After a beautiful day on Sunday we got word that bad weather was expected to arrive in the early morning hours Monday. Rain, wind, lightning and hail. When we heard this at dinner time it did not seem possible but I went out and put some tape on Niner-Zero at points where I know the rain would leak in and checked that all was secure.
Around dusk I headed into the city and low and behold there were TWO community bikes in the bike rack at the airport. Last year I did not see a single one available anywhere for the entire event. So I biked into the city and then spent the next hour and a half riding around the open playa checking out the art. I knew that as soon as I parked it someone else would take it so I decided to cover a lot of ground while I had the chance.
Photo by Dean
Later I parked the bike at Center Camp which can be seen in the center of the inner circle in this picture. It was dark, of course, and as I was walking around I heard a familiar voice behind me calling my name. I turned around and there was Ash and her boyfriend Mitch. We had met out on the playa last year but as I turned around I did a double take. There were two of her! Ok, but only one of him. Yeah, for real. This year she brought her identical twin sister Allison with her. This was Allison’s first burn.
So, how did I meet meet Ash and Mitch LAST year? I was hanging out in the bar named “Sharkies”. It is both a bar and an art car so it cruises around the open playa while the patrons sit around the bar on the inside enjoying the open bar and good company. At one point the bar tender handed a drink to me to pass back to the guy steering the tail. Apparently only the driver in the front can’t drink and drive. Anyway, I turned around, passed the drink to Ash and then she passed it to Mitch and he gave it to the “tail driver”. We all introduced ourselves and went on to have a great evening together on the playa. At some point we got out and Ash and I played a round of “Tether Fire”. Just like the “Tether Ball” of your youth except the ball is on fire. Lots of fire. It was a lot of fun but if you ever do play, you have to remember to duck when you are not in a position to hit the ball. Don’t ask me how I know this.
So we went on to have another amazing evening on the playa together. No tether fire this year although we did go to the bowling ally and check out a lot of incredible art. The moral of the story? You don’t have to go to Burning Man with anyone else. As soon as you arrive you have almost 70,000 new friends. That is one of the best things about Burning Man. I headed back about midnight. Yeah, I had to walk. I wanted to be fresh and rested to give rides the next morning.
But, it was not to be. About 4:00 AM I was woken up by a light rain and tried to go back to sleep but after a while I realized that was not going to happen so I got up and headed into the camp. By then the initial rain was over but as the sky lightened we could see more off to the west and south drifting our way. The worst of it arrived around 6:00 or so and by 7:00 they closed the airport and the main gate. Then it got really bad. Rain, lightning and hail. Everything that was forecasted except for the wind. Thankfully.
So we all congregated under our shade structure/dining room. Good thing the shade structure was also water proof. But, as the morning wore on it became necessary to push the expanding puddles of water on the roof to the edges to avoid having the entire thing tear or collapse. As it turned out we had no problems with it and it served us well as a shade structure for the remainder of the week.
So, what happens when you walk on a rain soaked playa? You magically become taller. Amazing! Heavier too. It really makes a mess and it also leaves craters on the playa and eventually it breaks off and then with the next step you just pick up a new batch. This is why they closed the gate, the airport and allowed no driving on the playa while it was wet. The cars that were inline and on the playa had to stay put until the gate reopened. Those on the pave roads were turned around and had to head back. To where was a big question for many but I understand there were a lot of great parties in parking lots all over that part of Nevada.
It rained on and off for a few hours and the entire playa became pretty sloppy. Standing water everywhere. Here you can se some more rain moving in from the south west and we got quite a bit of lightning also.
By early afternoon the rain stopped, the sun came out and we sent Murph out to test the playa for us. He seems to be picking up a little less mud but things were still a mess and would be until everything dried out more. As we were eating an incredible dinner (thanks Uncle Plex) we noticed that a line of headlights was moving along the “road” from the gate to the city. The gate had opened after being closed for about 12 hours.
The “flight line” and runways were starting to dry also and a we all became a little spoiled as there was no dust at all. Not to worry though, it would return in a day or two. By evening we were all wondering when the airport would reopen. There were pilots waiting it out at several nearby airports. Some had not gotten the word and had flown over during the day but then had to depart without landing. There were hundreds of charter flight passengers stuck in Reno. We were hoping we could start flying by late morning on Tuesday but would have to wait and see.
But, we were able to open the airport bar! So, for those of us who had made it in before the rain, the festivities went on as planned. On this evening we had Taz, Drunkin’ Pilot and Dee Zaster tending bar. How can you not have a good time with this crew mixing drinks? In case you are wondering, the bar crew does NOT drink alcoholic beverages while working. Here they are seen taking a short break.