Getting Around on the Playa
Black Rock City is a city in the desert that was specifically built for one purpose – Burning Man. Over the years the event has grown from a small gathering of 20 people at Baker Beach in San Francisco to approximately 68,000 people in 2013 in the desert. Check out this cool timeline on the Burning Man site: Burning Man Timeline from 1986 to 2012.
Black Rock City resembles an analog clock face, with radial avenues representing the hours (2.00 through 10.00) and alphabetical streets in concentric streets around the circumference. The three most prominent landmarks are as follows:
Located at the center of the clock.
Located at 12.00, this is a place for reflection and prayer.
Located along the midline facing the Man at the 6.00 position; it serves as a good meeting place.
As you can see it is quite a distance from one side of the city to the other and believe me you will need to navigate much of the city as possible to fully appreciate the spectacle. The distance is also deceiving as the arched streets are much longer than it looks on a map, plus the ground is soft and uneven making for a bumpy ride at times.
Taking all of this into account there is no doubt in my mind that you need to have some form of transportation (other than your legs). Like most people we opted for bicycles… although another really cool way of getting around is on an art car.
Riding your bike poses a few unique challenges on the playa. It is not uncommon to be riding across the playa and be struck by a dust storm or white out. Make sure to be very careful if this happens. We were riding towards the Man one afternoon when we got hit by a huge dust storm and couldn’t see two feet in front….. next thing you know a huge pirate ship emerged from the white, powering towards us.
Some Handy Tips:
a) Make sure to carry plenty of water with you (especially when venturing into the deep playa).
b) For your protection wear sunscreen, a hat, dust mask and goggles.
c) Deflate your tyres to compensate for the soft sand.
d) Illuminate your bike at night with a headlamp, tail light and El-wire
e) Have some sort of bell or horn to warn people if they are in your path.
The Art Installations
Some of the most creative people on the planet make the journey to Burning Man each year. Both for inspiration and to showcase their talents. It is common knowledge that many of the creative producers and set designers from Hollywood come to the playa in search of the bizarre and wonderful art that is on display.
Months of preparation goes into the theme camps and art installations that you will see here – not to mention thousands of dollars. Art installations are on display throughout the city but you will find the biggest (and best) scattered around the central playa.
I have posted some of the art below but for a more comprehensive guide with some background check this link.
Here is a selection of the wonderful art installations
This magnificent piece was one of my favorites. It is titled “Truth is Beauty”.
Now that you have seen a selection of immovable art structures let’s take it to the next level. Imagine one of these crazy pieces of art – now incorporate a car, truck or bus so it can move throughout the city. Welcome to the world of art cars!
Not only do they look good but these moving Picassos often have pumping sound systems and the bigger ones can take a decent number of people. It is like your own nightclub on wheels.
Throughout the day you will hear the thump of a heavy bass as an art car comes rumbling through the streets or on the open playa. Just wave one down and ask for a ride to where you are going… you never know where you might end up.
Here are some of the art cars
There was even a full-sized tall ship!
It is mind-blowing to see the imagination and effort that some people put into their theme camps. Clearly the place to be is on the Esplanade – front and center. Most of the major theme camps seemed to revolve around a musical or clubbing aspect with some quirkiness thrown in for good measure.
Some of my favorite camps were the ones that provided a decent amount of interactivity. You could get a snow cone, or how about a massage and your hair washed? There was no limit to the creativity and thoughtfulness that went into making things just perfect for everyone.
Got a flat tyre? No problem – there’s a camp that will help fix your bike. I know this because Lisette got a puncture and we had to find a way to fix it.