Burn after waiting
Burning Man tried something new this year. At first, it seemed like a pretty good idea. But then, a world class CF broke out, rendering Highway 447 more constipated than Elvis.
This is the first year that the gates to the playa were opened Sunday morning at 10. Sounded good. What's not to like? Beats hell out of the traditional Sunday midnight opener. Who really wants to find their camp spot while wasted, tired, and in the dark?
The problem, however, was that if there are gonna be 70,000 folks burning this year, it looked like 66,000 of them wanted to get there Sunday noon. The resulting influx of traffic simply overwhelmed sleepy little two lane 447, creating a string of cars/RVs that was truly Woodstockian Alamontic.
Burning Man wasn't unaware. Their plan, it appeared, was to send cars to BRC in giant pulses of hundreds of vehicles at a time, so that there was some kind of vague order and control. The problem arose when it became obvious that the pulses couldn't keep up with the incoming vehicles as they steadily poured in from Nixon. What you got, by about noon Sunday, was really kinda mind-boggling.
Lucky me was traveling south on 447 that day, heading to Sparks. My rough estimate is that from Empire south, the string of cars/RVs was 10 miles long? 15? 20? Whatever—it was impressive, to say the least. And it's not like I was going 55 or 75 in my southbound lane. No way. Hundreds of cars had stopped, burners standing in the road, killing time in various ways. I eased on past at 20 to 25 mph, agog at the ever-lengthening line. So many people, wanting passionately to be in BRC on the first day, and now paying a brutal price for the attempt. They now realized they were part of a brand new B-Man Traffic Event. Dealing with Exodus, well, OK, it's a necessary evil but at least it's at the end of the party. Having a huge, soul-sucking traffic mess to start the week? Gee, how lovely. One guy reported it took 8 hours for his pulse of vehicles to get from Wadsworth to Gerlach. EIGHT FREAKIN' HOURS to go 75 miles!
One possible way to deal with this mess—Burning Man dictates arrival time with tickets. Sell 10,000 tix for $500 that let burners in Saturday noon. Sell 10k more at $475 for Saturday midnight. And so on, until 50,000 are in BRC. But that's probably, for various reasons, unworkable.
Plan B is simple. And positively bulletproof. Go out Monday afternoon. In other words, don't be an excitable lemming, all crazy to get there on day one. People I know who went this year on Monday drove from Reno to the playa in 2.5 hours. Delightful, pleasant cruisin'.
And if you leave on Tuesday after Labor Day, you feel like a stone cold genius.