There are miles and miles of welcome signs and road signs to put up in Black Rock City, and a dedicated crew of about nine, with occasional drop-ins and transfers from other departments, has been tackling the task since July.
They create all the signs out at the Ranch, and the crew not only makes the street signs that help you find your way through the city, but they also create the old-time sequential signs that line the road into BRC. In all, about 1,500 signs of various signs and shapes are produced, and then attached to stakes in the desert floor.
Today the Sign crew was out on the entrance road, installing the signs that give you something to read on the way in. The first signs remind you that the speed limit is 10mph, but crew members regularly had to flag down early arrivers and tell them to slow down. The day was hot and dusty, and every vehicle that came in kicked up a little more. The faster you go, the more dust there is, so remember on your way in to do the city a favor and slow down.
“That’s the whole idea,” After Five was saying. “Slow down and read the signs.”
There’s plenty to read. There are about 300 signs along the four-plus miles of entrance road, and Larry Harvey writes them himself. He also picks the quotations, too. “I think he had Rod (Garrett’s) passing on his mind,” After Five said, referring to the architect of Black Rock City who died away earlier this week, causing much heaviness of heart here in the city. “They’re a little dark.”
Dark or not, the signs engage your mind and touch your soul. They let you know, or remind you, that Burning Man isn’t just a rave in the desert. There’s something unique and special going on here, and you sense it on the road in. The quotations come from a variety of sources, everyone from Milton Friedman talking about transformational politics to Milan Kandera speaking of “delightful encounters” in “The Incredible Lightness of Being.”
And here’s another reason you might want to slow down and enjoy the read: You can’t find what’s written on the signs anywhere else. They’re not reproduced on the website, nor included in the guide book. So you get one chance to read them. Then they’re gone, just like everything that’s being built here.
The last sequence of signs (before the reminders to obey the speed limit) might be the most apt: “Welcome to Black Rock City … a great place … to get lost in.” There will be plenty of people doing the same thing, so enjoy the adventure. It won’t be like this again.