Burning the Midnight Hour

Burning Man 2009 TicketFeathers and leather and fur … oh my!

As my time as a Digital Vagabonding Roads Scholar draws to a close, I am prepping for the ultimate meeting of nomads on the roam—Burning Man. Held every year in Black Rock City, Nevada, Burning Man is a gathering of approximately 50,000 people who meet in a forum of radical self-expression and self-reliance. This will be my first time at Burning Man, and as I prepare for this final trip, I’ve learned that it is nothing like prepping for “just another road trip.”

I planned to start prepping for Burning Man about a month ago, but it’s been pushed to the last minute and the last few days have been filled with errands, packing, list making and organizing. In my attempt to be prepared for whatever I might find on the playa, I have thoroughly overpacked. Never before have I prepared so much stuff for seven days.

First, there are the costumes. I could wear shorts and a t-shirt on the playa, but why should I when most other people will be decked out outrageous costumes ranging from elaborate Renaissance wear to absolutely nothing at all? To save myself from sun burning unmentionable places, I’ve opted for a nice mix that includes black leather, green fringe and glittery wings.

Burning Man Costumes leather felt feathers wingsNext there is the bike. Apparently Black Rock City has ballooned to such an incredible size that you need a bike to comfortably travel around the area. For this purpose, I have bought an old, rusty $10.00 mountain bike at a local second-hand shop. Right now the tires are flat and I had to buy a tube for the front tire, but the brakes work, so I’ve got that going for me. It still needs to be wiped down and decorated a bit as well.

Then there is the food. Because I will need to pack out all grey water with me, I need to consider what to eat that will require minimal leftover water from cooking and cleaning. A trip to the grocery store yesterday settled most of my food fears. Since I’m far from a cook anyway, my meals will primarily consist of peanut butter sandwiches, trail mix, granola bars and Gatorade, but I also found some easy-to-cook meals that heat up in sealed packages. I have fruit and pudding cups, crackers, powdered lemonade, cookie packs, bagels and tuna fish. I’ve decided I’d rather have MOOP (Burning Man lingo for trash) than grey water to pack out. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Burning Man Supplies duct tape water bottle travel gearFinally, there is all the other stuff. Like I said before, this isn’t like any other camping trip I’ve gone on. I need to take rebar to hold my tent down, a shade structure to protect myself from the harsh desert sunshine, 14 gallons of water, a structure to help evaporate grey water and a container to carry remaining grey water home, flashlights and bike lights, rope, ear plugs, dust masks, extra rope, something to keep dust out of my tent and vinegar water. By the time the car is loaded, I’ll be ready for Armageddon!

It all looks chaotic now, but I’m sure watching the Man burn will be reward enough for the distances I’ve covered, professional milestones I’ve achieved, and feathers, leather and fur I’ve bought over the course of the summer as a 2009 Roads Scholar.

5 Responses to “Burning the Midnight Hour”

  1. leland

    i’m jealous for u….i hope the weather cooperates and you have a great time…can’t wait to hear your stories when you get back..have fun

  2. Jill

    I’m wondering if any of the old dance recital costumes (or their pieces) would have worked?? Maybe next year!

  3. NickMeyer

    SO awesome that you’re going out there. If you’re up for it, it would be really cool to have a “ThinkPiece” essay for Volume One to publish upon your return! It’s so epic out there, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to go or not… maybe…

    Hope you have an amazing experience.

  4. Nomadic Matt

    i want to see some funky photos of costumes, art, and burning men

  5. Carrie

    Hi JoAnna,

    I must say, I’m soooooo jealous. I’ve always wanted to go to Burning Man. I can’t wait to see your pictures and read about your adventures. Have a wonderful time!


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