Pix and tales from the 2005 Memorial Day Work Weekend
Pretty much every work weekend this spring was almost cancelled due to the unprecedented rain and extreme weather that plagued Gerlach and surrounding areas. While the weather made it difficult to get outdoor work done and caused some damage to the area (poor Doobie Lane), one benefit was that the landscape along Route 447 during those months was absolutely lush.. everything was a color of green that I didn’t know you could see in Nevada.
It was the same story for the Memorial Day Work Weekend. Would we have it? Would we not have it? Would the playa be covered in yet another lake that prevented us from our important task of MOOPing the playa in time for spring inspection by the BLM? What if we couldn’t camp on the playa? And the eternal question…In case of emergency and we all get stuck, do we have enough beer?
One question was answered as we approached the 12-mile exit and got our first glimpse of the central playa. There was indeed a huge lake out there…. again. It was cool actually, looked like something out of a Dali painting, except instead of a lake draped over an old clock, the silvery mass was roving freely around the flat surface of the playa.
A small group of us who had arrived early were tipped off that there was a great vantage point from one of the ridge crests nearby, sort of like one of those highway scenic view spots, but only for those with 4-wheel drive. It doesn’t take much more than that to rally two truckloads of folks for a quick adventure, and soon we were off.
Another benefit of the wet winter was that all sorts of desert flowers were in bloom, and our truck took it’s time getting to the top of the ridge as Mayfield stopped every 100 ft and went even further off “road” so I could take pictures of the amazing wildflowers for his botanist wife back home. Isn’t that sweet? (see, even those tough DPW guys have a soft spot)
Once we reached the top, the view was indeed amazing. Not just of the lake on the playa, but also of the major rainstorm that was heading our way and about to give us a major soaking. Once we felt the rain drops, we headed back to the playa. Well, we were out of beer at that point anyway.
That night was full of excitment as we watched other playa campers (none of our folks) bail on their weekend due to the weather. We also took turns helping some of our people who had been waiting by the road surface to get out to the camp (also known as Three Barrell). Funny thing about people… you tell them “whatever you do, don’t drive on the mushy wet playa road” and that’s the first thing they do. I think we only had to tow a couple of cars out of the muck, and that, is one of the many reasons why girls like big trucks.
The next day was supposed to be spent MOOPing, but the lake and rain off and on through the night put an end to that plan. It wasn’t a problem though, if there is one thing that Burners know, it is that we must always have a Plan B.
When it rains on the playa, there is always plenty of work that needs to be done at the Ranch. As such, some hands were set to work MOOPing the Ranch (because we like to leave no trace everywhere, not just on the playa), and many helped tighten bolts on a newly constructed Quonset Hut which would become another work shop. What the heck is a Quonset Hut? It’s one of those metal air hanger looking buildings with lots of bolts. Lots and lots and lots of bolts. Enough bolts that a crew of over a dozen was kept busy for a day and a half.
It was a symphony of disjointed percussion as each team had one person on the inside and another on the outside tapping on bolts and shouting to their partner when it was time to move to the next bolt. I knew I had reached a state of bolt-zen when my hands and my partner on the inside were tightening bolts, but my brain was designing costumes out of spare metal parts that I had just found in the trash can in the shop. Did I mention that there are a lot of bolts on one of those buildings?
The Ranch is a totally new world from when I first visited it years ago, it is really immaculate and even has a large garden plot. One of the activities at the Ranch on Sunday was planting a few trees along the perimeter fence to provide a better view for our neighbor (even though by city standards he practically lives in the next county.) After that, it was time to relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend, after all, it is a holiday!
So, what does a dedicated DPW crew do on the playa with a day off and no rain for a change? Some folks played golf.. who can lose when the whole course is a sand trap? Headhunter still had a bum leg from an injury last year, so he played along with a basketball/dog toy that rolled with rope-like arms. Hey, just because it’s golf doesn’t mean it can’t be ghetto at the same time.
Now, much to the chagrin of some who remember the Burning Man early days, guns are prohibited at the event (thank goodness!) That same rule doesn’t necessarily apply to work weekends, so I’d recommend that those folks come on out and help us on a MOOP weekend for a bit of a taste of the old wild west.
They may still be disappointed though, instead of drive by shooting ranges, we have some very experienced and very safe shooters who helped to set up a shooting range and gave folks lessons on how to properly fire a variety of guns. BYOA – Bring Your Own Ammo.
My favorite tip? Mayfield’s used shell casing ear plugs. So DPW.
If you are so inclined, you can see more pix from the weekend.