Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Some neat Burning Man 2007 videos

I'm still working on my recollections from Burning Man, and I promise I'll get to them eventually.

In the meantime and for your viewing pleasure, here are some videos that have been circulating via email amongst those who sometimes wish they were back on the Playa, caught in a dust storm...

Burning Man 2007 Time Lapse by Phil "Peef" Sadow

Burning Man on Adult Swim

The Prophesy tells us that if DJ Jesus doesn't perform at Burning Man an unholy sand storm will destroy the American west. The wind is rising and everyone's waiting for him, but DJ Jesus gets lost in the desert where Satan is waiting to tempt him with a food court, an electronics superstore and finally a magical place called Temptasia.

Burning Man 2007 on CBS News 9/30/07

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Burning Man 2007 Recap: Tuesday, August 28

Burning Man 2007
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Burning Man: Day Two
Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Black Rock City, NV

We woke up bright and early (6:45 AM) on Tuesday to ride out to the Black Rock City International Airport, which is about half a mile south of the city. Mike was scheduled to do some volunteer work at the airport so we left him there, then the kids and I headed back to Center Camp to get coffee.

After getting myself a latte ($4) and Mike a coffee ($2) in our travel mugs, we biked back out to the airport. While there, I took some pictures of the kids in front of the Black Rock Travel Agency (BRTA) tent and of the BRTA plane. I also took a picture of my shadow, which was amazingly long because of the angle of the sun. Being in nature reminded me of how amazing it is to, well, be in nature. Even though Burning Man is an artificial city that pulses and blinks at night with the light of a million LEDs, it also takes place in a beautiful, natural environment where mountain ranges and a big sky can be enjoyed and appreciated during daylight hours.

It turns out that Mike was scheduled to work on Wednesday and Thursday mornings so he was able to leave and go back to the RV with us. We hung out for a bit and did what people do when it's hot and dry: we drank water and napped. In the afternoon I took the kids on a really long bike ride around half of the city. At one point we stopped to watch a dance club camp being built and spoke with a woman who was a belly dancer/fire dancer/poi dancer "all at once." She mentioned she would be performing that night at 2:30 AM. I told her that I didn't think I would be awake and motioned to the kids.

[Aside: Yes, I definitely missed a lot of what goes on at night on the Playa, but I'm okay with that. The truth is that I don't have much interest in staying up until 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning now that I am clean and sober. I don't think I've ever missed out on my nightly 8 hours of sleep unless it was due to drugs of some variety. I didn't get to see the fire dancer or dance the night away in an ecstatic rage, but I did get to spend several mornings riding around on the Playa when the only people who are awake are those taking advantage of the morning light to snap photographs and the few people who are *still* awake. The nights might be hot, but the mornings are cool and truly, naturally magical.]

At some point on Tuesday I donned bunny ears and rode around by myself. Bunny ears attract a lot of attention at Burning Man from men and children. I understand why kids like them, but men? When you wear bunny ears does it mean you want to f*ck like a bunny? Are men turned on by the sight of a woman wearing bunny ears? Not sure. One guy--who looked pretty high, I must admit--said to me as I rode past, "I'm French and I eat bunnies." If his was an offer, I did not take him up on it.

Tuesday night we announced the grand opening of the Tsaobug Movie Theater by walking around KidsVille and inviting our neighbors to send their kids over once it was dark, around 8:15. I think we played Disney's Aladdin. The kids loved it and the parents loved having a place to stash their kids for a bit. The electronic babysitter made it to the desert! Some parents didn't allow their kids over because they don't allow their kids to watch any TV, but nobody got upset at us for bringing our corrupt values to Burning Man so that was good.

After the movie, we rode up and down the Esplanade, checking out the theme camps and dance club camps and other neat and interesting camps that were just coming to life as we were making our way back to our cozy RV home. Like they did every night, the kids fell asleep in the bike trailer so we just put them to bed wearing their dusty, dirty clothes. Before going to Burning Man I was worried that the kids would miss their normal nightly routine of a long, hot bath, but they never once complained or seemed to care about being dirty. Even when their hair got so sticky I started air kissing their heads because I no longer wanted to get my lips coated with dust in the process!

Burning Man 2007 Recap: Monday, August 27

Burning Man 2007
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Burning Man: Day One
Monday, August 27, 2007

San Mateo, CA

We woke up early, 4:30 AM, and made it out the door by 5:17. Our RV was packed and ready to go and we were excited to be hitting the road to Black Rock City, Nevada, home to the Burning Man festival.

Once we hit Highway 80, we started seeing other motorists on their way to the festival. We were in the slow lane, so lots of times we got a honk and wave out the window as others passed us on the left. We could tell others going to the festival by their jam-packed cars and their colorful bikes. Everybody was excited to be on the road.

We stopped in Reno to eat our last take-out meal at P.F.Chang's China Bistro and to stock up on water. We had to go to two grocery stores to get enough water. We also stopped in Target, and it became obvious from the stares and comments that the general mood in Reno is anti-Burning Man. That probably has something to do with the aftermath of the event, when thousands of dirty people dump their garbage in random Reno dumpsters on their way home. At least one checkout person warned us to "be careful" and that there would be "weird people" at the event. We were happy to be back on the road and on our way to Black Rock City with the rest of the weirdos!

We made it to the line of cars waiting to get into the event around 3:00 PM. It probably took about an hour to make it to the front, where two surly women checked out our RV to make sure we weren't hiding any "dirty hippies," people who were trying to sneak in without a ticket. We were harboring no dirty hippies and made it through the gates to the greeter station, where a naked man gave us four welcome packets and exclaimed, "Welcome home!"

We drove straight to our camp, KidsVille Village, and figured out where to park our RV and set up our home away from home, shade structure, and Tsaobug Movie Theater. We started setting up camp and had the whole thing ready by sunset.

As soon as the sun started setting, the moon started rising. That night was the full moon, and as was the custom at Burning Man, people started whooping and clapping when it made its appearance. In general, people at the festival clap and cheer for all natural events, such as the sun rising, the sun setting, the moon rising, and rainbows. Tee hee.

We were tired Monday night from our day of travel and only went out for a bit, riding around the Playa with the kids in the bike trailer, checking out the art that was already up and watching some of it in the process of being created. I remember seeing a woman wearing nothing but a bikini, a welder's smock and hood welding a sculpture (It might have been Koilos). Alas, I did not have my camera with me to capture the moment.

We also spent some time in the exhibit hall at the base of The Man. I'm sorry I didn't wander around more in there, as it was closed from then on due to the premature burning of The Man that night by arsonist Paul Addis.

Speaking of The Man burning, that night I did hear a collective noise of the crowd while I was sleeping but didn't get up to investigate. I thought it might have been from the total lunar eclipse, but it probably was in response to The Man being on fire.

I do know that cozily ensconced in our RV, I was one happy camper -- happy to be at Burning Man and happy that everything had come together like it had. The greeter was right, it did feel like coming home.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Welcome Home

Burning Man 2007
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
We're back from Burning Man and it was a great time. Seriously. One of the best vacations we've ever taken.The kids loved it! More about that later...

I wasn't able to blog while I was there; the wireless was spotty at the RV and I couldn't risk taking the laptop into Center Camp when I also had to watch the kids. But after we got home yesterday evening, I spent hours putting our photos online. Here's a link to the Flickr set. Start at the beginning and work your way through to get a good idea of how we spent our week.

Today we cleaned out the RV and started cleaning all the stuff we brought with us and putting things away. Back to reality. Tomorrow we return the RV and continue the cleaning process.

I've got a lot to put down in writing, of things I want to remember. Like Emily telling me on our third day there, "Mommy, I'm not scared of fire anymore." And Thomas asking me tonight at dinner, "Why aren't we at Burning Man?" I hope I get the time tomorrow to write a longer post.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

RV Packed, Almost On the Road

If you see us on the road, honk
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
We got to El Monte RV in Oakland this morning at the stroke of 8, surprised to see one group of burners had beaten us there. We watched the requisite movie about taking care of our temporary home, then got through the paperwork and were presented with the keys to our beauty.

The process took only an hour and was a great start to our adventure since the RV place is Burning Man-friendly and has pictures and Burning Man memorabilia up all over. Not to mention that four or five groups of people clearly on their way to the Playa came in shortly after us. Woo hoo! I heard at least one guy on the phone to Home Depot, trying to find 5-gallon water jugs.

We brought our baby home and spent about three hours loading her up. She's got lots of storage space, both inside and in a cargo hold. We were able to easily fit all of our stuff in appropriate places. On the advice of fellow campers, I taped painter's plastic down on the floors and covered it with old throw rugs (saved for just this purpose!) When we get to the Playa, we'll cover all the chairs with old sheets. These things should help with clean up.

The RV has one main sleeping section and another sleeping area over the cab. Both have the equivalent of full-size mattresses. I made everything cozy and as much like home as possible. This RV will be our little retreat from the sometimes (okay always) crazy world of Black Rock City.

Two awesome things the RV has: a good-sized refrigerator and a mirrored closet door. Both of these things will come in handy at Burning Man.

Now we're relaxing and about to go to dinner. Tonight I'll cook some food that we'll bring with us to the Playa -- taco meat, ham-n-macaroni salad, and spinach dip. I'm doing some last minute laundry and straightening up the house. I am imagining it will be nice to come home to a clean house.

We're hitting the road at 4 AM. This is my last blog post before Burning Man. See you on the Playa!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Packing for Burning Man: Nerd Alert!

Packing like a nerd
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Like a good little burner, I'm packing all of our clothes in ziplock baggies and putting the baggies in plastic bins. The plastic baggies are probably overkill since we're in an RV and I expect it won't be as dusty as if we were tent camping. However, I did it anyway because I like to over-prepare. And it was a good way to separate my clothes into outfits so when it's hot and I don't feel like picking out something cute, all I have to do is grab a baggy and I'm good to go.

When Mike saw all of my clothes in ziplocks he went, "Nerd alert!" This is an Austin Powers reference.

We pick up the RV tomorrow and I hope that goes smoothly. El Monte RV is refusing to schedule appointments; they will help people on a first come, first served basis. Like the guy on the phone today said, "It will be like the DMV." Great. We're planning on getting there at 7:55; they open at 8:00. Wish us luck!

I'll post tomorrow for the final time before we hit the Playa. I have to say that all of this packing is giving me a headache. I'm ready to don something skimpy and forget about my nine-to-five, if you know what I mean.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Feeding a Family of Four on the Playa

Countdown to Burning Man: 3 Days

I got a lot done today, including decorating my bike, planning our meals, and getting most of the food shopping done. I'm going to end up spending about $200 total for our food and drinks, not including water.

We plan to be on the Playa for five full days and one half day. That's six breakfasts, five or six lunches, and five dinners to prepare for a family of four. I'm definitely not going to make gourmet (i.e., from scratch) meals, but I do want to eat better than I did last time I went when all I brought was a case of spaghetti-o's. Pair that with Mike's carton of Tasty Bites, and I get a little depressed just thinking about it.

This recent Google video taught me how to set up a temporary kitchen on the Playa. We are lucky to be in an RV with a refrigerator but very little of what we're bringing requires refrigeration. We also have a stove so I will be able to heat water and do some one-pan meals. I don't want to do anything more elaborate because it's the clean-up--whether you're in an RV or not--that's a nightmare. I'll be using a spray bottle to spritz dishes and wiping them with paper towels. We'll use a plastic dish pan instead of the sink and an evaporation pond to get rid of gray water. The best trick is to clean up immediately after eating to avoid food becoming caked on dishes.

BurningBeach has a ton of Playa recipes. I got lots of ideas there. I also thought about the heat and the kids's needs. I'm figuring we'll eat three meals a day: breakfast, a light meal, and a bigger meal. We'll also have healthy snacks on hand and lots of water, juice, sparkling sodas, and natural sodas.

Here goes...


Dehydrated strawberries and/or apricots
Milk (Horizon Organic, no refrigeration necessary)
(may be repeated)

Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Oatmeal (Quaker Oats, instant)
Dehydrated Strawberries and/or apricots and/or raisins
Milk or juice
(may be repeated)

Scrambled eggs with Whole Foods cooked bacon bits
Permesan garlic & herb Pita Chips (Stacy's)
Milk or juice

Strawberry Toaster Pastries (Nature's Path)
Milk or juice

Pancakes (Bisquick Shake-n-Pour)
Dehydrated strawberries and/or apricots
Syrup (Mrs. Butterworth's -- couldn't find maple in plastic)
Milk or juice

Light meals

Gazpacho (Sierra Rica)
Smoked Oysters (Crown Prince) on crackers (Ritz)

Salami with Monterey Jack cheese on Triscuits or Wheat Thins
Corn (canned)

Miso noodle soup (Dr. McDougall's, instant)
Crackers with salami and Monterey Jack cheese

Pasta in Tomato & Cheese Sauce (Annie's, canned)
Beef jerky, regular (Whole Foods)
Mango slices (Trader Joe's, canned) or applesauce (Trader Joe's)

Rice noodle soup bowl, garlic or spring onion (Trader Joe's, instant)
Beef jerky, teriyaki (Whole Foods)
Mango slices (Trader Joe's, canned) or applesauce (Trader Joe's)

Peanut butter on rice cakes
Green beans (S&W, canned)

Big meals

Bengal Lentils, Kashmir Spinach, Tandoori Pilaf (Tasty Bite)
Puppodums (Indian flat bread by Tiger Tiger)

Burning Ham Salad (homemade)
Crackers (Ritz)
Corn (canned)
Pineapple (canned)

Ground turkey tacos (ground turkey with Bearitos taco seasoning)
Crispy taco shells (Whole Foods)
Monterey Jack cheese

Creamy tomato soup (Pacific Natural Foods)
Steamed rice (Annie Chun's, ready made)
Hot dogs (Hebrew National, low fat)

Cheesy Ravioli (Annie's, canned)
Hot dogs
Baby corn (canned)

Fruit leather
FruitaBu smooshed fruit
Dry roasted, unsalted almonds
Chocolate chocolate chip cookies (Newmann's Own)
Chips (Garden of Eatin') and salsa (Various)
Pita chips (Stacy's) and spinach dip (homemade)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Heat is On

Countdown to Burning Man: 4 Days

The beginning is near! I didn't get a chance to do anything Burning Man-related today, but I've got tomorrow off work (meaning our nanny is coming to watch the kids) and my plan is to print out our great big packing list--which has morphed into an even bigger packing list--and start organizing items in an anal and orderly fashion.

Fashion! Speaking of fashion, I'm resisting the temptation to go crazy with last-minute wig and jewelry purchases. Must.not.go.into.San.Francisco.tomorrow! But can I just say how excited I was to see a faux fur coat "ready for the Playa" for sale today on Craigslist for $200. Excited, of course, because I bought my faux fur coat at Goodwill for $15. Woo hoo! What a deal.

Speaking of spending money, tomorrow I'm also going to plan out our Playa food and go food shopping. I'll blog our menu with links to Playa-ready recipes. I'm going to do most of my shopping at Trader Joe's with smaller runs to Safeway and Whole Foods. Now that I'm over my gastrointestinal bug of last weekend, I've decided that I want to bring real food with us and not just live on trail mix and spaghetti-o's all week. Food is our friend!

Speaking of gastrointestinal bugs, let's talk about poo for a minute. Thank you to Sophia for giving me a link to Michael Bluejay's Burning Man Tips: Help for the Porta-Potty Shy. Lots of good information about a usually unmentionable subject. We aren't sure yet how often we will be able to use our RV toilet; we're hoping the RV place can clue us in when we pick up the monster. Remember, Black Rock City is not an RV park and we won't have any way to empty the black tank on the Playa once it's full. Our plan is to use the port-a-potties except for during the night and if we're holed up in the RV because of a dust storm.

I think that's it for now. Hold on to your faux fur coats -- we've got an exciting couple of days ahead of us!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sober Mom on the Playa

For a woman in an alcohol recovery program, some would suggest that Burning Man--with its decadence and drugs--is not a good place to spend seven long days and nights. My drug counselor certainly raised an eyebrow when I told her I was going. She didn't say anything, but her eyebrow spoke volumes.

Is it a bad idea to go to Burning Man if you're clean and sober? I've been thinking a lot about this, and for me the answer is no. I'm not worried that I'll suffer a lapse, relapse, or a total collapse while I'm on the Playa. I believe this for a number of reasons. One reason is that being sober just feels too good. I can't imagine risking my health and sanity for a temporary good time. Another reason is that having been to Burning Man before I understand that drugs and booze are certainly available, however, they're not as *easily* available as the reports coming out of the Playa would have you believe. I'm not going to seek out cheap thrills in the desert.

Another reason is that the sight of people drinking or getting/being high doesn't make me want to join them. This is an especially important point on the Playa since a lot of people will be doing those things. I know many of my camp mates will be drinking at night and having a good time, and I will be drinking cold soda and having a good time, too. The common denominator is the "good time." I can have a good time even when I'm not drunk. It's taken me some time to realize that but knowing it has been crucial for the success of my sobriety.

But the main reason I'm not at risk for relapsing is also the main reason I don't want to relapse: my kids will be with me. I am taking my kids to Burning Man because I know that there won't be any situations in which my judgment will be compromised. If I thought I was going to drink or take drugs, I wouldn't bring my kids with me. If either Thomas or Emily gets lost or if anything happened to them, I would never forgive myself if I had been inebriated or otherwise incapacitated.

I'm 100% positive that my Burn this year will be better than ever both because my kids are with me and because I'm going to experience it with all senses alert and alive.

I'm not the only person who won't be drunk or high. There's information on the Burning Man website about being sober on the Playa, and there are three camps that offer regularly scheduled 12-step meetings: Anonymous Village, Hokey Pokey Camp, and Camp Stella. The schedule is on the Camp Stella website.

I don't regularly attend AA meetings at home, but I'm going to try and attend at least one while I'm at Burning Man. It will be good for me to touch base with other sober folks. I like how they explain it on the Camp Stella site:

While some see Burning Man as a big party, many see it as an opportunity for growth. Going to meetings may help you get the most out of your experience. Besides, where else can you go to a meeting where people are wearing costumes or perhaps nothing at all? This is also one of the few places where there are no baskets passed during the meeting (with the exception of ice and coffee center camp, cash transactions are not permitted at Burning Man). Other than that, a 12 step meeting might be the most normal hour of your day.

I'll drink [a cold soda] to that!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Burning Man: Same Place, Same Time

Countdown to Burning Man: 6 Days

I've been spending a lot of time surfing the Web during my time of sickness, and it's been helping to brighten my mood.

Especially fun to peruse is the 2007 list of theme camps that will be at Burning Man. What are theme camps? "Theme camps are the interactive core of Burning Man." People put them together for no other reason then to amuse and satisfy others. They range from wonderfully silly to artfully serious to peacefully chill to the equivalent of a dance club in the desert.

Or how about a roller disco? Yes, back for 2007 is the infamous Black Rock Roller Disco. I was so excited to find out about this theme camp for a number of reasons. One, because it's put together by the fine people who skate in Golden Gate Park every Sunday. Two, because I used to love watching the skaters when I lived on 5th Ave. I even laced up skates myself on occasion.

And three, because I have fond memories of roller rink skating from my youth. When I was in jr. high we lived in Austin, Texas; it was the early 80s and skating was still popular. No inline skates yet... it was old skool all the way! I don't know about you, but when I hear the opening beats to "Get Down Tonight," I know that I need to get my butt off the bench and get on the floor. The lyrics are appropriate for Burning Man, too, especially this part:

Baby, babe, I'll meet you,
Same place, same time.
Where we can get together
And ease up our mind.

I had a lot of fun yesterday perusing the website of the Black Rock Roller Disco. If you've got some time, do yourself a favor and watch the three videos about Burning Man put together by D. Miles Jr., San Francisco's "GodFather of Skating" and one of the organizers of the Black Rock Roller Disco. He filmed at last year's Burning Man, and his perspective is refreshing while his commentary is funny as hell.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pre-Playa Panic

Countdown to Burning Man: 7 Days

The worst has happened: I've come down with a gastrointestinal bug and I spent the past weekend stuck in bed, curled up in the fetal position and unable even to consider being productive.

We pick up our RV next Sunday. Ahhh!!! There's still so many things that I want to do and all I can do is contemplate the list. I did get out of bed long enough yesterday to make one postcard to send from Black Rock City and today I decorated a white board that will hang outside our RV or shade structure for visitors to leave messages. Doing those things nearly killed me.

Mike's sick, too, but powering through. On Saturday he set up part of the shade structure in our yard and confirmed that he could put the whole thing together on the Playa. He's definitely going to need my help; I'm already contemplating what I'll use to bribe the children into hanging out nicely in the RV while we set up camp. Maybe I won't need to bribe them and the stifling desert heat will be enough reason for them to stay inside.

Right now it's not a good idea for me to think about how much work is left to do--before we leave for the Playa, while we're there, and after we return home. Nor is it a good idea for me to consider the possibility that our kids might think a dusty, hot art and music-type festival in the desert isn't as much fun as we think it is.

I am having doubts about our trip because of how crappy I feel. I suppose I could be thankful that I was sick this past weekend instead of next weekend, but what if I'm still sick next weekend? I hate being sick!

Really, things can only get better.

Oh, and look! Our camp sign!

The Tsaobugs: camp sign

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Send Us Mail at Burning Man - FAQ

Countdown to Burning Man: 11 Days

How can I get a hold of you while you are at Burning Man?

We won't have cell phone reception while we're at Burning Man, but if you'd like to correspond with us, send us mail at our KidsVille address:

The Tsaobugs
5:30 & Coral Reef
Black Rock City, NV 89412

The trick is getting your postcards and letters in the mail no later than August 23rd so that there will be time for us to get them. Sharpen those ESP skills! I'm putting postcards in the mail tomorrow addressed to Emily and Thomas Tsaobug. I think it will be fun for them to get mail while we're on the Playa.

What about email?

There are some WiFi hotspots at Burning Man and we are bringing a laptop, but connectivity might be spotty and I've heard that as the week progresses, it gets harder and harder to get online. I doubt I'll be doing much blogging or posting pictures while I'm on the Playa, although I'll try to post at least once to let you know we arrived safe and sound.

I need pictures!

There's a Flickr Group for Burning Man 2007. Burners are already posting pictures of events and preparations leading up to the big event. I'm sure you'll see some posted during the event, too. And LOTS after!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bullet Point Update

Her shirt, my hat
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Countdown to Burning Man: 12 Days

  • Mike revealed his solar agenda and explained more about the shade structure he's designing. Our gift to the KidsVille community will be a toddler-friendly, green movie theater. Party with the Tsaobugs!

  • I got freaked out at the thought of bed bugs in used throw pillows. I bought a whole bunch of cheap new ones from IKEA for lounging under our shade structure. When we return I can wash them and use them in the kids' playroom.

  • Mike watched the video that explains how our RV works. We decided that we won't run the RV's generator because that's just annoying. We don't need air conditioning in the desert. We are stoked that the appliances in the RV run on liquid propane and that a tank (approximately week's worth) is provided to us when we pick up the RV.

  • I went over our packing list and determined that I'm done shopping for non-food items.

  • Mike suggested we wait and buy food in Reno. He thinks it will be fun if the four of us are running around an unfamiliar grocery store throwing things in carts. I'm still mulling over this idea.

  • I spray painted my cowboy hat pink.

  • Lots of stuff for Burning Man purchased online has arrived, including my wedding veil, Mike's wedding outfit, my wedding shoes, Thomas's wedding shirt.

  • Mike got in touch with his friend who officiated at our original wedding and she's free to officiate our re-wedding on Thursday evening (of Burning Man) at sunset. I'll scout out a location when we get to the Playa. I'm thinking David Best's Temple of Forgiveness might be a nice location.

  • The kids are getting excited even though they aren't exactly sure what Burning Man is. What they do know is that it involves art projects so every new drawing they do is "for Burning Man." That's cool.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thoughts of Burning Man Reaching Obnoxious Levels

Countdown to Burning Man: 14 Days

Thank goodness I have this blog and the World Wide Web to spew my Burning Man thoughts at because I am realizing that the rest of the world is not entirely interested in hearing my "A funny thing happened on my way to Burning Man" stories every time they see me.

I say this because I have noticed people's eyes starting to gloss over after I bring up our family's upcoming adventure and all of the neat! amazing! outstanding! things we are doing to prepare ourselves for it. But how can they not think this is the most interesting thing they've ever heard?! I wonder to myself. I spray painted a cowboy hat pink today and in two weeks I'm planning on wearing it while renewing my wedding vows! C'mon, what could be more interesting than that?!

Don't answer that.

I have actual work to do that's not Burning Man-related in the next couple of weeks so I can't completely tune in, turn on, and drop out, but I am remembering this desire to do so vividly from the last time I prepared to go to the Playa.

If--like me--you are interested in spending hours on the Internet exploring writing about and pictures from Burning Man, then definitely check out the Burning Man Pages of Brad Templeton. He's got some thoughtful essays and amazing panoramas that will cause you to lose many hours of productive time. It's wonderful.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Update on Mike's Deluxe Shade Structure and Playa Tips From a Princess

It's like riding a bike
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Countdown to Burning Man: 15 Days

Mike has put together our cruisers and hooked up the bike trailer for the kids to his. He's also hard at work planning his fabulous shade structure, which actually is going to be extraordinarily fabulous as his design and plan for it are growing daily. The structure will be 9 ft. X 18 ft. and will be anchored by heavy wire and rebar. We're using camo netting for the roof because the holes do better in the wind. The floor will be a large tarp and we'll have assorted chairs, tables, small rugs, and pillows for comfort. The whole structure will be strung with blue and white lights powered off our solar panel. One side of the structure will convert to a movie screen for nighttime viewing of child-friendly flicks. And today I found out that Mike is having a banner made for the shade structure that reads "The Tsaobugs." One less craft project on my list! Mike likes to wait until the last minute (some people consider two weeks until Burning Man to be the last minute), but once he gets started on a project there's no stopping him.

And for those of us who care deeply about things like soft skin and fashion, Princess gives us her Playa Tips For Girls (and boys) and tells us how to pamper ourselves for and on the Playa from our tresses to our toes. Lots of great tips including this one about shoes:

Shoes. A serious business indeed. Deeply personal. You and you alone should make footwear choices for yourself. But here are some qualifications: 1)You should have at least one pair of shoes you can walk endlessly in. Even if they're less than fabulous. You will walk miles and miles. 2) If you are, say, going to walk around naked, or wearing almost nothing, you should have shoes the color of your skin or the playa to wear. Or black boots with 4 inch heels. 3) Sneakers go with slips.

But you know, if you want to run around naked wearing orange converse and black ankle socks, that's really ok too. You can do whatever you want. That's the whole point.

Excellent advice. Thank you, Princess!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cooking at Burning Man

Google hosted a tech talk last week on cooking at Burning Man. The talk, Cooking for Burning Man 101, is given by Mirit Cohen and Michael Whelpley, a chef and an admin from the Google kitchens.

From the abstract:

Anyone who has been to Burning Man before can tell you that it is an extremely harsh and challenging environment physically, emotionally, and culinarily! Come hear two veteran burners/culinary team members talk about the best ways to set up your Burning Man kitchen/food plan. You'll come away with some useful recipes and vital Burning Man tips & tricks.

Here's a link to the 37 minute video. Enjoy!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Burning Man Blogs, a Great List, a New Book, and Kiwiburn

Things I've come upon in my recent travels through the Interweb:

The official Burning Man blogs. They've got one being written by the people building Black Rock City 2007, one about preparing for Burning Man, one about the greening of Burning Man, and one about Burning Man's regional groups.

From The Civilized Explorer, a list of Things You Did Not Know You Would Need at Burning Man, e.g., feminine hygiene products and saline nasal spray. A great list and some great links to other sites, too.

Hey, there's a New Zealand regional group, and the New Zealand Burning Man regional event Kiwiburn 08 will be February 1-4, 2008. That's right around the time we were planning a family trip to New Zealand. I'll have to explore whether we want to include this event on our itinerary. Wouldn't that be wild?

Via Laughing Squid, a new book about Burning Man by Portland, Oregon journalist Jessica Bruder titled, Burning Book, A Visual History of Burning Man. I bought myself a copy for my upcoming 39th birthday. Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Nothing says Burning Man Fashion Like a Blue Fur Hat

Thomas in his KidsVille Tshirt
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Countdown to Burning Man: 19 Days

I journeyed into San Francisco today on the search for a few fun items to add to the clothes I'm taking to Burning Man. I started with a visit to Clothes Contact and found so much great stuff that I decided I'm done shopping for costumes. (I hope I can hold myself to that statement in the next few weeks!) I tried everything on after dinner and put together a bunch of outfits. Even if I change three times a day, I won't run out of clothes on the Playa.

So what did I get at Clothes Contact? This is a place that sells vintage and other used clothing by the pound. Right now they know lots of people are shopping for Burning Man so they make it a point to have racks and racks of Playa-ready clothes. I picked up a bunch of things: lime green polyester vest, neon green vintage swimsuit, neon green scarf, hot pink bandanna, purple bandanna, vintage blue negligee, green silk tank top, white crocheted shawl, green cotton tank top, and--the item that made Mike start laughing--a blue fur hat.

Total bill: $42. Pictures when we return!

In other shopping news, we got the T-shirts I ordered from Cafe Press with the KidsVille logo. They're so cool! And Mike's order of glow necklaces and bracelets arrived so we're set for nighttime accessorizing, too.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Critical Tits and the High Cost of Pasties

When I went to Burning Man in 2002, one of my best experiences was participating in Critical Tits, a topless bike ride and party that celebrates women in their most glorious form. The Critical Tits extravaganza is open only to women and girls, and that year it was one of the few times I was not by Mike's side. It was quite a lot of fun hanging out, dancing, and bonding with my female campmates. I can't wait to do it again this year. I doubt I'll bring Emily, but I'm hoping a contingency of KidsVille moms will join me in the celebration of all things estrogen.

In 2002, I rode with a top that I could easily pull down. During the ride, I let my "girls" be free. I noticed that lots of women put electrical tape over their tits or painted their chest with body paint. Instead of going completely topless this year, I think I will wear pasties. But in researching pasties online, I realized one of the drawbacks: those things aren't cheap! Pasties cost anywhere from $10/pair to $25/pair for the sequined ones with tassles. Who knew? Maybe I'll just cut hearts out of colored duct tape and make my own.

Or maybe I'll forgo the pasties and/or homemade tit coverings alltogether. I could care less about revealing my boobs to the world; especially now, after birthing two children and breastfeeding has stripped me of any modesty I may have had. Besides, I'm proud of these things that nursed my babies.

However, as you can imagine, one of the issues with Critical Tits is the large number of whackers, guys who take pictures of the topless women without permission. There's not a whole lot the organizers can do to curb unwanted photo-taking during the ride, except remind photographers about Burning Man's Rights and Responsibilities for Media and Particpants and post pictures of the offending persons on the Internet. The ride is open only to women and girls, but it's mainly men who are watching. The nice thing about the party is that no men are allowed! But even at the party there is a "No Camera" policy unless you are a friend taking photos of your friends.

I won't bring my camera to the party. I would rather concentrate on having a good time and I certainly don't want to make anybody feel uncomfortable. For a variety of reasons, it's not easy for women to bare their breasts in public, even at an event like Burning Man. I want to support as best that I can a safe environment for women to free themselves of the constraints of modern society, whether the constraints are laws, mores, or unrealistic expectations of the patriarchy that breasts should be the perky playthings of the men folk. Yuck!

Go tits!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Kid Transportation on the Playa

Kid transportation for the Playa
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Countdown to Burning Man: 22 21 Days

I called El Monte RV today and re-scheduled our RV pick-up for a day earlier. Our new plan is to be on the Playa by Monday evening, August 27. Is it obvious we're looking forward to this event?

Tonight Mike put together our bike trailer; our two preschoolers fit in it perfectly. We'll hook the trailer up to one of the two cheap cruisers that we bought that should be arriving in the mail shortly. Seeing as how we have no garage or storage shed, I'm not sure what we're going to do with all of our new mobile equipment when we return from Burning Man. To quote Mike: "We'll worry about that when we get back."

For nighttime safety, we'll have battery-operated taillights on the back and sides of the trailer. For daytime safety, we'll have tall safety flags. Mike has forbidden me to spray paint the thing, but the kids understand that it just doesn't look interesting enough for Burning Man and they took it upon themselves to customize the outside with stuffed animals. I'm glad to see they got some of my decorating genes!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Planning our Playa (Re)Wedding

Countdown to Burning Man: 23 days

If you're familiar with my and Mike's story, then you know Burning Man holds a special place in our hearts. Because we're returning this year and bringing our kids with us, and because this year we will celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, we've decided to renew our marriage vows on the Playa.

At this point in my married journey, I am of the belief that all couples should renew their vows every couple of years. And by "renew" I mean "re-write according to the current situation." I can't remember what vows we said when we married originally, but our life is different now. It's five years and two kids later different. Enough said. For our (re)commitment ceremony, we're going to write our own vows (another item on the his-n-her to do lists), and I can't speak for Mike, but mine are going to be very specific. I want to honor the man I am married to as well as our union and the children we've brought into this world together.

I also want to wear a funky wedding dress.

My quest to find a used wedding dress was brought to a screeching halt when I realized the cost would still be in the hundreds of dollars. And I love the ebay ads that advise the dress was "only worn for a couple of hours." Ha! At that point I took to perusing the Internet for inspiration. I checked out Offbeat Bride and searched on Flickr for wedding burning man tags.

After digging through my existing Burning Man costume box and buying a few extras online, I think I've come up with my outfit. I don't want to give it away but I will say that it involves fur, a halter top, a tiara, and a veil. A veil! I didn't have a veil the first time around and I was very excited to learn about tiers (I decided on one) and length and all of that fun stuff. Woo hoo, I'm a bride! I put together outfits for Mike and the kids, too.

The rest of the wedding planning is easy since we already are married and don't need to mess around with paperwork. If you're thinking about getting married on the Playa for reals, the Burning Man website has everything you need to know about getting married at Burning Man. We're hoping our friend Holly, who officiated at our first wedding, is going to Burning Man this year and will be able to officiate again. If not, I'll ask on our KidsVille email list for help.

I'm so excited! And for your viewing pleasure, I found this great video on YouTube of a bride dancing at last year's Burning Man:

Hey, that just might be me this year! Except I think she's on stilts and I won't be. Heh.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Planning for Burning Man: His-n-Her To Do Lists

I got a lot done yesterday afternoon during my three hours of childfree shopping. My first stop was Orchard Supply Hardware where I picked up lots of hardware-y stuff that we need and a bunch of things I didn't know we needed until I saw them, like bike horns for causing a commotion and plastic bins for the kids's clothes. I also picked up spray paint, lightweight tarps, and a couple of fake grass rugs. After OSH, I headed over to Goodwill where I snagged a bunch of used sheets and some silky curtain panels that I'm imagining will be nice as sides to the shade structure Mike is planning. After Goodwill, I checked out Salvation Army and found two large Barbie cars for Playa toys for the kids. At $2.00 apiece, they were the bargain of the day. Last but not least, on our way to dinner last night, Mike and I stopped at Salvation Army in San Francisco and I picked up a magenta, fake-fur vintage coat. It's so neat! Plus it was on sale and quite the deal for $15.

While I was thifting, I remembered that Mike and I are planning on renewing our vows on the Playa. I looked at some wedding dresses at Salvation Army and was shocked to find that a used wedding dress costs $250. For some reason, I was thinking I could pick one up for $25. Silly me. Last night I spent some time thinking about our Playa wedding and I'll blog my thoughts tomorrow.

But first, here are the results of our first Burning Man planning meeting: his-n-her to do lists.

Mike's To Do List

  • Figure out feasibility of having a solar panel on our RV. Can we put it on house when we get home?
  • Gather stuff for shade structure
  • Inventory stock/buy as needed: El wire, blinky lights, glo necklaces
  • Research evaporation pond/buy stuff as needed
  • Learn how the RV works

Mary's To Do List

  • Organize and pack
  • Shop for anything we need that isn't on Mike's to do list
  • Be liason to KidsVille community via email list (until we hit the Playa)
  • Shop for food
  • Call RV place and see if we can pick up day earlier

After discussing what still needs to get done, Mike and I agreed that we are in a good position, planning-wise. It feels good working as a team, knowing that the hard work we're putting into this trip will result in a fabulous week at Burning Man.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Our Great Big Burning Man Packing List

Countdown to Burning Man: 25 Days

Okay. Here is our packing list so far. It may seem extensive, but Burning Man takes place in an very harsh, desert environment. Attendees of the event must be prepared for extremely hot weather, cold weather, rain, 60 MPH winds, and dust storms that come out of nowhere. Long-time burners will talk about years that were particularly rough: I remember in 2000 when it rained all night long and I woke up in a puddle... You never know if this will be a mild year weather-wise or not until you get on the Playa.

Hence, the gigantic packing list.

I've decided to make my office our gathering place for all things Burning Man. My goal is to have everything ready so that when we pick up the RV on Monday, August 27, we can pack it up that day and be ready to leave here bright and early on Tuesday, August 28.

Our nanny Rosa is coming over today to watch the kids and I'm going to use that time to start my Burning Man shopping. First I'll hit thrift stores, then the craft supply store, then Target. Tonight Mike and I are having our first family Burning Man planning meeting to come up with his-n-her To Do lists, which I'll post tomorrow.



- environmentally-friendly soap (Dr. Bronner's)
- Children's Tylenol
- Advil
- Emergen C
- First Aid Kit
- Lip balm
- Sunscreen!!
- Lotion
- Toothbrushes/toothpaste
- other toiletries

- costumes, etc
- Sarongs for me and Mike
- Don't forget pajamas!
- bring layers for cold nights
- Rain ponchos
- socks
- Hats
- Sunglasses
- shoulder strap bag for camera, lip stuff

- Me: crocs, motorcycle boots, fuzzy pink slippers
- Emily: crocs, black boots
- Thomas: crocs, red rain boots
- Mike: (?)

- Battery powered radio
- Camera, batteries and charger
- Computer (family laptop)
- Sharpies for writing our KidsVille address on the kids's bellies
- Separate, sealed containers for recyclables, burnable, and non-burnable waste
- Rope and string for tying loose stuff down.
- Baby Wipes
- Ear plugs
- toilet paper (rolls in ziploc bags)
- Dust Goggles / face masks
- Head lamps
- lanterns for kids
- Mirror
- lighters
- extension cords
- power strip
- parasols?

Sleeping stuff and towels
- sheets/pillows for RV beds
- light blankets
- Towels

RV prep
- plastic drop clothes for floors and other surfaces
- old carpet(s) to cover floors
- old sheets/fabric to cover seating area
- Message board for outside of RV
- Tsaobugs banner for outside of RV

Matter Out Of Place (MOOP) clean-up supples
- Big whiskbroom
- dustpan
- Flat blade shovel
- Rake (depending on the surface texture)
- Stiff long handled broom
- Magnets to remove every last nails, staples, scrap of metal
- plastic bags

Gray water disposal/evaporation pool stuff
- TBD (after discussion with Mike)

Shade structure stuff
- Materials to build shade structure (Mike)
- Rebar stakes
- Tarp for floor
- old rug for floor (?)
- small stuffed animals to cover rebar or tennis balls
- cloth in strips to tie on guide wires
- What shall we sit on when we are outside? I need to discuss this with Mike
- solar lights (string?)
- solar tiki torches
- battery-powered lantern
- table?
- Decorative items that can be tied down

Tool box
- scissors
- exacto knife
- duct tape
- zipties
- Work gloves for Mike
- Work gloves for Mary
- Long-handled sledgehammer
- Vise grips for removing stakes and rebar
- Assorted bungie cords

- Mike: mountain bike with kid trailer attachment
- Me: girl-style cruiser
- Tire repair kids
- Baskets
- Locks

Outdoor shower stuff
- Portable shower
- Tarp?

Other Mike stuff
- solar panel, etc.

- Blinky things
- El wire
- Glow sticks
- Bubbles
- walkie talkies
- musical instruments
- a couple of toys for each kid that we don't mind destroying
- Books for kids and adults

- (2 x 6 x 4 = 48 gallons) BUY IN RENO

Kitchen stuff
- Nalgene bottles for each family member decorated with name/stickers
- travel coffee mugs for center camp coffee
- bucket and mesh bag or painter's mesh for food waste
- Trash bags of assorted sizes
- Ziplock bags of assorted sizes
- Eating utensils for 4
- Plates/bowls for 4
- Plastic cups for 4
- cloth napkins
- paper towels
- Dish sponge
- Kitchen towels
- Pots/Pans/Utensils/Can Opener/Spatula/Fork/Big spoon
- wash basin (x2)
- Cooler for drinks
- Cooler for food
- All other food in plastic bin with lid

- lots of canned fruits, tasty bites, spaghetti-os, trail mixes, chips, dehydrated fruits, crackers, juice boxes, milk in boxes, cookies, rice cakes, pop tarts, peanut butter, fruit leather, chips and salsa, etc., whatever looks good at the store and can survive in the desert
- bottle of Tequila, limes, margarita mix for the Mayor of KidsVille

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Partial To Do List of Crafty Projects

Countdown to Burning Man: 26 days

As promised, I'm working on our GREAT BIG PACKING LIST, and I will post it tomorrow. I've also decided that tomorrow's weekly date night with the husband will be a Burning Man planning meeting, so this weekend I will be posting His-n-Her Burning Man To Do Lists. What fun!

Today I'm compiling a list of crafty projects I want to do before we leave for the Black Rock City Playa. It goes without saying that this list is subject to change.

  • Decorate our bikes. This year's art theme is the Green Man so I want to do a dark green spray paint on the bikes and wrap them with fake greenery from the craft store. Both bikes need lights on the front and baskets.
  • Decorate the bike trailer for the kids. I want to do something with greenery to make it funky for the day, and lights on it for nighttime safety. I also want to make it comfy inside for the kids with pillows(?) and pockets for them to stash their stuff.
  • Yesterday I ordered shirts for the kids and us with the KidsVille logo on them. I uploaded the logo and ordered the shirts from Cafe Press. I got white shirts that I'm planning on dying green. [To Do: order dye from Dharma Trading Co..]
  • Tie-dye stuff with Emily and Thomas as a group project. They'll get excited about picking things out to dye and helping out with the dying, and it will give us a chance to discuss our upcoming trip.
  • Make message board for outside of RV. I bought a bunch of stuff for this project at Daiso Japan. The message board will be for visitors who come by while we're out. Also, I just think it will be a fun project to do.
  • Design and make some kind of banner for the outside of our RV that reads The Tsaobugs. I'm thinking I'll paint this in rainbow colors on a green tarp that I have. This will make our RV easier for us, the kids, and our friends on the Playa to spot!
  • Decorate my motorcycle boots with spray paint and stencils.
  • Decorate Emily's boots with spray paint and stencils.
  • Costumes! This could go in all kinds of directions.
  • Think about our shade structure and how we can make it both secure and homey. I'm thinking solar lights strung around the outside and some of our solar tiki torches duct taped to the four posts. What else?... A couple of trips to thrift stores should yield some fun, decorative items. I'm pretty sure a walk around my house will yield others.
  • Contemplate the idea of a craft project we can share with our neighbors. Something edible? Something for kids?

I can't think of anything else at this moment, but I know that will change as I start my projects. Tie-dye has a way of spreading, I've noticed...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Countdown, Community, and KidsVille

Countdown to Burning Man: 27 days

Oh my goddess, it's August 1 and we pick up our RV on August 27. It's countdown to Burning Man time!

I haven't been updating this blog as much as I would have liked. Therefore, I am making the commitment to blog at least once a day from now through August 27. This is the best part anyway--the frantic days of list-making, thrift-store shopping, craft-making, blinky light-buying, food shopping, and everything else that will occupy most of my free time until that magic day when we pile all of the above into our 26-foot RV and hit the road. Black Rock City or Bust, baby!

I've been thinking about Burning Man quite a bit since I last posted on May 8. Admittedly, many of my thoughts have leaned towards my costume and clothing choices, but I also spend a fair amount of time contemplating the idea of community.

The last (and only) time I've been to Burning Man, I was part of a theme camp made up of friends and friends of friends. I spent a fair amount of time in the last couple of months leading up to the burn working on group projects related to our theme camp, Hamok Havok (BM 2002). The first time Mike went to Burning Man he camped with a group that did communal dinners; the last time he went he camped with friends who helped him with his art project, The Quoting, Whirled. Neither time was he involved in a theme camp, and I'm not sure he saw my participation in one as being a good thing. Theme camps are a lot of work and involve a lot of planning and cooperation. Tempers can flair during the planning phase and especially when one is attempting to create a home-away-from-home in 100 degree heat. We were pretty sure we would not have the energy or time to participate in a theme camp this year given the fact we are traveling to Black Rock City with two small children.

But going to Burning Man without a community of friends seemed... well, rather unlike the philosophy behind the event itself. We decided to research the idea of camping with a group of fellow parents and kids in a longstanding Burning Man village called KidsVille.

According to the KidsVille website

KidsVille [is] a village within Black Rock City. Our camp has grown tremendously from earlier years and in response to that growth, has now declared itself a Village. Despite its growth, KidsVille remains committed to providing a community for all families and their friends. In 2000, we had over 30 families and over 40 children ranging in age from 8 months to 18 years. We have had families come from around the world, and from all walks of life. In fact, the only thing we share in common is that we all believe that Burning Man is a wonderful family experience.

In May I joined the KidsVille Yahoo Group and introduced myself. I got several replies right away and was reassured that we were doing the right thing--both by joining the group as well as by attending the event with kids in tow. At first, the email traffic was light, but as we get closer to the event that many people look forward to all year, the emails are flying fast and furious. And judging from the emails that are filling my inbox with all talk Burning Man, all the time, I feel that we have found our people.

So now we have a place to camp when we drive our big RV into the the gate of BRC, and a large and welcoming community of parents and kids, of families of all shapes and sizes, to be a part of during our week on the Playa. It feels good.

Coming up tomorrow: Mary calls a family meeting and starts working on THE GREAT BIG PACKING LIST. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Answer: Sunscreen

Sketch of Emily
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Question: What you wear at Burning Man.

I haven't blogged lately about preparing for Burning Man because, well, I haven't done anything since reserving an RV last month. Oh wait, I have bought three skimpy outfits that I'm not sure I would wear to the pool here but might even be too much clothing on the Playa. I've also found my box of outfits and costumes from last time I went, and I'm happy to report that two babies later and the clothes still fit. Oh, ya. I also decided that this time I'm going to spray paint my motorcycle boots silver with purple, orange, and pink stars.

Obviously, I have my priorities.

Maybe I have thought, too, about what the kids are going to wear. I'm less concerned with their costumes and more concerned with their comfort. And their safety, too. I want them to be protected from the sun without being too warm and from the dust, especially if we're caught in a dust storm. I'm also preparing for the idea that they may not want to wear much of anything since temperatures above 80 degrees typically force them to shed their clothes immediately.

So, these things I know I will be packing for the kids (and for me, too):

  • Sunscreen in many different forms, including lip balm and travel sized containers for my "mom at burning man purse type thing" (see future post), and lots of it. When we're on the playa, the rule will be no leaving the RV without SPF. I'll make sure a large thing of it is always by the door.
  • Hats and lots of them. I'm going to start searching dollar stores for cheap, funky hats to add to our existing collection. Maybe I'll put together a box-o-hats to make the idea of picking out a hat to wear fun for the kids.
  • Cheap sunglasses and lots of them. Enough to share with other kids?
  • Blousy cotton shirts (button down or just Ts?) that we tie dye and make funky before we go. I think it will be fun for the kids if they participate in making their own costumes. It will give them a sense of anticipation about the trip, too.
  • Face masks. To protect against dust in the event of a dust storm, we'll bring face masks and make sure enough for the family are with us at all times.

Because we're staying in an RV, I'm less concerned with protecting them from the harsh elements of the desert than I might be if we were camping solely in a tent. And because we live in a sunny suburb and spend lots of time outdoors during the summer, I feel that I already am concerned with their protection from the sun and know how to make sure they don't get burned. We'll have to be especially vigilant at Burning Man, but we're basically applying our standard rules of living to survival in the desert.

What's next on my To Do list? We're thinking one of our bikes will be a family bike and have a trailer attached to it for transport of the kiddos. I need to start perusing Craigslist and my moms club mailing list for a used bike trailer; we're really only looking for something for Burning Man since we don't do much (okay, any) recreational biking when we're off the Playa.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

To RV or Not To RV: That is the Burning Question

Originally uploaded by marytsao.
When Mike and I first started kicking around the idea of going to Burning Man this year, we were stumped by the idea of transportation. Mike seemed convinced that we could fit our family of four and all of our camping equipment in our Toyota Prius. I tried to convince him otherwise. I haven't yet done the math on the amount of water we'll need to bring with us (look for that in another post!), but I knew that our Prius was barely big enough for two suitcases, a fold-up stroller, and a laptop bag when we used it to go on road trips. I doubted it would be big enough for thirty gallons of water, our tent, shade structure, clothes and food for five days, bikes, blow-up couch, camp decorating essentials, etc., etc.

I'm not sure if Mike ever admitted that I was right, but one day in February he started looking on craigslist for a used school bus to buy. That's when I knew he was serious about going to Burning Man and we bought our tickets to go.

After several failed attempts to look at school buses and after some soul searching, we decided that we didn't actually want to own a school bus. The cons to owning a school bus included maintenance and storage. We're not mechanics and we don't have a garage big enough for a bus.

Thus, we contemplated the RV question, specifically the idea that taking an RV to Burning Man is losing out on an authentic experience. Some people equate going to Burning Man in a luxury RV akin to touring San Francisco's Haight Street in a tour bus. I remember when I lived on Haight Street, my street friends would often hold up mirrors to tour buses, as if to suggest that sightseeing was rude and offensive.

Mike posed the school bus vs. RV question on a Burning Man email list at his work. The responses about school buses confirmed our suspicion that they might take, oh, just a tad more work to maintain than either he (a computer programmer) or I (a former technical writer-turned-housewife/SAHM/mommyblogger) might be ready for. Several people suggested that school buses were now so ubiquitous at BM that they too were being considered tourist-y.

The people who wrote about bringing an RV suggested that our experience at Burning Man was our own responsibility, regardless of what method we took to get there. Instead of spending all of our time in our RV running the generator and the AC, we should set up a shade structure and relax outside, get to know our neighbors, and spend time exploring the many theme camps and art installations--all of the things that we love about Burning Man anyway and why we want to go back.

So last week I called El Monte RV and rented a 26-foot RV for the last week in August/first week in September. At this point we've made the decision to go, we've bought our tickets (the kids will get in free), and we've rented our RV. We're doing it!

Great link This Burning Man page about RVs goes into the pros and cons of renting an RV and explains the responsibilities of having an RV on the playa. It also provides links to companies (like El Monte RV) that actually like renting to people going to Burning Man. Lots of good info.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Our History with Burning Man

When I tell people my husband Mike and I are going to Burning Man this year with our kids, the first thing they do is wrinkle their brow. Then they politely ask, "have you been to Burning Man before?" In our case, the answer is, "yes!"

Mike and I went to Burning Man in 2002. We didn't plan on going together because we weren't dating at the time we purchased our tickets. Mike had been before, and in 2002 he was planning an art installation, The Quoting, Whirled. I had never been, but had known about it for years. Mike and I worked together, and I think one of the reasons he asked me out was because he found out that I was going to Burning Man.

We had been seeing each other for less than two months when he packed up his art project and journeyed with his friends to Black Rock City. I left a couple of days later with my friends and a walkie talkie tuned to channel Mike. Without cell phone reception, the plan was for me to radio him the minute I arrived and he would meet me at the location my friends and I had for our theme camp, Hamok Havok.

Without going into tons of detail about the five days we spent together in the desert, I do want to admit that it was a magical time and sealed our future together. During the trip we discussed love, marriage, and having children together, and not necessarily in that order. Days after coming back, I was learning about things like ovulation calendars and a little over a month later I was pregnant with our first child, our daughter Emily. We were married on November 16, two months after returning home from our Burning Man adventure.

Burning Man 2002

Five years and two children later, we have decided to return to that place and space, knowing that our experience will be different because we now have children but hoping that it will be, in many ways, enhanced. One thing we're looking forward to is renewing our vows with our kids in attendance because Burning Man is where we fell in love and where they were conceived into being, if not physically then mentally.

We're excited! We can't think of an adventure better than this one.

Burning Man, here we come! This time with kids!