Wow, this topic brings back memories from last year. I was a virgin burner too. I hope you don't mind if I write down some of my memories from the Sunday before the Burn.
I had been in the States for about two weeks by then, my first time outside Europe and first time travelling alone. My ride from San Diego was gone, leaving me alone in Reno without a hotel room for about 9 hours with no real way to find my way around the city and a bunch of BM equipment I needed to stash somewhere. Nervously I tipped the reception at the hotel I was supposed to meet my ride to keep my stuff until the night - strange custom to me, tipping. Too intimate for my socially reclusive culture, and I never knew how much to tip. After wandering around Reno aimlessly and sleeping under a tree in the park, I was sitting in the lobby waiting for my ride with all my stuff. Now I couldn't leave all my equipment before my ride showed up, and I didn't even know what she looked like. An hour passed and I was getting nervous - wait, didn't this hotel kind of have two lobbies? Again I nervously tipped a cleaning lady to watch my stuff while I ran across the hotel to the other lobby to see if my ride was there - she wasn't, and I kept waiting in the quiet and almost empty hotel lobby.
Suddenly an excited voice yelled my name, and my ride was there. Relief! Brief introductions to her and her three young daughters, and now we could go for some last minute shopping and drive to the Burn. The adventure I had been preparing for almost a year would finally begin.
I enjoyed seeing all the obviously Burners in the shopping mall parking spaces, gas stations, highways. Everyone seemed to be cheerful with excitement, me and my company included. Cars passing us on the highway had ")'( fuck yeah" painted on them. We discussed Burning Man and what we expected to see and do - it was their second year. The mother giddily asked me "Are you a nudist?", not judging, not as a joke, just from simple curiosity.
We soon realized we didn't even have to think where we were going - just follow the trail of cars. It was around 11pm Sunday night, the desert completely dark around us save for the stream of lights ahead - it took me a long time to realize they were cars. I started to feel increasingly surreal, like I was stepping into a fantasy. Finally we reached Gerlach and wondered at the people begging for tickets, wishing we could donate them one. Reaching the turn for the road to BRC my ride comments "Here's the dusty part". Ahead there is a stream of lights, and behind it a city pulled from science fiction, dreams, or childhood imagination. We start to hear the music from the cars waiting in the line, see the people yelling, singing, sleeping, honking their horns, cursing the line. People getting out of their cars to talk to each other, to smoke, to have a drink. My ride is very tired but I get out, eager to talk to Burners. I make a temporary friend from a bearded man smoking, I describe to him how I feel like I'm dreaming. Around us is a line of cars 5 lanes wide and stretching out to infinity in both directions. Bright headlights and dust makes seeing very far ahead difficult except for general outlines, and as I walk ahead of our car I'm exploring an infinite amount of cars with people filled with anticipation and joy.
My ride and I aren't sure which lane is the Will Call lane, so I offer to walk ahead and ask people. I join a girl who is determined to walk to Will Call with her backpack. She tells me her name and her probable campsite on the Playa, but I forget it quite quickly - too much excitement and new experiences, and this isn't even Black Rock City yet. We're turned back at the Gate and I walk back to our car. We're still not completely sure how Will Call works, but finally we make it to the Will Call lot and I tell my ride to get some sleep while I go get my ticket, feeling a little bad since I'm the only reason we had to go to Will Call. People are getting their tickets and dancing and yelling from joy, and I would do the same if I wasn't so tired. The ticket booth gets closed two times just as I get to the window, but I only feel amusement. Why would a little more waiting matter when I'll be at Burning Man in a little while?
I get my ticket and find my ride, quite difficult in the Will Call parking lot. We drive to the Greeters station past the poem signs just as the sun is coming up, and I'm speechless at my first true sight of the playa. The greeter is naked and hugs me and welcomes me home, and I roll around in the dust and smile. Everyone in the car is incredibly exhausted but finally we drive up to our camp near 4:30 and Funeral. My ride wakes the camp up by yelling, and the first person I see from my theme camp comes up to me and says he loves me - I only respond "You do?". The camp leader greets me and tells me to go sleep in the big tent, and worry about all my equipment later. There's a comfortable couch in the tent, and he tells me to sleep as long as I need to. After I wake up we'll set up everything. I doze off feeling better than in years.