The Land Where Mutants Roam… Burning Man 2017: Part 6

When a 30-foot-tall dragon comes at you out of the night, you find another place to be. This was one of many impressive mutant vehicles at Burning Man 2017.


I was riding across the Playa when I spotted a giant, multi-colored dragon making its way over the desert. That’s a photo I must have, I thought, and climbed off my bike. It must have spotted me as well, since it changed directions and headed straight for me. I assumed it would stop, that I had the right away, that running over a Burner was a no-no. But those weren’t assumptions I was willing bet my body on. I’d make a small bite, a tidbit, an hors d’oeuvres. I climbed back on Horse with No Name and got out of the way. Fortunately, the dragon didn’t change directions again. That would have been scary.

A close up of the dragon’s head. The man on top  gives you an idea of just how big this mutant vehicle is.

Mutant vehicles come in all shapes and sizes at Burning Man, from humongous to petite. You have to have one if you are going to drive out on the Playa or in Black Rock City. Otherwise, you are required to park at your camp and walk or bike. To qualify as mutant, your vehicle has to be radically altered; the instructions are clear. You can’t just take a red ball, stick it on the hood of your car, and call the new creation Rudolph. Safety rules apply as well. It’s expected that you will be able to stop and not run over a Burner, that your vehicle can be easily seen at night, that passenger accommodations are safe, and that fire-breathing dragons, or other fire producing vehicles, meet stringent fire safety standards.

To assure that all of this will happen, Burning Man requires that you apply for permission to bring a mutant vehicle to Black Rock City. Alterations have to be described in detail. Deadlines have to be met. A committee reviews each proposal. A limited number are allowed and there are no guarantees that yours will be one.  Upon arrival at Burning Man, you are required to stop at the DMV, the Department of Mutant Vehicles, and have your vehicle checked for safety before driving on the Playa or around Black Rock City.

The Department of Mutant Vehicles at Burning Man 2017. The clearance was needed for the multicolored dragon.

I look forward to checking out the new vehicles each year I attend Burning Man. They are an important part of the event’s creativity and art. Following are some of my favorites from this year.

A possible new meaning for ‘helping hand?’ Or ‘hand out?’ I was intrigued by this mutant vehicle. Theres a face lurking behind the outstretched arm.

Another perspective. An eye has opened in the face.

Shh, don’t tell. There are undocumented aliens driving around at Burning Man.

I’m not sure, but I am going with frog on this one. The palm trees are a nice addition.

Creatures of the night? I couldn’t quite figure out the puppet woman as a mutant vehicle, but she was statuesque.

Here’s a closer look. I was hoping that she would dance.

The blue fellow looked much more mutant. I was trying to figure out whether it was an insect or an extremely irritated rabbit.

Mad rabbit mutant vehicle at Burning Man 2017

Speaking of irritated rabbits…

I loved this. I’m not sure whether it is a mutant vehicle, their home, or an artistic statement. Maybe a bit of all three. But talk about a desert drama.

I decided that it was worth dramatizing further with photoshop.

Face off.

Hot rod. But what’s with the camel? Must be a camp symbol. (One of my blogging friends, GP Cox, pointed out that I shouldn’t be surprised to find camels in the desert! Right.)

This dragon was living in the same camp. Maybe it ate camels.

Dragon’s head.

Playa dragon. There is never a lack of dragons at Burning Man!

This hot air balloon, riding above the clouds, is an example of a smaller mutant vehicle.

Judging from the tail, I’d say cat. But the ears and horns suggest something else.

I though this mutant vehicle had a bit of an aztec look…

And here we’ve traveled to India, where Ganesha, the Hindu Elephant God, lives.

And my favorite, Rabid Transit, brought to Burning Man by the same people who brought El Pulpo Mechanico.

This mutant vehicle could light up the sky…

And everyone around. Be sure to check out the video below to get a true feel for Rabid Transit. I usually don’t do videos, but this one is worth it. Check out his mouth and eyes.



NEXT POST: A return to Burning Man sculptures.

34 thoughts on “The Land Where Mutants Roam… Burning Man 2017: Part 6

  1. Despite having to shorten your stay at Burning Man, you certainly did manage to see a good bit. Tonight at the grocery store, I saw a mutant black and white grackel. It would make a heck of a vehicle. Too bad it was nearly dark, and I didn’t have my camera.

    I must confess that I like the DMV most of all. Who wouldn’t like to find an “Infinite Clearance” sign at least once in their life?

    • Grackles are wonderfully weird birds even without being black and white, Linda. They are one of my favorite birds. The name alone, Boat Tailed Grackle, caught me from the very beginning.
      I always have to slip in a photo of DMV. Infinite clearance was a new one for me. –Curt

  2. Another visit to Burning Man. I am amazed at the efforts of so many making the ‘big’ art. How a different place the world would be if mankind had more of those events. North Korea could do with a good ‘Burning Man’ and lighten things up.

    • Make love, not war! 🙂 I think I’ve heard that before, back in my youth when flower power was at it’s height. (grin) We have everything we need on earth to turn the place into a relative paradise, given a sense of humor, a sense of perspective, creativity and want to. How to get there is the question. –Curt

    • That was quite a beastie, Alison! 🙂 Especially when it’s coming right at you. I wasn’t kidding about it changing directions. (Yeah, I know it wasn’t about me. Grin) Definitely intimidating. –Curt

  3. I have to say that it is the vehicles that are my tip pick of all your amazing coverage from Burning Man. The thought of some of these moving about makes me want to hide from afar. Or possibly jump in front of to take photos.

    • 🙂 They are amazing, Sue. And basically friendly… even the monsters. Still, I’d be reluctant to jump in front. (grin) As noted. Fortunately, they move slowly. The speed limit is 5 MPH. –Curt

  4. So many great mutant vehicles. So much creativity. Like Ganesha best in this post, but all creatures great and small are feasts for the eyes. Thanks for taking great photos and posting. I wouldn’t be able to “be there” except for your coverage.

    • Thanks, AC. The event is always worthy of several posts. 🙂 I am glad to see the bikes are getting good use. Part of the problem is that people buy cheap bikes that quickly break down under Playa conditions. They then leave them for Burning Man to deal with. The type of bike to take is a challenge since Playa conditions are tough on good bikes as well. Some enterprising person could probably make big bucks by renting playa appropriate bikes at a decent price, say $100, and adding a hefty return deposit, which would cover the cost of the bike if it disappeared. And then refurbishing each bike before the next Burning Man. –Curt

  5. You certainly know how to have fun, Curt. My current feelings about anything burning are not exactly in perfect synch with the Burning Man’s mood, but I love your photos and am glad that you enjoyed yourself. While ironically fleeing the wild fires of the west 🙂

    • The wild fires have been particularly horrendous, this year, Evelyne, especially the recent and ongoing Wine Country fire. Peggy and I are a bit philosophical about where we live, since we live in a forest where wild fires are natural. Living with the threat of fire goes with the territory. Most of ours were caused by lightning strikes. Santa Rosa is a whole different story. –Curt

  6. That first photo of Rabid Transit is well done! What a great shot. And adding the video was a good move. Even though you constantly describe music, sound, dancing, it’s really hard to grasp when all the words and photos come through in silence. The video totally shattered the silence for me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s