Project Fail?

The Great Rebar Pile

The great rebar pile.


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison

Now that we’ve reminisced on all the great times, dissected the State Of The Man and searched for videos of our favorite art in action, I’m wondering: What did you try to do that didn’t work out?

People pull off some amazing feats in the desert. Fellow burners inspire and encourage us to dream big and go big. But sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes we have too much to do and not enough time or help. And sometimes, well, who knows what went wrong.

For years I’ve wondered what was intended for the piles of lumber and building materials way out in open playa, roped off but obviously not complete (and sometimes not even started)? There are the partial domes, crossed-out cardboard signs and piles of “camp stuff” off to one side. What were you supposed to be, towering stack of palettes and rope lights?

I am impressed by people who see every piece of art and every friend’s camp. This year I carried a piece of paper in my bag listing the addresses of all my friends in Black Rock City. And I visited exactly none of them. I had some amazing run-ins and saw a lot of folks but as for making it to the happy hour party or the afternoon DJ session? Nope. After a few days I realized that just wasn’t the trip I was on. I was having a great time bombing around BRC on my bike, chilling at my camp and taking care of myself so I let go of expectations.

Past years I have thrown away at least one costume project because I used the wrong fabric or sewed through it or just hated it. My crafting fail was minor this year. The plan: replace the laces in my corset. I decided to lace the corset on Burn Night after cooking dinner for a dozen friends so I was really pushing it time-wise. The cords I bought were brittle and broke when someone tried to lace me in. Along with the unwearable corset went two costumes that required me to be cinched.

There are classic tales of structures blowing over because someone stepped away for “just a minute” and a gust of wind sent it head-over-heels, landing in a bent heap. I heard tale of one friend’s plans to cook a big dinner on burn night. She’d kept hamburger on dry ice in a special cooler. She’d brought everything for a toppings bar and even had a late-arrival friend bring fresh buns. When it was time to cook she realized a campmate had left the gas on and the BBQ was out of fuel. One by one she cooked burgers on a tiny camp stove until it also ran out of fuel. Insert sad trombone sound here.

In the spirit of learning from our mistakes, I call on you, fellow Burners. Confess your overreaching plans! Exorcise your craft demons! Be healed!


About the author: Molly Ditmore

Molly Ditmore

The night Molly Ditmore arrived at Burning Man 1998, she told everyone that she had come home. She didn't pack a flashlight or get any sleep. She volunteered at Media Mecca for six years, where she handled press inquiries from the music community and hosted an art tour. Costuming for Burning Man inspired her to sew again, a skill she learned in middle school home economics class. She is now a couture pattern-maker, custom clothier and rain hat maker. Molly got dusty from 1998-2009 and 2012-2015. She reads the comments.

52 Comments on “Project Fail?

  • zeBuns says:

    I spent all year building a quadricycle for my parents to ride at their first Burn. They aren’t handicapped, but they are old and can’t get around as easily anymore.

    It broke within five minutes of them arriving on playa. It was rideable, but kind of like riding a pancake through a riptide.

    So, we walked instead.

    But I’m still pissed about the quad. I had room for a cooler on the back!

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  • Jet Burns says:

    We have so many electronics and science instruments on the Mars Rover Art Car, we found out that we didn’t pack some of the power supplies. Our GPS tracking system was never turned on so we didn’t get a track. We even had a time lapse Go-Pro camera that in 2011 was never turned on (on another project, the same camera) for 2013 again was never once turned on. Total dead weight. We also had some costume space monkeys that never made it out of their packing box. :( Lessons learned are key, and we are documenting them now.

    However, we did make BM history by being the first art car “inside” the great circle, and the first to “officially” webcast the view of the Burning Man during burn night… so all was not lost.

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  • Every year I try and scale back my ambitions and yet I’m still not sure I lead a successful project.

    In 1997 I had a graphic designer friends figure out how to blow up our camp logo, Motel 666 into pieces so it could print out over about 50, 8.5×11″ pieces of paper. I must have drained a good bit of my companies color printer ink before he could get it right.

    My plan was to staple gun them to a large board I got I was going to mount on fence posts.

    Have you ever tried staple gunning paper it’s not that effective. Have you ever tried chasing paper blowing across playa while you’re barefoot and hungover and not trying to loose any more pieces of paper. Well I bet you have and you know that is when the whole project is a flop. Laordy why did I know about wheat paste???


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  • Bobsicle says:

    Oh I thought I had it all planned out.

    We arrived 3 days early to set up camp and assemble our mothership mutant vehicle. It wasn’t enough.

    We had never fully assembled the mutant vehicle until we got to BRC… and it and the lighting system had never actually been tested, Safety Third!

    I was still attaching the 4000 led lights with zip ties on Monday night.

    I knew it would take a long time, I didn’t know I would be working on the top (this is not a step) step of a ladder, in strong winds and hot sun, zip tying thousands of connection points over my head for 4 days.

    I will say that being surrounded by other theme camps kept the energy and my spirits up. Great job creating the neighborhoods this year.

    I was completely exhausted by Monday night, but it was totally worth it. We laughed a lot, met some amazing people and in the end, everything actually worked! A Burning Man miracle.

    well, mostly anyway… bouncing around at 5mph in the wind and dust is not so great for delicate electronics, I lost some strings, had to bail on my touchscreen interface and we broke some welds. But, nobody got hurt, it was pretty, and we got lots of love for our melding of old burning man and new burning man.

    Next year… the lights will be attached pre-playa.

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  • Tizzle says:

    I bought cheap batteries at the 99 cent store for my el wire and went dark for most of the week after they failed. Cheap batteries suck!

    @JetBurner – the Mars Rover still ruled! Had a great time hanging out with some of your crew onboard the SS Tittyhawk — Black Rock City’s First Aircraft Carrier!

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  • lightninrob says:

    I didnt make it to burning man at all! beat that suckas!

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  • Compass says:

    At my first trip in 1999 I figured that Burning Man was about building big shit in the desert. On my next trip I packed up a load of lumber and a roll of silver mylar film and had plans to build a silver beacon.

    First of all, it is harder than you can imagine to build anything from scratch out there.

    People are not going to be inclined to pause the party to help you in any capacity if it takes more then 10 minutes.

    My tower was really cool but the sound of flapping mylar in the wind was deafening and it began to rip into strips of MOOP.

    I took it down early and burned the wood.

    Since then I have done many successful projects, mostly involving camp comforts and shade structures. My gift to Burners whose skills are different than mine and may simply involve being sparkly and fun for a week which is fine.

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  • We’ve been failing and succeeding for years. Your postal system, at work, sort of.

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  • Suzanne says:

    It doesn’t matter how prepared, how much money you’ve spent on “getting it right”, the elements always have something else in mind. We purchased a 31′ yurt (the pvc ones that are so popular) in 2006 for around $3,000 and it completely blew inward / collapsed. We all had to get inside and push it back out, which we did, but some of the pvc was permanently bent. That thing was supposed to withstand playa winds too. We’ve never brought it back out since then.

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  • Mr. Peeps says:

    A friend/welder and I collaborated on an art bike this year, with him doing most of the work voluntarily and I financing it. The bike was in the shape of a Giant Peep, hence my name. He was not making the trip to the Burn so it was up to me to assemble it.

    Several welds didn’t hold on the trip up and unfortunately the design and fabrication had flaws. With the help of many of my campmates, we got it assembled. It was very hard to ride and I only got to ride it 3 times due to the weight and winds. It was illuminated at night but did not project light so it was very hard to see. In the end it did a lot of sitting and I had to scrap the entire frame because it would of been impossible to reassemble.

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  • there are 3 post offices. 68K burners, and a shit ton of packages and letters and postcards coming in, going out and going around. mix with dust and crankiness and theatrics; add in some incompetence, and the feeling that we may not really want to be doing this anymore, though it used to be fun = a mixture of awesome and terrible experiences for all involved. Read the training manual. That might help.

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  • I’d also call most sound camps failures – the abrasiveness and intensity of the volume basically says FUCK YOU to most of us – I wish it would get turned down. I wish it wasn’t a constant sound mush that makes me want to leave. wish wish wish. sound camps – you suck.

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  • Anthony Sherritt says:

    Burning Man inspired me to learn how to weld almost 2 years ago. My main intention was to build amazing things for the Playa so I could inspire others as much as they have inspired me. After 2 rickshaws and one attempt at a peddle powered car, one of the lessons BM has taught me is to be patient with myself, especially when attempting something I’ve never done before. Why would I think it would go perfectly the first time? Other artists make it look so easy. If I’m not careful, I start to doubt myself, and completely exhaust myself the weeks leading up to BM, that I can’t enjoy it. This year I decided I would be smarter, and know when/if I should pull the plug, AND not regret it. Hard lesson for me. Ah, next year!

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  • MK says:

    Riffing on the Cargo Cult theme, my costume-loving campmates decided to make a party where everyone could parade around in WWII-era military regalia. The politically-aware activist in me found this more than a bit horrifying, but I didn’t want to just stomp on my campmates’ enthusiasm, especially since I was neck-deep with a bunch of work stuff and coasting on their efforts to make things wonderful.

    So I decided – way back in July – that I would prankily protest this event. I would play like a dedicated Polynesian member of the John Frum cult, and pester the “soldiers” to give me all their trinkets and valuables and food and toys and booze until… well, I’d see how far I could push it. This sounded like fun, so I started checking out ways to make a grass skirt (just saying yes to cultural appropriation; as one of the few non-white people in camp last year, I felt I could make it especially uncomfortable/enjoyable).

    Needless to say I didn’t get around to making said grass skirt until – well, I thought I would make it on the drive up, but the raffia I bought at the 11th hour turned out to be super-moopy. And we ended up leaving two days later than we planned. And then there was the interminable line to get in….

    Long story short, we arrived well after the party had ended, just in time for our campmates to welcome us with giant hugs and plates of beautifully prepared food. I looked around — the dress-up soldiers were in the minority, and hey! our camp had a whole bunch of new members, and they were brown like me!

    It was a great week, and never once did I feel as othered as I did contemplating it from afar back in July. Another fine protest scuttled by the inexorable forces of peace, love, and procrastination!

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  • Steven says:

    Helium balloon + Down-looking time lapse Camera + cable breaking…
    /me waves good by to my first year project.

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  • Jester says:

    I built a cyclone for the Lollipop Guild camp, didn’t spin as freely as I had designed once it got the BRC. Still looked cute though. :)

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  • Big Red Dale says:

    After a few years learning how to best survive on the playa we decided to register as a small sound art camp so we could spin something different that what we’d been hearing in previous years. Between all of us we were able to nab old speakers, decks, an amp, a generator etc and we were all set with transportation to get everyone and all our gear to the playa. That was until 5 days before leaving the city the transmission dropped on one of the vans we were going to take. Well we couldn’t afford a rental and we couldn’t leave anyone behind so we had to ditch all the sound gear. But in the spirit of participatory mayhem we renamed ourselves Quiet Camp. We had a great time sitting outside amongst the other sound camps and heckling all the other DJs with a megaphone. Failure can take you down another amazing road if you’re up for the trip.

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  • Vince Salem says:

    So I had made 20 dog tag souvenirs that I hand stamped with an image of the man and the year. I was pretty excited about how well these had turned out. It was my first time stamping into metal. So the idea was to hand these all out to my camp mates who were willing to play along with a little barter game. It did not take very long to find willing camp mates. The rules were simple, while you are out doing whatever it is you are going to do see if you are able to trade this souvenir for something else that you may want. We would all meet back at the tower of terror on or about 1630 in the afternoon the next day to share our items that we had traded for and any fun stories that may have gone along with it. I even had a very large watermelon to share with the whole group while we listen to each other’s stories. The view from the tower was awesome, the watermelon had been sitting on ice and was at the prefect stage of ripeness. Well other than my friend who had made the thirty hour journey to black rock city with me, no one else showed up. Not a single person. So we shared our watermelon with the nice folks we did meet on the tower that afternoon and went back to camp. It was strange how no one said a word about it. Maybe my directions were not very clear, I don’t really know.

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  • gypsycrone says:

    15 years ago , I decided to add Burning Man to my bucket list. Now 62 years old I invited my artist 24 year old son and his Russian (never heard of Burning Man) girlfirend. I thought we would use out team building skills to create an awesome experience for all of us. I wanted to do the Green Tortoise thing or camp with friends. but said son wanted to rough it. He kept assuring me that he had it covered. but somehow I was feeling he was not all that excited. Turned into a real nightmare of resentment. I think they actually had some fun but resented dragging mom along. Learned about comfort zones of such an event. Hummmmm. Think I will not be returning anytime soon. Check that one off the bucket list.

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  • Blog author here. I forgot my biggest fail! The car overheated in Fairfield, Calif. We found a car shop that did some tests and upped the coolant. But we were still nervous. What Fearing a breakdown in the Sierras or the gate line, we walked to a nearby shopping mall and started calling all the local car rental places.

    We found one rental agency with one vehicle left: a pickup truck.

    Our first playa miracle was before we even got to the desert.

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  • I and my friends brought a thing which required very strong horizontal sunlight to make rainbow patterns. On playa, mostly a failure because the dust adhered to the transparent surface, and I forgot that the sun sets into a haze of dust most every day. Then I broke the light that was supposed to illuminate it at night. I went out there to do Window Washing Man twice a day for a few days until I gave up.

    Salvaged it at Decompression. I made a powerful directional light and then we brought it to Decompression, and there it didn’t do too badly. There were big fails there too, as the light that I made fell over and broke, and the structure was in a new configuration and fell over the first time we set it up. But we fixed it in time.

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  • GoodDan says:

    My wife and I searched for and found two great long fake fur coats at a thrift store. We packed them in vacuum bags but they still took up a HUGE part of our luggage! There were no nights cold enough to wear them!

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  • oh kay says:

    oh Good Dan – I can totally relate….I had lots of fun sewing lights onto my night-time coats and then it was never cold enough…don’t worry – there’s always next year! I did a lot of costume work this year and, of course, wore 1/3 of it. and hey gypsycrone – you just went with the wrong age group – I’m your age + I have a 24 & 27 yr old…they camp with their friends and we “visit” when we want to,. The family that burns together, etc! My camp leaders of 14 burns always do an art project, but we raise it up in our backyard before we go. STILL lights don’t work, ties don’t hold and fittings don’t work. It’s all part of the process of making do and having fun with the glitches!

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  • AuroraSky says:

    Every year we start partying early for the Man Burn (like Thursday) and by the time the Man actually burns we are completely comatose and miss it. We have Never actually seen the man burn.

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  • We built a hexayurt out of R-Max, which worked great, however I under engineered (not at all) the door. Turns out it got mangled and was an annoyance when trying to maintain a sealed environment. Also we didn’t spring for a small genny and A/C unit, or at least a swamp cooler.
    Lesson learned. Next year I am making a vault door out of plywood and cooling the hell out of it.
    Can’t wait!!

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  • Marvin Miller says:

    Burning Man …heard about it for years from friends of friends …This was my first year looking in via the web …I want to get my kids interested in going to Burning Man 2014. I’m currently looking to buy an RV for the trip. I’m hoping to build something artsy but I’m not even sure of what theme camp fits my Virginity

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  • Kudzu says:

    We built a magnificent 45′ diameter dome that we (mostly) test built beforehand. The playa build was difficult but with help from friendly neighbors, done within the first day. We had great plans for this engineering marvel – feasts, parties, an awkward game of Twister. Then the winds came… and blew for three straight days. One evening, a third of it “popped” inward and the parachute cover really started to act like a parachute. It had to be quickly cut to prevent this massive structure from tumbling like a cheap inverted Wal-Mart umbrella and cutting a swathe through the camps and the playa beyond. When the winds finally died we took the parachute down and had a very large jungle gym in our camp until we dismantled and left for the default world.

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  • Will Chase says:

    This is easily one of the best threads we’ve had on the Burning Blog.

    Most of my biggest fails came in the off season (e.g. other than Burning Man) on the playa. For a certain particular holiday, for instance. Getting stuck up to our axles in wet playa up near the Black Rock it own self. Sitting in Frog Pond on a 20º January night to watch the Leonid meteor shower, only to have it be overcast all night. Not getting a tetanus shot after touching a surface in Metric’s trailer up on the Ranch. Chasing a favorite (now racing down the playa) cowboy hat about a mile at full speed, HUFFING, it *just* out of my reach, before diving for it and utterly face-planting on the playa … only to have it slip out from under me, continue on its way for a while … and then stop.

    OK, and my during-Burning Man ones. Due to insufficient anchoring, my 10’x20′ carport was picked up and crashed down in front of my trailer in the middle of the night during a vicious pre-event storm, awakening me, and pinning me inside. It threatened to get picked up and thrown over the top of my trailer (smashing my windows as it went, I reasoned) like a big CARTWHEELING WING OF IMPALING POLES to be hurtled down playa towards the next solid object in its path: First Camp, likely injuring one or more of the Burning Man founders. Trying very hard to keep my shit together, I forced my way — groggy, naked, and not altogether unaltered — out the door, slashed a hole through it with a knife, and dismantled it … LIKE A BOSS. The other winner was being filmed at Trego hot springs during the event (which is illegal) by some guy who was making a loud stink about Burning Man and how we were miscreants … and having that video subsequently viewed by my then-brand new Burning Man bosses. Awkward.

    Oh, and not going to Burning Man sooner.

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  • JerBear says:

    I am grateful for this thread. This year I decided to help my 71-year-old artist dad to build an installation for the playa. It was a beautiful piece that had been set up on the Oregon coast before Burning Man. When we arrived on Saturday to set it up, it quickly became apparent that the design was not user friendly and that the ply-wood was drying out very quickly … and that we were generally under-prepared to put this thing together in the middle of re-occuring white-outs. Long story short, my dad ended up taking a tumble off the installation from 8 feet, nearly breaking his back. The rest of our team patched the thing together heroically, while I spent the rest of the day in the BRC emergency room with my dad, finding out that he had gotten away with no more than a broken rib (huge relief).

    In the end the project was kind of finished (without the lights), my dad went home on Wednesday after toughing it out in agonizing pain for a few days — and after spending most of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on construction, at the Artery and the emergency room — my girlfriend and I burned the structure on Wednesday evening (people were climbing it and I was terrified that someone else could get hurt).

    In the end the experience was super positive. My dad is OK and recovering, we all learned a lot about proper planning and design for Burning Man installations. Most importantly I got a lot closer to my dad and my girlfriend. I’m now thinking about next year and how to improve on the project – and how to do it right and safely – enlisting the help of some of my friends who are contractors.

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  • Peter Piper says:

    Still to this day wondering about the fail (No show) of the “Black Rock Glacier” in 2007.

    Looked and looked for it on playa after seeing it on the BM website and and it was one of the art projects of that year (Green Man) that I was most excited about.

    The Black Rock Glacier was going to be made of some 41,000 frozen water bottles, the number of water bottle thrown a way every minute and coincidentally (?) how many burners they expected that year. (More than 60 Million plastic bottles thrown out each day in 2007, wonder how many now?)

    Participants would have been able to refill their water bottles/camelbacks from the melting “glacier” which had a cool grotto Oasis because of all the ice and the whole thing would glow eerily blue at night.

    Decided to see if the ARTery knew where it was placed, they said it didn’t make it, and then the Honorarium entry was deleted from the Burning Man website. Saying as not to embarrass the artists but I think it’s incredibly helpful to share the pitfalls of failed projects so other may learn.

    And who knows maybe it will make it out to the playa one day . . .

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  • Mad Maudlin, Duchess of the Porcelain Throne says:

    We had a crew of 15 fly in from the UK to build an art car…we all pulled over 18 hour days for the weeks leading up to the Burn and burned our pockets right out of our collective pants dredging up funds to get it done. But it was worth it! It was beautiful and brilliant, full of wind-driven kinetic sculptures and immaculate lighting that would dazzle everyone! Hand sewn retractable sails, trap doors with surprises behind them, shit we built a fuckin mast and a hidden bar! We built this massive thing and it was amazing! Aaaaaaaaand it never made it to the Burn. Broke down in Grass Valley with a problem with the clutch. We were lucky to get our friends who were with it out to the playa at all. Next year….oh, next year we will rage. It’s kind of hilarious, non-attachment.

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  • RB says:

    This year I was on the crew for an AV installation and I had painstakingly planned the most epic prank – I would Rick Roll one of our party nights! I created special green-screened video for the VJ, and recruited one of the DJs to help set the plan in motion at the right time. I managed to keep it a secret from most of my crew. And then the DJ couldn’t make the set and I didn’t have a way to plug into the sound system myself. Ah well. Maybe there’s already enough Rick Astley in the world!

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  • Sandy Mcreynolds says:

    2007: Hushville ain’t exactly hush if it’s across from a propane organ performance stage. Another learning experience.

    2010: having only 1 helper show up when I figured I could barely make do with 2, and had had 4 sign on. Figured on finishing in 1 day, finally finished in 4 days, slightly sun and wind-burned, but elated. And on the good side, many kudos, and then taking it down, 2 angels appear and help me for many hours.

    2011: didn’t put the EL transformer high enough in the air, and it got stolen . Yet another learning experience.

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  • Andy Daniel says:

    My first art project, Playuzzle, finally started to work on Monday night, though we never had the infrared beams working properly in playa conditions. But Wednesday, though, the generator started dying regularly, causing us to go dark more often than we were working. I would call it a successful failure – we learned a great deal about what to do right next time, but we didn’t provide nearly as many hours of activity for Burners as we had planned to.

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  • Andy Daniel says:

    Will Chase Says:
    Chasing a favorite (now racing down the playa) cowboy hat about a mile at full speed, HUFFING, it *just* out of my reach, before diving for it and utterly face-planting on the playa … only to have it slip out from under me, continue on its way for a while … and then stop.

    Will, I almost had the same experience. My wide-brimmed hat flew off in a windstorm. The hat – I kid you not – rolled on its brim, like a bicycle wheel, for hundreds of yards. It was life a scene from a cartoon or bad comedy flick – not tumbling, not sailing, not bouncing, but rolling on the knife edge of the rim.

    I hopped on my bike and pedaled for all I was worth. An approaching Ranger in a truck saw me and yelled out “You can do it!”. After drawing parallel to the hat 200+ yards from where I lost it, I had to overtake it and manouever my bike to get in front of it, which took another 50-100 yards. Finally the hat rolled right into my stopped bike, and I started the long ride back – against the wind, of course – to my art piece.

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  • factoid says:

    We were going to bring XyloVan for its 4th year on-playa when it decided to blow a head gasket:

    Time for a major overhaul – get the motor, tranny and steering rack rebuilt – and then build more instruments and a solid mutation design. Gotta get the music to the people.

    Stay tuned for a Kickstarter or IndieGogo – which I’ve never tried before. We can offer premiums like stickers, t-shirts, beautiful pendants hand-fashioned from aluminum-bar scraps, xylophone keys (B-flat or G, anyone?), circular gongs and for the biggest donor – a fully handbuilt xylophone.

    Anyone with experience Kickstarting their mutant-vehicle makeover, please ping me at and steer me right! I need advice!

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  • aplayapal says:

    The sourcing, modification, welding, painting, and sewing…the hours spent by good friends dreaming, designing, helping, holding “for just minute”.
    A dragon combined with light show and drum circle!
    Blew the clutch/belt drive on the way back to camp from DMV, so I never had to try to get the non-functioning generator (which worked WHEN AT HOME) working again to pass night inspection.
    Mutant Vehicle Hotties had suggestions for improvement that I’ll address, I can get a new clutch, and it’s easier to fix clutches and generators in my clean garage which is near stores, so, I guess I’ll leave with the chorus we all share:
    “NEXT YEAR…”


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  • Scott Big says:

    failure. Hmmm. Well,

    Overcoming the difficulty of obtaining tickets.. check.
    Planning survival in hostile environment for 7 days. .. check.
    Arranging logistics of transport, supply and shelter.. check check check

    Two days before leaving …
    Getting my recording studio flooded 3″ deep by the dentist upstairs, resulting in $12,000 in damages and a month of cleanup… and therefore, unable to leave VA.. initial fail.

    Attempting to find someone who needs tickets mere hours before event… for free even… FAIL.

    Ah, well, there is always next year.

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  • Zhust says:

    This year I finally got coveralls that fit, and I had this idea to make a light-up silhouette costume. It would have lights that were blocked from radiating outward, so they could only be seen edge-on; laying them flat on the fabric, the light would be mostly tangential to the surface, so no matter what angle you looked, you could only see my silhouette in light. I also decided to keep it simple: I bought LED strands instead of making my own and tried to wire them up (it wasn’t much easier). And most of the work was making the light baffles out of plastic, mounting snaps to each one, and installing the snaps on the coveralls.

    First fail: my spreadsheet to calculate how much material to buy was off by a lot: I forgot that I hat _two_ arms and _two_ legs. I persevered with a quick redesign to only do my top half: torso and two arms, for which I had bought enough material.

    Second fail: the bought strips of LEDs were not very easy to work with. It was not the elegant solution of simplicity I was looking for.

    Third fail: the rigid plastic on my arms was impossible to deal with for any length of time. I set up two segments: four strips around my bicep and four strips around my forearm. But they tended to bump into one another when I tried to move.

    Fourth fail: I didn’t do a good job mounting the LED strips inside the plastic tubes I made, so—especially with the arms—the LED wires kept working their way out of the tubes. Along with the above, I decided to unsnap all the segments on my arms and leave them behind.

    Fifth fail: the effect totally didn’t work. The coveralls reflected too much light, and they were fabric, so the light strips flopped at all kinds of odd angles. A campmate said I looked like a robot spaceman. At least I was lit up at night.

    Sixth fail: the screws that held together the plastic tubes kept coming apart. Thankfully I didn’t lose a single piece (plastic, screw, or nut), it was just weird that the snap posts kept unscrewing themselves while they were snapped.

    In all, it was kind of a disaster. Now I have coveralls that have snaps in a weird pattern all over. It’s not too intrusive, but the whole LED thing sucked.

    I had also brought my girlfriend for her first burn (which didn’t end up being any kind of failure) and I encouraged her to make a light-up coat too. I got her similar LED strips and she toiled on the train making a Oroborus on the back and a question mark on the front. The wiring (MY wiring) failed a bunch on that. Thankfully I had the arm-pieces to scrap and fix her coat. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my own soldering iron and had to borrow a 25-watt warming stick with the words “Radio Shack Soldering Iron” un-ironically written on it to fix it.

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  • Nate M says:

    Yeah, I was one of those people you were supposed to see. We waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and…..
    Thanks for ruining my burn!!

    I did try and find you on Friday. I didn’t have any luck

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  • papagren says:

    2 days after finishing up 47 prostate radiation treatments, I found myself either in bed or asleep in a chair for 7 days…But my wife and the others in our camp had a great time…I cooked friday nite meal for 30 and caught a costco tent on fire…fire out back to bed……… next year #8 in a row will be better :)

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  • In 1995, a bunch of us decided to go to Burning Man. Tickets were $40 I think, and about half of the 4000 people there were muttering about how it was getting way too big, like twice as many as last year. ANYway.

    We were young and traveled in herds, as we did. We rented five RV’s, and had a grand plan. We’d circle them up, like a giant pentagon, and hoist a parachute across them as a great canopy. The center would be lifted by five helium filled weather balloons. It would be glorious.

    I think some folks tested one balloon in Golden Gate Park and concluded this would work great.

    We arrived in the early evening, and picked a spot. (This was before the Clock Grid Road Map we have now.) Got settled in, it was dark, I went to sleep, in my sleeping bag atop a trampoline. But others did not.

    I heard shouting and wind all night. I asked in the morning, and was told, Oh, those 8′ tanks of helium are all empty, the balloons are gone. There was a sad parachute draped across the RV’s.

    Then it rained like crazy. The parachute let water in everywhere. But it was pretty good at providing shade, so it never really dried up. We propped a few sticks up here and there so we could kind-of walk around in our mud-plaza.

    Crazy, right? Well, it turns out that the Empire State Building’s top mast was intended for zeppelin docking. It was used exactly once, 1931, with a docking that lasted 3 minutes. Turns out it’s windy there too. So, yeah, we failed, but I feel we were at least in good company.

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  • Ratty says:

    Zipper failure.

    2008 or 2010 High top boots that had to be cut off, (unless I wanted to wear them for 5 more days).

    2012 My vintage Thermos tent is great but the door zipper started acting funny. I greased it with suntan lotion for several days and ended up with a dust covered greasy mess and a completely open door policy. On Friday there was a hell of a wind for a very long time. I was asleep in the van for 15 hours. I woke up hungry and found that everything in the tent had one inch of playa dust. Food, clothes, kitchen… I was ready to go home anyway.

    I replaced the zipper for 2013.

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  • CuriousJeff says:

    I spent a year building the Shamancycle spending over 1500 hours after a full time job an hour away. Structurally it was ready, waiting for the electronics wizards to finish the EL wire. The Sunday before leaving for Burning Man, my mother-in-law died. So I missed Burning Man to attend to getting myself and kids to Seattle for the funeral and dealing with my wife and father-in-law. As I was flying back the pilot said we could see some city on the right, and Burning Man on the left (the Man was burning). I was stuck on the right and didn’t even get to see it from the air. The Shamancycle performed flawlessly, but didn’t have all of the lights, the wing mechanism jammed upon unloading (since I wasn’t there I couldn’t fix it).

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  • Halcyon says:

    Delightful, sweet failure, when I preplanned my music presentation for months ahead, writing a meaningful song or two to sing to the biffies in the morning, and discovered I had used all my emotional energy up preparing for the event, and had little left for the actual event, so I had to be open to others. Yes, it was a well planned presentation, and thankfully I was able to stay in the moment, and realize that I needed to be in the moment to have a good burn, and enjoy the failure of my plan, and ride the even better moment that actually happened.

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  • Jeff says:

    Just want to let Vince Salem know the post on Sept 19th about sharing the watermelon. I was one of the others on the tower when you amazingly arrived with watermelon an it was not unappreciated by any means! Thanks!

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  • Minister Mudd says:

    Before my first burn, I found a haz mat suit that looked awesome, camo and funky looking and fit perfect. It was free, someone had just left it. It was warm, but I figured perfect to wear at night. Got some accessories and loved the look I had. Went out at night to have fun, bike around and have a great time, did a bit of dancing and playing on art and music projects on the playa. I realized after a bit of dancing that 1. this was an actual haz mat suit, and was not breathing at all, 2. it was a warm night and I was not cooling off at all, 3. I could not bike any more without further overheating. I ended up stripping off the suit, which were basically coveralls, and limping back to camp wearing tighty whiteys and shoes. I got back to camp with a few rests feeling like heat exhaustion was a real possibility. Managed to avoid the medical tents. Moral: make sure your outfits are both awesome and practical/wearable in the environment.

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  • Dirt Pickles says:

    Planning of our first burn in 2009, I decided to build a dual tandem bike connected with each other so four people could ride. It had a large canopy, cup holders and a large cooler with wheels that road along in the back between the rear wheels.

    It was a very cool sight and the design worked well…… in theory. What I soon realized, the problem with tandems are their very heavy frame due to the length. Consider two connected together with all the bells and whistles. it was a tank. even powered by four people in first gear it was tough to ride.

    Now consider the terrain at BRC. Out in the playa, those soft spots, around center camp and the heavy traveled rutty roads in the first couple streets around camp. impossible. We took the bike apart after the first day.

    Maybe a motor of some kind in the future? Never give up!

    The Dirt Pickles

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  • Elise says:

    I spent most of 2013 preparing for my first burn. I built stuff, planned stuff, cooked stuff. I made connections and arranged to volunteer. What I forgot was that I have a limited amount of energy, and even a little less in the desert when I’m not sleeping much.

    I had 7 full days on the playa. I volunteered 4 1/2 of those days for 7 hour shifts. Guess what I did on my days off? I slept and read.

    In the end I went to Burning Man to work and lay around the house. I didn’t see much and didn’t experience much.

    In 2014 I’m planning a do-over of my first burn, complete with FUN!

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  • Dr.Realz says:

    So me and one of the campmates are the first to arrive at our camp it is late in the evening. We pull some things out of the RV so he can go to sleep. I get my brand new hexayurt set up and am driving in the first stake then out of nowhere one of the wind storms of fable kicks up I turn around to see my hexayurt slowly inching across the playa. I scream for my camp mate he exits the RV in nothing but his skivvies just then the awning he set up a few moments ago is flapping in the wind. I jump on and hug my hexayurt he grabs the awning and is trying to roll it in he is screaming for me to help I am screaming for him to help. I see the neighbors carport(which was held down with 2 foot rebar staples) fly into the air just like Dorthy’s house in the wizard of oz it was still in tack and floating twenty feet above the playa. I look to the neighbors on the other side and their half tube made of PVC looks like it is about to break it is bent so far to the side. As my hexayurt slowly inches across the playa I think all I need is a break in the wind and I can get the stakes in. This goes on for seemed like hours, but I am sure it was only 15 minutes or so. Suddenly I feel the sharp sting of rain and a big gust of wind the hexayurt starts to fill up like a balloon then….it explodes the sides break into pieces and are now rolling across the playa the roof fly’s away like some huge alien butterfly. I dive on the trap that was once the floor to try and salvage my belongings. My camp mate who was holding the awning (which is now ripped to shreds) sees the roof fly away and goes screaming across the playa with his hands waving in the air, in his underwear covered in dust and rain as he moves the playa is sticking to his feet making it look like he is moving in slow motion, the whole thing is surreal. We managed to salvage enough stuff to build a place for me to stay the next day. Don’t get me wrong I love the playa but she is like beautiful hart less lover.

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  • NinaDesigner says:

    The big teal van stuck on 447 for 5 hours. Yes, that was me. In the middle of the lane, 10 miles from Empire. To the few who stopped and offered help. I thank you. The van was stuck in park, WITH the motor running. Thousands of vehicles had to go around. I could not shift, or turn the engine off. As the traffic finally thinned, a fellow burner stopped to help, managed to pull wires and get it into drive. To those that screamed to pull out of the way, I wish I could have. When we finally got parked at our camping site, the van would NOT shut off. We took off the battery terminal and it still kept running. (24 hours now) But a second hero came to my rescue, and pulled the wire to the distributor to stop the engine. I forgot to close the drivers window. Fixed that with duct tape and a garbage bag. Did not dwell on my situation. I was HOME. I now have a permanent key in the ignition, and a toggle to shut the engine off. Must always use E brake. My beginner Art Car. Thanks to Howdy, Black Rock Hardware Shoppe, Big Ed, Phil and my DoA camp mates. Maybe not such a fail after all.

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