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Alerts for Burning Man 2009

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The Civilized Explorer

Updated: August 25, 2009.

| The Trains | The Cows | The Black Rock International Airport | The Reno Airport | The Playa NEW! | The Heat NEW! | The Recycling | The Roads | The BRC Maps | Portapotties | The Telephones |

The Trains

There are train tracks on the eastern side of the playa where Burning Man takes place. Burners must cross the tracks going through Gerlach. Mike Bilbo at BLM sent out an email in 1999 with a report of a BLM truck being hit by a train; see Train Safety Warning for the full email (and a photo of the truck). The email states that there are 20 trains a day on the tracks, and sometimes there are two to five separate trains coming through in clusters (looks like we got ourselves a convoy). Be very careful when you cross the tracks going and coming outside Gerlach. Trains come through at 70 miles per hour, and you may not be able to hear their horns in windy conditions.

The Cows

Yikes! Watch out for cows on the road between Wadsworth and Gerlach. If you hit one, it will ruin that poor animal's day. To say nothing of yours. Be especially vigilant at night. You know not to "outdrive your headlights": Do not go so fast at night that you cannot safely stop your fully loaded vehicle in your lane when your headlights show there is a black cow on the blacktop. Be careful on curves and the crests of hills, as the cows are too dumb to get out of your way and will watch you drive right into them.

The Black Rock International Airport

Check the Blackrock International Aiport page for links to the operating plan, tips, and information (scroll down the menu on the right). Join the BMOrg email list if you are a pilot of heavier than air, lighter than air, ultralight, powered or not paraglider, glider, or just flying by flapping. Subscribe by sending an email to aviators-list-subscribe at (sorry for not providing a clickable address, but you know why). For announcements only, send your email to aviators-announce-subscribe, instead. (Does your insurance allow a landing on the playa?)

The Reno Airport

August 25 update on getting off the playa when you have a plane to catch:

Plan on a 3 - 4 hour wait, on average, in line from BRC to the paved highway, Highway 34. Plan for another 3 hours or more from the start of the highway to Reno. Either of these times could increase to as high as 6 hours or more if there are accidents or other traffic issues, including too many people trying to leave BRC all at once.
If you are making flight reservations or need to get somewhere at a certain time, take this into account. You should not plan on leaving the city and catching a flight the same day! Give yourself some safety margin. Also be aware that if you leave in the evening, you may be driving until early in the morning. Be prepared. Be safe.

The Reno airport is officially the Reno/Tahoe International Airport (RNO). It is located at 2001 East Plumb Lane, in Reno. Flight information, maps of the terminal, and more information are available on the Web site.

Burning Man will have a playa info desk at the Reno airport in or near the baggage claim area. The staff will provide local information on lodging, shopping, and transportation.

You can reserve seating on the Bio Bus at their Website. The bus will run from the airport, to a supermarket, then the playa before and during the event, then from the playa to the airport for people heading home afterward. See the site for a FAQ, prices, and schedules.

The Playa

An email from the playa August 25:

I have been onsite for a couple of days. The Playa is hard There is no doubt that there will be some dust, but nothing like last year. If you have not selected your camping location the south side is a bit less dusty than the north.

An email from the playa on August 24:

Hiya Burners from Beeeyoteeful Black Rock City! Weather Report: Hot and Sunny. Playa Surface: Dusty, but SO much better than last year (remember to drive 5mph to keep the dust down). Seven Day Outlook: WOO HOO!

Prank alert: A rumor from August 21: lots of bugs at night. Not pests, but bugs of some kind. Also hot - most people are working at night instead of during the day.

From an email of August 7, a person on the playa reports a heat wave, rain, dust storms, and lows at night of 48 degrees. No temperatures given on the heat wave. I hope the rain packs down the dust so the dust storms stay away.

July 11, 2009:"I was at an ARTery meeting on Thursday evening at BM HQ and someone had just returned from the Playa that evening and she too reported that the Playa is in great condition. Flat, hard and smooth due to the rather recent rain fall. Also, I checked and we will have a full moon on Tuesday or Wednesday night."

June 7, 2009: Campers out at the playa said it flooded last week. This may mean that it will bake into its normal hard surface by Labor Day.

From the May 15, 2009, JRS: DPW has started its work weekends (and reports that the playa is STILL WET, which bodes well, particularly as we're returning to our 2007 city size!).

The Heat

Rumor of August 21 - too hot to work during the day, so most people are working at night.

Conditions from the weather station at BRC world headquarters in downtown Gerlach. (Unfortunately, the text is set against the Gerlach Web cam, so if it's night, the black text disappears against the black sky.) Current weather conditions in Gerlach from the Weather Channel. (The doppler radar image shows Winnemucca, which is close enough.) At Weather Underground, you can type in Black Rock City and get a weather report. (We've typed it in for you. It gives current conditions in Lovelock.) The National Weather Service has a page which claims to be current weather and forecast for Gerlach. It gives a seven-day forecast, so check it before you leave to see how wrong it can be.

The Friends of Black Rock have a nice weather page, too.

These NOAA pages also give weather reports (not forecasts) around the playa - none is actually on the playa, and reported temperatures at one viewing of the map varied from 80 to 95: (takes awhile to load; follow the directions at the top of the screen)
Bluewing Mountain (the result of clicking on the Bluewing station on the preceding map)

The last several years at the Burn have been balmy by BM standards: In the nineties (Fahrenheit) during the day, cool enough for jackets at night. On our first trip, it hit 107 degrees our first day. Please remember that the desert can be quite harsh and have water with you at all times.

The Recycling

Several places are again accepting stuff for recyclling. Here's a the scoop from the The Jack Rabbit Speaks Volume 12, Issue #17 June 23, 2008


Friday August 22 through Wednesday September 3 (Keystone location operating through Sept. 6)

Once again this year, you can find FREE DRIVE-THRU recycling at five Reno locations! Open 24 Hours!

Accepting recyclables: Plastics (HDPE 1,2,3,4,& 5), plastic bags, glass, all metals (aluminum, tin, steel, iron, etc.), paper, cardboard, recyclable batteries, and bikes.

All you have to do is drive into the parking lot, and deposit your sorted recyclables in the assorted bins provided. Please have your recyclables as clean as possible.

New for '08, garbage disposal will additionally be available for recyclers at approximately $3 per standard 35-gallon trash bag.

Proceeds raised from recyclables, and proceeds raised beyond costs for garbage disposal, will be donated to support local environmental programs and charitable causes. Save Mart will match in donation the proceeds raised from recyclables up to $1000.

Your participation and care is very much appreciated in this second year of a multi-community initiative to promote recycling!

Drive Thru Locations:

Save Mart Supermarkets

The Roads

Satellite image of the road from Reno to the turnoff onto the playa.

Interstate 80 Construction in California: Click on "Travel Info" for up-to-date information. There are times when all lanes on westbound or eastbound I-80 will be closed to traffic. You can sign up for email updates of lane closures.

The Bay Bridge will be closed Labor Day Weekend: for more information. It is expected to be closed Saturday through Tuesday. For immediate download of a .pdf file explaining what's going to happen, click here.

The Twitter:

Nevada's Department of Transportation has a map of construction projects at Road Construction (NDOT District 2). If you are offline, you may call 1 (877) 687-6237 for road conditions. The Web page has very helpful information on the Reno/Sparkes Spaghetti Bowl Project, which likely will be a traffic problem before and after the Burn.

California's Web page for traffic and construction information is Road Info, where you must enter the highway number to search for conditions (from the Bay Area, you likely will be on 80). In California and the Reno/Lake Tahoe area, call 1 (800) 427-7623 for offline information.

For lists of links on traffic conditions and construction in other areas of the US, see Traffic and Road conditions, and select some likely links. You can use the Road Trip Planner on MapQuest or the "More driving directions options" at Maps On Us to plan your trip to Gerlach, and include stopovers anywhere you like.

The American Automobile Association has a traffic conditions page. Type in Reno, NV and Gerlach, NV on the "Traffic on Route" section and see if any accidents have been reported.

The Jack Rabbit Speaks has the following suggestions from the Nevada Highway Patrol, based on their years' of experience patrolling the Burn:


Every year the NHP helps hundreds of burners who get stranded or otherwise experience problems on the road to and from the event. At a recent meeting they let us know some super helpful tips to avoid the most common problems that burners experience while on the road:

Too tired to drive...
...The NHP reports that of the accidents in September '07 that they relate to Burning Man traffic, the number one reported cause of these accidents was fatigue. Be sure to be well rested/caffeinated and sober (duh), with a buddy to help to keep you company while you drive. Behind the wheel is no place for a playa hangover.

Driving on empty...
...Fill your gas tank before heading out on 447. Turns out lots of people run out of gas to or from the event. Its a long way and there are few gas stations between Gerlach and the rest of the civilized world. Fuel up when you have the chance.

Soft shoulders...
...The shoulders of 447 and the other rural highways have *very* soft shoulders and the chance of getting stuck is much higher than you expect, especially in the soft sands around Pyramid lake. Only pull over if you absolutely have to and if at all possible only pull over on fully developed gravel shoulders. It's also easy to roll a vehicle if you hit these soft shoulders at high speeds. If you absolutely have to, and if at all possible, only pull over on fully developed gravel shoulders.

NOTE from Civilized Explorer: Once you get on the two-lane blacktop towards Gerlach, there are effectively _no_ shoulders. If you get a tire off the pavement, you will get sucked off the road and into a spin in the dirt. Drive safely.

Watch your load...
...Be sure your any loads on your roof rack or trailers are tied down properly. This especially applies at the end of the event on the way home when you may be tired and less careful about how you load and tie down. Taking a couple of extra minutes to tie down your load is a lot easier than scurrying about on the highway trying to pick up your gear while playing real life frogger with the oncoming traffic.

Hurry up and wait...
...the wait for tow trucks can be very long (think hours and hours). Sitting on the side of the road is a major bummer so please be careful.

The BRC maps

The official Burning Man map of BRC lives here. A Garmin-compatible map for your GPS is located here; download the binary source and follow these directions to install it. (I use option 3 - put my SD card in a reader, pop it into the computer and drag the file over, renaming it gmapsupp.img

The Portapotties

Stop throwing trash in the portapotties. Women, please sit on the seat instead of standing or squatting over it and spraying the entire booth with your urine. Sheesh!

The Telephones

In America, telephone numbers are grouped for convenience of recollection. A sample number is 1 (800) 555-1212. The figure "1" is the country code for the United States. The three digit number in parentheses is the area code within the US, and the seven digits with the dash is the local number. If the area code (the three digit number in parentheses) is 800 or 888 or 877, the call may be placed without a charge (also called a toll-free number). Note, though, that some payphones will not let you call a toll-free number since the owner of the payphone will not get paid.

The area code for Reno is 775; if you are in the 775 area code, you need to dial only the seven-digit number. For example, if you are in Reno and the number listed is 1 (775) 555-1212, you dial only 555-1212. For toll-free calls, dial 1 800 555 1212 to reach the number -- all digits are required. The parentheses and dash are ignored when dialing. They are there only to group the numbers for ease in recollection. If you are dialing out of the United States, you will need to know the prefix of the long distance carrier as well as the country code and local number. See Embassy World for directions on placing international calls from the United States.

Satellite phones and ham radios work on the playa, as do astronomical telescopes. See Heavens Above for a list of amateur radio and telephone satellites you can access from Gerlach.

The Civilized Explorer Portal offers news and weather reports, currency conversion, links to aiports and airline flight information, and a Web site where you can upload a photo and have a postcard created and mailed from the US.

This is not the official Burning Man site. That Web site is located at The Burning Man Project.

Copyright © 2009, The Civilized Explorer