Not Just for the Young

The point is, Burning Man does something to people that is inexplicable, but inescapable.  For those of us in the so-called twilight of our lives, it has the potential to add quality if not quantity to your days on earth.  In fact, seniors probably have the most to gain from attending the Festival.

But it’s important to understand the downside of a week in the desert.  The environment is harsh – very hot days and cool, sometimes downright chilly nights.  The wind can whip up dust storms that are literally blinding, so you need goggles and some form of face mask to allow you to breathe.  The desert surface is hard and alkali and the resulting dust can be hard on the skin and on painted surfaces such as cars.  It clings to everything, so expect to spend some post-Festival time washing yourself and your belongings.  Water is crucial.  You must keep a bottle or a Camelback with you at all times; there are no water fountains around.  Sunscreen is also a must, and should be re-applied hourly throughout the day.

You’ll need a bike to get around the huge area, but you shouldn’t bring a good one.  It won’t be stolen, but it will get filthy and dusty, which can ruin brakes and derailleurs.  For nighttime safety, bikes should be festively lighted, as should individuals.  A headlight such as miners wear is a typical safety device.  If you wonder around at night without lights or highly reflective clothing, you could easily be hit by a bike or an art car.

Porta-potties are located throughout the camp, and are serviced continually.  But they’re still porta-potties, so be prepared!  If you can’t face up to a tent, RVs are welcome at Burning Man, but don’t expect hook-ups.  It is possible to get the contractors who service the porta-potties to service your RV, but for a high cost (they’re not part of Burning Man’s gifting economy).  Rentals can be tough to come by if you tell the rental company that you’re going to Burning Man.  You’re likely to lose your deposit if they find all that Playa dust in and on your RV upon return.  Also, air conditioners can work against you in a dust storm because they inhale Playa dust and spew it across your living space.

Going Home

Tickets for the 2009 Burning Man Festival are currently $300, but will rise to $360 once all $300 tickets are sold (check for information).  The website also contains information on what to pack to survive a week in the desert.  Once you buy tickets, you’ll be mailed a printed “Survival Guide” with plenty of advice.

When you reach the Festival, the greeters always say “Welcome Home.”  I don’t think I understood what that meant until my second visit.  Black Rock City can feel like home, because it’s a place where you’re not judged and you don’t judge others, where you are accepted unconditionally, and where you look at everything with newborn eyes.  As we got back on the highway this past Labor Day, my wife and I looked at each other, smiled, and agreed, “We’re going back next year.”

Similar Posts:

Alan Markow, president of AM Communications, has worked in marketing, public relations and corporate communications for more than 30 years. His experience includes senior management positions in communications and Investor Relations at companies as diverse as National Semiconductor, GTE (now Verizon), Praxair, VLSI Technology, C-Cube Microsystems and JPMorgan Chase. He is now a free-lance writer for newspapers and magazines, and a blog writer on politics and other issues. Prior to starting his corporate career, he had been a broadcaster, journalist, advertising and PR copywriter and speechwriter. He served as a Navy journalist and broadcaster during the Vietnam era, where he was television and radio news director for the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service station in Keflavik, Iceland.