Friday, September 11, 2009

Burning Man's campy side

Having a well laid-out, efficient camp site is essential to a more comfortable life in Black Rock City. And that's just what we had thanks to the veteran Burners who were part of our nine-person group.The camp design followed a pretty simple theory: Build a wall of vehicles, arrange a cluster of canopies on the downwind side of that protective barrier and arrange tents in a semi-circle opposite the canopies to create an enclosed space. (Click on any pic to view it larger.)

We lashed all four canopies together and anchored the cluster to the side of our U-Haul trailer, creating a protected space that served as kitchen, dining room and living room.
Scott, Dean and Steve relax during the hottest part of the day. The canopies tended to be most crowded during the middle of the afternoon and the worst dust storms . . .Like this one lashing the tent that Tim and I shared. We chose this particular tent because it didn't have a mesh ceiling. We even installed Velcro strips along the edges of the windows. Still, after several dust storms everything in the tent was coated with a layer of alkaline powder.Here's a map of Black Rock City. Streets running in an arch had alphabetical names inspired by this year's Burning Man theme, evolution. The diagonal streets correspond with time on a clock. We were located at 6:45 and Jurassic, marked by the orange dot on the map. Note the landing strip on the right side of the city.You probably noticed the colorfully decorated bikes in some of the pics. They absolutely are an essential part of the Burning Man experience.

Black Rock City stretches for 9 miles from end to end, and the central Playa probably has a diameter of about 2 miles. The only vehicles allowed to roam the streets are the mutant varieties.

So, without a bike you're largely limited to roaming the walkable space surrounding your camp.
Penni relaxing in the shade.
We ended up building our camp right in the middle of six other camp sites, so we had lots of neighbors. And they seemed to love spending time under our canopies. They'd often show up with snacks, drinks, sparklers and other gifts.

These two girls are best friends from the Bay Area. They camped with the father of the girl on the left and her brother. It was the family's fourth or fifth Burning Man.

On this hot afternoon, they delivered chocolate cake shots made of several liquors and chased with a sugar-coated slice of lemon. Don't worry, they were both 21.
Our neighbors on the back side of the camp also were from the Bay Area. They were very sweet and let us take spins in their amazing silver fish tandem bike.
Ambrose and two friends - also from the Bay Area (notice a trend here) - lived in a nearby tee-pee. This pic was taken inside a small tent next to the tee-pee, but it isn't what you think. Look closely and you'll notice measuring spoons, flour, salt, spices and other cooking ingredients.

This was Ambrose's bread-making kitchen. Every day he mixed up several loaves here then baked them outside in a Dutch oven over coals. He served them up sliced with butter and honey taken from bee hives in his yard back home.
We also received visits from complete strangers, such as The Captain who showed up one morning and played a tune for us on his homemade flute. Following Black Rock City tradition, we'd offer each new guest a drink, some food, a shady place to sit and some friendly conversation.We forced most of our camp visitors to pose for Polaroid photos then hung the shots along a canopy post.This is Pinkie, our official camp mascot. She traveled all the way from Chicago to become a Burner. Obviously, she was VERY popular with visitors, and she even managed to visit the Pink Mammoth, Burning Man's hottest dance club camp. Pink Mammoth is a non-profit creative arts collective from San Francisco. More on our time at the group's dance club in later posts.

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