I’ve decided to not set an alarm, but to let my body pick when it is time to go. It must be ready for the adventure ahead, because I’m up at dawn and wide awake. I load the last of my things into Olive Oil, my trusty FJ Cruiser, and she and I begin the 100 mile drive that has worried me since I left home twelve days ago.
I’m headed north from Fernley Nevada to the Black Rock Desert to participate in an annual ritual of creativity, self-reliance and playfulness known as Burning Man. I’ve never gone before, making me what is known as a virgin burner. It’s been a few years since I’ve been called a virgin anything.
Law enforcement officials are known for lining this drive and pulling over drivers for minor infractions during the start of this event. I’m not carrying anything illegal, but the prospect of being searched on the side of the road has me nervous.
I have an early access pass, but it looks like a lot of other people do too. I join the line of ants making its way towards the playa as we all scrupulously follow every speed limit, and always come to a complete stop. It’s my lucky day. No one bothers me or anyone around me.
By 9:15 I’ve reached my destination, or at least I think I have. I don’t realize how slow a process it is to enter this event. I inch my way forward to the gate in eight lanes of traffic. The dust is sometimes so heavy that I cannot see well enough to stay in my lane so I move over to the edge, so I can follow the flagging. At one point I can’t see more than five feet from my front window and I start to have serious doubts about the wisdom of being here.
As the hours wear on, I text my family final farewells. I eat my lunch. I play yesterday’s theme song, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, a couple of times. After a while, I need to pee so bad that I leave my car keys with the strangers in the car behind me so they can inch my vehicle along for me while I run to the porta-potties. Such trust seems perfectly natural here. Besides, where exactly could they go with my car, anyway?
Nearly four hours after arriving, I arrive. My ticket is examined, my car is searched, and I am officially greeted. Virgins like me are invited to make a dust angle in the desert’s fine alkaline soil and to ring a bell to let the playa know we are here. I realize this is a more emotional moment than expected when I hit the bell with a vigor that surprises me and everyone else.
As I make my way through the labyrinth leading to my camp, I put on my goggles and my scarf. I’m about to set up a tent in the dust. I don’t know why, but I am so glad to be here.
Today’s rule of the road? Don’t let a little dust stop you from doing what you want to do.
And today’s song. What else could it be?