NYC TO BRC
Driving to Burning Man from the Wormy Apple...
Travel Advice from taraball(at)earthlink(dot)net
2 girls alone on the highway, quenching of the unsatiated desire for fire
Driving to Burning Man from the East Coast is a spiritual journey that I have participated in, with Samantha the Pantha, for the last two years. It changed my life and made me a more delightfully twisted human being. I highly recommend you quit your job (if you haven't already been fired) and engage in this experience. It opened my head and my eyes.
GETTING STARTED ON YOUR ADVENTURE TO BLACK ROCK CITY
Leave NYC late at night, not in the day. Too much damn traffic. We left at midnight the second year, and we still had traffic. Just sneak out in the envelope of darkness. Pack with the stuff you are going to use on the drive on top. Have a cooler and fill it with good food. Other suggestions are a good working stereo system, a water spray bottle, sunglasses, a small jacket, a little pair of sharp scissors and a parking angel.
Make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape. Have EVERYTHING checked. Make sure the tires are good, the engine, everything. Don't push your vehicle. It needs to rest just like we do, so stopping overnight is good for everyone involved. Don't forget to check your oil EVERY TIME you stop for gas, watch your gauges, have extra of everything in vehicle and become an AAA member. You can also get these really cool triptych maps for free if you are a member, and they give you all this neat-o info like if there is a gas station or campground at an upcoming stop, and how many miles between highway exits. Getting stranded on the highway sucks. Learn how to change a tire yourself.
Don't run out of gas. Gas stations get fewer and farther apart as you get closer to Black Rock City. Have everything you need: extra light bulbs, a gas can, fuses, etc., but remember this is the USA so there are plenty of places to shop along the way. Don't you have better things to do then hang out in parking lots at strip malls feeding the Capitalist monster? Also, don't eat at fast food restaurants. It's unhealthy and a waste of money, plus you are contributing to the destruction of the rainforest. Buy real food if you can. In most small towns, everything closes early. Do not expect to roll into town at 10 p.m. and find a restaurant open. They shut down early because they have to milk the cows in the morning.
We drove like hell all day to make good time. We spent our days driving, playing loud music, painting our toenails, writing new songs/letters/diaries, gossiping about our sex lives, what we were going to do once we got to the playa, etc. We only stopped for gas, sleeping and a few really important attractions. We made food while still moving. The driver gets to be "sweetie pie" and be waited on by the navigator/passenger. This system works. We didn't take pottie breaks. We would either hold it until we ran out of gas or pee in a bottle. Really, it's not so bad to pee in a bottle of moving van, plus it's pretty good entertainment for the driver who swerves and laughs a lot and points you out to passing road warriors.
We generally stopped well after dark at campsites or RV lots. It is always special to drive in at night and see what the sun brings you in the morning. Generally, it is a bunch of senior citizens, and they are all sleeping when we creep in like bad field dogs. In the dead of the night we would ride our bikes around, practice spinning fire, wash up, gorge on meat, and enjoy the night. The bathrooms and showers at the campgrounds were pretty clean and served their purpose. Sometimes we would get out music equipment and play Torch Job songs, or take pictures of each other half dressed or naked. Loads of fun, but you can't show those to the family - make sure you take some serious pictures, too.
The best thing to do is watch your map and stop when it seems good, or when you are exhausted and the highway becomes a dull video game. We tried to drive at least 10-14 hours a day. We always both stayed awake just to be safe and keep the driver alert and on course, and traded off a few times.
I can't really say, this was the greatest about anything. Everywhere was pretty much excellent. I think it is best to make the journey a discovery and have some surprises along the way. Better to be safe and get there. We weren't so precise about where we wanted to stop. Flexibility is a good thing to have on the road.
Our favorite state was Wyoming. The landscape is beautiful, and there were always interesting dyke-type babes at all the stops we made. We read that Wyoming was the first state to allow women to vote - maybe that's why the chicks are so hot.
We had a couple of scares. One was a huge-ass thunder/rain storm in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly, we became very interested in the religious programming on the radio. The other bad experience was with these scumbag Office Depot truckers who followed us for two days and ended up in our hotel parking lot in Winnemucca. Way creepy.
We both like to drive like nut jobs, but remain within speed limits to a certain degree. We were pulled over twice, but not for speeding. Once was for driving in the storage lane in Winnemucca, NV. Stay out of the storage lane there. Three cops pulled us over for that error, but they just gave a warning. What is the storage lane, you ask? Basically, it's the bike lane. They pulled us over at midnight; I have never seen anyone on a bike in Winnemucca.
As you get closer to Black Rock, you will see people on highway who are going to Burning Man as well. The first year, a bus in front of us dropped a bunch of yellow balls. I started to feel all quivery and achy. All those little hairs stood up on my neck, and I got a chill. My foot pumped the gas with more vigor, I turned up the music a little louder, and screamed out the window at my BRC peeps.
Other stops I can recommend for those neurotic folks who must know where to go are the state park just before Chicago in Indiana at the tip of Lake Michigan outside of Gary, Indiana. The Flaming Gorge outside of Green River in Wyoming is a bit off the highway but worth it. A stop here is necessary for all you "flamers."
Both times we went across we took Interstate 80 on the way out. It is direct and it's not too easy to get lost. I recommend stopping only when you have to. Interstate 80 starts in Pennsylvania and goes straight across. It gets a little messed up in Salt Lake City, but maybe they fixed that.
Speaking of which, be very careful in Salt Lake City. There is a weird turn off. Stay on the right side of the road. There is the tiniest sign that says go right with a little arrow. You will most likely miss it and blame the navigator. It is okay. You will get out eventually. They like to suck you in, and convert you there. Watch out, they will grab you and before you know it you will be a Mormon polygamist, which isn't so bad, but in Utah? Geez.
Stop at the Great Salt Lake. Eat lunch there and go out into the lake bed. We did. We met some burners in the parking lot and convinced this insane guy who was drenched in salt to go; he did. Taste the salt. Don't be afraid, put it in your mouth. Write your name with rocks. Be sure to check out the sculpture right before you get there and stop at the weird mausoleum just after the city. It's definitely worth it.
Observe all sunsets. Notice the Electric line towers that look like little Burning Man dudes, some look like little devils. Give thumbs up to the windmills. Pick hitchers if you dare. Buy food from wagons. Be sure to eat pie, real fresh pie. Talk to everybody along the way and give people little presents. Some guy gave these ladies little origami birds on his way to the burn in this tiny town grocery store. They were thrilled and showed him their treasures. Whatever you do, don't talk to Office Depot truckers.
As we went across, we camped in the van along the way, which saved us a lot of money and we used many of the same things we would at Burning Man. The first year it took us 4-5 days because we goofed off a bit along the way, including a stop over to visit my grandmother who gave us 20 lbs. of meat which we ate along the way.
The second year we did it in 3 days. That was NYC to Winnemucca. That is the final stop before your final jog to the dessert. Do not take the short cut, many have been broken down and become stuck or stranded. It is not worth it - the road is just too messed up. Winnemucca kinda sucks but there is a Wal-mart there and an Albertson's and one other big grocery store. People are nice and you get to see your fellow citizens in the parking lot. We met a lot of burners in that parking lot that are still friends today. The hotels seem to be pretty much sketchy, and something bit Sam. The second year we stayed in RV camp in town. It was much cleaner and friendlier. If you go out gambling security seems to chase you around and ask for ID. We also went to some bar up on the hill called the Mineshaft (it's true). It was not a gay club but a rock-n-roll biker bar almost trying to be. They gave us free drinks there and there were plenty of guys that were friendly. The girls wouldn't talk to us.
On the way back the first year we did a big roundabout cycle through San Francisco, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Texas, Tennessee (to see Elvis in Graceland) and then home again. That was mostly along Interstate 40, another highway that is easy to follow. The second year we drove straight back with a two-day stop in Denver for tattoos and other purposes. What a mistake that was. I don't recommend going to Denver. Go see nature's wonders instead.
AND PLEASE, don't hit the cattle coming to or leaving Burning Man as you go through the reservation. I saw so many cattle hit last year, especially on the way out. Cows are BIG; you are driving too fast or are an idiot if you hit one. Those metal grates in the road are to keep the cattle in the range. When you go over one know to watch out for cattle, plus there are signs. Have some fucking respect for the families that own those animals and depend on them for their livelihood and for the animals themselves.
If I were to do it again, I would take more time off and go up to the Black Hills/Dakotas region, visit the Crazy Horse Monument. Some other New York burners have done this, and it sounds amazing.
(This year Tara and Sam are being pussies and renting an RV. They are camping at Happyland. Come check out their band, Torch Job, and thank them for giving you all this nice information.)