August 1st: To Gerlach in the Subaru

I left Reno at 3:30 this afternoon, two hours later than planned. There was a lot to do before I came out to Gerlach since I’ll be gone for a month. Take care of my dog, get the house dialed in, re-route the mail. Get a new battery for my unit (deep cycle, 12 volt), solar charger for my camera, sensible shoes for my feet. It’s taken me weeks to get ready just to go out to Burning Man, which makes me wonder what it actually takes to put on Burning Man. Think about preparing for guests at your house when you’re throwing a party- I know a guy who won’t even have a BBQ because it’s too much trouble- and then imagine that 45,000 people are coming and you don’t have a house. Or a town. That’s where the DPW comes in.

Subaru attackedThis is the maiden voyage for my unit, so half way down the street I pulled over to check out a funny noise. Everything was cool so I got back in and started to drive away, only to stop again because of a not-so-funny noise. I usually have a bike rack on the back of my car, but now that I’m towing a rig I put one on top of my car. So the noise was my bike ripping a big leafy branch from a tree overhead, and it was sticking out of the handlebars. It was so apropos. Nature had just kicked my ass in about two seconds despite my meticulous long-term planning. My bike had been greened by force.

Hwy 447 Along 447 between Nixon and Gerlach, I saw a total of seven vehicles. (Including “JCBOGGS” in his huge white truck, taillights bedazzled with shiny silver flames and side mirrors designed to take out cyclists on narrow streets.) A far cry from Burning Man week when you see cars stretched out for miles on your way to the event. The lack of traffic on the two-lane highway was a reminder that it’s not Black Rock City yet, it’s the Black Rock Desert.

I arrived in Gerlach around 5:30 and pulled my rig straight into Gerlach Estates. I was assigned my spot by Mayfield, trailer park Manager and Tech Team member. Mayfield & Lazlo He was cheerful and helpful, and his boy has the most extraordinary hair, like the colors of fire and flowers. I set up the tent trailer in record time and jumped on my bike to go eat dinner at Bruno’s. All at once the names and faces of Burning Man materialized in one room. Tattoos and t-shirts, work boots and cowboy hats, attitude and inside jokes. Happy familiarity is everywhere, like a reunion among long-lost friends. But these friends have names like Hazmatt, Playground, Coyote, and Not It! And they’ve come from places like Chicago, Alabama, and Thailand to help build Black Rock City.

After dinner (broccoli, salad, roasted potatoes, and broccoli) and dessert (chocolate ice cream) a bunch of us walked over to the Black Rock Social Club. I met Dillon, Abby, Otto, and Fox and spent some time getting to know the place. Then, following a spectacular loss to Padawan at the pool table, I headed back to the trailer park where I turned on the lights, set up my computer, popped in a cd, and even tried out my new portable swamp cooler. (Thanks parents!) I had to laugh at my good fortune since I’m usually in a powerless tent on a cot if I’m lucky with an emergency pee cup nearby and a zipper for a door. Then the power went out and I thought I shorted out the unit. F**K! Turns out all the power to the town and maybe even the region had gone out.

I went outside to see the nearly-full moon begging to come out from behind some patchy but diligent storm clouds and to feel the sporadic drops of rain fall on my sweaty skin. A few of us chatted about this and that as people rolled in (literally in one case) from the social club. I called it a night as Weld Boy typed away on a real typewriter, perched on top of his VW van. Tap, tap, tap. Zing!


About the author: Marnee Benson

Marnee Benson

Marnee is Burning Man Project’s Associate Director of Government Affairs. Her work focuses on permitting and relationships with the Nevada Legislature, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Pershing County, and multiple other Nevada agencies. She helps Burning Man navigate Nevada politics and federal issues affecting the Burning Man event. Marnee’s first trip to Black Rock City was 2001, and in 2007 she worked with the Department of Public Works and the Communications team, writing and photographing content for the Burning Blog “Building Black Rock City”. From 2009 to 2013, she served as the Deputy Director at Black Rock Solar. She loves the way Burning Man expands her world and flips ideas upside down.