Thursday, 27 October 2016


Wednesday night was the night I had my overnight volunteer shift.  My first "graveyard" shift, so to speak.

I've never been an all-nighter.  Not for work (thank goodness!) but not for parties or social reasons either.

Sure, I've stayed up late, but I've always hit the hay before dawn, certainly at Burning Man.  The only sunrise I'd seen at Burning Man was last year when we got up earrrrrly on leaving day and I saw the sun rise as we were packing up the tents.

Lots of people stay up all night at Burning Man.  Many get up early to see the sunrise.  I... like my sleep so have never done either of those things.  Except the time Connor and I got up (a tad too late) and caught the tail end of a sunrise... second year?

So I knew this would be my first all nighter at Burning Man as well as my first "I've stayed up all night on playa" sunrise.  All because I was volunteering.  Cool.

Well, let me tell you, a playa sunrise is just as pretty as you'd imagine.  Even if you're in the middle of the city witnessing it.  There really is something special about watching the sky start to lighten... ever so slightly and then waiting hours yet for the horizon to take on a tinge.... and then the light to start to filter... and brighten... and then to stand and watch, waiting for the golden globe itself to crack over the mountains.  Wow.

So imagine if as you're watching your first sunrise out on this place that is so very very beautiful, and you see that the skydivers also wanted to watch today's sunrise... from the air.  Yep... it was awesome.  I don't know how many... ten?  A dozen?  Jumpers jumping out just as the sun was rising over the mountain tops.  Beautiful.  *This* is the magic that is Burning Man.  If you let yourself see it...

So that was lovely.  But man, that graveyard shift... hoo... doozie.  Power to those of you who work graveyards... I don't know how you do it.  I hit a wall around 2am.  And powered through it... and then hit the wall to end all walls at about 5am.  I was so done.  Fairly non-functional done.  With two and a half hours more to go.  Dude.  It was rough.  And chilly.  Burn barrels for the win, I say, I say!  But yeah... I survived an overnight shift, got to stand around a lovely warm burn barrel for a while and then watch the sun rise... with bonus parachuters...  Cool.

I was pretty dead by the time my shift ended and I headed back to camp hoping to all get out that my van would be "cool"... ish enough to sleep in.

Which, thank heavens, it was.  So I skipped the breakfast line, mumbled to a few people about overnight shift and crashed on my bed.

Woke up not too long after getting warm... threw on the inverter and fan and got another little bit of sleepeye, but I was pretty much a goner for the day from that overnight.  Were I to do it again, I would plan it differently in the week so that it didn't eat up quite so much of the next day... or something.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

You Know What They Say About Assumptions, Right?

At some point in the weeks leading up to Burning Man, I gave my cell number to a few people.  One was the fellow who had connected me with the camp and the volunteering, the others were both members of a couple of social media groups I'm part of.

One of the two, a guy, had offered that I could camp near them if I needed to, and the other is a super cool chick that I really wanted to meet.  We'll call her Lacie.

Lacie wasn't arriving til Tuesday at the earliest, but had given me her general landing location.  (Where they were hoping/planning to camp.)  I got a text from Lacie mid-way through my travel week asking me how "my disaster" was going and I told her... disasterously!  But that I was hoping to make it by Tuesday.

Lacie texted me on Monday (yes... this was one of the "things" this week... extra cell towers put in nearby... so.... cell phones on playa.. sigh... I didn't take mine out, but did check it in the mornings to check in with Jason and let him know I was ok, etc.) and asked if I had arrived ok and sent me her camp co-ordinates.  She'd told me to look out for a giant pyramid type shape with their camp name on it and so at some point on Monday night I went to that area looking to see if I could see a pyramid, but no luck.

Tuesday (I think... who knows... let's just go with it k?) as I was running my errands, I stopped by the location where Lacie had said they were.  No pyramid... just some random guys hanging out.   "Can we help you?" they said, in neighbourly fashion.  "Um, sure, is there a Lacie here?"

Nope.... no Lacie, not in any of the camps nearby.  What location was I looking for?  I told them what she'd sent me.  Yep... right there.  I was in the utterly correct spot, but no Lacie.  Oh well.

Wednesday morning, Lacie texted me "are you in your van?"  Yes.  "Can I come there and meet you?"  YES!  Awesome!  I was going to meet in person the sweet, awesome friend I'd made.  Lacie and I had exchanged photos so we both knew who to look out for and I was just getting dressed when there was a knock on my van door.  Yay, Lacie's here!

I gleefully opened the door and looked out at a rather large, bald-ish, bearded man in a dress.  Not.  What I had been expecting.  "Victoria?"  He said.  "Uh... yeah.. hi!"  I said... covering my utter confusion as we exchanged hearty hugs... Who the hell this was and why did he know who I was and how had he found my (admittedly kind of hard to miss) van... who else had I given my camp location to?  Who could this be?  AND WHERE WAS LACIE????

I told him I had to "slip back inside to put on panties" because it was true I had none on yet under my ... whatever I had thrown on... and I grabbed my phone and texted my camp mate friend "I HAVE NO IDEA WHO'S AT MY VAN IF YOU GET THIS HELP!" but I knew it was unlikely he'd get to his messages in time and I took a deep breath, told myself to be a grownup, stepped back outside and said "yeah, so I'm sorry but I have no idea who you are!"

He looked at me... "Victoria, right?"  I nodded... "From (insert social media forum here)?"  I nodded... my brain still frozen in "wha?" mode.  I'm (insert his name here).  OH!

"OH!"  I said.  "YOU!"  And then I gave him a GIANT HUG OF FOR REALS I KNOW YOU NOW.  Because it was the fellow from the other site who'd offered to have me camp near them if I'd needed.  Awesome.  How cool!  Even better in person than what I'd imagined from online!  I told him that I'd forgotten I'd given him my number and that when he'd texted I'd just assumed it was this gal Lacie and so when I opened the door to "not Lacie" my brain froze and my "I'm in a social situation" niceties kicked in.  So, "Hi, nice to actually meet you, I'm so excited!"

And then I put it together even further.  He and his camp mates were the ones I'd talked to the day before.  And *that* was why I hadn't found Lacie in the EXACT location she'd given me... because it was him!  In the exact location... but none of us clued in because... I was looking for Lacie!  Hee!

So, yeah, that was how I met my first new playa friend from this year.

Monday, 24 October 2016


If I owe Gord Downie nothing else, I at least owe him the watching of the story he is telling us.

Take a moment and watch, and understand, and then reach out to help the healing.

Friday, 21 October 2016

So, There I Was

So there I was.  At Burning Man.  By myself.

It was weird.  Completely different than any other time, if nothing else, because Connor wasn't there.  Or anyone at all that I knew.  At all.

There were people there I'd talked to.  Like I talk to you.  So it's as if some of you came to Burning Man.  I mean we know each other, but not... really.  Plus the week (or three) leading up to getting there had been really stressful.  I'd been concerned that I wouldn't be able to feel grounded or settled or calm or however you want to put it if my stress didn't reduce leading up to leaving, but I'd made it and...that's all there was to it.

Annnnyway.  There I was.  At Burning Man.  By myself. 

I really didn't write much the week I was there, so I'm going by memory for a lot of this.  Not that that's terribly unusual after last year when I was never really in my own space to take any notes.  So I don't remember exactly the details of getting up Tuesday morning.  I imagine I was up in time for breakfast (a nice benefit of camping with a camp and paying camp dues) and I probably sat either with the one person I kind of knew from internet and chat land or with the main group of people from the camp and then I probably decided to head out for the day.  I dunno... doesn't matter hugely, really.  I had a few "errands" I wanted to get done, so I headed out with my list of things I needed/wanted to do.  Like checking in with Media Mecca to register myself and my camera (I can't remember if I mentioned it, but I applied for photography stuff this year and got approved!) and then dropping off some art to someone who'd really liked it (on social media) or trying to find person X, Y, or Z, but no one was where they were camped (SO not unusual for Burning Man... it's why I sort of laugh when someone suggests we just meet at Burning Man, because yeah... it's not that easy, but in a fun way)  I had some gifts to give to people at Max's camp and knew he'd be out all day (at an event he hosts) so I headed to their camp.  I was a little nervous but really wanted to see people.  I got pulled aside for a snow cone (yes please!) and walked with my bike for a while, and somehow, I honestly have no idea how (except maybe because I was camping on the opposite side of town?) I looked up and was at the farthest away part of town from where I'd been trying to go.  Yeah, I got lost.  For those of you who've been, or for whom this makes any sense, I was heading to 8-ish and ended up at 2.  Yeah... I know, right? Sigh.  Four years and I was utterly unable to navigate this time... apparently.

So I was lost (but not lost... just... not at all where I'd been headed) and it was hot.  Like ugh hot.  Not nice hot.  So I took this all as a sign.  I'd tried to get to Max's camp and I'd gotten lost.  And I was about to make myself suffer in the heat... you know what?  Time to head home. 

I stopped at one of the post offices instead (yep) and dropped off the gifts I'd wanted to give to people and asked them (very nicely) if they would please deliver for me, and then I headed back to my camp for some rest.  My van provided some very nice shade... I hadn't thought too too much about angles when I'd parked but after a few years there, I do have a pretty decent sense of where the sun rises and sets and as I said, I had a good chunk of shade in that afternoon heat glare. 

The only awkward thing was when I realized I'd positioned my chair in such a way so that when people went to use the camp shower (think camping shower setup with a tent around it, and VERY COOL evaporative system for the grey water) I was staring right at them.  D'oh!  So, yeah, that was hilarious (in my head.) 

The notes I wrote for the day (which I didn't write until my rest in shade time on Wednesday) said that being at camp = too many people.  I wrote that I didn't want to talk and socialize and I just wanted to be alone.  This, I realized as the week went on, is an introvert thing.  People drain me.  Especially strangers.  Because with strangers there's this sort of small talk that's expected.  Or at least I feel it.  I feel it's polite to try to get to know people and be friendly, especially since I was new at the camp and felt like a guest trying to make a good impression.  Sigh.  But I missed having my own space like we usually carve out.  I missed being able to sit and maybe talk to one or two of the people I knew and had travelled with.  This time, anyone I talked to was a stranger and I didn't want to be around them.  I didn't want to have to be friendly or nice or anything.  I just wanted to be alone. 

I went out again in the evening.  Tried to find a couple of people I'd really really wanted to connect with.  No luck.  But I did find one of the gals I knew from home (travelled with us in my first year) and she introduced me to a photographer I think is pretty great and a few other people from home and that was nice.  This may also have been the night I stopped and got a random grilled cheese sandwich (like last year!) and listened to the Crossroads band, I'm not entirely sure, but I did bike around and look at stuff for a while.

I felt... meh, about the art.  Which felt weird.  I don't know.  It was like there was nothing much there I was impressed by or interested in.  And everything was dust covered.  Ironic, huh?  Which made it all have this sort of sameness to it.  It was a strange feeling. 

I remember reading or hearing that somewhere around your fourth year you can hit a kind of a meh sort of feeling.  This "I've been here and done this" sort of thing once the newness and wonder wears off.  So I told myself it was maybe that.  But I think it was more about me being there at all.

I think that the getting there... the solo drive, was what it was about.  What it had been about for me.  So the rest of it just sort of fell to the wayside, really.  Art?  *shrug*  Being at Burning Man because I got myself there?  Wow.  You know?

But it was a dusty day.  And hot.  (I know this because I wrote it down!  And because... Burning Man!)

I also made a note that night as I was lying in bed, in my very own camper van, with a fan going that was run through the inverter Jason had installed that had been charged by a solar panel... that that was pretty cool.

That and listening to Floyd, which felt oh so very right on this trip.  (I'd tried listening to the Hip, but it just made me sad.)

And the last note I made was that I was feeling meh.

Maybe it was just the Burning Man initial grumps... but I was just... meh. 

(And as I typed that I just shrugged.  Heh)

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Le Sigh

I'm so not in a mood right now to write about my week at Burning Man and the funny thing is, I was once I got through my re-telling of the drive down, but then this cold came on pretty hard and fast and I just haven't had the brain power, time or energy to do it since.  And now?  Not feeling it.

It's also striking me as funny that we're all so happy I arrived, when I happen to know that the trip back was no better than the trip down.  Didn't know that at the time though and life keeps getting in the way of me remembering late August.  Days being short already and the time change not even here yet.

A bit of a strange place all told just now.  And that will pass, I'm sure, but that was quite a weekend... storm disappointment aside.  Being mentally distracted doesn't help with the want to sit down and write.  And, apropos of nothing at all really, I've been getting a fair amount of spam lately.  Not even anonymous spam.  People will full accounts, who sign in, get past the "prove you're not a robot" and spam diddily damn damn.  Seems I'm deleting more spam than getting actual comments these days, but the actual comments still come so there's that.

I'm babbling... I know.  Killer headache.  Said to C-Dawg that I wish the body came with signals.  So that I could, for example, get a headache and look at the signal board and find out WHY I have the headache so I could avoid it next time.  Dehydrated?  Tension?  Last of the cold?  Food I ate?  Just tell me... I'll fix it and not repeat it if you do!

Talk soon, I hope.. I'm not avoiding you, just... not finding myself wanting to sit and say anything much at all right now.

Sunday, 16 October 2016


The storm didn't.  (More than any other storm for this time of the year)  But hey, that's the guessing game that is meteorology I guess.  Still.  Kind of bummed.  Was hoping for some (no one gets hurt) fun.

Cold (knock on wood) is on the way out so yay for that (please!)  And, well, hope we all have a good week.  Ok?  Ok.

Plus, I may have gotten addicted to duolingo over the weekend.  Sigh.  Si, yo bebo leche.  (is probably correct... ish)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Oh, Right, Um, Hi

So the head cold I picked up (WHERE?  WHERE DID I GET IT I WANT TO RETURN IT!) has not been fun, and the last time I piled myself with cold meds I got nasty side effects so I'm battling this one pretty much on my own.  (Side note:  "natural" cold remedies are a nice idea but... seem to not have any effect on anything besides my wallet... sigh)  Which means I decided to stay home today. 

I had the dentist yesterday and tried to cancel, but they said nah, come in anyway we have gloves and masks, so I did, but I took something before hand so it wasn't too bad.  Oh, and no new cavities to deal with, YAY!!!  (So happy)

So I figured since I was home and relatively upright (as in, not prone on the couch for a few minutes) I'd pop in and say hi.  This cold has really invaded my head... as in I'm not so smart right now.  Like I put the toaster on this morning, empty.  *sigh*

Anyway.  We have DIRE WARNINGS about storms coming in the next few days.  Rainy rainy rainy and windy windy windy and EVERYBODY is talking about it and the dentist said people are actually cancelling appointments over it which... I... maybe people like to panic?  (Or like to have an excuse to not go to the dentist, ha!)  I mean, it sounds like Saturday will be interesting and I know that one of the issues is that wet ground and heavy trees (leaves still on) and wind can topple trees which can cause damage, but I dunno, maybe I'm uner-reacting?  We shall see.  I would love a good power outage, to be honest... but that means I should make sure I make my dinner tonight so I have leftovers for Saturday night, oh no, wait, it's only Thursday.. sigh.  Anyway... I will make sure I have some sort of something to eat that doesn't need to be cooked... just in case.  Not that power in the entire area ever seems to go out.  I can't remember the last time I had a power outage here.  Le sigh.

So, yeah.  I'm hoping this cold is going to start making its way out of my system and I'm doing what I can to encourage it to do so.  BYE BYE COLD! 

I'll keep you informed on the weather if I think of it... you know I love weather, but there is a chance it will hit elsewhere and be milder than expected here.  I think people need to remember that about weather sometimes... it's all just guesses.  Which is pretty cool, methinks.

And yeah, I'm hoping my brain will be clear enough to get back to trying to remember the rest of my Burning Man trip this year.  Not that my VISA is letting me forget much at all.  *heavy sigh*

Hope you're having a good Thursday and you're healthy and happy and not at all worried about weather!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


I hope you had a good weekend, or a good Thanksgiving even!

I did, and enjoyed the long weekend (and surprise sunshine!) but got thrown a cold/flu ick and am now sitting here trying to figure out why there feels like nothing in my sinuses when they're so clearly blocked.... hence headache.

Whine, whine, whine.  Will try to be alert enough to write more tomorrow-ish.

Do y'all get sick on holidays too?

Monday, 10 October 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.  You all and your support and companionship are included in the things in my life and world I'm grateful for.  Thank you.

Talk soon.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Monday Continued

Eleven o'clock rolled round and I for real checked out and figured I would go grab some stuff from the van and figure out what to do while they fixed it or... whatever had to happen.  But when I arrived, planning on grabbing my camera and taking some shots around town, they were just finishing up and the fellow was taking it for a test drive.  What?

I chatted away with (or got chatted to by) an older fellow from Klamath Falls (guess this was the best mechanic around the larger area or something) about baseball and God (I just politely nodded and listened) and the guy came back and said it was ready to go.

They'd managed to duplicate whatever had cut out and then had gone ahead and replaced the starter relay (I dunno)  but they'd also accidentally noticed a coolant leak (a BAD thing to take where I was going, not just for the heat, but also for leaking onto the playa... oh and because HEAT!) and had fixed that too and I was ready to be on my way.  They said.

I... wasn't so sure.  But I paid, and thanked them profusely and told them I hoped I would not see them again, such being the nature of their business!

I then took my van and myself and drove the couple of blocks to the parking lot across from the hotel I'd been staying at and I called Jason.

Now what?

We talked, and I told him I'd asked the mechanic if he was comfortable sending me over the pass (the tow truck driver had warned me to watch my engine heat over the pass and to remember there was no service up there, and my friends had both told me how scary the pass was so I was extra nervous) and he'd said "as comfortable as I can be in a vehicle this old".... sigh.  I wasn't comfortable at all.

But Jason assured me he felt really solid about the van.  That the issue this morning was just her starting issue and that she hadn't started again because I'd not had her in park.  He told me the engine is great (he and his mechanic friends had all agreed) and that I was good to go.  I popped the lid and added some engine coolant stuff to the... uh.. radiator (?) overflow because they'd put in all new fluids and so the coolant... um... I forget... extra good helpful stuff needed put in again, so I did that and I put in some oil and then I sat for a while, engine lid up.... not wanting to go.  Again.

One of the police officers who'd helped push me off the road earlier drove up and asked if I was broken down again.  I said no, I was just gathering myself before I headed out and I thanked him again for helping and he said no problem and went on his way, but I figured I should probably get going....  So I told Jason I was going to get off the phone and just do it.

He was a little nervous about the pass too, and made me promise I'd call as soon as I got to the next gas station (last gas station, really) and we figured it should take X amount of time but that I was going to go VERY slowly and use all the pull overs and gear down like big trucks did, so he said he'd give me an hour and a half to call before he worried.  Ok, fair enough.  So I, once again, pulled myself together somehow and.... headed back out into that side road and pulled out into the main road and.... SHE KEPT GOING! 

Ok.  This was... going to be scary but.... I could do it... I could do it.

Jason had looked at the route on some bicycling site that shows you the route or I don't know, and had talked me through where the pull out things were, but there was very little traffic anyway and I figured I'd be ok.  Enough.

I climbed the pass, keeping my speed decent and watching the GPS a little for upcoming curves.  (They were big ones)  And then I saw the "trucks use lower gear" sign and I pulled into the pull over spot that's for just that and went huh... I'm at the top... that wasn't awful at all!  My engine temp was fine and I was feeling ok about things and so I geared down and headed back onto the road.

It was a little less fun going down... I got traffic behind me (a couple of trucks that seemed quite patient but I still felt a little bad) and pulled over the one time I was able to, and then still had more traffic behind me, and the first downward curve I hit scared the life out of me so I just slowed way way down for them (even in second gear) and mentally apologized to the people behind me, but knowing that the pass wasn't all that long (we'd figured it to be about half an hour at top speed and I was already half way so I figured they wouldn't be stuck behind slow, cautious, scared me for too too long)  There was a construction stop at some point (which I thought was weird) and the curving descents were all quite scary to me but soon enough .... it was done.  The road levelled out, and I pulled over and well... that wasn't bad at all at all!  The Pacific Northwest roads on day one had been WAY worse than that.  Sure, these hills on this pass were big and that was very different driving, but no one was pushing me, and I was able to take more time, and it was short!  I'd known there was an end coming!  I DID THE BIG PASS!  YAY!  Now I knew the road and I was nearly there!  EEEEEEE!!!!!

I stopped at the last gas station (last gas station before getting to Burning Man when coming from the North) and it was blissfully empty.  I realized I'd missed all the weekend "bad" traffic by being "late" and it was actually pretty nice.  Quiet.  Calm.

I pulled into the back lot to use the potties they set up for the hoards of burners, and I went to call Jason to let him know I'd made it and it was fine!  Crap.  No service.  Shoot.  He'd worry.  Um... Maybe there'd be service soon?  I didn't remember from previous years, but probably there would be service in a while.  He knew this stretch was a low service area, but I was worried he'd be worried.  Whoops.  I sent him mental apologies... and headed back on the road.

The next bit, dare I say it?  Was actually, almost, kind of ... well, nice.  (insert smile here)

There was no one on the road but me.  Really.  For long stretches of time.  I can not tell you what a relief this was.  And when there was traffic, there was almost always the ability for them to pass, which I'd happily sidle over to let them do.  I had a hint of music, and while the sun had turned on FULL BLAST once I'd hit the road past the gas station, it was all ok... I was heading to the hot place anyway, this was just the edge of it welcoming me!

I'll spoiler alert you now, so you're not reading the rest of this worried... nothing else went wrong.  I had a bit of a scare when I was stupid and took my eyes off the road reaching for something and that was the last time I did that, but other than that and an "am I lost?" moment, things went perfectly.  So you can relax and read on without worry now, ok?  OK!

I put on the music I always put on at this part of the drive and tried to take in the scenery as best I could and I slowed down when the scary turns showed up (especially after I didn't slow down "enough" for the first one and got scared) and I let my speed vary from "who cares" to "oh, am I actually going too fast? whoops!" and I drove towards the desert.  My desert.  I was nearly there!  AT BURNING MAN! 

I felt good.  It's a beautiful drive.  I missed being in the passenger seat able to take it ALL in, but I was still seeing the beauty as I drove.  I'll say it again... this part of this drive is really really beautiful.  Even now I can see it in my head.  It's a beautiful drive.  I wished I'd had a go pro or something to record it so Jason could see what he'd helped get me to... I was lucky to be there, and I'd gotten there all by myself.  Well, physically, anyway... mentally and emotionally, I'd gotten there with Jason's support... but the driving?  I'd done that.  Me.  LOOK WHERE I WAS! 

The lack, or low volume, of traffic was delightful although there was still the occasional burner RACING past me once I got closer, in general, it was me and the van out on the empty road.  Ahhhh, if only it was always like this!

I'd been a little nervous about the exact details of getting there (there's some kind of side road that you can cut down to avoid going sort of backwards, but I wasn't sure my GPS was aware of it, although I was fairly sure I'd found it the night before and programmed it in properly, my fingers were still kind of crossed) and I was a little anxious about my gas gauge (did I have enough to get there AND back????) I kept getting nearer and nearer.  How long would the wait to get in be?  Would I be cool enough? 

I got nearer and nearer and then up ahead I could see it!  The playa... there it was!

And there also was a lot of traffic!  But all flowing.... Hmmm, did I dare to hope that my entry wouldn't be too bad?  Nope, no jinxing of things, it would be what it would be...

I took the side road, and pulled over... because... huh?  Was I... did.. no one else was following me?  Um... did I screw up?  But then... more cars came my way so... I... went on... and yes, in the traffic line!  WOOT!

And it just kept flowing.  No stopping.  Fairly heavy traffic, but not stopping.  OOoh this was good!

And then I had cell service again, FINALLY!  I called Jason (via bluetooth... SAFETY!)  I told him I couldn't hear him over the noise (open window and fan and all) but that I was safe, I'd made it, and I hadn't had service until then, SORRY!  but I was THERE!  BLACK ROCK DESERT!  I COULD SEE IT!  And then, I was actually, for real there.  I was pulling off of the paved highway onto the "road" that leads into Black Rock City.  Oh wow.  I... I DID IT!!!!


There's a sign at the entry to Burning Man that we've never stopped at... always too eager to get in and get set up but I pulled over... I stopped.  I got out.  I took photos.  I celebrated.  I texted Jason.  I called him again.  I was there.  I sent photographic evidence.  The van in front of the sign.  I WAS THERE!

Oh, and then I taped off the battery vent on the side of the van like he'd wanted me to, and then I changed shoes (out of sandals and into socks and runners) and then I peed (into my "pee bottle", using my pee funnel, because once you're in line, if you're on your own, you can't just stop and head to a potty when the line stops.. or else you might not make it back to your vehicle... so I peed there and... damn... I was at Burning Man.  Wow.

I got back into the entry line and ... was... in the entry line at Burning Man.  Wow.

I'd closed up all my windows and the top vent and I started to laugh as the playa dust seeped in anyway.  Heh.  So much for keeping the dust out.  You can't drive faster than 10mph on gate road, so I took some camera phone shots and texted Jason (shhhh, don't tell, I felt bad doing it!) and I just kept... driving towards gate.  Drinking my water, listening to my music, shaking my head at the people driving too fast (you're going to get pulled over!) or pulling into a lane that had just been watered down (you're going to get mud caked tires!  NEWBIE!)  And I smiled at the cars around me and I was so so so so so very happy.  You guys?  I was at Burning Man.  I'd driven myself there.  I hadn't been sure the whole time I was doing it if I'd actually ever do it, but I'd done it.  I was there. 

At 10mph it takes about 45 minutes to get from highway to gate... and... it looked like I was going to just drive right in... with no stopping, or no line.  Wow... this whole 'not arriving when everyone else arrives' thing was looking better and better!  Maybe it wasn't worth "gaining" a day to do the long long waits in line I'd done before and knew many people had done... hmmm... something to ponder....I kept driving and soon enough,  I saw gate up ahead... but... wait, still no line?  WHAT?  Damn!  I was going to drive straight in, I was!  YESSSSS!!!  An hour after I hit gate road and I was already getting my ticket checked?  SWEET!

I was so happy to see the gate gal, and happy to have her check my van (for stowaways and illegal items... fireworks, weapons, animals, etc.) and happy to have my ticket and vehicle pass scanned and happy to thank her for her time (volunteers everywhere, man!) and I was happy happy happy.

I was happy to drive ahead a bit and hit the greeters.  To stop my vehicle, turn off the engine, get out and get a MASSIVE HUG BECAUSE I'D MADE IT, MY FIRST SOLO DRIVE EVER! And then to get extra hugs because of it and then to do a dust angel because it was like being a virgin all over again... I'd done it.  MYSELF!  NO ONE ELSE!  And then I was really, truly in the city.  For reals.  At Burning Man.  I was.  There.  Wow.

I didn't really care about anything else, to be honest.  I was there. 

I made my way to the camp area where I'd be camping, I asked for the camp "mayor", I found her, introduced myself and she pointed to where abouts I could park.  I drove my van in, I turned her around, and I parked.  I parked my van in the spot I would be camping for the week, on the playa of the Black Rock Desert, in Burning Man.  In Nevada.  USA.  Where I'd just arrived.  After three and a half days of awful.  I'd gotten through it all.  Somehow.  And I was there.  Wow.

And I had complete, full cell service.  Huh.  Disappointing, but hey... the new normal out there.  I texted Jason.  And I texted the friend (online only) who'd set me up with the camp and the volunteer work and he was just coming home from his shift and he texted me back from ten feet away, just like we'd joked he do, and then we met and hugged and man... I was there!

He wanted me to have a beer, but I don't really drink out there and I wanted to get unpacked and settled.  So I pulled my bike out (and locked it up... always lock up your bike!) and I pulled out my shower curtains (I keep old shower curtains once they go mouldy to bring to Burning Man) and I covered the front of the van (driving area) and I taped off the outside air vent openings and I was frustrated that the green painter's tape wasn't sticking, but it was all I had and I'd not known it wouldn't work so well.  At some point it was dinner (camp dues in the case of this camp covered meals as well as a camp shower and stuff)... I'd arrived around four... lost my phone for a while, but friend.. who needs a name... uh... Joe... Joe called it and I found it, but it was a good reminder that playa brain was kicking in.  (The heat and especially the elevation take a while to get used to and they conspire to turn your brain kind of dumb.)  Dinner was SPAGHETTI!!! GLUTEN!!!!

I told them I wasn't supposed to eat it but that for the week I was saying "screw it" and eating as much gluten as I wanted.  And man I miss gluten so so much.  And damn if I didn't have a second serving of spaghetti!  I MISS YOU GLUTEN!!!!!!

I ate.  And sat there ... being... there.  Then it was sunset.  And a gorgeous one at that and everything was both surreal and not surreal.  I was here.  On playa.  Watching a beautiful sunset over those mountains.  Sigh.

Back at the van there was playa EVERYWHERE.  Already.  Like, everywhere.  And I hadn't left the doors open that long or anything, that stuff just gets in.  Sigh.  You can see it filtering through the air even when it's still. 

I tried to organize things... and then I took myself and my bike out onto playa with Joe and his virgin (to Burning Man!) friend to watch the "event has started!" fireworks and they went off to do some dancing (and who knows what else) and I took myself back to my van... after stopping in what I'd not quite experience before... I'm calling it a blackout, because all of a sudden it went black... I guess I'd not been in a dust storm at night before, but all the lights went away and I couldn't see.  It was a blackout situation for a few minutes, but it passed quickly, and i headed back to my van to finish unpacking.

(I'm sure some people like to get there and party right away but I like to get there and get settled... and keep hydrated... see?  I learned my lesson from last year!)

I went to fill up my water bottle but the pump I'd bought didn't fit the containers I'd bought and we knew this before I left but using it on playa made a lot more mess than I'd anticipated and dripping water on a floor that was already covered in playa made for mud.  And mud made of playa is bad.  Ugh.  My water system was a mess.  Literally.  Ugh.  Ah well, janky things are what you deal with out there.  I'd figure it out.  But ugh.  I knew better.

I called it a night not long after that and had this moment of realization that this was not a tent!  HEY!  I turned on the inverter (the one Jason had shocked himself installing... I assume I mentioned that?)  and plugged in the fan and man oh man!  I had a (solar powered!) fan!  IN BED!  This was SO MUCH BETTER than my tent, comfort wise, WOOT!  HAPPY!

Yeah... it's nice to live in your home... that made me happy.  I even put a smiley face AND a heart on my notes that night!

But as drained as I was, I wasn't sleepy.  It was 1 am (I noted) as I was writing my notes for the day and I'd been up since 4 am.... that was a loooooong day.  I also noted that I hadn't peed yet (since my initial pee at the sign upon entry) and that wasn't good, but hey, I was there, and I was putting fluids in me and I just had to remember the desert drains you of your fluids and my body and my intake just had to get used to it all... but yeah, the fact I hadn't peed in all the time I'd been on playa made me a little nervous (ten hours of not peeing is a little bit not good, especially in the desert when you are consciously watching your intake....)  I tried to read, but couldn't focus.  And at who knows what o'clock, I turned off the lights (and fan... ahhhh bliss... and inverter) and I went to sleep.

In my bed.  In my van.  That I'd driven.  By myself.  All the way to Burning Man.


Friday, 7 October 2016

The Monday Morning (P.S. Here's A Duck, Because)

In the initial plans, Monday was the day of my first volunteer (work) shift.  It would have been my second morning and third day on playa.  But, that ship had sailed, and I was excited to know that I was going to be there TODAY!  I'd made it.  Like, really, this was more of a nervous excitement.  I was vaguely aware of the road ahead... gas was the biggest concern (more for the trip back, really) and then there was the curvy, windy mountain areas that I recalled from previous trips and was nervous about.  But I was nearly there.  I could taste it.  It was all going to be ok.... I was almost there!

I didn't have a good night's sleep (not unexpectedly) and was up early early (before dawn), getting myself ready to go.  I messaged Jason that I was on the road, but he was still asleep (or so I hoped, it wasn't even 6 yet) so I was oddly on my own.  I could just see the beginnings of light on the horizon as I put my travel bag into the van and settled myself for the trip.  I went through my usual starting-her-in-the-morning drama (two starts and a loooooong wait to get her fully engaged) and I pulled out of the parking lot.  I had a full tank, no one was going to be on the road, I'd probably hit playa before noon, missing the worst of the heat, and hopefully I'd have a quick entry.

I stopped on the side street, indicating to go left, checked for traffic and slowly pulled out onto main street

and she stalled.


I tried to start her again.  Nothing.  Not a thing.  Not even a click.  Crap.

Jason had told me to call him FIRST if anything went wrong with the van, but I was part way into the intersection, so BCAA had to be the first call.  F*ck.

There was the panic.  Because now what?  I had a dead vehicle.  I wasn't going to get to Burning Man after all.  F*ck, f*ck, f*ck.

Got through to BCAA (AAA in the states actually) and said that I was safe (I'd grabbed my purse and gotten out of the vehicle and was standing on the side of the road feeling stupid for ever having taken such an old vehicle) but that the vehicle wasn't and they said they'd make my call a priority.  (Turns out there is only one tow truck in the area, but I don't know how these things work or if he was already awake or what....)  So I texted Jason.  And then called.  And called.  No answer.  I called his landline, sorry to wake up his roommate but hey, this was kind of an emergency.  No answer.  I texted the roommate... nothing.  And then the police arrived.  OH NO!

But they were very nice.  Had me put it in neutral and "steer" while they pushed it out of the intersection and to the side of the side street.  Asked if I needed anything and I said, no, just that I needed a cry.  They left, and I cried.  Sat in my van and cried.  Why had this happened?  How unfair was this?  The first time I'd felt ok about getting on the road and she died on me.  Dead dead died.  And Jason wasn't even there for me to consult.  And no way I was going to try starting her again, who knew what was going on.  Plus it was freezing, and all I had was my blanket jacket thing I'd bought for the playa, but I put it on and waited.

It really didn't take too long for the tow truck to arrive and he was very kind, and of COURSE she started right back up (Jason said after that perhaps I'd been so frightened I hadn't put her back into park when trying to start her again and I think that's probably what happened but still....)  He offered to drive ahead of me to the mechanics and I took him up on the offer.  I didn't feel safe driving her where I had to go (over that hilly pass and then into no man's land with nothing around and little to no cell service) and I wanted a mechanic to look it over and then I guess I would just go back home.  This sucked.

I sat and half dozed in the front seat for about an hour until the time the tow driver had told me they would open.  I knocked and went in and got told that it'd be another half hour at least until the mechanics showed up, so I went back to my seat and kept trying to contact Jason, getting more and more upset that he wasn't answering.  His roommate picked up the second time I called and said he wasn't actually home at all.  Which made me even more upset.  How was he supposed to be my support and car go-to person when he wasn't even at the one place I was able to contact him at... and didn't even have his phone turned on.  He wasn't there and I really really needed him.  He'd made me promise not to let a mechanic do anything to the van before talking to him, and now I didn't have that option.  I was going to screw up, somehow.

The mechanic (again, super nice guy) came out and talked to me and had me explain what happened and what I'd noticed and I told him the starting issues but that this was the first time she'd died died.  He said he'd take a look but had some suspicions and I told him to just do what he thought was best.

I gave him my number and headed back to the hotel.  I told them I'd already checked out, but that my vehicle had broken down and could I go back to my room until check out time?  (Eleven)  They were good and let me back in and I just kind of flopped down on the bed.  F*ck.  I wasn't going to Burning Man...

At some point I got through to Jason.  Apparently his phone had died died.  As in not ran out of juice (as I'd thought) but completely died, call to the cell provider kind of dead and he'd only just gotten home and managed to get it back to life somehow.  He was angry about that and hadn't been brought up to speed by his roommate apparently, because I had to break it to him that I had a dead vehicle and that the van was in the mechanic and I was screwed.


Yeah.  Dead.  Van.  Mechanic.

And, of course, I'd screwed up.  The things the mechanic had said he was doing were not what Jason would do and now he didn't know what was going on.  This didn't help.  So I gave him the number for the shop and told him to call.  Seems him and the guy had a good talk and the guy hadn't done whatever things he'd been going to do and Jason was back to being ok with "his" engine..... but I wasn't.

I didn't know how much it would all cost or how long it would take but I figured the trip was over and I'd be limping home somehow.  At some point.

It was yet another disastrous day on what was turning out to be the worst trip ever and I was clearly not meant to be going to Burning Man this year.


At least I could lie in a hotel bed for a few hours before I was totally screwed, right?

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Burning Man Trip, Day Three (Sunday)

I don't seem to have taken any notes for my third travel day, (or maybe I did and just can't find them... who knows) so I'll be piecing together what I can from memory.

I woke up, again, happy for the cooler morning air, in the RV park and I think I at least texted Jason for a while if not called him.  I'd already made the decision to not push to the desert today, but I still had in the back of my head that I *could* if it turned out that I wanted to... I just didn't think that was very likely to happen.

I went through the process of readying the van for driving, and looking at maps and not wanting to get going again.  Because getting going again meant those roads and driving and people.  Sigh.

My texting companions were all already there or just getting there or whatever.  And I was not likely to be there for another entire day.  Oh well.  It was what it was and I just wanted to be ok, and not miserable and drained heading into the desert.  Arrival and setup are hard enough, no need to add a long day of driving to that... sigh.  A good decision, but not a completely happy one.

I wasn't actually sure I'd be making it for Monday either.  At some point I'd thought Tuesday might be my arrival... maybe aiming for early morning, but who knows.  When I'd initially thought about doing the drive by myself I'd told myself that just getting there at all would be an accomplishment.  Even if it meant I had to turn back around the next day to start heading home.  Which... now didn't seem like it was outside of the realm of possibility... we would see.  The plan for the day was to head through Klamath Falls (where we've always stopped, and shopped) and then to the next (and last) city/town before hitting the no-man's land of the final few hours.  I'd stay at the hotel I was supposed to stay in Friday night and have that final bed-shower-a/c luxury night.  Alright.  This was do-able.  Four and a half hours via google maps.  So... let's say six.  I could be there by late afternoon or early evening...

I did want to be on the road a bit earlier so I ate... whatever... probably something not very tasty... and I packed and I texted Jason about how I didn't want to do this all over again and then I went through the (scary and nerve-wracking every damn time) process of "starting" the van.

1.  Key in ignition, foot on gas.  Turn key, press on pedal, hold both a loooong while, while pumping the gas and hopefully it turns over.  Phew.
2. Sit with foot all the way down on gas pedal.  Wait.
3. Wait.  Foot still all the way down on gas pedal.  Wait.
4.  Worry that people are annoyed by you revving the engine.  Feel crappy.
5.  Ease up on gas pedal.  Feel van start to jutter (stall kind of feeling), so push back on gas pedal.
6. Sigh.
7.  Wait... more.
8.  Hope it's been long enough.  Ease up on gas pedal slowly... feel it not stalling... you did it, yay!  Take foot off gas pedal!  Phew!
9.  Hang head when van stalls.  Sigh.
10.  Repeat above.  Hopefully only another time.  Sometimes twice more.
11.  Eventually take foot off gas pedal and sit there trying to breathe while you wait to see if it caught this time.  Feel your nerves already shot.  But hey, once she's going she's going.  This is morning three of this... you know how it goes.  She's running now, you're golden.

I got the van started (frigging eventually, like every damn morning) and programmed the GPS (which I now discovered had a thing I could press where it would tell me how far to the next gas station so I could worry a bit less about that (I also know where the final two gas stations are on the end of the trip but that would be for tomorrow) and I hooked up my phone-bluetooth speaker-plug-them-in-too (this time) system and picked a playlist that matched the energy I was trying to feel (calm, mellow, happy so.... 70s music!) and "On the Road Again" by Canned Heat came on.  I smiled.  It was going to be a good day!  Perfect song.... serendipity.  Happy.  And I headed out on the road again.

Annnnd the happy didn't last long.  No giant surprise.  Sigh.

Once again, people were absolute (unsafe) jerks.

We were back to the fairly windy, (curves), fairly fast, single lane roads.  "Passing lane head" signs became my new favourite thing.  For real.  I would see one and cheer.  And then breathe a sigh of relief when I saw it and was able to indicate, slow, and pull into one.

At a certain point not long after I left the RV park though, I got badly tailgated again.  A guy pushing HARD and fast on my butt.  I pulled over, a little faster than I would have liked, only to see him pull into a recreation zone off the highway just up ahead.  Seriously?  You put me at risk so you could get to your lake five minutes faster?  JERK!  I was once again terrified.  And now without cell service.  So I couldn't connect with Jason to calm myself down.  But again... the people on the road made everything so much worse than it had to be.  And my inability to ignore them didn't help.

I kept driving, tense and unhappy, once I'd sat in that pullout for a while, trying to calm my breathing down.  I'd made it not very far at all and I was already terrified.  And probably having what was close to a panic attack.  Hyperventilating and scared out of my mind... the whole nine yards.  F*ck.  And no cell service and it wasn't safe to turn around and go back... so... it was sit and calm myself... and head back on the road, jaw clenched, knuckles white on the wheel, trying not to die or be killed.  F*ck.

I got to the first gas "town" and I'm not really someone who swears all that much (at least not in public) but I got out of the van, looked at the poor gas attendant (you can't pump your own gas in Oregon... go figure) and said "HOLY FUCK PEOPLE ARE AWFUL!"

I apologized right after but seriously!  I couldn't believe how dangerously people were driving and how angry they seemed as they tailgated the bejeeszus out of me EVEN THOUGH I WASN'T GOING SLOW AT ALL!!!!!!!

He sort of looked at me awkwardly and I said sorry but the driving on the road had been horrible.  He kind of shrugged and nodded.  "Yeah... sorry about that..."  Sigh.

I got my gas and pulled into their parking lot for a while to try to settle myself.

Got some more oil and topped up, while listening to the cashier inside tell me how angry people were that the pumps were doing some particular thing.  So... I dunno... maybe it was a bad day on the roads in mid-Oregon but seriously.  Come on people.  Get a grip.  Slow the eff down and stop pushing people.  Seriously.

I feel like it calmed down a bit after that (and I talked with Jason a bit, and he listened and talked me through yet another crying upset stress call) and the weather was warm but sort of not as horrendous as the first day and I used the rest stop I came across (which had less shade, but still a place to pee and stop for a few...) and at some point I got close to Klamath Falls.

Klamath has always been a bit of a marker for the trip for me.  Ever since the first year when we arrived in some kind of zombie movie moment.... and we've stopped there every year since.  Usually it's the last stop before we head to playa, but this year, I'd found one town closer and that was my stopping goal for the day.

I pulled into the first gas station I reached (on the very edge of the city) and I filled very happily with gas.  I'd pretty much made it.  I was there!  Wow!  I'd done it!  The gas station attendant (boss maybe?) came out to ask if I was going to Burning Man, and we chatted about how it was his favourite weekend and the amazing art cars he'd seen going through and how it all just blew his mind.  I was happy to be in a vehicle with some character, and kind of proud that I was just me, doing it by myself.  Cool.

I topped up and cleaned the windows and pulled into the lot to sit and text Jason.  "KLAMATH!"

Congrats, he said.  I was happy.

I drove to the place we always try to go for lunch and had what I always seem to get for lunch.  Gluten be damned, I'm having me my grilled cheese sandwich!  It was right before their closing time and I found I couldn't eat the whole shebang (a salad might have been wiser than fries) and they filled up my water bottle without me asking and the main lady (I don't know if she's the head waitress or co owner or what, but we've chatted with her every year and I never assume she recognizes us) was there so I said hi and she went, OH, it's YOU!  I didn't recognize you... where's your crew?  And I explained that I was trying it solo this year.  Wow, she said... aren't you scared?

Well, kind of.  Not really by being on my own, but the driving and drivers are awful.  Really really frightening.

We talked for a bit, she told me how brave I was, and she gave me the number for the restaurant and her home phone number "in case I needed anything at all."  Which was so touching.  I cried over that one.  People are wonderful.  Small town America is wonderful.  People are so good.  Really.

I took some photos of the van at the restaurant.  (A marker for me for sure) and I went to the grocery store and did some more shopping (again, wished I'd waited rather than shopping in Port Angeles, but oh well, lesson learned)  And I got my final fill up of ice.  YAY, they weren't out of ice!!!!

Jason and I had gone over specific ice routines (the main new one for me being taking the ice out of the bags it came in and putting it in ziploc bags... this turned out to be BRILLIANT, by the way) and I struggled a bit in the heat in the parking lot at mid-day and decided to just deal with ice later.  Too hot.

As I was putting away my groceries, with a door open to let in some air (because damn it gets hot in the van, ugh) when a woman came over and asked if she could look inside.  I... said sure!  My default to unexpected things is to be friendly and polite.  She explained to me that she and her husband were also travelling down to Burning Man in "a green one of these" and were wondering about the bed layout.  "Oh, yeah?" I said, making conversation but feeling quite uncomfortable... "what year is yours?"  She gave me a number, I gave her mine... I showed her where the bed was, she glanced around.  I got the DISTINCT feeling I was being cased.  That she was checking to see if there was anything worth robbing/stealing from me/the van... at some point.

I dunno.  Maybe it was just my "single woman on the road" paranoia kicking in fully for the first time, but I really felt like this was a sketchy situation and I was being cased for theft.  Ugh.  It made me really really uncomfortable and I suddenly wanted to get far out of town.

One of the friends I'd been texting with (who'd helped connect me with the camp and one of the volunteer positions) had texted that he'd forgotten a bike lock and a water bladder and might I be able to find him some?  So I found where the Fred Meyer was and drove there and parked under a tree (that I misjudged the height and scraped some leafy parts along my roof... oops) and as I was locking up, saw that same woman in the parking lot again.  And suddenly everyone seemed suspicious.  I wanted in and out of the store as fast as possible (I needed to pee but wasn't willing to "waste" the time) and I was half convinced I was going to come back to a broken into van... but I found what the fellow needed and I bought a battery or two for myself (Oh, and bug spray or something) and I headed back out and my van was fine.  Phew.  But I was very uncomfortable and feeling very vulnerable and unsafe and I wanted to be elsewhere.

I guess that's the flip side of solo travelling.  Not all that fun when you feel like people might not be trustworthy.


I nervously drove my way out of Klamath, about two (ish) hours of what I seem to remember being pretty driving ahead.  Country side road kind of feel to it... and as I left Klamath, the traffic seemed to evaporate and I was, for a lot of the time, on the road by myself.  Which really, really, really helped how I felt, and was a relief.

Almost too much of a relief at times, because I'd find myself reaching for my water or something and then I'd find the van wobbling and I'd have to remind myself that no... this wasn't a safe thing to do... just eyes on the road, hands on the wheel.  Geez.  I scared myself a few times that way.  This wasn't a time for even slightly distracted driving.  Nope.

Part of the drive (I'm consulting google maps) is through Modoc national forest, which is always nice and straight and has lots of passing lanes and dotted yellow lines, YAY!  It's also Connor's favourite part of the drive because it's so straight.  And I smiled to think of him driving it with his coffee in hand going "coffeecoffeecoffeecoffee".... I guess you had to be there...

It was warm and not all that comfortable but the lighter traffic was making things a bit less hellish.

I still had no idea where I was going.  Nor did I recognize much at all, really, other than, hmmm, these trees look like trees I've driven past before... hi trees.

And I had some music from time to time in a very quiet, tinny way... when the speakers weren't being drowned out or losing battery life.  (sigh)

I wouldn't say the drive was fun (at all!) but I knew I'd be at a resting point in a few hours, and I knew I'd be at Burning Man the next day and it was better than Friday, that was for sure.  It was exhausting and draining and by the time I approached my final stop for the day I was pretty done.

I filled up on gas (only spilling a fair amount of it due to some weird gas pump I had no idea how to use properly apparently) OH, and this randomly reminds me!  If you're travelling through Oregon, pick up ... I forget what it's called, but it's this thing you put in your gas tank with your first tank of Oregon gas because apparently the gas is that bad.  So yeah... get the gas... conditioning... stuff for Oregon!  (And you can't pump your own gas... but they also aren't "allowed" to check your oil or anything... sigh.)  because you can do that in California.... and I found the hotel and I got a room and I went inside and I.... nearly crashed with exhaustion.

But I forced myself up and out to eat (where I couldn't get the food down because ... too tired?) and I must have looked exhausted because the fellow serving me asked if I was ok... I told him I'd been driving all day.  He said he hoped I was going to rest now.

Which I did.

Couldn't get the air conditioner to work, which I found hilarious and well, no need to be upset.  It sucked but whatever, I was going to the desert tomorrow... what was one more day of being too hot?  Sigh.

I don't remember if I watched anything on my computer or if I just crashed.  I did go out to the van later that evening (probably around 10?) and transfer the ice into ziplocs and I tried to put up some of the reflectix I'd bought for the windows... but I did a not great job on that.  (It'd been in the plans for the week before but never got done)  So I cut it vaguely to shape and tidied things a bit for an early leave in the morning and I washed my hair and put myself to bed and tried (and sort of expectedly failed) to get some sleep.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

How Is It Only Day Two?

Somehow it was only Saturday morning and I both felt so far away from home and so nowhere near where I was going and all I wanted to do was nothing.  Not leave camp.  That's all I know.  I wanted to not leave camp.

But I was packed, and it was nearing eleven and, well... I didn't really have a choice.

So I crossed my fingers that the van wouldn't be too hard to start (spoiler alert, it was) and I don't even remember what I put into the GPS to be honest... somewhere in Oregon, but I forget.  Jason and I had talked about something and I'd committed to some route or other rather than something, it all is a blur now, but I was hoping I could maybe even do ok and get... you know, far?  So I headed out, thankful that so far the windows were closed because the temperature was normal (!) and I could hear at least a little bit of music (the speaker I'd bought was better than nothing, but still not all that great, but hey, I was just happy to have some sound.)  I headed slowly out of the camp ground and topped up with gas (again, why so cheap?!) and was rather stunned that the gas pumps had televisions. 

Televisions in the gas pump.  Just... sitting there... broadcasting away.  So bizarre.  I sat in the van another while, after washing my windows (and perhaps topping up oil, I forget) not wanting to actually get on the road.... and then I just forced myself and headed out.

The idea for the day (as best I can recall it) was to head straight down the I5 (big highway) and get as far south as I could.  I was hoping I'd been through Portland (busy city highway portion) already but... I wasn't... so I was nervous about that stretch (it always makes Connor a bit nervy too) and maybe to hopefully be mid way through Oregon by day's end... maybe even Klamath?  That would be great.  So I headed out and onto the big highway.

The sun did kick in, but the heat was much better... yesterday had been SO bad heat wise.  I could cope with the heat today with the fan I'd bought and the windows partially down, which allowed me to hear a little bit of music.  So both these things helped.

The driving was still incredibly stressful and challenging.  I did prefer having the multi-lane highway there so that people could go around me, but hitting the Portland area with its multiple exit/bridge/not that way, this way/ not that lane combos was nerve-wracking and I was really really relieved to get through there.  (Imagine one of those metal bridges with multiple traffic lanes and exit lanes and everyone's going pretty fast and it feels really tight and you're trying not to get hit or hit anyone and following the GPS which you don't really trust yet and you're pretty sure it's this lane but that might also be an exit and HOLY CRAP that guy just cut in front of that car and they almost crashed and I DO NOT have the brakes to avoid the darting in and out that people keep doing this is hairy as hell and man oh man... Portland...Geez.)  The GPS would warn me that there was traffic ahead and I could see the giant road signs telling you go this way and it'll only be 20 minutes delay or whatever and I just... kept going the main way.  And in fact, I came to love traffic.  Because you know what happens in traffic?  We all slow down.  And when we slow down, my van is way way way nicer and easier for me to drive.

So I came to a point for the first time in my life where I was happy to be in traffic jams.  YAY FOR TRAFFIC!!!

Yeah... never though I'd say/think that.

But the slow traffic jams in and around Portland let me relax.  And sip my water.  Even have sips of my protein drinks I'd brought just for the road! 

The traffic on the other side looked horrific, and I made a mental note to see if I could avoid this route on the way home, or at least avoid high traffic times.  Half an hour in slow traffic is one thing.. I didn't think I'd want to be heading home and getting stuck in hours and hours of traffic.  We'd see how it went, I guess.

I think it was on this day that I decided to pull into a rest stop.  I hadn't done that at all on Friday because I'd been so stressed and panicked and I hadn't really thought it was something I *could* do... which doesn't make sense, I know, but nothing made sense that first day.

So at some point after the traffic cleared somewhat, I pulled into the next rest stop for a break and some lunch.


Rest stops.  You guys?  New favourite thing.  You can rest!  (Duh) And pee!  And... sit and chill (aka rest) OH AND THERE'S SHADE!!!!  So nice.  So so nice. 

So I stopped.  And I walked around, and I peed and I ate some lunch and I tried to plan out what route and where I might go (Jason had suggested an alternate route he was wondering if might have less traffic, since the "they're pushing me to go faster" feel of heavy traffic was really hard on me) and he suggested I ask some truckers, which I tried to but they hadn't heard of the highway I was wondering about.  I tried asking some other people but again, they had no idea.  So much for Jason's idea that "people in rest stops will know."  Yeah... no.  I did ask a state trooper but even he wasn't all that helpful and I decided to just stay on the route I'd at least been on before (with Connor, the last three years) rather than taking an unknown route just in case it felt easier.

I also sat eating my leftover... breakfast attempt, and a banana, and an older gentleman came over and struck up a conversation (I try to avoid conversation just because I find I end up "caught" in them longer than I'd like to be) and showed me the meteor (meteorite?) he'd found and I forget what else he talked to me about... the war, I think... and Canada (I guess I have an accent) and he, out of nowhere asked if I was a spy (he nailed the job I do for reals, which weirded me out!) and I packed up my lunch early so I could stop the conversation and I went for one last pee, and as I was tidying up my van to leave, he came over and handed me a pack of disposable wipes (for the potty) because he had "so many extra" and I was very touched (and slightly amused!) because that was a lovely thought and kind.  (Even though they are the devil's work at Burning Man and you CAN NOT use them in the potties, even if they are "flushable")

But yeah, rest stop break for the win for sure.  Filled up my water bottle too.  Which was great, because it meant I was hydrating!  YAY! 

All morning I'd been terrified.  The slow down for traffic had helped, but I still had so many moments of asking myself why I was doing this.  I distinctly remember saying "I could be home on my couch right now."  It was not enjoyable at all.  The van is terribly physically uncomfortable to drive.  And that's assuming the heat is reasonable.  It just is not comfy to drive.  So it isn't fun to drive.  Or comfortable to drive.  Or easy or enjoyable to drive.  Driving that van, by myself, really really sucked.

There were still lots of times I felt like I was being tailgated.  And at a certain point there was roadwork ahead and it came on me a lot faster than expected and I had to wave my hand out the window at a giant red 18 wheeler to hopefully let me in, which he did, thankfully, and when he passed me later, I waved at him, not sure if he could see me, but he got in front of me and blinked his lights and I assumed that was him waving back and I started to cry.  There were at least *some* nice people on the road.  I'd asked for help, he'd helped, I'd thanked him, he'd acknowledged.  It's enough to make me start crying again now.  That kindness and help when I was having such a tough time and was so scared.  Thank you red truck driver, for not being a scary jerk.  Really.

I also got a nice honk from an RV that'd been behind me (decent space) for a while and when they pulled ahead I saw their Burning Man sticker (I had taped a "man" onto my van) and that made me cry too... a happy hello for someone else on the road with me.  Someone else who didn't hate me and my driving.  Thank you Burning Man driving RV people. 

Those were the good parts of the day.

At some point after all this, because it was a tenth of a percent easier I started to get sleepy.  The stress made me panic which is/was no good (not to mention not safe) and that must have added to the exhaustion.  I talked to myself a fair bit.  Especially when the bluetooth speaker ran out of power and I couldn't pull over to plug it in so I was, yet again, out of music.  Sigh.  I was still really miserable and I got to some town.

I forget where, but I was done.  Physically and emotionally drained.  But I'd driven past my planned campsite and now I had no idea what the plan was.

I pulled into some parking lot and parked in a shady spot.  Texted Jason.  Was starving.  Wanted food.  Was tempted to go drive to a sushi restaurant but also needed to know where I was going for the night.

He called at some point.  I was angry.  Tired.  Hungry.  He kept offering solutions. "Oh, down the road there's this camp site or this National campsite looks nice"  How far... are they booked?  I can't risk not having a place to stay, I am done, done, done.

He tried to have me look up a place he thought I could get to.  I couldn't get it on my phone... because I was talking to him on my phone.  I got more frustrated.

I'd been sitting in the parking lot for close to an hour.  Mad that I hadn't thought to get food right away.  Meant I had no idea when I would be eating.  Or where I was staying. Somehow this was his fault.

He said he had no idea I was that exhausted.  I said I hadn't either.  That it had been sneaking up on me and then just hit all of a sudden when I reached this town.

Could I do another twenty minutes?  I don't know.  He gave me a place.  I typed it into GPS and google maps and steeled myself and headed out.

Ugh.  It was not good.  As I got close to the place, I made an executive decision and turned onto a road that lead to ...somewhere.  And then I felt lost.  I'd thought I'd come the right way, but now I was in a very small town with no help from my technology and no idea where to go other than I was worried I'd get shot by accidentally, unknowingly trespassing somehow.  I was so done.

I headed back out onto the highway, and was IMMEDIATELY dangerously tailgated.  Very very badly.  I was scared for my safety.  And theirs.  It was bad.  And as I tried to stay safe, the GPS indicated that I had arrived.  WHAT?

Turns out it was one of those locations RIGHT NEXT to the highway that the technology somehow thought was... not quite where it was, and the small local roads weren't really programmed in or something and meanwhile there was a vehicle on my ass trying really hard to get us both killed and I had no idea what to do.  It was scary. 

There was a "scenic turnoff" ahead and I pulled into that lane and for the first time in my life gave the middle finger to another driver.  It was that scary and unsafe.  And lo and behold... it was a vehicle with a rental Budget trailer and a bunch of bikes as well.  Someone heading to Burning Man.  More specifically, someone SO OVERWHELMED with not wanting to miss anything that they were rushing hard core towards the midnight "early" opening they'd announced for this year.  I was furious.

We're not supposed to be like this.  People who go to Burning Man are supposed to be better.  To know better.  We're supposed to be good people.  To look out for each other.  To have been put into such an unsafe situation by someone going to the same place I was?  Was so so so disappointing.  And really upsetting.  It was the scariest thing I'd experienced all day, and the first time I'd felt like I was being put at risk by someone else's actions.  It was horrible.

I pulled into the scenic spot (which was really beautiful, and I'd been there before, my first year...and the scene of a memory for all of us that first year, when Connor went to use the porta potty and found the gentleman in there pooping... hadn't locked the door!  Heh) and called Jason and, once again, lost it on him. 

Poor guy.  He was the recipient of all my stresses and fears and anxieties and there was a lot of it right then.  I was lost.  With no way to get where I needed to get and I was done. And I'd just nearly been killed.  Really.  How did people not understand what and how I was driving?  That I leave a gap so I can stop in time, because I can't stop in time otherwise?  And that driving through Portland just because there was a gap between my vehicle and the vehicle in front of me didn't mean there was space for you to pull in!  And now this guy nearly killed us all?  Because he wanted to get to gate AS SOON AS POSSIBLE?  AND NOW I HAD NO WAY OF GETTING TO MY CAMP?  WHAT THE FUCK!

I, again, don't remember what I yelled but I was scared and angry and exhausted and I really had just had the scariest driving experience of my life.  Yes, even after everything from the day before.  The guy going to Burning Man, tailgating me at full speed on a curved single lane road in beautiful Orgeon in the evening had nearly caused an accident I would not have been able to handle in that vehicle.  I was done.

I think Jason called the RV spot and got directions or something but I kept trying to explain that I couldn't get there and now was on the wrong side of the highway to boot.  I was screwed.  Going to be lost. 

But again... I somehow got myself back on the road... turned back on to the street I'd turned onto before and this time I SAW the sign that indicated that an RV campground was that way....

Man... if I'd only seen that before...  You know, before someone with mad fear of missing out tried to get us both killed.  Sigh. 

I pulled into the place, and was working on filling out the late arrival stuff when someone came up to the office and said "Oh yay, the big van made it!"

I guess Jason had called them and told them to keep an eye out for me, which I really appreciated, because now that I had arrived and could rest, I was crashing hard, and emotionally too.

I got signed in and pulled into my spot and moved everything around and started to try to make some sort of dinner.  Which ended up being gluten free macaroni and cheese from a package and it was pretty terrible.  But I did what I could to keep myself fed but yeah, it was gross. 

And I'd brought no bug spray or bug screens.  Not that it matters when only the driving windows open (the windows that were all sealed shut happily had bug screens... but that's no help) but it would have been nice to get a breeze in the van, but I had to keep things shut up because of mosquitoes and sigh.  So I ate, and then I showered (bliss) and then I pulled out my laptop and got some wifi and said hi to you guys.  And I tried to write some more notes, but quite honestly they weren't very helpful, or particularly detailed... or even in order.  I was pretty out of it and a little sketched out.  I think I felt less safe/comfortable in this particular place than I had the night before, but once I was in my van with the doors locked I felt pretty ok.  It was night before I got to the showers and they were pretty run down and had a drippy leak I wanted to fix but couldn't but I did make a note that camping by myself is nice.  I did like that.  Not having to talk to anyone, or work around anyone, just doing what I wanted when I wanted, how I wanted.  Driving by myself, not so nice, but, yeah, camping by myself was nice. 

When I talked to Jason (once fed and calmer) he pointed out that I was about half way.  I was surprised by that.  I wrote this in the post I wrote at the time "I don't think I can, or should do the full push to Black Rock City tomorrow.  I'm around eight hours away and you never know how long gate road (entry) will take and the possibility of a twelve plus hour day just doesn't seem smart, especially knowing where I'm going and the physical strain I'll be under once there.  (It's so hard to adjust and get your body used to the heat and altitude (and heat!) while trying to set up your camp)  So although I'm feeling sad that I'm not already there (today was my "hit the playa" day) and would rather not "miss" another day, I think I will do what needs to be done to be SAFE!  And that means being smart and rested and fed and hydrated. "  And I still stand by that being a good, and safe decision.

Could I have pushed straight through and made it to Burning Man on Sunday?  Probably.  But I decided not to, even though that made me pretty sad, on top of everything else.  I think the scare I'd had with the horrible driver that evening really made me feel like my personal safety was the most important thing and pushing myself to do a very long day just wasn't smart.

So I went to bed, planning on hopefully getting, once again, as far south as I could the next day.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Day Two's Morning

I woke up in the Mt St Helens (area) campsite and it was blissfully cold.  I was so so thankful.  Whatever weather system had drifted in overnight meant a blanket was necessary and I was so happy I wasn't roastingly, uncomfortably, unable to breathe-ingly hot any more.  Thank you weather gods.

But I also wasn't willing (or particularly able) to do anything.

Jason was awake, he called.  We talked.  I cried.  And cried.  And cried.

"Ahh, this is what I was expecting last night." he said.  Well, last night I didn't have the luxury of losing it.  I had to get myself fed and watered and situated for the night and then I had to rest.  No time for getting some of the stress and upset out.  But I did with Jason that morning.

I don't remember the call or what I said.  I think I talked about the driving and how hard it was and how scary it was and how I was pretty much unable and unwilling to keep going, but going back would be just as bad.  Being on the road at all was a bad thing.  I didn't want to.

I lay on my camper van bed with my one blanket over me and I cried and cried and cried.  Or, more to the point, I guess I let out some of the fear and stress and awfulness I'd gathered up the previous day.  And what a day it'd been.  How did "three and a half hours" of driving turn into a twelve hour day?  (Yes, I know there was a ferry but still.)

So this was Saturday now (the day I was supposed to be arriving) and I didn't even want to leave the campground I was in.  I talked to Jason for what must have been an hour and a half before I had that same sense of "I have to do something, time is running out" and I reluctantly got off the phone.  I tried to make toast (minor fail but whatever) on the grill thing and had cold steak (just a little... hungry but unable to eat) and felt very dazed by everything and I tidied my space and quelled the panic of not wanting to move and the clock ticked closer to checkout time (eleven.)  I prepared myself and the vehicle as if I was leaving (put the bedding away, hauled that heavy as bleep cooler back up onto a slightly different but workable spot, moved stuff around, etc.) and then I just kind of sat there.  In the driver's seat (because there's no where else to sit once the van is packed for driving.)  Just sat there.  Wishing I could somehow stay.

Which, of course, I could have.  I could have paid for another night.  The thought occurred to me, it really really did, to just stay there for a few days until I felt ok enough to drive back home, but this somehow also didn't make sense.  I was *trying* to get to Nevada.  Trying.  I'd not made it very far and I'd had a horrible day doing it.  I didn't want to drive anymore.  Or maybe ever again.  But I think there was at least a small part of me that didn't want to fail yet.  To at least get a little bit further.  I don't know.  I just know I powerfully didn't want to leave the camp at all at all at all but I sort of had to.

I was worried about time.  I'd wanted (when I was pre-planning) to be on the roads early in the day.  And certainly the cool weather that had rolled in made me want to be on the road while it was cool.  I was getting anxious that the sun was going to show up and burn through the clouds and I'd be in that heat again while on the road and I was upset that I hadn't left hours ago. I could have already been... who knows where, and yet I was stuck right there in Washington.  It didn't help that I was texting with two people who were also travelling to Burning Man and they had both left later than I had and were already at a similar place in their trip that I was... or even further.  That was hard to take.  Kind of rubbed it in my face that I was both late and slow.  And alone.  And miserable. 

Monday, 3 October 2016


Yeah... I just took a week to talk about my first day of driving on my trip to Burning Man this year.  I did.  That's how .... bad it was. 

I suppose now, we could say "intense", it was intense, but it was just awful.  I remember that from going through it. 

It's funny... on the post where I outlined the horror that was the week leading up to me having to leave, I got this spam comment "Great article, very engaging! I will treasure these tips!" (followed by their link to their whatever site) and it made me laugh.  Dude.... spam dude... you clearly didn't read the article you're spamming, cuz if you had?  Yeah... not an appropriate spam comment at all!  (Sometimes they at least seem to vaguely read the post... sigh)

So, yeah.  That was day one.  (Points back to all of last weeks' posts)

Also.  Somehow it's October.  Go figure.
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