Desert travelogue

road-1001-copyThere’s something about Polaroid pictures that says “vacation” to me. And Burning Man is a lot of things, and I guess vacation is one of them. So here’s a little collection of Polaroids to whet your appetite for the trip, and for the desert, and for the drive across Indian land, and for that feeling of excitement you’ll get in the pit of your stomach when you get off Route 80 in Wadsworth and head for the dust and the heat and the fun.

Be careful, though, especially if you haven’t been out this way before. There are a number of places that have reduced speed limits. You’ll really want to slow down to a crawl, unless you want to make a pricey contribution to the local traffic department budget.

When you start heading across Route 447, you are quickly reminded of just how beautiful the desert landscape is.
When you head out Route 447, you are quickly reminded of how beautiful the desert is.


Gerlach is still pretty sleepy and quite, with mostly DPW folks around there now, but that's changing every day. By the time you get here, it'll feel like a festival town.
Gerlach is still pretty sleepy and quiet, with mostly DPW folks around there now, but that's changing every day. By the time you get here, it'll feel like a festival town.

The community spirit is strong in Black Rock City, but some of the tasks are solitary nonetheless.
The community spirit is strong in Black Rock City, but some tasks are solitary nonetheless.
Desert scenes don't change for eons, except for when a bunch of people decide to get together for a party, and then man-made items pop up in the unlikeliest of places.
Desert scenes don't change for eons, but man-made objects pop up in unlikely places.

About the author: John Curley

John Curley has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 he spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. John is a longtime newspaper person and spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since leaving the Chronicle in 2007, he was a contributing editor on Blue Planet Run, a book about the world's water crisis, and for the past two years has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also started an event and editorial photography business, and is also working on a book about the "Ten Dollar Doc" from Arco, Idaho, which will make a lovely film someday.

23 thoughts on “Desert travelogue

  • Yeah, drive slow through those little towns… which we did, but ALSO make sure your license plate isn’t *obscured* by your bikes – we found out the hard way last year that it’s a $200 fine…

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  • And 25 MPH through town really means 25 MPH, friends. Not 26, not 27. Heck, go 23 MPH and be really safe – every such town’s going to have children and dogs unaccustomed to high traffic, and you’re lucky if a speeding ticket is the only problem you cause by speeding.

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  • Follow the speed limit always! ESPECIALLY if you’re young! Police enforcement enjoys messing with youngsters, under the assumption they’re oblivious to their rights. Follow the law, but KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Don’t let HIGH PRESSURE tatics scare you. We’ve all heard stories of the scary tribal police- don’t get caught up being part of one of these crazy stories!

    Other than that, I CANNOT WAIT. last weekend before the playa!! AHHHHH!

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  • beware of speeding limit near towns, especially gerlach ,it goes fast from 55 to 45 in no time, got two tickets last year , plus a 1000 added to my insurance premium!!!

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  • Greetings BRC!

    We can almost -smell- the playa from our Ranger Out Post here in San Diego!

    We’ll be “HOME” Sat. Aug. 29th.

    Please stop by for a *SHOUT OUT*

    “Radio Electra 89.9 FM” on your playa dial,

    7:15 and ESPLANADE

    We put the ROCK in Black Rock City. Tune in for an eclectic array of music, mayhem and commentary. Theme camps, villages, and artists wishing to make radio announcements about events on the playa are welcome to stop in or contact us by email prior to the event. Celebrating our 10th year on the playa.
    Hometown: Tucson, AZ
    URL: http://www.radio-electra.org
    Contact: electrafm (at) comcast (dot) net

    “RANGER TESTED, RANGER APPROVED!”

    Listen up, ya hear!

    RB x 2

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  • Thanks for the extraordianary photos and updates, it really helps us feel part of things in these days of extrecating ourselves from “real life.”
    Echoing others:
    Can’t wait,
    Thanks so much

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  • Yes, we are all eager to feel the crunchy dusty playa floor sticking to our toes. I admit, the first 2 years I drove in on 447 like a soccer mom late for pilates with too many non fat lattes pumping thru my veins.

    No tickets, and luckily no accidents, but what an ass I was. I added nothing to my experience and everyone elses but stress and a continuation of “the other worlds” problems.

    Now I exit off of I80 and pull directly into my chill area. Give me an hour to gas up, clean the windshield, have a couple Indian tacos, and continue the beginning of my experience. Only then will I park my cheeks on the seat and drive that final 90 miles to my Valhalla.

    Hope to see you all there safe and without any Po interaction experience. You may see me on the road, I’ll be sticking to a shade under the speed limit and I’ll be the truck who pulls over any chance I get to let others pass.

    Have A Mighty Burn, HB

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  • I not much of a writer as I am the artist. Hurricanebill, thank you for reminding me of some of the essence of the Burning Man experience. I too feel the love for this incredible phenomenon that occurs, here in Black Rock City. My life, and how I see it, will forever be changed. I am profoundly thank full. Burning Man has given my faith back in humanity.
    If you see me, stop and say hi so I can give you a hug.
    See you all on the other side.
    Suzanne Vasaeli aka Zann

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  • The polaroids are way groovy! Back in 1993-94 there was a sign for a town called Limbo out there by the dry lake Winnemucca. I sure miss that sign! Guess it was too hard to keep one there–too tempting to steal.

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  • Hey Curly – A great reminder of the awesome pictures in 2007………….thanks again! Can’t wait to get there and see you if you’re around!……………jerry

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  • I like that idea of pulling off and chilling out before the final trek and it being part of the experience. I know I don’t need the extra stress. You get there when you get there – we’ll wait for you.

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  • I sell Insurance and last week one of my fellow burners / clients told me that this year they are cracking down on trailers and load capacity. So, make sure (if you’re hauling a trailer) that your vehicle is allowed to carry the weight. I hear it’s a $1,000 ticket! Yikes!

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  • Just a suggestion about speed on the road to the man. Use your cruse control to keep your speed right, after driving on freeway going 25 mph seems so slow and lead foot can happen and you don’t want a ticket. Plus it gives your foot a rest.

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  • I just wanted to say thank you for the photos (and the speed hints).
    You’re right. There is something about your polaroid photos that says “vacation”.
    Like we’re looking back in time. Love ‘em.

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  • Ya… watch your speed.

    Last year we were running a little late… we were about an hour north/west of burning man in my 1972 vw van. Doing 45 in a 45 zone i think ” heck… gotta speed up!” So up to 55 i push it.

    Well right around the next corner a deer is standing still right in the middle of our lane. Dam those brakes work good! tossed my passenger right under the dash. but that was really close… 35 MPH the rest of the way!

    I also made a bit of a movie here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crSL2tuH5YQ

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