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!