Burning Man 12-Step Program: Steps 1-6

9/6/13: It was a long 18 days. It was hot. It was dusty, but not as bad as some years. I worked… a lot. I played… a bit. I enjoyed quality time with good friends. I plan to write about my burn… just as soon as I get somewhat caught up on laundry, sorting and cleaning dusty crap. Please stay tuned.


From my Tahoe Decompression HQ… signing off for now.

9/12/13 Okay, I’m back in Vallejo. I’ve done laundry, sorted through mail, put out a few fires and now I’m ready to talk about the burn. Usually, I can’t wait to write about my Burning Man experience. This year…. I’ve been dreading it. My burn this year was a mixed bag of good times, work, drama, exhaustion and disappointments. Still, I’m glad I did it.

If you know me, you know that I look forward to the burn all year. This was my 12th burn so I’ve got it down to a science.  Getting to Burning Man is a 12-step program.

 Step 1 – Getting Ready 

I spent months getting ready for my burn. I plan. I prep. I volunteer. I train. I fund-raise. I paint. I gather. I shop. I pack. I fix. I build. I was exhausted before I even left Vallejo.

Step 2 – Paying for my Trip bustlestripeback

I don’t have a disposable income. I barely make enough money to pay for my monthly expenses, my mom’s care and whatever my son, The Biscuit needs. To pay for my Burning Man trip, I collect, rework, make and sell upcycled Steampunk playa wear. I kicked ass and put together a huge collection of clothing, boots and accessories, with major help from my dear friend Arden, who is my professional buyer and collaborator. My collection was available at Lottie Ballou Costumes in Benicia, and I did a few BM events as a vendor, one just prior to my departure.

Luckily, I sold enough to pay for my trip expenses.

Step 3 – Betty Dawn the Camping Trailer bettyoriginal

Last year, Eli and I camped in our friend Loki’s yurt. It was roomy but dusty. This year, we upgraded to a 1967 Santa Fe camping trailer, we bought from some fellow burners. We named her Betty Dawn. Whe was in pretty good shape, had been to the playa several times and had modifications done already, like the built in shade structure. Betty’s exterior still needed a make-over. She badly needed a paint job and had moopy glow stars glued to her.

I foolishly hauled Betty home to work on her, only to find that I had no place to work on her. Because my driveway is slanted, I wasn’t able to put her in my driveway. I optimistically thought I could park her in front of my house if I alerted my neighbors, but just 2 days later I had a notice from the PD to move Betty off the street. I ended up hauling her back to Tahoe.

4gerlach arrivalBack in Tahoe, Eli and I scraped off the stars and sanded her down. Eli needed to focus on the art car (and his day job as an architectual project manager), so I took on the task of priming and painting Betty, as well as sealing her roof with a rubber-type paint. My goal was to Steampunk her exterior, I painted a bunch of bottle caps that I was going to attach like rivets. But I ran out of time. I was able to at least paint her with silver and rust colors, and Eli helped me paint the trim.

I spent lots of time on the interior. Thanks to Mike Kendall of the BANG list, I used obtainium wood from Ruszel Woodworks to build a pantry. I added shelves, added hooks and nooks, built a counter-top over the stove, added a fridge, built a folding desk, built a bureau and a closet. I was pretty happy with the functionality and comfort of the interior.

Step 4 – Multi-Part Launch 1vallejo launch

On August 15th, I left Vallejo for Eli’s place in Tahoe. There I finished work on Betty Dawn, did last minute shopping and packed up Betty Dawn and I while Eli worked.

Eli and I launched from Tahoe on on August 17th. We arrived in Gerlach on to finish building the art car.

Step 5- The Art Car – Crate Expectations 995419_10200602142070780_1164596561_n

1011514_10201925916176673_1653213867_nThe project was daunting. The base was on old rusty abandoned DPW vehicle that didn’t run… now imagine turning that into a working art car that will pass the DMV inspection for safety, creativity and worthiness.

Eli spent an enormous amount of time and energy on the design, the engineering, the build and the light effects. He built a fricken helicopter out of bamboo. 15elihelicopter

Dave Cooper invested in the vehicle, tools, equipment, hardware, sound system and mechanics to get the vehicle running.

Cooper spent days cutting, grinding and welding the thing together. In fact, most of the construction work was done by Cooper and Eli at Cooper’s workshop in Gerlach. cooper welding

My job was to haul the supplies from the East Bay to Gerlach, raise money for the project and sew the outer skin. Our goal was to make the art car of mostly obtainium… that meant very few new materials.

Our campmate Raybees, is an expert collector of obtainium so he had all the pipe and fabric we needed.

dexeligrindingDusty (my truck) and I hauled hundreds of pounds of materials to Gerlach. Eli and I made several trips to Gerlach to work on the art car at Cooper’s place so I did a lot of driving this summer. Dexter was a champ about it… he went to Gerlach with me three times.

I was able to raise some money with custom glass water bottles, hand-made bottle cozies and patches. Campmates and friends were amazingly generous with donations to the project and for that, I am grateful. Even so, Cooper spent thousands more on the project. cratepatchactual

So Eli, Cooper and I worked on the art car the weekend prior to Burning Man. Eli had to return to work in Truckee on Monday so it was a crunch. I stayed on at Cooper’s to work on the fabric skin. 16sewingstation

Campmates Canyon and Cathy arrived mid-week to help. Canyon made the cushions with more obtainium materials and Cathy grommeted the edges of the skin.

Step 6 – Soft Arrival to Black Rock City

5earlymanI have to admit, that week prior… was my favorite part of my trip. Eli, Cooper and I attended Early Man… the pre-event burn that happens two weekends before the event opens. Only the bones of Black Rock City were up and the population was probably less than 2000 volunteers. I got to see my sister, Clare (Clarity), my nephew Wyatt (Surely), my dear friend Jennie Kay and lots of other burner pals.

21bettyplayaSince I hauled some of Clare’s gear, I was able to deliver it to her, check in with the Gate crew about my shifts and plant Betty Dawn on the playa without any traffic issues. I traveled between Gerlach and BRC four times before the event opened.

24manbuildIt was a great way to ease into playa-life. I loved being there during the building of Black Rock City. I was able to enjoy the empty playa before the other 66,000 hippies arrived.

Check out Steps 7 – 11.

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