I live with rats. Desert rats to be specific.
No, I am not referring to those underground dwelling, flea infested, feces-feasting rodents. I am talking about a group of family and friends that really love hanging out in the desert.
The desert that inspires creativity, like the imaginative structures and signage on Guru Drive, outside of Gerlach, Nevada.
The same desert where the days can be sweltering hot and the nights can be freezing cold—all within the same 24-hour period.
The same desert that, on occasion, gets obliterated in blinding dust storms.
The same desert where the only water you have is what you pack in—which is the lesser of other problems in that we mostly drink straight gin—“we” being me and Lon.
The same desert where you need to be comfortable pooping more-or-less out in the open (a 5-gallon bucket with no bottom, fitted with a toilet seat works great).
We love being in the desert, and if you’re not a desert rat, you probably won’t get it.
Some of the desert locales we have been known to enjoy include:
The aforementioned Saline Valley—with wonderful hot spring pools, which have been lined and are kept clean by fellow desert rats.
Baja Sur, where the spectacular setting of the stark desert slopes into the inviting Sea of Cortez.
The high desert of northeastern California, specifically the north end of Eagle Lake.
And, the much publicized Black Rock Desert, known mostly for the mega-popular, bucket list priority, annual Burning Man event. Yes, this is the famed hippie hangout, known for the mud-covered participants, off-beat “art,” the actual burning of the man (hence the event name), and for certain spectators, topless women. Many, many topless women.
I lived for 21 years just a short drive away from the Black Rock playa.
(Pronounced “ply-ah,” and not as in, That guy’s a real “play’ah.”)
I was fascinated in the concept of the event and would have liked to see all the…uh…art, but I have yet to attend the now-massive happening, and probably never will.
It’s not that we don’t love that part of northern Nevada.
We used to venture out there at least once a year for the amazing ceramics out at Planet X Pottery. While the wife-person and our two daughters would wander between John Bogard’s rustic buildings that served as his art gallery, I would take advantage of his generous offering of Great Basin Brewing Ickey beer and various barbequed meat-like objects.
We also used to go soaking in the ponds of naturally occurring hot springs and camped near the otherworldly looking Fly Geyser, before the area became too popular and was fenced off.
And, I was also lucky enough to have been out there the day the Brits broke the speed of sound for the first time in history…in a car. On October 13, 1997 RAF pilot Andy Green drove the ThrustSSC rocket car to 763 miles per hour, without leaving the ground.
This is a picture of the car I witnessed out on the Black Rock “ply-ah” go Mach 1.
(Pronounced “mock,” not as in, Hey, “Mack,” where you are going in such a hurry?)
In the next picture are three vehicles; two of which I recently rode on while on our trip to Great Britain, and one of which they hope will go Mach “Holy Shit That’s A Fast Car.”
But, bucket list or not, at this point I can do without seeing Burning Man. Unless you were one of the original 20 people out on Baker Beach in San Francisco, back in 1986, you and I missed the genesis of the event.
And, once they moved it to the Black Rock desert, I should have gone out there in the early years when the participants numbered in the hundreds, and then, low thousands.
Nowadays, the event has become a full-blown bureaucracy, with an official LLC designation (limited liability company). This year’s week-long event, which starts in late August, has already made headlines with a “ticket fiasco,” in the issuing of the tickets towards the current limit of 58,000 people.
And, they hope to get that up to 70,000 people in the next few years; a far cry from those first 20 folks on the beach in San Francisco.
So, discussions of free spirit, open expression, and evocative artwork have been overridden with talk of ticket lotteries and scalpers. Apparently, once they opened the ticket purchase process the tickets went fast, but not to many of the previous attendees who are the ones who create and construct the artwork that the event success is based on.
The organizers claim,
“Nobody knows where all these tickets went.”
The whole thing has seemed to take on a noticeable negative turn, leaving some to question whether,
“…this might be the "jump the shark" year for Burning Man, when the artists are overpowered by those merely hoping to see topless women.
Wait, did they say the artists were being overpowered by topless women?
Me—if I ever decided to venture out there—would be there for the articles…I mean the art.