August 16th: Whiteout!

Dude, major dust storm today.  Major.  But first, a word from our Placement Team…

On the way to the DPW meeting this morning, it was sooo cool to see the lineup of vehicles making the slow speed commute from the commissary.  Dusty cars, trucks, Hysters, motorcycles, trailers, and mutant vehicles all coming in from different parts of town and turning onto 5:30, heading toward the Depot.  That was awesome.

I spent the morning getting to know the placement process and flagging strategy for the 681 theme camps, villages, and Burning Man departments at this year’s event.  I drove around with Gomonk as he checked random tents and trailers against his city map, looking for squatters.  You see, every registered theme camp is plotted out ahead of time and, when they arrive, placed in a designated spot by someone on the Placement team.  Burning Man tracks the location, size, and approximate number of people at each camp.  That way, everyone has enough room, but not much space is wasted.

We come across Isabel, who is one of six flaggers measuring out the camps.  She rides around on a recumbent trike armed with a measuring wheel, plot map, and ubiquitous Sharpie.  She sets two blue flags at each corner of the camp, single blue flags along the sides, and a yellow flag in the middle with the camp name.  The flaggers have been working continuously for seven days, and they are nearly done.  They’ve placed close to 5,000 survey flags.

Ever wonder about saving space for your campmates when you get here before they do?  The word from Harley Dubois, Burning Man Director of Community Services, is this: expect to get a conversation from the Placement team if you save space.  Think about it like a General Admission concert.  It’s probably o.k. to save a spot for your friend that’s coming in tonight, but probably not o.k. to save enough room for the ten giant RV’s for people who might be showing up on Friday.  Bottom line: no land grabbing.

Construction Zone
After lunch I went to the Ghetto to help Sandman and Art Shark build the stage and paint the fence.  I loved this.  I painted part of the back fence green and the recycle bins too.  Then we started working on the stage.  Sandman figured out the design and I helped him put the thing together.  We worked for about two hours, and then the wind started blowing.  And it didn’t stop.  It was bandanas and goggles for the next three or four hours.  About time we get a big dust storm!  More people came by to help with the stage, and even though it was hard to see and breathe, we worked until 7:00.

Pimp My Ride
I TOTALLY intended to go back to the Ghetto after dinner and finish carpeting the stage, but it felt so good to kick back and relax in the commissary, I hung out a little longer and ended up riding around the playa on top of Thumper’s bitchin’ 1978 El Camino.  He just finished painting it blue and putting spinners on the wheels, so of course he had to take it for a spin.  Initially, Thumper put the petal to the metal and we got to hear the big engine in all its rock hard late seventies glory.  But the thing about the El Camino is, it goes 4-5 mph on idle, and you can steer it from the roof with your foot.  So the wind had died down, the sun was low, and the temperature was ideal.  We cruised around the beautiful open playa, looking at the emerging city, chatting about this and that, visiting different camps.  It was so f**king great.

Hot on the heels of the El Camino joy ride, I got a call from Chaos (love my radio by the way) and popped on out to Crane Camp for a super pleasant evening of conversation under the stars.  Just another great day in Black Rock City.

-Wanda Power

About the author: Marnee Benson

Marnee Benson

Marnee joined Black Rock Solar in 2009 as an environmental journalist and project manager who had recently organized a worldwide sailing expedition and global warming lecture series. While growing up in New Mexico, Marnee played tennis in the high-desert sun, ripped it up at local ski resorts, and rode bikes with her friends. She’s lived in Reno for more than ten years, after stops in Jackson Hole and southern California– where she played beach volleyball and studied math at San Diego State University. Marnee traded in her tennis racket and bikinis for carabiners and climbing shoes when she hit the Sierra Nevada, and she recently graduated from UNR with two master’s degrees in Environmental Science and Environmental Policy. She organized the Tour de Nez bike race for three years and sailed with Greenpeace International before turning her attention full-time to Black Rock Solar. In her spare time, Marnee counts her lucky stars for being able to work with the Holland Project and March Fourth Marching Band.