Did you make it out ok?

There were flags to the front and flags to the rear on the way out of Black Rock City on Monday.
There were flags to the front and flags to the rear on the way out of Black Rock City on Monday.

So we’ve tried all sorts of strategies for making a speedy exit from Black Rock — leaving right after the Burn on Saturday night, leaving early on Sunday, leaving late on Monday — but pretty much to no avail. You’re going to be sitting in traffic for awhile. The good thing, though, is that you’re going to be sitting with other Burners, so you’ll likely be better for the experience. You’ll hear about the philosophy of Be Here Now, if you so choose, and you’ll be offered refreshing beverages, maybe a bite to eat … and some VERY thoughtful person will make sure that there’s a Porta Potty brought in when the line gets real long.

That’s what happened on the way out Monday evening. It took about two and half hours to go from the city to the highway, which wasn’t too bad, considering the entertainment going on all around. How about you? When did you leave? What was it like? Share a story about your Exodus …

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.

122 thoughts on “Did you make it out ok?

  • This was my 5th year and the exodus was smooth..left at 7p.m. Sunday and hit the highway at 8:45. My very best kept secret is that I drive over to Sutcliff on Pyramid Lake and spend a heavenly night at the RV park. In the morning I have access to showers and Crosby’s serves hot coffee! The serenity and the beauty of the Lake are icing on the cake that is the Playa.
    Please…always drive with great caution and with thoughts of the safety of your fellow Burners and other creatures of the night.

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  • Three playa newbies who came to visit several veteran burners in various camps. Arrived Monday evening to sandstorms and ~2 hour entry delay, only frustration was that we kept running into very large “reserved” areas even outside the theme camp reserves. Obviously didn’t want to wake up and have to move camp on Tuesday. Settled at 6:05 and H.3. Exodus on Monday @ noon, took about 2 hours to pavement, and a few delays totaling ~1 hour extra due to broken down bus and previously mentioned rolled SUV/trailer. Also didn’t want to go >55mph to avoid losing stuff strapped on roof and add to the mounds of garbage already adorning the side of the road (amazing – who loses whole garbage bags w/o noticing or picking it up?!?). Arrival in Reno ~5pm. Amazing experience, we’ll be back!

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  • My 7th Burn, my husbands 1st. We are still married and he never once complained. Because he was a newbie I let him decide when we’d be leaving.

    We left 7:35 and I at 11:35 am on Sunday. We hit the main road at 1:27. I don’t mind the slow bump out as long as I can listen to Black Rock Radio – its a sad moment when the static leaves you no choice but to turn the dial.

    Luckily we did not have trash stored INSIDE the car. If you do, the wait is unbearable.

    In the perfect playa world 2 things would happen..
    1. trash dumping area inside the orange fence available only when exiting (hell, I’d pay $5 a bag
    and
    2. for those of you that tie your shit on top of the car or rv a separate exit line so someone (hell ya, I’d volunteer) can check to make sure your shit is secure.

    its sad when you drive away from this beautiful wasteland and see peoples waste all over the side of the road.

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  • My two friends and I left on Monday at about noon and got to the pavement by 2:45. While sitting in the back of the jeep, I found some waterguns that my friend had brought but never got around to using. We also had a TON of extra water that the DPW (or anyone else) wouldn’t take. I filled up the guns and started blasting my friends. The waterfight spilled out of the car and a few awesome strangers got involved for most of the crawl out. Running around squirting people in the baking sun, sharing good times, it was a perfect end to our first Burn. Thank you all for an incredible experience.

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  • On my last exodus a car just to the side broke down, and a gal in front of them and I stopped to help. After getting them going we proceeded to have the most fascinating and intimate conversation of the whole event in 3 minute/50ft intervals. stop get out, talk, line moves get in move 50 ft, rinse and repeat. Maybe it was that blissful state or maybe the connected anonymousness ??? Don’t know but it was a BEAUTIFUL connection that has been maintained since.

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  • I have flagged traffic for Exodus for several years and this year was the smoothest I have experienced. Tiki Bob and Blue Cross the Exodus managers have done an outstanding job and deserve our thanks.
    I left at noon on Tuesday and had a very easy drive out, hitting the pavement in less than half an hour.

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  • Our first burn.in late on wed so was in 645 and j but had a wonderful time. Missed the burn because due to the huge storm we were unable to leave the tent due to inability to see, then got 2 other burners who were lost in our tent and helped them find their way…..didn’t hear what time the burn would be so missed it, slept a little then left at 3am no probs getting out but would have loved to know if the burn was taking place and what time other than the radio
    next year will be better informed……….great job on the potties though…

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  • Sounds like Exodus was mostly better than prior years. Since procedures were not too different I attribute much of that to the smaller population and economy. We had about a 100 minute experience at 9am Monday. Much of it was just the slow drive along the long gate road — the packed merging section was not that long but did take plenty of time.

    Many years ago an experiment was done with “staging lots” at the peak times. People would park in a staging lot, wait there for the wait time, and then when flagged all drive out at once, no merging, no stop-and-go. But it was never done again, was it found to be a failure, or just too labour intensive?

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  • We left left our campsite Monday around 9:45 and hit the highway a little over an hour later! In previous years I usually left mid-day Sunday and spent hours cursing and kicking my stalled car in the blazing heat, so it was nice to get on the road quickly with no trouble.

    I would describe the exodus drivers as aggresively fair: nobody was shy about hitting the gas or the brakes to maintain one-car-at-a-time merging, caravan or no caravan. That’s ok – I met up with the others in my group a few miles down the road.

    I wish we had room in the car for someone by the side of the road in need of a ride. How did these people fare? Were any still stuck there after all the cars were gone?

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  • Does anyone track accidents on Exodus days? We saw several on Sunday morning. It might be worthwhile for Burning Man to obtain details (date/time/severity) from the Highway Patrol and publish them before the 2010 Burn as a warning to all about being certain to be well-rested, sober and drug free before leaving the playa. It is a real downer to see smashed and burned-out vehicles on your way to Gerlach from the playa.

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  • Exit was as it always is.. which is why I take the long leisurely route across the dirt and stop in at Pyramid lake.

    My question: When will we come together as a community and stop throwing trash bags on the side of the freeway. 1/4 mile away from Playa and the trashbags start appearing. Leave no trace means.. take it all the way to a proper receptacle.

    “Shame is often a more powerful force than virtue” – Lee Harvey.
    So start shaming your fellow burners into keeping their trash.

    oh.. and can ya’ll make it easier on us ESD folks.. Drink more water.. PLEASE..

    Have a nice day!

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  • My wife and I (and a number of campmates) opted to delay leaving until Tuesday, and it was well worth it. The chaos of the Burn dwindled into a saner camping trip, we indulged on many gifted treats given by those lightening the load for Exodus (many of which we then passed onto DPW). After breaking camp, we were treated to “Playa breakfast of epic proportions” by neighbors, and left in the early afternoon- it was impressive to realize that driving playa speed limit meant roughly a half hour to pavement with only a handful of other cars, but it was still much nicer than previous Exodii.

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  • Considering time is a man-made concept that I don’t buy into, we left on the last day of the event ~ perhaps it was Monday, Sept 8th, but not really sure. We left our camp site, hit a porta potty, then made it 2 blocks when someone still sitting in their campsite (complete with welcoming firepit!) offered us baked potatos as we drove by. Having not had dinner yet, then looking over toward the exodus line, we pulled right in and joined them.

    Ah, one last Playa connection before departing until next year. We spent the better part of the late night evening with them, snacking on baked potatos, spicy sausage, and drinking our water and coffee. Whoever they were, thank you! We loved your ‘parting hospitality!’

    Once we headed out, we actually checked the time . . . strictly for nastalgia purposes, of course . . . and it was 11:40pm. We had made it a full 8 days on the Playa!!! There was no line to wait in, no departing crowds, and nearly all the signs that once lined the exit road were gone (where do those go?).

    Once we got to the highway, we were immediately met by two huge semi’s going about 80,000 mph past us on the highway. Shocked by their violent pace, we sat there at the exit to the highway for a long time wondering if we really even wanted to leave. Once the right moment arrived, we entered the highway and began our journey home to San Diego.

    Our first intended stop was Bishop; this would have been half way home for us . . . but we made it as far as Reno and checked in to the Grand Sierra Resort where there was a fantastic AfterBurn party going on. For $49 per night, we showered, slept, and bought clean clothes as if we were experiencing them for the first time. Did I mention I hit it big (twice!) on penny slot machines that paid for our entire three night stay, meals, and new outfits? Oh yeah, the Source is good to us and gifted us with a beautiful three day transition between our new home, the Playa, to our beach home in Ocean Beach, CA.

    Thank you, Burning Man, for transforming our lives with 100% pure love and light. I have yet to find the words epic enough to tell our OBcean neighbors what exactly we experienced. . . how does one share life transforming Evolution into words?

    We’ll see you next year in Metropolis! Until then, I wish you peace and love.

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  • We left at 1 pm on Monday, 2 hours to blacktop. Much better than the year (2006?) the road was closed at Gerlach by people trying to get gas. This year we were queried on the way in by Sheriffs to ensure we had enough gas to make it out. Good idea.

    On exodus, each lane moved sequentially, but equally. Every time it seemed like everyone else was moving except us, we would move up to the same neighbor-cars we began with. Big kudos! Once we reached blacktop, it took 3 hours to I-80, due to a burner trailer rollover accident about a mile ahead of us (no ambulance, everyone walking around).

    I agree with the above suggestion to publicise MVA statistics in several venues (website, Survival Guide, signage, BMIR). Besides actually seeing an accident, nothing gets your attention better than a reality-check listing of motor vehicle accidents and required hospitalizations. We love our fellow burners and want them to be safe.

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  • Left Sunday morning.

    Towed our friend’s van out to the road as her alternator wouldn’t have taken the idling in line.

    She fired up and was off with us following.

    Very generous parts folks in Fernley helped them put a new alternator in after we had split off.

    Drive home was uneventful except nearly driving off the road in Idaho. Thereafter, my friend drove while I hallucinated from lack of sleep (believe me, I tried to sleep but could not).

    Slept for 18 hours after we arrived back in Montana Monday evening. 1000 miles both ways is too far to drive in an old conversion van after a week in the dusty desert.

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  • This year I left about 2:00 on Monday and it took about 2 and 1/2 hours to the blacktop. Last year I left about the same time on Monday and it was smooth sailing all the way through (barely any waiting).

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  • I shouldn’t tell you this, because everyone else will probably do it next year and eliminate the possibility of our repeating it…..but as I can’t stop from bragging about our Miraculously Good fortune I will tell you our secret exit strategy. Consider it our final Gift to this years Burning Man community…..my condolences to those who chose to skip the Temple Burn and ended up waiting in traffic.

    After much tortured hemming and hawing over whether to leave before or after the Temple Burn, we finally somewhat sadly got in our car and decided to skip it in favor of not waiting in traffic. As we were driving out, we heard on BM radio that there was a wait. Figuring what the hell….if we have to wait anyways…..Drove to the Esplinade and caught one of the last art cars headed to the Burn. Saw the Burn. Jumped on the first art car leaving, scurried to our packed car, and drove out…..

    Well, apparently that last wave of people committed to leaving early were just about gone by the time the Burn was over, creating a narrow window of ZERO traffic to be filled by the first wave of people that stayed for the Burn. As we were in that wave, it took us 15 MINUTES TO THE PAVEMENT!!!

    60+ mph to Gerlach and we were pulling into our hotel in Reno by 1:30 AM !!

    May the Traffic Gods bestow their blessings forever!!!

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  • We had a fantastic time this year. We were all packed and ready to hit the road Sunday morning at 5:30am. Drove right out to the road. Right outside of Gerlach, I glanced over at the sunrise light and my car went off the road into the soft shoulder. I couldn’t believe it. In trying to recover the car, which I could not, the embankment got to be a 45 degree angle and as I tried harder to get the car back up, it hit some street signs, went airborne and flew about 20 feet in the air and landed on the roof. I was pinned inside. All of our stuff went all over the road. My husband was behind me and saw the whole thing.

    So glad the road was heavily patrolled as the officers were able to get the Helivac from Renown Hospital for me. I spent 2 days in the ICU there and
    have multiple fractures in my neck along with sterum and pelvis. I had to have neck surgery to fuse my 4, 5, 6, vertebrae together alnog with wires. I spent a week in the hospital there. I have along road ahead of me but its all a miracle that I didn’t hurt anyone else. Its going to take a year to fully recover. We lost our car, contents and wonderful playa bikes. Sad.

    I am so grateful that I am alive and will have no spinal cord damage from this. It was terrible. I was treated so well by everyone and so thankful to all that have come to my aide.

    I didn’t fall alseep and was not drinking, (don’t), speeding, or trying to pass anyone, just a quick distraction and off I went into that soft stuff.

    So now I have my Playa Bling and my life.

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  • I went solo from Chicago (virgin burn) and had over 2 weeks to enjoy a road trip…I got to day 5 Sat and was enjoying everything including the survival mode that my body went into as far as the heat and the dust. And with that I left Saturady at 7pm when I heard that the burn would be postphoned til 10PM! I know it was my first burn but I learn a great deal, saw a lot and liked what I saw…So with this in mind it gives me a reason to return with friends in a rented RV and see both burns! PEACE!

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  • My first burn – wonderful to see the city grow all week long. Our camp loaded up at 4am Monday and hit the pavement less than 30 mins later, maybe 25? The road to Fernley was populated, but moving along fine. I’m glad we left before dawn – I wouldn’t have liked to see the city so empty when the sun came up on Monday morning. Early departure worked for me with a 13 hour drive to phoenix following.

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