The Work Week


The crews working on the Commissary took a break for a picture

Since then, in a matter of days:

  • Upwards of 250 shipping containers have been moved from the work ranch to the playa.
  • There are an additional 100 living containers here now, too.
  • The Commissary tent is up, and the tarp and floor are going in. The first on-playa meal for work crews is Wednesday.
  • The king posts for the Center Cafe are going in as we speak.
  • All of the placement flags are finished on the 4:30 road.
  • Gate operations are launched at Point One.
  • The major Ranger stations are being set up.
  • At least 30 people are living on playa in the Heat compound.
  • Utilities village also has a number of people living on site.
  • The Power crew has things up and humming at work sites and living areas.
  • The last morning meeting has taken place in town; the next one will be on the desert.
  • Transmission towers are being erected; soon wifi will arrive in Black Rock City.
  • A mass migration of trailers, vehicles, tents and the people who go with them is taking place, as operations move from Gerlach onto the playa.

How’s that for getting a jump on things?

Many other things are happening, some behind the scenes. But the point is, if you have to go from nothing to 70,000 people in a matter of three weeks, you’d best make the most of your time. That appears to be happening.

Getting ready for the night work

We wandered out with the Commissary squads as they worked long into the night to get the giant tent squared away. It was a bit of a departure to be working at night, but high winds had put a wrench to the schedule. This was the second night in a row they had been out there; the previous night, a crew of about 15 sledge-hammered all the anchors into place. This also was a departure, as sledge-hammering on this scale is usually an all-hands event, and folks compete to be the most badass sledge-hammerer around. But not this time. The dang wind kept the operation from happening during the day, so it was just the relatively small crew that had to do all the heavy pounding.

Now they were out here again, first to put down tarps so that spills wouldn’t reach the delicate desert floor, and then to unpack and place the square pieces of plastic that provides an even walking surface and further protects the playa.

Maybe the least fun part of the proceedings is taking out all the equipment and gear from the containers where they have been stored for the offseason. Shockingly, none of the pieces of flooring had been dusted and cleaned before being put away, so every one of the hundreds of squares was covered in old playa dust, which only made the job that much more fun.

But it had to be done. As Sylkia explained, “We can’t be eating at Bruno’s all week.”

The HEaT fire glowing in the night

The HEaT crew (Heavy Equipment and Transportation) is always one of the first groups to establish a presence on playa. They’re  the folks with the people and the equipment to help everyone else get their camps squared away, so they go first.

They started moving in on Friday, even as the Fence operation was going on. There was one small snafu, however.  Cuervo, the honcho of HEaT, believes in the importance of fire, and he wants a fire on the first night they are in the desert. Alas, the person who was supposed to bring the burn platform and the wood got bogged down with other tasks. So there they were at 5 pm on the first day, and Cuervo noticed the absence of the fire items. The situation was quickly rectified, and the first bonfire of the season lit up the night a few hours later.

As we mentioned, the great migration from town to playa has begun. Hundreds of people and their assorted living arrangements have to move. It’ll be cozy and collegial when things are squared away, but in the meantime, there’s a lot of stuff that has to get from here to there.

As this takes place, food will be available in two locations for a couple of days; on playa starting Wednesday, and in town until Friday. Today saw the last morning meeting at Bruno’s; they’ll be at the Depot on playa starting Thursday.

Oh, that means a day without a 7:30 morning meeting. Huzzah!

Here are some more pics:

Hey, look who’s here already!


This is what the Center Cafe looks like so far

The view from the HEaT yard is one of the best
Work crews are pouring in

The HEaT yard even has a place for people to practice their silks
A work light looked like the setting sun for a moment
That orange cone marks where the Spike is, and where the Man Base will be built
Firing up the work light
That’s a lot of floor
The anchors that hold the tent in place

Gate folks are at Point One 24/7

About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

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