Tap the Sun! Solar Camping on Playa with RASPA

Dave Marr was Burning Man’s web team project manager back in the day (think late 90s – early aughts), and he now makes a spectacle of himself volunteering for Media Mecca. And well, he’s hopped on the solar bandwagon, and (like every good hippy) now he wants to share the gospel with YOU. Here’s Dave:

“O’ is my power to capture the sun and control the lighting!”

Dave's slick solarized camp
Dave’s slick solarized camp (photo by Dave Marr)

Since 1998, I’ve camped in Black Rock City every way imaginable. I’ve slept in tents, in the back of trucks, in RVs old and new, and even atop of a hay bale on burn night — at a close but safe distance from the fiery embers.

I’ve been a member of small camps and large villages on The Esplanade, on the Center Camp grid, deep within street-sign-required territories, and even once went rogue and guerrilla on the back-side, aka the outer ring, also affectionately referred to as The Assplande.

Electricity, bitches! (photo by Dave Marr)
Electricity, bitches! (photo by Dave Marr)

In all of my adventures, I’ve learned the greatest comfort of all on the playa is, without a doubt, not cigarettes or aged whisky, but having electricity. That mysterious life-feeding juice required by lights, music, A/C, air-pumps, electronics, cameras, batteries, etc. In short, everything annoying, addictive and unholy in our modern world. Apologies to those from Darktardia Village. You live in a world I do not understand.

For me, each year is another opportunity for a new experience or personal journey. This year I decided to go solar by participating in the inaugural RASPA (Radically Affordable Solar for Playa Artists) program provided by those industrious non-profit do-goers at Black Rock Solar. $50 per panel rental, from Aug 18 to Sept 2. Not bad. Not bad at all.

This was my setup:

(1) 235w Solar Panel (1) 750a Deep Cycle Marine Battery (1) 500w Inverter (1) Solar Charge Controller

The panel gathers the energy, the charge controller moderates and monitors the energy flow, the battery stores the electricity, and the inverter is what you plug devices into. Basically it’s less than a milk-crate of gear not including the panel. With this I created my own personal electrical grid to power a handful of LED lights, Bluetooth speakers, iPod, iPad, phone, my MacBook Pro and bevy of camera batteries. I was working on a 20-day documentary project. So I needed power every day, all day, and without fail.

Dave's camp is totally LIT. (photo by Dave Marr)
Dave’s camp is totally LIT. (photo by Dave Marr)

The upside of individual solar: it’s basically plug ‘n’ play, totally quiet (no obnoxious generator sound!), and best of all it’s self-sustaining with no gasoline to buy, refill or spill. No clogged air filters either.

The downside: you have to maintain your deep cycle battery, i.e. continuously use it or put it on a trickle charger year round to keep its integrity. Personally, I consider this a good reason to set up a string of LED lights on a timer in my backyard.

In honesty, I did have one major hiccup … I didn’t properly plug my solar panel into the charge control at the start. For four days I watched (via the charge controller) as my battery level slipped from green to red until it went dead. There aren’t many things that can go wrong with solar but I found an important one. Hook your shit up right foo! When I corrected the wiring mistake it took (no lie) ONE afternoon of sunlight to fully recharge my battery.

One. Afternoon. Bitches. Then, my battery stayed in the green until I packed it out. Oh, and the cost of my solar setup was less than a ticket to the event.

(more…)

Halcyon’s Tips & Tricks #15


Some of these are reminders, but need repeating.
TOPICS:

  • Bike Borrowing
  • Porto Potties Basics
  • Leave No Trace – ANYWHERE
  • Respect The Art
  • Mandatory Adventure Bag*
  • Meeting (non-placed) campmates (Or listen to Caveat’s alternative Tip)
  • & more

You can check out ALL my Tips & Tricks videos at Lustmonkey.com or search my name on this blog.

* CONTENTS of Mandatory Adventure Bag: dustmask/goggles/water bottle/light jacket/flashlight/1ply TP/wet nap & zip lock/ lip balm/sunscreen, sunglasses, cup/spoon.

Burning Man 2014 Rules and Regulations

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 3.48.03 pm
Hint: download the PDF, it’s much easier to read.

Is my medical marijuana card valid in Black Rock City? Can I have an open container on an art car? Can I bring fireworks? What’s the speed limit? Is it cool if I pee on the playa?

These questions and more are answered in this handy 2-page infographic PDF containing all the key rules and regulations that are enforced in Black Rock City.

Download the PDF, print it (if you need to) and make sure your friends and campmates know what’s in there … before you head to Black Rock City.

Why, here it is now.

 

Want to Avoid Getting Pulled Over at Burning Man? Obey the Law

policecar
Cue that sinking feeling.

Law Enforcement Officers in (and on the way to and from) Black Rock City are sworn to uphold the law. Just like in the real world, it’s up to Burning Man participants to know those laws and to follow them. Note that if you are stopped, the officer may choose to have a dog sniff the outside of your vehicle looking for contraband.  

Here are the laws that you should be aware of to avoid being pulled over. LEOs particularly watch for the following in and around Black Rock City:

  1. Speeding: drive the speed limit at all times … the speed limit on Gate Road is 10mph and within BRC (after the Greeters station) is 5mph.
  2. Safe driving: drive carefully and safely, wear your seatbelt, don’t drive erratically, ride on the roof of your vehicle or hang off the side, or drink and drive … and use your turn signals.
  3. Obscured license plates: make sure your rear license plate isn’t blocked by your bike, bike rack, dirt or anything else (you might consider attaching your license plate to your bike so it’s clearly visible, but if you do, make sure it’s illuminated with a clip-on LED).
  4. Registration tags: have up-to-date valid registration tags on your vehicle AND trailer.
  5. Non-functioning lights: make sure your license plate lights, tail lights, running lights, turn signals and headlights are all working.
  6. Open container: don’t have an open alcohol container in your vehicle.
  7. Load & littering: make sure your load is safely and reasonably attached, and don’t toss anything out the window.
  8. Non-permitted driving: once you enter BRC and park your vehicle at your campsite, you cannot drive it in Black Rock City without a BRC Department of Mutant Vehicles-issued permit sticker.

Of course, always carry a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. Lastly, being nice if you do get pulled over makes things go much smoother.

Art Tours? Yes, we have Art Tours.

Mike Garlington's Photo Chapel  Photo by Anthony Peterson
Mike Garlington’s Photo Chapel
Photo by Anthony Peterson

One thing that keeps me coming back to Black Rock City each year is the ART.

It has been said many times that the playa is a blank slate, a tabula rasa, a seemingly infinite empty space that all of us who are the Burning Man community fill up for a week with so much art that it is bursting at the seams, and seeing how the playa challenges artists is a thing of beauty.

Our artists are playa hardened. They are well aware of how a massive, not unexpected dust storm affects agility of machinery and mechanics. They know how a rain storm stops all forward momentum and that a wind gust can topple the mightiest monument. In the environment of Black Rock City, just spending months building an art piece and transporting it is only a small part of the challenges that artists face to fill up that space. They are planning for an art show at the edge of the apocalypse, with insidious alkaline powder invading every electronic device, with huge and heavy sculptural forms being moved across the soft packed playa surface all using an infrastructure they and Burning Man set up for only a few weeks a year.

Art Tours at Everywhere Photo Moze
Art Tours at Everywhere
Photo Moze

Our artists are aware of the vastness of the space they are attempting to fill up. I believe they are basically mad to even attempt to do what they do every year and those of us who are not building art out there are so fortunate to be at this point in history; to be a part of this thing we call Burning Man.

Sometimes on playa, we can take the art for granted. You will always stumble into something wonderful on your journeys to and fro and that is indeed planned. But for you art junkies out there who want to see it ALL each year, the ARTery is Black Rock City’s portal for Art Tours, and this year there is a panoply of options to explore.

A web page with all the information you need is in the works, but here are some details for now. You should stop by the ARTery at 6:30 and Esplanade, next to Everywhere, if you are interested in any of these tours. The ARTery’s hours are 9am to 6pm every day (closed for lunch from 1-2pm) and they would love to see you! Keep reading for all you need to know about Art Tours this year.

(more…)

Growing Up Burning

The Catch - Norman RockwellThe last time a debate about children at Burning Man flared up, I asked one of the people I knew who had grown up as a “burner kid” what she thought about the question.  Electra Carr went to her first Burning Man when she was 11.  Now 21, she sent an eloquent response to my question … which got lost between inboxes for a year-and-a-half because I really am that bad at getting back to people sometimes.  

So this is a horribly late addition to the debate, but is still worth reading.  

Other kids of burners want to weigh in?  Leave a comment at the bottom, or if you had a growing up experience at Burning Man and want to write a guest essay about it, send me a message.  (Caveat at BurningMan dot com).  I’ll try to get back to you a little sooner.  I swear.

From here on, the words you read are Electra’s.

- Caveat

 

There has been endless discussion about the subject of children attending Burning Man. I have heard the many opinions scattered across the board, from people who do take their kids and think its vital part of their childhood and parents who can’t imagine bringing their children into the desert. People who think it should be each person’s choice, others who rally for a committee to decide. There are those who are uncomfortable with the thought of a kid wandering past while they may be doing something they deem inappropriate for young eyes and people who are fine with having kids attend as long as they’re cordoned off in Kidsville. And of course, people who really don’t care and wish everyone would just stop talking about it.

However, at the focal point of this topic there is an opinion that has been greatly overlooked.  What about the children themselves who had grown up amongst the culture? It is a voice worth exploring, and as no two experiences are ever the same at Burning Man, I’d like to encourage everyone to talk to a Burner kid about it. I was such a child and while I’ve grown away from the Burning Man culture and rarely make the pilgrimage out to the Playa, I was there, I experienced, and I was changed.

(more…)

Project Fail?

The Great Rebar Pile

The great rebar pile.

 

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison

Now that we’ve reminisced on all the great times, dissected the State Of The Man and searched for videos of our favorite art in action, I’m wondering: What did you try to do that didn’t work out?

People pull off some amazing feats in the desert. Fellow burners inspire and encourage us to dream big and go big. But sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes we have too much to do and not enough time or help. And sometimes, well, who knows what went wrong.

For years I’ve wondered what was intended for the piles of lumber and building materials way out in open playa, roped off but obviously not complete (and sometimes not even started)? There are the partial domes, crossed-out cardboard signs and piles of “camp stuff” off to one side. What were you supposed to be, towering stack of palettes and rope lights? (more…)

Law Enforcement in Black Rock City

The Man, 2013 (photo by John Curley)
The Man, 2013 (photo by John Curley)

As the Department of Public Works toils away building the infrastructure of Black Rock City, the law enforcement agencies who patrol our fair metropolis are also on site now, setting up their own infrastructure.

These law enforcement agencies — BLM Rangers, Pershing County Sheriffs Office — are there to enforce the Federal, State and Local laws that apply to us on the Black Rock Desert — yes, these laws still exist at Burning Man. While Black Rock City is certainly a remote and freewheeling place, it’s also a functioning metropolis. And just like in any other city, law enforcement patrols BRC day and night to keep the city safe and compliant with the laws that allow us to have the event in the first place. So yes, any illegal action on your part can lead to a citation (more common) or your arrest (rare).

The Burning Man organization works hard year-round and on playa to establish a solid working relationship with these agencies, and while there are always growing pains in a new year and with a new BLM crew, we’re committed to cooperative collaboration to create a workable and sensible environment for everybody to enjoy. To that end, we encourage participants to report all interactions with law enforcement — both positive and negative — by filling out a Law Enforcement Feedback Form at Ranger HQ, so we can use that information in our daily on-playa meetings with law enforcement.

Law enforcement officers have a difficult yet important job, both on and off the playa. Please respect the valuable work that they do. It is the duty of all law enforcement personnel to enforce the law, and they are there to help protect our citizenry.

That said, you should absolutely know your civil rights, as they are still in full effect on playa as well. For more information, please watch this video from the ACLU about protecting your civil rights at Burning Man: