August 22nd: Heavy Equipment Rules

I spent the morning with Support Services.  This is the heavy equipment team, the crew with the Cadillacs.  They are led by a guy named Big Stick and dispatched by a dude called Chaos.  One of them goes by Bruiser, and when asked how he got the name, just says, “Look at me.”  And don’t think for a minute that this is a men’s club.  One of the operators is a tall smart beauty named Snatch.  An orange-haired girl named Roo kicks ass on these machines.  She has an amazing presence and a tool-laden, harness-assisted swagger when she’s working.  These people are the rock stars of Black Rock City.


DPW Safety Meeting

4:20 Spire
One of the DPW crews has been putting up spires for days, along the Esplanade and down each of the Promenades at 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00. During the dust storms last weekend the spires and signs are what got people safely through town. They were about the only thing you could see on the streets besides other vehicles that seemed to appear out of nowhere through the blowing dust. Today at 4:20 the spires crew finished the job with a well-attended celebration.


Community Bike Project

This morning at the DPW meeting we got a beer cozy. In case you don’t already know, I’ll tell you: DPW swag is cool.

The morning meetings usually last about half an hour, and it’s a chance for everyone to get on the same page with the way things are progressing. Miss Handler emphasized DPW policies for fleet vehicles. Check the fluids; don’t lose the keys; don’t wreck the cars. Dave X talked about fuel needs. Logan went over the daily crew list. Spider announced that the gate is officially up and running. No more 6 mph or unlimited in and out privileges. Game Show delighted in presenting found radios to people who had lost them the night before. (Losing a radio is a cardinal sin here. Don’t do it, lest you be temporarily but severely humiliated.)


Driving To Black Rock City

Photo by Timmmii, 2007; Empire, NV
When driving to Black Rock City, it’s important to remember a few things:

  • Take Your Time – We know you’re excited to get to BRC. It is exciting, after all. But don’t try to rush things. You’ll get there. This means don’t try to pass slower vehicles on Hwy 447. This is a very dangerous single lane road to attempt to pass. This stretch of road is long, windy and hilly. You’ll be at the gate before you know it. Slow up.
  • Construction – If you’re coming from the west on I-80, be aware that there is some construction zones not too far from the Nevada border and traffic is winnowed down to one lane for several miles.
  • Slow It Down Through Small Towns – Once you get off I-80, you’ll be traveling through a number of small towns like Wadsworth, Nixon and Empire. Be very aware of your speed as you enter the city limits. We’re talking 25 mph. Seriously. Local police are sitting there just waiting for someone to zip through at 40 mph and will pull you over lickity split. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. (more…)

August 19th: Bring Your Goggles

The Way It Is
Today was so dusty and windy that it took me about 20 minutes to get from the Depot at 5:30 and the outskirts to 3:30 and the Esplanade.  I had to stop completely and wait about ten times because I couldn’t see at all.  Most people turned on their headlights so they could be seen by oncoming vehicles.  One radio call in particular went out late in the morning that said: “All com, all com, this is Make Believe.  I’m in a white truck.  If you see me sitting here, could you please come back with my twenty?”  That’s how dusty it was.


In Dust We Trust

Photo by Thessy, 2002


One word: dust.

Lots and lots and lots of playa dust, with frequent and numerous whiteouts.

While I can’t corroborate if these are the worst dust storms we’ve experienced in several years (though that’s what I’m hearing from veterans), believe it when you hear the rumors that this year is a dusty one.

Admittedly, I’ve only been OTP (On The Playa) since Thursday morning and both Thursday and Friday were relatively whiteout-free but I’m told it was pretty dusty earlier this week. And today, Saturday before the event, has been a doozy, with high winds, near-relentless dust and frequent whiteouts.

I can attest that despite my best intentions, my tent was saturated with playa dust earlier this afternoon when i left it. I shudder to think what i’ll be returning to.

So, my advice is to prepare yourself for the worst — get yourself plenty of bandanas, respirators or face masks to protect your mouth and nose, wraparound sunglasses and/or goggles to protect your eyes, and shore up your protective barriers around your campsite, especially if you’re camping in a tent — and hope for the best.

I know I can speak for most people already OTP that I really hope all your dust prep would be for naught and today is the last day of the whiteout conditions. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m wrong.

Playa dust – you can’t stop it, you can only hope and pray to contain it.