Days 16 7/8 – 17 3/4:
San Francisco, CA to Reno, NV.
Reno to the Black Rock Desert.
Welcome to the desert.
(excerpt from Talking with Fear about Dying Tomorrow)
After dropping Meg off, my first stop was just before getting on the highway: getting a large coffee. I was already exhausted and had a ridiculous day and a half ahead of me. My second stop was in Sacramento after flying with the California four-lane-highway traffic for awhile. I stopped at a Target 4 minutes before they closed to pick up goggles for the desert sandstorms and a can opener to be able to eat for the next 8 days. I got back in my car and realized that I didn't have much of an idea as to how much longer I had to go; it was only 10 pm and I was already delirious. I referred back to my map and second knuckle on my index finger and it told me I only had 2 hours to Reno which made very little sense to me. I had heard from various people along the way that it would take around six or seven hours, not 4. I continued on, perplexed by how I could be so off and also wondering what I was going to do for the three hours before Graham's plane would arrive in Reno. After about an hour and a half of delirious driving, 4 or 5 cigarettes, another coffee, making a few voice recordings of me talking to myself, and 3 or 4 switches of CDs in the CD player, I remembered that I was going to be driving through a series of huge mountains before getting to Reno. The timing of my drive then made more sense.
I prepared for this by replenishing my gas tank, water bottle, and stash of peanut M&Ms: all necessary for a midnight drive over some massive mountains. I saw a bunch of other people who were obviously going to Burning Man as well, but I chose to just smile instead of mingling and kept on driving. The drive through the mountains was exciting, especially in such a state as I was. Though exhausted, the nature of the roads made the experience much like race car driving and I found myself drumming with my hands on the steering wheel and shamelessly singing along with the music that was blasting inside of my car. I forgot about the clock and found excitement in the curiosity of which curve was going to open up to the view of looking over the Biggest Little City in the World. At some point in this experience that resembled the “Cruisin' USA” video game that I played as a kid, I got a text from Graham saying that he was going to be getting into Reno earlier than expected. The text was sent while he still hadn't taken off but I must not have gotten it because of the reception in the mountains. It was 1 a.m. And he said he was getting in at 1:30. I saw a sign that said I was 45 miles out of Reno so I let him know he'd be waiting a little bit. Those 45 miles were mountain-less and tiring. I got to the airport in a daze and picked up Graham a little before 2. He said he barely recognized me with my shaved head and facial hair. I had once again forgotten that I shaved my head and I think my facial hair probably resembled what it looks like when my male high school students rebel and try to piss of the school by not shaving for months and only coming up with a random arrangement of gnarly patches on their faces. That's probably why Graham didn't recognize me.
We drove off under the impression that my staple Reno grocery store, the “Sak n' Save,” didn't open until 6 am, so we were discussing our options.
- Go gamble.
- Go boozing.
- Go to Denny's next to the Sak N' Save.
In retrospect, we could've done all three at the same time because of it being Reno, but instead we pulled up and realized the Sak N' Save was open 24 hours. We walked around the store and frugally picked up what we thought to be necessary. After awhile we decided that I had brought enough food for the both of us, and if Graham was to pick up the Denny's, the booze, and water, we'd call it even. So that's what we did. 4 boxes (bags) of Franzia, a half gallon of Evan Williams, and 28 gallons of water later, we were sitting in Denny's strange fluorescent atmosphere and trying to make sense of our timing, the week ahead of us, and whether you get breakfast, lunch, or dinner at 4:30 am at Denny's. I remembered that this is our spot for filling up water and that if my brother was in Colorado the night before, he should be in Reno around 6 am. I called him but he didn't answer. A few minutes later, Jono called saying that my brother was passed out and that they'd be there in two hours. Graham and I finished our skillets and decided to try passing out in the car for awhile. We slept for what felt like 45 seconds of insane dreaming but was actually and hour and a half. We woke up to Jono smiling and knocking on my window. We said hi to everyone and went back to sleep as they got Denny's and got water. We figured we'd give traveling into the desert as a caravan a shot even though it's a pretty lost cause; we were driving in with over 50,000 others.
We got split up pretty much as we got on the highway. It takes about 2-3 hours to even get into the desert, your speed depends on the quantity of eager cops following you. At around 11 a.m., Graham and I stopped in a parking lot to go to the bathroom and we spotted Jeff, Jono, and Lauren there; so we started to travel together from there on. The traffic was thick enough at this point that if you were in front of or behind someone, those were your neighbors waiting in the 4 hour line. We had made plans, the 5 of us, that if we got split up to meet each other at 4 pm on the 4th day at the Media Tent (where they serve a drink called “Rocket Sauce”: Vodka, Red Bull, Gatorade) but we didn't think this information was relevant anymore now that we were inching together for 4 hours into Burning Man. During those 4 hours, we took turns driving/falling asleep at the wheel and getting out and walking around. The only music I had that could keep us awake was this 100% Funk tape that I got for $.49 at a Goodwill in MN. But that started making us feel crazy after about an hour. As we approached the gates, a massive dust storm came through and broke us up from Jeff, Jono, and Lauren again. You couldn't see further than your hand held out in front of you. We pulled up to the gate and were yelled at for not having our hazards on, “I swear to God, you better put your hazards on right now! Two people have been run over already! Do not move your car!” Our hazards were already on, he just couldn't see them flashing because of the storm. We were back to being awake again. We waiting for the visibility to get slightly better and then we inched our way in to find a camp site.