It took from Saturday evening to Tuesday afternoon for us to get from our parents’ house in Calgary to Black Rock City, the temporary city in a desert that hosts the Burning Man festival each year.
It was not supposed to take that long. Google says it is just over 1,800km. We are learning over and over that things do not go as planned on this adventure. I am learning to accept and embrace that reality.
We didn’t leave until Saturday night because I wanted to attend my friend Kate’s wedding. I am really glad we stayed, because it was a beautiful occasion, and I was so happy to share it with Kate, one of my oldest and most cherished friends.
Watching her get married was incredibly emotional. I am so thrilled to see her so happy, and I look forward to seeing their relationship grow over the years (even if she does insist on living in Vancouver, guess I’ll need to go visit.)
She had the wedding at her parents’ home, in their back garden. A small gathering of only the closest friends and family were at the ceremony, and then more people arrived throughout the afternoon with good wishes.
We stayed for lunch and then quickly popped home to change and pick up the generator. Dad came out with more and more stuff for us to take with us “just in case”, we eventually had to say “no more stuff” or we never would have left.
One last stop to pick up Phil’s friend Vanny, who was coming with us, and we were finally off.
Jalop-eno (our new name for the truck, a mash-up of Jalope and jalapeno) was feeling all the weight we’d loaded in. We really couldn’t go much faster than 100km/hr, and were most comfortable cruising at about 90km/hr. Crossing the border into the USA was easy in the end, we had nightmares of the border guards deciding to search our vehicle. They wouldn’t have found anything untoward, but it would have taken HOURS. In the end the guard just asked if we had any alcohol or tobacco, or any of “that wacky baccy”, shone his flashlight into the back, and let us continue on our way.
We stopped at one point for a few hours sleep, the three of us curled (squished) up together on the double bed above the truck cab, but got going pretty quickly in the morning. All was well until at one point there was a terrible sound, and Vanny seemed to be having trouble controlling the truck. The right, rear tire had blown to smithereens. No problem – we had a spare. No problem that is until we discovered that we could not jack the truck up high enough to fit the tire between the camper and the tire. Sigh.
Vanny used her feminine wiles to flag down a passing vehicle, which is how we met Dave who helped us jack the camper up further, and who ominously predicted that the spare wouldn’t last long. He kindly offered to follow us to the nearest town, where we could buy a new tire. He left us at a gas station near Hermeston. Lady luck left with him, and two minutes later the spare blew as well.
With no spare, it was time to call AAA. Dale the tow truck driver came to our rescue, but due to the camper on the back of the truck, he couldn’t tow us. He disappeared and came back with a spare tire he got from his son, and he installed that tire on Jalop-eno so we could drive to the local tire centre. By this time it was late, so we had no choice but to stay in the Les Schwab parking lot until they opened in the morning.
The people at Les Schwab were really fantastic, and they had us back on the road, with two new rear tires and a “new to us” spare tire, in just a couple of hours.
We kept driving, Jalop-eno kept drinking gas like it was 1979, and we slowly drew nearer and nearer to Black Rock City. During the tire fiasco, Vanny got a text message saying that two of her friends from Yellowknife had hit a deer. Their car was totalled, so we decided to go pick them up and take them with us. A benefit to this plan was that they had a motel room in Alturas, which meant we could all take showers before living without for the next week.
We stayed in Alturas until first light, and then got on the road for the final stretch to the playa. (The playa is the desert-like dusty dry lake bed that Burning Man is held on.)
We finally hit the playa at about 1pm, and because by this time we were arriving nearly 48 hours late there were no line ups to get in.
The greeters at the front gate checked our tickets, and then made us virgins who had never been to Burning Man before get out of the car, gave us big hugs, and then rolled us in the dust. Little did I know how intimately familiar I was to get with this dust!!
As we slowly drove into the city, I was astounded by all that I could see. The only pictures I took in Black Rock City were from the truck while we were arriving.
Dropping off Vanny’s friends Michelle and Jeremy was quite an ordeal, as they did not know where their camp was, and their friends had left them very conflicting messages. After driving around for 2 hours, and still not finding them, I was getting very, very grumpy. I was already disappointed to have arrived so late, and now I felt I was SO CLOSE to being part of all the fun and excitement, but was stuck driving at 5 miles an hour looking for people I didn’t know.
We eventually decided to go to our camp (we knew exactly where it was) and then they could come get their stuff once they discovered where they needed to go. Our friend Kelly was there as soon as we arrived, and she took me off on an adventure before we had even started to settle in. I am so thankful that she did that, because I was pretty much a grumpy, miserable puppy, and after she had taken me to her camp, fed me delicious food and tequila cocktails, and taught me to ride a bike with a plastic martini glass in my hand, I was returned to a happy, excited girl. Everything I saw was amazing, fantastic works of art rolled past blaring music, and we went to two parties, at a place called the Duck Pond, and another who’s name I no longer recall. I noticed immediately that everyone gave off an extraordinary vibe, and smiled at me and hugged me the moment we met (no hand shakes here).
I had finally arrived.