Follow the frybread
It took 12 goddamn hours to get home from Burning Man. The drive from Black Rock City to Reno should take only a couple hours, but caught up in the mass exodus of Monday morning and the veritable quagmire of crisscrossing traffic, we moved at the rate of approximately four car-lengths an hour for nine hours just to get from our campsite to the paved road on the way to Gerlach.
“So this is what it would be like to evacuate a city,” observed my friend Dave.
Though we managed, miraculously, to discover ways to keep the drive interesting—those of us who weren’t driving sat outside and finished off the warming remnants of our beer stash—our already depleted constitutions were pushed to the brink by this unexpectedly exhausting ordeal. Fortunately, salvation came in the form of Nixon, an oasis of delicious tacos.
More traffic passes through Nixon during the weeks on either side of Labor Day than the whole rest of the year. This small town is home to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and during Burning Man season, many local families set up Indian taco stands to provide burned-out Burners with much needed nourishment.
There were more than a dozen stands in Nixon and nearby Wadsworth, but my friends and I elected to try the stand inside the old gym of Pyramid Lake High School. It was a surreal scene: scruffy, half-naked, playa-dust-caked Burners wandered in, disoriented because they hadn’t been inside a real building all week. A tough and mangy pit bull strutted around like he owned the place, throwing intimidating glances and demanding scraps. The full basketball court adorned with banners boasted Nevada B League championships from the early 1980s.
They’d had a busy day, but the folks behind the counter managed to maintain sunny dispositions. They were, however, all out of forks, so we had to eat our tacos with plastic spoons. Four of us, Dave, Ryan, Justin and I, had regular Indian tacos ($6): a mix of beans and ground beef, lettuce, cheese, tomato and onion atop the magical Indian frybread. Our friend Heather opted for the vegetarian version, the same deal and same price, but without the beef.
The frybread is really what makes these tacos special. It’s buoyant, fluffy and flavorful. Ryan described it as having a “taco on a funnel cake.” The tacos varied wildly. Quantities of, for example, cheese ranged from scant to bountiful from one taco to the next. This is essentially home-cookin’ after all, and though inconsistent, the tacos were consistently good.
The temporary Indian taco stands of Nixon are both small family businesses and a community-wide effort. The stand we visited was operated by Beverley Harry. Her husband, Norm, is the chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
“We don’t have any formal meetings about the stands,” he says. “But we do require permits to run them. We work closely with the BLM, the NHP and the Burning Man organization to address our concerns about the traffic that comes through here.”
Beverley Harry is enthusiastic about the event. “Burning Man helps rural Nevada a lot,” she says. And not just through the economic boost given to towns like Nixon and Gerlach, but also in enthusiasm for the true, rugged character of the state.
Though you won’t get the chance for another year, stop in Nixon at one of the temporary taco stands on your way from Burning Man. It’s good, soothing food made by local families using old family recipes. They were the best example of a real community effort I saw throughout my whole Burning Man experience.