Let’s Make Exodus Not Suck in 2023

What is Exodus anyway?

This is a post in our 2023 Back to Black Rock City series — covering a spread of topics we hope get you excited as you prep to head back to the dust.

Exodus: An ominous word that conjures ancient stories of humans suffering a plodding, treacherous journey through the desert. As it relates to the process of getting nearly 80,000 humans out of Black Rock City in a steady flow of 33,000+ vehicles after the event, that is still pretty much true, though your individual experience may vary.

We all suffered through a grueling, slow-moving, extraordinarily hot Exodus in 2022, and yes, there are reasons why. In this post, we’ll talk about those reasons and learn what’s new for Exodus in 2023. But first, let’s get specific about how Exodus operates.

Pulsing on Gate Road, 2011

The two-lane road and two small towns within fifteen miles of the event site limit the volume of vehicles that can flow out of the event and keep moving towards I-80. Our Exodus teams work to exit as near the maximum number of vehicles as conditions allow, using a strategy referred to as Pulsing to move vehicles at regular intervals on Gate Road toward the highway. With Pulsing, vehicles stop and turn off their engines, and the experience for drivers is made smoother during our round-the-clock operations.

After the 2022 event, we surveyed the community about their Exodus experience, and got approximately 4,000 responses. That information, along with our own Gate Road data, helped us understand why Exodus sucked for so many of us. 

Thousands of vehicles stuck in line to exit Black Rock City on the final day of Black Rock City, 2022 (Photo by Scott London)

Each of the factors identified below has different impacts on Exodus experience and wait times. No single issue created the whole situation, but each played a role in the snarl up of 2022. We’ll reveal the problems we unearthed in the first section, and then outline how these will be addressed in 2023, below. 

Information: Though we did not consistently announce accurate wait times on Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR), many people (70% of survey respondents) did not tune in to seek information for taking off from their camp. The dedicated “Gate Road and traffic information” radio station, Gate Advisory Radio Station (otherwise known as GARS) was not operational in 2022.  

Human behavior: Too many people packed up and left BRC at the same time. Rolling whiteouts caused navigation to Greeters and Gate Goad to be slow, with some lost drivers following one another erroneously out onto the open playa, creating chaos when the wind died down and drivers were not in line. In addition, many more folks than usual stayed for the Temple burn, further condensing traffic. 

Staffing: Staffing Exodus operations is always a challenge. Our teams were already operating at a deficit from various factors, including illness and fewer staff returning after the pandemic years.

Weather: Weather sets the baseline for how hard your Exodus may be. In 2019, the weather was fabulous and there were very low average wait times during Exodus. Last year, the weather throughout the event was extraordinarily hot and “dustassterous,” with very high temperatures and high winds. Relentless heat and limited visibility created urgency and chaos for participants and Exodus teams (see Navigation below). The extraordinary heat created more vehicle problems in line, further hampering smooth flow of the cars.

Infrastructure: By the end of the event, the surface of Gate Road begins to show the wear and tear of 33,000 vehicles, making any poorly functioning vehicle an even more serious impediment. Seeking relief from the extreme heat and long wait, more vehicles stopped in the small towns of Gerlach and Empire which slowed the line of cars, causing a domino effect that was hard to recover from until the flow eased up considerably. Likewise, fuel shortages across Northern Nevada over Labor Day weekend in 2022 (affecting Gerlach and Empire, among many other towns) caused delays and frustration as more people stopped to fuel up after running AC while waiting in line.

Navigation: Whiteouts made wayfinding out of the city difficult, and there was insufficient signage and cone markers to assist drivers in these conditions. Further, drivers often follow tail lights in front of them, even if those vehicles are not heading in the right direction (which can happen frequently in whiteout conditions!). Participants driving outside the boundary of Gate Road caused unsafe conditions, but also had to be shepherded back into line.

So, what are we going to do about all this? Let’s talk about 2023

• Plan all aspects of your Exodus well in advance.
• 4-6 hours before you leave, tune into Gate Advisory Radio (GARS) 95.1FM, and monitor @bmantraffic on Twitter if you have internet.
• Get a good night’s sleep pre-Exodus.
• Only drive sober.
• Avoid leaving during inclement weather conditions.
• Pack water, snacks, medication, and any other essentials you need.
• Ensure your vehicle has plenty of fuel.
• Secure your load before you go.
• Be patient.
• Practice kindness to Gate and Exodus staff, as well as to your fellow travelers.
• Bring games to make it fun!

Information: Knowledge is power! In 2023, there will be improved wait time information broadcast on both Gate Advisory Radio Station (GARS), 95.1 FM and Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR), 94.5 FM. If you have cell service or internet, check out the @bmantraffic Twitter account too, which is populated with up-to-date traffic information. The digital messaging sign (at Greeters) will remind you to note the time. Please do — this will help us all!

GPE staff  flagging at the Gerlach Y (Photo by Rich Van Every)

Did you know? Black Rock City has two radio stations.
Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR) 94.5 FM broadcasts travel, emergency and general information, and community programming 24 hours a day. Gate Advisory Radio Station (GARS), 95.1 FM provides you with up-to-date wait times, closures and traffic reports, as well as ways to ease the entry and Exodus process. Be sure to tune into GARS (95.1 FM) as you plan your departure from the city.

Human behavior: Make an Exodus plan for your camp well in advance — whether you are a camp of just a few people or a few hundred — spreading out your departures over multiple days and times, and choosing non-peak times to leave. Before you arrive in Black Rock City, make sure you have enough fuel for the round trip from I-80. Before you leave to head home from BRC, ensure drivers are sober and everyone in the car has food, snacks, water, and any other essentials. Four to six hours before you leave, listen to Gate Advisory Radio Station (GARS), 95.1 FM and monitor @bmantraffic on Twitter to be aware of the conditions you are entering into. Check out the Survival Guide and the Exodus webpage for very useful information, answers to many of your questions, and reminders of how to make the best-odus of your Exodus.

Staffing: The Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus team is actively recruiting volunteers to ensure Exodus staffing is robust in 2023. Interested in volunteering? Check out this page. 

Shimmer, Exodus staff member in action (Photo by Arsenic aka Alexandra Wasko)

Weather: With GARS back in operation, you’ll get accurate information in real time. Tune in to 95.1 FM as you plan your Exodus and on your way out of the city. Are there rolling whiteouts or dust storms happening? It’s always an option to stay in your camp until they’ve passed. Keep weather conditions in mind for your departure, just as you would for your entire Burn.

Infrastructure: While there’s no guarantee of an uninterrupted fuel supply in 2023, we can all remember to fuel up before we arrive on playa. We recommend Fernley, Wadsworth or Nixon. Gate Road’s integrity is impacted by every vehicle that exceeds the speed limit… the protocols during BRC are the same as during Exodus: “stay under 10 mph, and don’t drive on wet roads.”

Navigation: Head to K (Kraken) Street (two lanes exit direction only) and make your way toward 6 o’clock. At night, look for lighted cones and a digital messaging sign marking the entrance to Gate Road when Exodus begins Saturday after 6:00 pm. Top tip for 2023: USE ALL LANES!

F Lot, the Final Frontier

We’ve saved an exciting announcement for last… drumroll: We’re bringing a new team to Exodus 2023 to help make the Exodus process smoother and safer: F Lot, the Final Frontier to Find It or Fix It before Pavement.

What is F Lot? We’re transforming the long-existing “Reunification Station” into a safe destination for problem-solving: impaired vehicles, sleepy drivers, lost passengers, and that last chance to secure your load.

Where is F Lot? Just beyond the Pulsing station on Gate Road, off the right side of the lanes and, most importantly, before you enter the gravel road.

Why would I go to F Lot? Please head to F Lot if you become separated from your vehicle; if you have lost your passenger(s); if your vehicle may need to be towed; if your vehicle has mechanical problems but is still drivable; or if you need to secure your load one more time before the pavement.

Will there be staff at F Lot? Yes, especially during peak Exodus.

Will there be lights and portos at F Lot? Yes! The last opportunity to use portos before the highway is in F-Lot. 

Whatever your challenge is, use F Lot to safely leave the lanes and address it. Go to the right side of all the lanes to enter F-Lot. DO NOT stop on the gravel road as you exit before the pavement. The gravel road is a Flagging operation and the team is not available to problem-solve or remedy your challenge. Stopping there jeopardizes the entire Exodus operation. Take it to F Lot!

(Photo by Philip Volkers)

So… what does ‘Exodus not sucking’ look like in 2023?

  • Plan your Exodus well in advance. 
  • Tune in to BMIR (94.5), GARS (95.1 FM) and @bmantraffic on Twitter as you plan your departure.
  • Drive rested and sober. 
  • Have everything you need with you (water, food, and fuel) should the wait be long.
  • Remember that wait times vary year to year depending on many variables. And they vary by day, in real time, each year.
  • Rolling whiteouts? Stay in your camp!
  • If you need help while leaving, head to F Lot (right lane) beyond the Pulsing station on Gate Road, before the gravel road. 
  • Adapt your travel plans for a longer Exodus, just in case. 

And finally, as you travel home, remember: take your time, have fun, and be kind with fellow travelers and Exodus teams. Leave No Trace and be thoughtful about your presence in all the communities you travel through — they know where you have been, the dust gives you away! #makeexodusnotsuckin2023

A pause in the Exodus line (Photo by Chris Dunphy)

Big thanks to Shimmer for the content of this post and expertise within, as well as the Magpie and Fowler for your support. Enormous appreciation for the entire Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus crew for your tireless work in Black Rock City.

Cover image of Exodus, 2022 (Photo by Chayna Girling; Graphic design by Deets Shay) 

About the author: Shimmer


Shimmer (aka Jerril Nilson) finally found herself on playa in 2011 after years of voyeuristically enjoying the view of Black Rock City through the images taken by professional photographers she knew. As the playa would have it, her first volunteer role with Gate, Perimeter & Exodus was Pulsing, in its debut at Exodus. From that time on, she’s come back to the gravel road next to the pavement where Gate Road ends, as a Nevada-certified Flagger, Flagger Shift Supervisor, and as Exodus Operations Assistant Manager for the last three events. She’s a graphic designer and marketing consultant in real life, with side gigs as a Very Old SLUG Queen and a parade creator in Eugene, Oregon.

20 Comments on “Let’s Make Exodus Not Suck in 2023

  • Jerome Saltz says:

    Keep up the great work. I have never been; am too old (72) to go, anymore, but God speed you all.

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    • Jon Broholm says:

      Thank you for your kind words. But I beg to differ with your saying “too old” – many participants are your age and older.

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    • Sean(skipper) says:

      Jerome Saltz, YOU are never too old to enjoy the Burn!!
      Half my camp is your age and still rocking!!!
      Consider going next year and find an amazing opportunity to volunteer, people your age have priceless experience to share!!❤️

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    • Ranger Fearless says:

      Hey Jerome, you are not too old! I’m 84 and have been Rangering for 20+ years, plus arriving early and leaving late to assist in setup and breakdown. Come out, join the fun, and discover that you are not as old as you think you are.

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  • Taxi says:

    Given the increased restrictions in having RVs delivered to the playa, BM should consider opening playa access roads for exodus. Also, consider Southbound and Northbound only routes to segregate traffic flows and direct them uniformly.

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    • Paupy says:

      The first sentence of the third paragraph addressed this.

      “The two-lane road and two small towns within fifteen miles of the event site limit the volume of vehicles that can flow out of the event and keep moving towards I-80.”

      This is the fundamental reason why Exodus traffic entering the highway is limited and why this cannot be fixed by adding more entry points to the highway. Unfortunately there is no fix to the 447’s traffic limitations short of adding lanes to the highway.

      The only path to a quick Exodus is found by not leaving when everyone else is trying to leave.

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  • Geomom says:

    We suffered well on Exodus (7 hours, to be expected on Monday), but faced a further five hour wait for gas in Gerlach (not expected). Towing all the camp gear plus the poor gas mileage on good old Gate Road meant not quite enough gas for the trip home (in our case Winnemucca via Jungo Road). Once we had gas, it was just another 3 hours to home. This year I will top off in Gerlach before entering heading into BRC. Better to endure the wait at the beginning of the event. It would be nice to head across the playa directly to Jungo at the Razorback access road like we do outside of the closure window, but at least we don’t have to deal with all the stuck 445 traffic going south.

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  • Rio says:

    In 2022 we left camp as usual Monday at 10am. We hit the black top after midnight.
    Some in our camp left before Temple burn but couldn’t get past J and 4 in over five hours so turned around and came back.
    Not only were the conditions Monday potentially deadly (intense heat breakdowns no gas) but there was no way to reach nor anyone available with emergency communication to assist anyone in need or broken down. Especially in the middle of the 16 exodus lanes.
    BTW Wtf are the water trucks doing flooding the road during peak times? Saw cars bogging down forcing cars to try to go around further Fing things up.
    Additionally it was obvious there were no flaggers on 447/34 to keep memorial day traffic and Exodus traffic from conflict.
    I appreciate the update esp bringing back GARs as BMIR was claiming eight hours when it was obviously not true, but really this is acknowledgement of a problem rather than a plan to fix a problem.

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  • Just Dance says:

    Given the potential for longs lines and waits, could we also get more portos along the exodus road? There were barely any last year and those that were got wrecked. Adequate porto infrastructure will greatly help to prevent vehicles being abandoned as people go for long walks trying to find a porto.

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  • Spanky D says:

    If you are going to take a nap during Pulsing, please pull your vehicle to one side of your lane. Bring an extra key for your car. Jumper cables. Check the air in your spare. Plenty of fuel, and Please charge your EV before entering the event. Finding someone that brought a big generator to wait with you while your car charges on Gate Road, can be a challenge!

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  • Patty J says:

    I’m not sure how to interpret gate info. So, if Gate says it’s taking six hours to get to the pavement should I wait or go? If I hear it is taking a long time, I would worry that it’s only going to get worse.

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  • Lox says:

    What about all leaving on ebike class 3 ?

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  • Bruce E Smith says:

    In 2022, we left at 3:00 am on Sunday and did not reach the public road until 12:30 pm. The right hand lanes moved faster than the left hand lanes because the last set of cones used for pulsing were removed one-by-one starting at the right hand lane, then they were moved back into place starting at the left hand lane.

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  • DD says:

    1. There should be portos along gate road with exodus being so long.

    2. The merging of lanes seemed to be really disorganized. Some lanes moved considerably faster than others. I think someone above said that it was the right hand lanes, and I think that was true.

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  • Davyy says:

    Great article. Gives me insight for my exodus. Be prepared.

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  • RMW says:

    It all sounds good in theory. Exodus was not the only problem. Ingress also sucked. We arrived usual day and time. We were no further back than any other year yet it was 6 hours to get in. For exodus we watched the Temple burn and went to bed all packed up. We got up and started checking the radio for exodus times at 3:00am which I believe was stated at about 5 hours (we usually try to leave when it’s at 3 hours or less), We continued to listen and wait times were increasing so about 5:00am we decided it wasn’t going to get better and headed out. It was 9 hours to the road. What staff? there was no one until the big lane merge and then it was one person. The same goes for ingress. There was no staff and what would usually take two to three hours took six hours. Which is exactly why people were running out of gas. Even if you top off close to playa, 15 hours of running your engine so you don’t die in the heat will suck up most of your gas. No one should have to plan for that. The idea behind pulse is to move for 15 minutes (it was more like three to five minutes in practice) and shut down your engine for 45 minutes. This reduces greenhouse emissions when done well. It was not done well in 2022. It was too hot by 8:00am to turn off the A/C so everyone had engines running. It was too hot on the way in and so engines were running. What didn’t seem to be running was staff. There was a distinct absence of staff at least during early entry and exodus. As camp leders we are told to have back up plans to cover problems that arise but it seems that wasn’t the case for the BMOrg.

    One of my camp members used to love to volunteer at the gate and then she could earn a free or discounted ticket for the following year. I believe it was 2018 when the requirements changed and you had to commit to working nearly a full time job to get a ticket the following year. She said it was no longer worth it to have to give up so much of her burn. Treat your volunteers better and you will have plenty of staff volunteers. Demand too much and you won’t get the support and things suck. Ingress and Exodus has sucked more every year since. Make all the excuses you want but this is a Burning Man failure exasperated by bad weather conditions.

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  • Zuul says:

    I’m really glad pulsing is a thing. What a difference introducing it made! Big hugs to the Exodus volunteers!

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  • Blue Meanie says:

    Temporary/portable gas station anyone?

    Imagine, fleets of fuel trucks lined up, each with their own temporary pumps, and dozens upon dozens of cars filling up simultaneously.

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