The Back Roads of Black Rock City… Burning Man 2013

French Quarter in Black Rock City, Nevada.

One can find almost anything on the back roads of Burning Man, including the French Quarter of New Orleans shown here. Great pastries were being served for free.

The back roads of Black Rock City offer a little of something for everyone. Finding it is something else. People would often stop when we were in camp and ask where something was. One person was so confused he stopped twice, not realizing he had already been by. Several years ago a single guy reported to the officials that his car, tent and personal belongings had been stolen. He hitched a ride to San Francisco. After the event he got a call from Burning Man. They had found his car and tent– right where he had left them. It’s easy to get lost when you are out and about.

Black Rock City now has a population of over 60,000 people for its short duration and this, in turn, means that there are miles of roads to explore. BRC is laid out in a semi-circular grid with the circular streets given annual names based on the alphabet and yearly theme. For example, 2013 streets were named Airstrip, Biggie Size, Consumer, Desiderata, Extraterrestrial, False God, Idol, GDP, Holy, Interstellar, John Frum, Kowtow and Laissez-faire. Crossroads that cut straight down to the Esplanade are numbered: 2:00, 2:30, 3:00 etc. on up to 10:00.

Here’s a map from Burning Man to provide a visual. Center Camp is in the middle keyhole-like area. The Man is out in the Playa directly in front of Center Camp and the temple is the small circle beyond the Man. Blue areas represent recognized theme camps. Everybody else is welcome to settle into the white areas– first come, first serve. You simply stake out how much space you need for your group. The scale at the bottom represents 5,000 feet.

BRC 2009 City Plan

The point here is that every road, and almost every block, holds treasures. Theme camps have their own quirky personalities, which sometimes reflect the year’s theme, or not. They often represent a great deal of work. Most give something away, in line with Burning Man’s gifting policy. The camp across from us, for example, gave away free shocks from a cattle prod. We could here the screams. The free shot of whiskey that came with the shock was apparently enough to entice some people in… but not us. The California Library was more to our liking. It gave away books and had a no-return policy.

The Library of California at Black Rock City.

The Library Camp insisted that books you “borrowed” never be returned. A few years ago the library ran out of books. Soon Burners from throughout BRC had shown up to replace the collection. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Mutant vehicles, games to play, and art are also found in abundance on the back roads, as are free bars, music venues, and, well, you name it. Peggy and I are fond of heading out randomly to see what we can discover.

Back roads art at Burning Man 2013

Art can be found everywhere on the back roads of Burning Man. Peggy and I found these bugs quite intriguing.

Peanut Butter and Jelly anyone? This was a serve yourself stand in case you got hungry in your wanderings.

Peanut Butter and Jelly anyone? This was a serve yourself stand in case you got hungry in your wanderings.

Crashed rocket at Burning Man 2013.

Here we have a crashed rocket looking suspiciously like a bomb that offers salvation. Go figure. A UFO is on the left side.

Empire of Dirt Burning Man 2013

I totally got this theme camp. Black Rock City is indeed an empire of dirt. Peggy and I spent a week after Burning Man cleaning Playa dust from the inside and outside of our van. (Well, there were also 7000 miles of bugs from our Alaska and Canada trip that we concluded just before Burning Man.)

Cult of Cargo Pants in Black Rock City.

The cult of the cargo pants captured the 2013 Burning Man theme in a humorous way.

This theme camp suffered from a serious altitude problem. Couches were provided for a birds-eye view of BRC.

This camp suffered from a serious altitude problem. Couches were provided for a birds-eye view of BRC. Check out the dragon on the right. He’s bitten off the head of the seated guy. Mmmm, crunchy.

Comfort and Joy Camp at Burning Man 2013.

One of the most colorful camps was Comfort and Joy, built by a group of gay men. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Cone camp at Burning Man 2013

I’ll conclude with one weird cat at Snow Cone Camp.

NEXT BLOG: We’ll visit Center Camp, a happening kind of place.

15 thoughts on “The Back Roads of Black Rock City… Burning Man 2013

    • And thank you Terry. I checked out your travel blog and hit the follow button. Being something of a sixties type-of-guy myself: Berkeley Free Speech Movement, Peace Corps Volunteer, early environmentalist, etc., it seems we have something in common. 🙂 –Curt

  1. Thank you! With all your posts Burning Man begins finally to come alive for me. I am completely gobsmacked by how much stuff people haul into the desert, erect for a week, and then cart away again. I can barely imagine the weeks of prep that must go on beforehand. Love the French Quarter especially, and the insects.

  2. So cool in every sense of the word.. From the FQ to the PB&J (one of my fav’s) stand there is truly something for everyone. I just love the creativity of each of these “stands”.. I truly must pencil this in on my “list of things to experience”..
    thanks so much for sharing this with us all 🙂

  3. Curt, each post gets more and more interesting as you delve deeper into BRC. You’ve presented quite an eye-opener on an event that was previously a mystery to me. Thanks to you and Peggy for gorgeous photos and great narrative. ~Terri

    • I glad you are enjoying the blogs, Terri. Obviously I am a fan of Burning Man… but not a devotee. (grin) The event is something of a photographer’s dream. And there are always things to write about. Peggy and I are glad we can share the experience. –Curt

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