Exodus Traffic Pulsing = One-Hour Neighborhoods!

Gate road, 2008
Gate road, 2008

During Exodus (when oh so many of you depart Black Rock City for your other home), wait times can run from anywhere to 3-9 hours to get from camp to the highway. And to state it simply, we cannot get vehicles off of the playa any faster than we already do.

To make the inevitable Exodus wait more sane, we’ll be implementing Pulsing on Sunday and Monday this year, 24 hours a day (or until the need dissipates).

Pulsing is a system of moving vehicles at regular intervals toward the highway on Gate Road to avoid the long slow creep that challenges the sanity of even the most patient among us. With Pulsing, vehicles stop and turn off their engines. Then, every hour, vehicles are “pulsed” a mile forward all at once. (Tune your car radio to BMIR 94.5 FM or the Gate Advisory Radio Station 91.5 FM for Exodus info.)

Pulsing does NOT get you out of the city more quickly, it just lets you take a break from driving.

Pulsing is the perfect time to create One-Hour Neighborhoods. Pack water, snacks, instruments and anything else to make the wait more fun. Have a one hour dance party and meet your neighbors in line. Jonathan did … here’s what happened:

My friend and I had such an amazing Exodus the night of the Temple burn I feel compelled to share.

It all happened accidentally. It was my first Burn. I knew about the Pulse system, but wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. After the first pulse, I started my watch to see how long we would stop. It was an hour, to the minute.  During that time, I talked with a couple strangers enthusiastically about my Burn experience.

After the next pulse, I started thinking about all that I could do in the next hour, if it really was an hour in-between pulses and not random. I could go for a run in the desert straight out from my car. I could go talk to more strangers. I ended up putting 3 lighted candles on my car so I wouldn’t lose the car if I wandered too far.

I met another Burner named Taryn. She had the brilliant idea that ended up being the spark for the “after-burn” as we so fondly called it later. She asked, “Why aren’t there tents out there [pointing to the open playa next to the 16 lanes of cars leaving BM] hosting parties, food, etc?” I replied, “you are absolutely right! There could be art cars hosting dance parties to keep people awake. Small camps giving out coffee for safety.” But then, it hit me. We could do that. We could actually do that after the very next pulse.  s long as the break was predictable, we could do this and a lot more. We waited. Like clockwork, the next pulse started 1 hour after stopping.

Taryn was up for helping me unpack and pack the van to get our stove and other supplies out. So, we spent 10 minutes getting stuff out. Then we fired up the stove and made dinner – from scratch! It was delicious. Spaghetti with sausages and a bit of sauce. We then started planning the next phase (we still don’t have a good name for those hour long stretches — micro-burns?). We wanted dessert and coffee. After 50 min, we knew it was time to pack up and get ready. We did it with no problem and were ready to go when the pulse started again.

Dessert was fried macaroons with Nutella. Simply amazing! French press Peets coffee. Perfect combination. It was this break when we really knew we were on to something. We were flat-out loving the Exodus from Burning Man! We started talking about how cool it was — to have these breaks to look forward to, to meet someone new, to have deep conversation on the way out of the playa instead of bemoaning how long it was taking. The “Burn” vibe was very much with us.

We did this 4 different times. I had been calculating our distance to the road by the marker that said 4 miles to the highway. We had potentially one more break. It was going to be our best break – a dance break. We were going to wake up Taryn’s RV and get them outside dancing to our Jambox speaker. However, we hugged good-bye in case there were no more breaks.

As it tuned out, we did exceed our .4 mile average pulse and made it all the way to the road. My friend Rico and I looked at each other. We saw it in each other’s eyes — we were disappointed. We did not have 1 more hour together to enjoy our dance break. Then, we thought — this is crazy! It is 3 AM and we want to stop for another hour?! But we did and it was magical.

About the author: Affinity


Affinity, a Burner since 2000, was legally married on the Playa in 2001, was wedding coordinator and then training coordinator at Burning Man, before becoming the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) Social Media Coordinator and an Advisory Board Member. An attorney, she served on the Board of Directors of the Western Pension and Benefits Conference. She interned with the Human Awareness Institute for 10 years. She writes about how art is envisioned, produced, created, installed and its afterlife.

10 Comments on “Exodus Traffic Pulsing = One-Hour Neighborhoods!

  • Jenn Quinn says:

    Hot flashes?

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  • Snipz says:

    Uhm, I sure hope that having the car-passes this year helps alleviate some of the traffic situation. Otherwise they are 100% useless.

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  • I used my Exodus time to walk around and ask people what they had “mastered” at the burn. Their stories were fabulous! I had some blank diplomas, and lots of folks were delighted to celebrate the biggest “lesson” of their Burn with a personalized diploma.

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  • Steve Mobia says:

    My big complaint last year was not being told about the pulse system until the very end when a ranger explained to me that the BLM stipulated that not more than 1,000 cars an hour where allowed on local roads. That information should’ve been made clear on BMIR along with suggestions to make the most of the still points. The pulse system is fine as long as everyone knows what’s happening.

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  • Stev Witt says:

    I haul a trailer out to the burn every year. One of my best memories from last year happened in the pulse. After several hours in line, hunger set in and I remembered about the two frozen pizzas I never got around to eating. I cooked them up, cut into small squares and walked from car to car looking for other hungry souls. This was at 10 PM and can’t tell you how many people jumped with joy telling me they hadn’t eaten since lunch or breakfast. I think the pizza man is going to return again this year.

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  • Piko says:

    “Pulsing?” I much prefer the term, “Throbbing.”

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  • GrimNexus says:


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  • hendryx says:


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  • Kaweh says:

    One year during exodus I met up with my first Playa Love, first pulse we walked around and found a huge truck that was handing out water to everyone so we grabbed a couple of cases and helped out. Then we took a walk to deep exodus playa and last pulse, well, as someone else mentioned, it should be called throb cause that’s what we did in the back of the bus (iykwim)!!!

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  • Fiver says:

    Last year I had more fun during exodus then I did at the burn! We even documented it. Best. Exodus. Ever!

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