First year was 2005 and I camped with a group and it was pretty okay. I found the whole experience way outside my comfort zone in a holistic kind of way — individual events I could deal with, but the whole thing was just too much.
So I swore I wouldn't go back. Then in December, 2005, I had an idea for a 2-person vehicle where each rider would pedal one of two front wheels which would accomplish both propulsion and steering. One person could not use it alone, and two would need to cooperate to get anywhere. The Bike With 2 Brains
was born. I told my friends about it and they said it was a cool idea and I should apply for an art grant. But I was no artist. Nonetheless, I started writing the application a couple days before it was due. I had been laid off from a job in technical writing so I just took "question, question, question" from the grant page and started a document "heading, heading, heading" and started filling in the details. It turns out I got the grant so I spent all summer designing and building it.My blog of the BW2B
covers most of it, but I also kept a detailed journal those days, so this is most of the complete story:
Around 6:15 p.m. on Sunday, I crested the hill that let me see Black Rock City and I got a little excited. At 7 p.m. I made it in just as the sun crossed the tops of the mountains. I hurried to get the camp set up before it got totally dark. I rode around afterward and checked things out as they were being built. I met this guy Jaf from Blunderland who was driving a tongue and rode with them for a while. I alternated between walking and biking. I got a lot of comments on the bike which I thought to be pretty impressive considering it's at Burning Man. I stopped at this chill space on the Esplanade and met a couple girls from Massachusetts ... Tiffany and the other one. I eventually crashed around 3:30.
(That was before Burning Man started and in the days when you could get in early.)
I started assembling the frame on Monday morning. As I have done a dozen times prior, I start with the wheels and lower frame upside-down then I flip it over. However, this time, the frame snapped in half — on the left side and right side of the seat where the stress is greatest. Ironically, I even quipped back in May “I used the pipe from my friend’s house on Burkhard Place — it was the original water pipe that was installed 110 years ago … so if it breaks sometime in the future, that might be why.” It was actually the threaded part that broke … the threads made the walls of the tubing thinner and finally gave way.
Someone (I think his name was Cram) suggested Black Rock Hardware camp to see if they had a welder, but they didn’t. However on Sunday evening I met people at Recycle Camp and they did. I talked with Angry Butterfly who said she’d probably have a free moment on Tuesday morning and took pity and/or sent me searching for energy drinks and cheeseburgers for her. I went back to Hardware and ground off the paint and made pipe inserts to further strengthen the joint.
I also stopped to meet this guy Nathan and his group ... he knew of the Bike With 2 Brains and was excited to see it. He's got a bike he rides with a red and green stoplight on it along with a portable bar that his girlfriend drives on a wagon. It all looked pretty cool. I also liked the kinetic boulder sculpture [Colossus by Zachary Coffin] and pulled the boulders around a bit then headed to the Man. The inside is a labyrinth of art installations separated by hidden doors and revolving doors. It's a lot of fun and actually pretty decent.
I tried getting rides on art cars but one was taking a break and I couldn't catch up to the other. I walked to these lights and met this woman and we talked a little. We went to this sculpture which was fire-based and about to be lit. The wind was howling and the fire blasted through the metal pipes, making them glow red.
Tuesday morning (my birthday) I took the frame parts to Recycle Camp and hung out with the crew a while. Angry Butterfly had to repair their can crusher so I helped with that and then she got my stuff welded. I got back to my camp and assembled the project. I put in a fresh battery and flipped it on and … nothing. Wiggling the wires got it booted up and running, though.
I pushed it out to The Artery, signed in, and had now officially completed (almost) everything for the grant requirement. I pushed it out to Lost Penguin which is a chill-space with couches and such where they give away chocolates and wine. While I was sitting there, only one guy stopped to even look at the project. My neighbor Troy and I figured out how to slowly ride it forward and took it about 3 miles to Alien Semaphore and left it there.
I had some absinthe and hung out with this woman Flo. Her birthday was tomorrow. We went through Mission to Mars and played with the hands to touch other people (there's these foam fingers that stick out of the wall and when you turn the corner, you can stick your arms in and grab people). We found this bubble on the Playa which inflates when the door is closed ... it was pretty cool and we chilled there for a while.
Wednesday morning I got up and started a hunt for the project. I went way out to the north trash fence and headed back … no luck. On Thursday I got up and did the same thing. I was getting a little alarmed when I couldn’t find it — I prepared myself to let it go, but I kind of thought I’d see it way off in the distance maybe once a day … or at least have someone I know tell me they saw it, but no word at all.
I stopped at this homebrew beer place near Center Camp and I met God. He built a "small tall bike" which is two kids bikes on top of one another. I had some of their Belgian white beer and talked for a bit. I went to find out when the art bike parade was and found that the official information sources didn't know. I looked for Jay Bain's camp at 9:00 but found out it was on the 3:00 plaza so I went there. Jay was doing some repairs on his rickshaw in some delirious state so I helped him out. We fixed the handrail, installed umbrellas, and installed speakers. I spent a bit of time there and met some people ... including a couple from New York who were there to get a rickshaw for Asylum. I joined in on the parade.
I visited Camp Coco Velvet who were administering sake with syringes. I was "treated" by the "doctor" for smartness and "cured" to stupidity. I stayed there for a long time and drank lots of sake. I met Frank (the doctor), Sassy, and a couple other people there who I don't remember.
Friday morning was a repeat … another unsuccessful hunt. Friday kind of sucked for me ... I kept trying to meet up with people and failing. By Saturday I was getting quite worried: I started feeling trapped — after all, I’m responsible for removing the project, so I’ll have to stay forever until everything is gone.
I went to Center Camp and got some coffee then went to Lost Penguin to watch the burn. It was rather interesting I guess but I kept falling asleep. I walked out to see it and then walked almost the whole way around the Esplanade. The Playa was mottled with spots where people peed on it ... some only yards from the portable toilets. I generally didn't like the whole vibe ... very raver club-like with lots of people mingling around anonymously. I couldn't grab the vibe so I went home and crashed, probably before midnight.
Sunday I got up before sunrise. I felt better, but in that numb way that this is my lot in life and it doesn't get better. I'm sad to have missed the bacchanal and I really doubt I'll be coming back. I think of the future and I can't imagine functioning at all in my old life. I decided to systematically scour the city. I started at 6:00 and Hysteria — the furthest street — and rode from there to 2:00 and Hysteria. I then returned on Gestalt, back out on Fetish, then Ego, Delerium, Catharsis, Bipolar, and Amnesia … in all nearly 11 miles. No project found. I took a brief break then started on the other half of the city … 6:00 and Hysteria to 10:00, then back on Gestalt and … found!
It was around Gestalt and 9:00 — pretty much as far away from my camp as you can get and still be inside the city. One of the forks broke and a tire had blown out in the back. It had been cobbled and patched — the tensioner spring on the generator had been replaced with some wire and a condom and the tire had been patched a bit with duct tape.
I met this guy Gabriel who was somewhat incoherent … he apparently was awake at least all night and might still have been drunk. Their camp (or neighborhood) had adopted it and called it the “Space Car.” They said they had tons of fun on it … he said that “sometimes it would make noise and we thought it was sad so we’d ride it some more.” Someone else who was packing up and leaving thought it appeared sometime around Friday in its broken state but couldn’t be sure.
I biked back, grabbed some tools and the spare fork and went back to get it. I fixed the broken bits enough to be able to move it. I actually towed it with a strap to my bike. I stopped by Borrachos y bicicletas but they had no spare 24″ tubes, but they suggested I just take the tires and tubes off the back wheels and ride it on the rims. I did that and managed to get the MP3 player started again so I took it to Kidsville so the kids there could play on it.
I locked it up that night so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Monday, September 5 I got up early and started slowly packing. I finally got completely naked out on the Playa as I was finishing things up. I got the project taken apart and managed to fit everything back in the car again and headed back home.
We got pizza at Pizza Shack in Fernley ... it was great. I mean really really great — even though we were hungry for pizza, it was still top notch pizza. The medium-thick crust was crisp on the bottom, the mozarella was really fresh, and the toppings were great. This guy Roy talked with us and complained about the Burning Man garbage. He recommended Fitzgerald's casino in Reno for a good night's stay and great cheeseburgers. We stayed at the Golden Phoenix.