I've managed to rid myself of a rather impressive load (well, actually three loads to date!) of rectal garbage. I'm thinking today would be my normal day to go and do my thing at Weight Watchers and had I managed to weigh myself today I daresay I would have been a couple of pounds lighter. Yecch and good riddance to all that stuff! Finishing up the day with a "midnight snack" of grapes and apple sauce to wash down my evening pill ration I find I do miss ice cream, muffins, etc but it ain't the end of the world. Time: 12:52 AM.

Friday, September 02, 2005, 8:35 AM:
-Woke up with vague ideas of what might work, then went out to have a look at the world. The great news is that the battery has gone from bone dry to full, courtesy of Don's very nice little charger, so if I'm careful and don't overuse the thing today I should have nice bright lights at inspection time this evening. Found out last night that the one looooong string of added red EL was being run not by the low car battery but by an equally low set of AAs that were making the display dimmer than it should have been. Replaced these later that evening and the difference was dramatic. Today I plan to fish more wires from the kewl bus to this driver, eliminating the need for these AAs.

Had another idea, after looking at battery charge, for fore and aft displays. Turns out I.ve still got two more un-adorned sailboat armatures; if I wrap 'em in EL I can put one of the back of the cabin and it's maybe just possible to stick another one on the bow somehow. I've got a whole spool of zip cord so there's plenty of hook-up wire; I could hook 'em up to the sequencer, too, as there are still two unused input sockets. I've definitely got enough EL wire too, but the color choice is getting kinda sucky; i.e. the "red" is not really pure red but kinda red-orange which is not so good as it's spectacularly bright outside (although I was able to clearly make out the outlining of the sunshade and cabin top edges from probably 50 yards distance last night once the AA batteries had been swapped) and the green is kinda aqua, which is a good thing. After discussing all and sundry with Don we've decided to do the windows with the red stuff (Don's job) while I do the fore and aft sailboat armatures with the aqua stuff. Thinking about adding "sails" to these, but not sure how good it would look having them rigged triangular (simple and fast) rather than square (complex and slow)..

-Another plan B is to take the battery out of the truck and to hook it in parallel with the one in the car, so that we'll have a ton of cranking power so we won't have last night.s problem again after a few hours cruisin' on the playa with all lights ablaze.

-Have been thinking that next yr, money and time permitting if I come back to BM I'll want to do something radically different to satisfy the DMV. I.m liking the idea of an electric car that uses a genny semi-directly to get its power from a constantly-topped-off single battery. This seems to save both weight and hassle; hybrid seems to be the way to go. The other trend that seems to make sense is to tow the genny behind the main vehicle, in a soundproofed wagon. This keeps noise down and eliminates vibration as well. Our neighbors with the clown car are doing this, as are many others and it seems to be very practical.

-Gotta get crackin as it looks to be a hot day; only needed one blanket last night (couldn't have used more due to sunburn on legs!).

-In other news I've yet to make it out onto the Playa because of the work I've been trying to finish on the art car (does it *ever* end??), but today I intend to rectify that. Fortified with sunblock and camera I plan to sally forth some time before can't drive-hot and definitely before can't work-hot. I.m noticing though that it is extremely windy this morning and that means dust masks, sigh. Later today is Critical Tits, always a crowd favorite; earlier today the boys have their say with something called Critical Dicks; oughtta be silly as well.. Hope to find my way to some of the places I've been trying to find including Barbie Death Camp Wine Bistro, Bad Idea Theater, Heidi's Iron Rose Camp and a few others.. -Time now: 9:08 AM.

Friday, September 02, 2005, 9:26 PM:
-Woohoo got my day and my night licenses!! Had all in readiness just after sunset, in spite of dust, winds and high heat that truncated the "work day" by about half. Managed with great hunks of help from Don and Rebecka, plus a motivational kick in the ass from Bart and that sorta tipped the balance. When I got to DMV the gal I talked to the first time I was there was back on duty and she remembered me, saying she'd kept my paperwork at hand in case I made the attempt to come back and git 'er dun, so to speak. She was very nice and didn't seem to have any reservations about granting either day or night permits, so I was totally stoked! Remembered to keep the engine running thruout the test so lights wouldn't dim as they had the previous day. Also lucked out by not having been sandwiched between two illumination junkies, so we looked right "normal" as art car brightness goes, heh. I gave her a great big hug, which was a bit of a challenge as she is actually a little taller than I am! She sorta struck me of the kind of girl Hagrid might want to take home to mom, ha-ha. Gotta get her some nice playa gifty thing tomorrow.

-So with licenses firmly affixed to vehicle we motored back to our abode, but we both agreed that we should get more daylight stick time B4 we venture out on the playa tomorrow night for the big burn. Hope to get in a lot of driving and photo recon stuff tomorrow! Hope the wind and weather cooperate tomorrow night.

-Just got back from dinner brought to us by Rebecka and her pals Juliette and Dan, from the Temple of Tea. The gal gave me a big-ass plate of yummy chicken and rice and salad and I must say it.s the closest thing to a real meal I've had since I got here. Have been drinking anything that came my way; i.e. hydrating this AM with half a pot of coffee and soy milk in my cereal. Once on the EL project I started alternately guzzling Code Reds and a second Gatorade. Decided that in spite of the risk of doing too much electrolyte I'd probably metabolize it well considering the strains weather was putting on me and everyone else. Must say I feel pretty good tonight; even before we went down to the DMV there was a beautifully clear sky just after sunset. Still no noticeable moon, so the sky was adorned at first by two planets: prominent Venus and maybe Mercury? Not Mars methinks but I'm no expert.. Hope to spend an evening resting up my sunburns, my turbulent brain that no longer needs to be on a 24-7 creative binge to make the car right and proper and whatever aspects of my psyche that are being manipulated into strange ideas from playa encounters. Lookin' forward to more of the latter tomorrow at long last! Hope to snap shitloads of photos tomorrow; must remember to take a notepad as well, to write down links to stuff that needs more investigation.

-Sunburnt knee still hurts a bit but not as bad as earlier today; still looks mighty nasty but the fire is gone, so long as I don.t place a warm hand or object on it. Odd about burns.. Anyway I just set the RV common table to rights with R holding the bag and me shoving all the moop where it belongs, so once more the space looks less like a bomb hit it and more like it's merely been occupied by a gaggle of slobs.

-R is about to drag D out to a party of some kind, but I'm quite content to hang out and rest tonight. I hate to admit it, but I.m looking forward to falling asleep reading the new Harry Potter book that J very thoughtfully packed for me. Sigh I miss my sweetie and all the doggies; even Chairman Meow a bit. Ah well it'll all end too soon out here on the Playa and I'll be back in the thick of it with the steamboat meet looming on the horizon. Good to get a short msg from Richard when I checked mail this AM; lookin' forward to seeing him when he gets to the Haas-ienda in a couple of weeks. Major milestone B4 that happens is a new paint job for Pegasus, so all I'll have to worry about is blowing the leaves out of the bilges and relagging the steam lines.

-Well that.s all for tonight sport fans; more info tomorrow, same bat-time (or later more likely) same bat channel, ha-ha. -Time now: 9:54 PM

Saturday, September 03, 2005, 12:08 AM:

-Just back from a bike ride out past the Man; saw the hydraulic dragon and the hydraulic motor driven 4-legged walking machine, which was also playing some kick ass German dance music. Peeked into the jazz club earlier on the playa but didn.t feel that laid back. Out past the Man: that's where it gets really interesting! Arrived at a fiery demo consisting of what appears to have been a sort of 4-way propane powered rocket propelled tetherball thing; will have to get the name off of the playa art map tomorrow. Next up, just to the left and a little farther out was this awesome arrangement of maybe 20-ft tall triangular claw-shaped stainless steel towers that would shoot flames in response to button presses on a keyboard that seemed to be available to folks in the crowd that jammed in the middle of the thing. While watching this up rolls some truly awesome tunes being pumped out of a truck that's equipped with two huge flat-panel side-mounted displays of who knows what. I followed in its wake for a spell just taking in the rhythms; most toe-tappy!

-Continued my counterclockwise circle of these things and wound up on the path back to the Man when I saw the mother-and-child thing with the footprints leading to/from. A couple of dedicated artists were busy filling the footprints with water; very strange! Gotta get me a voice recorder to take in all of this stuff, to trigger my recollections. Much more stuff seen and as much imagined; i.e. when approaching the new and strange and trying to figure out what it is we are looking at it's kinda brain-opening to imagine that what we're seeing isn't what's there. Sometimes I get it right on first time, but other times when I imagine something else is going on it.s just as interestime as it leads to new avenues of thought that go all sorts of interesting places!

-Passed by a guy hawking the latest issue of Piss Clear so stopped there on the way back to our nest. On the way some guy asked me where the nearest bathrooms were so I told him the ones I knew of; not necessarily the best but there they were. It occurred to me that I should write something for Piss Clear tomorrow; to wit: the one thing I've never seen in that wonderful rag is a .piss map. of the Playa to aid folks in similar states of distress. At the tender age that I have attained nature no longer deigns to call; it tends to scream; i.e. when I need to pee I need to do it right NOW, ha-ha. The other thing that occurred to me is that they need a personals section, for folks trying to find each other on the Playa, because everyone reads this and because it.s much easier to read than the dreadful bulletin board. Yep, gotta do some naggin' tomorrow fer sure! :-) .

-Sleepy time via Harry Potter; time now: 12:24 AM

Sunday, September 04, 2005, 7:08 AM:
-Had intended to scribble last night but sorta conked out after all the hooplah. Interesting evening; at one point pretty rotten but it was a transitory thing (first and hopefully last encounter with assholes driving one of those double-decker party barges) and after that it was rosy. Bottom line: although the idea of a high platform to watch the spectacle of BM seems logical it turns out to be a bit of a disappointment. I had thought, and spent a year finding out, that although elevation is nice when trying to take photos, by binding myself to the community that thinks likewise I have to endure all of their ill manners.

The thing is, art cars are restricted to a circle that is about 150 yards from the Man; i.e. beyond the second row of lampposts that radiate at 3, 6 and 9:00. Our gang and maybe a dozen other art cars had found ourselves a very nice vantage point (side note: next time I plan to come alone, or at least .batch. it; i.e. no girls in the RV; talk about back seat drivers! Harrumph!!) a little beyond the as-yet unknown limit, when along came a Ranger who told me of the two-lamppost minimum where some other art cars were assembling a second ring. I acknowledged and we motated back to this point. I asked him if he'd tell the others up front the same so that we didn.t have to worry about having our view blocked and he said, basically, don't worry, he'd make the rounds. (side note: I didn't see another Ranger for over an hour; I figured they'd be common and conspicuous. Silly me.) Well, either he didn't or he was ignored by other drivers because shortly after we "docked" with the other good mobile citizenry in the outer ring this dickhead comes over and parks his two-and-a-half decker party bleachers directly in front of us! We motioned for him to move maybe 30ft either way to stop blocking our view but he refused. Don went over to have words with him but that didn't work either. Never a cop when you need one, yes? We were "trapped" between a slew of other art cars so we couldn't move either way without pulling up stakes and moving a looooooong way around the ring to another vantage point. Bottom line: that.s what I had to do. Sigh. Imagine being forced to move out of a nice neighborhood because of the highrise that blocks your view of the sunset/ocean/mountains, etc. Some people, eh? I snapped a few fotos of the offender and Don got his Playa license number (196). I may come off as a whiner today but I intend to report the jerk to the DMV. A small infraction to be sure (not like the Contessa, which broke an axle and spilled out its top deck of passengers, sending a couple to the hospital the yesterday) but it caused me to pop my cork: I really lost my temper.

Added to that the one thing I forgot to add to the art car was a drink holder. R had already handed out cups of something or other and when I pulled up stakes it spilled something sticky all over the deck, and me, and my hands so the steering wheel got totally sticky. No Handy-wipes, natch.. I wound up pouring half the contents of my water bottle on my hands, etc and used up my entire stash of kleenex to clean up the mess.

-So we drove clockwise maybe 30 "minutes" before we found another decent vantage point. I tried hard to be a good citizen and not move beyond the point the Ranger designated, but it was hopeless. I moved the car up to a little beyond the first row of lampposts to prevent others from blocking me again. Then, as luck would have it, along comes another party barge from the other direction, maybe 30ft ahead and to our left. I stuck out my arm and made a .stop. gesture and he did, in fact, stop, only cutting off maybe a quarter of my view of what would become the fire dancer's ring. He was broadcasting a bunch of LOUD Motown which seemed to me to be just sorta radically out of place for the event. My other ear was still within hearing distance of the first bunch of dickheads we'd moved away from, so, when things got interesting out around the Man, instead of hearing the drumming circle we were treated to stereo out-of-phase fratboy music, which was a bit of a showstopper for me.

Met some nice folks from Utah who were thoughtful enough to come over and discuss alignment of art cars and we agreed with them and moved ours a smidge so that they could get a view from behind and to one side of us. This also removed the possibility of othes barging in front of our cabal. I had R mix him a drink; nice guy, and it quite restored my mood.

-A real sweetie from his gang came over and we chatted for a spell; always nice to be chatted up by a babe, eh? We exchanged art car ideas and then things started to happen around the Man. Also had a nice chat with a guy who had a serious Jones to build an illuminated Chinese junk; sounded like a great project and I'm looking forward to seeing it on the Playa one of these days. But view-blocking fratboy continued playing his ...well, inappropriate music, so at that point I abandoned ship and walked off into the crowd. It was the right decision and I wish only that I'd done it sooner! Had a great time and managed, once more, to find my way to the drumming circle, but, unlike last year (when some yahoo was playing a really bad horn in the vicinity) I managed to position myself out of earshot of the dickhead with the badly tuned saxophone who just couldn't resist adding his ill-aimed honking at the otherwise very focused crowd. Note to self: have a large quantity of liquid available to pour into horns next time. Don't know what happened but hopefully someone poured a drink in it or something..

-Anyway, with good position, good company and great sounds I watched the spectacle and it was fantastic. In the end we couldn't believe the Man was still standing and the final topple was really something. To my surprise, after this happened the barriers were dropped and the crowd was free to approach the pyre; I sauntered right along for a spell, but eventually I decided it would be prudent to go back to the car and at least start the engine to top off the charge on the battery, as all my lights were still blinkin' away.

-After spending time at the car we decided to get away from the concentration of bad music and I went .downstairs. to start the engine and hung there so Don could drive for a change. He asked me where do I want to go and I just said drive wherever he wanted too; that was fine with me. So we drove out to the Phoenix, which was half smoldering pile and half very interesting art and had a grand old time there. I met a guy name of Bellboy on a really neat electric wheelchair rig, complete with propane fire devices mounted on top. We got to talking and said he'd learned how to make them at a 2-day course offered by the Crucible. It's not too pricey like some of their other offerings and I plan to make the pilgrimage first chance I get.

-More driving, with me in the saddle, and we slowly made our way around the Esplanade or whatever the division between Playa and the "A" ring is called. Never found the Thunderdome, but did manage to find many, many fantastic things. It is just soooo BIG out there! At the beginning of our trek back "home" it took a considerable time to get our bearings, as we were far enough out that we had no reference points other than an illuminated "horizon". Much fun and got back to the RV just around midnight. Had a box of cereal as I'd missed din-din yet again, while Don and R went out around the corner to the BS bar where, earlier, we'd unloaded all of our unused booze (talk about a flash party; that was something!). I opened Harry Potter and was snoring within minutes. Only thing that woke me was those two rabbits boinking at the other end of the RV; oh, well, that's life, eh?

-We've decided to hit the road today, as there are just too many obligations tugging on us (I've gotta take out the trash and Don's got a job to get back to, etc). Still I, at least, plan to spend the morning cruisin. in the art car, trying to find friends and un-met friends from Tribe. I still haven't found Heidi's Iron Rose Camp and I want to see the vehicle I ever-so-slightly helped build. I heard from Mike Perry, who dropped by yesterday afternoon, that Tamara has a camp somewhere out around 9:00 and it would be fun to see what's shakin. over there.

-Speaking of Mike, remind me to tell y'all about me getting mammoth-napped; interesting afternoon! :-)

-So off we go, or at least I'll now attempt to regain an upright position so's I can take more photos, snag coffe, eat something, etc. Hope to be back home some time around nightfall. Sigh.. -Time now: 8:00 AM.

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