Black Rock City 2009


Diana has been producing her wonderful art pieces and Noel trying to ready the newly gifted RV and produce an art cart for more comfortable playa crawling since January. Now came the test of all our efforts . . .


Friday, August 28 – After finishing our new mutant vehicle on Tuesday, we’ve finally packed the trailer and NuWa to the rafters. Noel takes it to Ft Collins to both test the setup and to purchase RV towing add-on for our AAA membership. Less than an hour later we need it. On the way to Windsor to pick up Diana it throws a fan belt. We get it towed to Loveland after 5 hours and Harry’s help and they quickly put on a new belt. We head out several hours later than expected but ready.  Well except for enough gasoline as we run out a couple miles short of our Cheyenne planned fuel stop. AAA once again helps, we fuel up, continue to an I-80 rest stop just east of Laramie and under Lincoln’s head, and spend our first night of the trip there. Not quite the day we expected but we know we had a thirty year old vehicle without the time to completely figure out. All is well enough.

Coolant on the ground from boilover

NuWa in gas stauion parking lot

All the setup waiting . . .


Saturday, August 29 – Weather was good. Traffic was light. There are Flying J truck stops every 100 to 150 miles along I80 between Cheyenne, WY and Reno, NV. The NuWa averaged 6mpg, can’t exceed 65mph (well, could under downhill, dry, straight and calm conditions. We didn’t experience that combination) and has a 33 gallons gas tank. The downshot of this info is we only passed one today. The upshot is while passing a slot machine in a Flying J lobby, Noel inserted $5 and took out $60. We slept in the NuWa, in the gravel truck parking area of the Flying J (what else?) in Wells, NV.

Lincoln-head statue in the morning


Sunday, August 30 - We choose Flying J while traveling with the NuWa for several reasons. They have large, easy to transit entries and egress. Gas prices are competitive and we get a further discount as “Flying J” card holders. This morning we took advantage of another plus – showers! They are large rooms and we can both use one for the price of one. Felt great! We continue on west. Stop to try to help a burner in distress and finally pull into the Fernley, NV Wal-Mart for final supplies – only a couple hours later that originally planned. After a fine meal at the Black Bear we check into the Desert Rose RV Park and make some final preparations (finding the circuit breakers as the A/C had shut off unexpectedly, replaced a side mirror that just “flew off”) for BRC. The Desert Rose & the Black Bear, btw, are both excellent finds in Fernley.


Monday, August 31 – Up early (6a), showered and we hit the road north. A fine, cool morning we stopped at the only fuel available for over 80 miles, in Gerlach, NV. (The station in Empire is now closed). Gas was $.60 more per gallon than in Fernley and we sat in line for about ½ hour but the extra fuel is needed to make the round trip and run the generator on-site.

Some of Diana's creations

Gas line

Getting ready before arrival

Quick "miss" of entry sign


The drive to the front gate was easy and fun. It’s the first connection and chance to see this year's burner’s art work. There are signs, in the tradition of Burma Shave, all along the road, 4 lanes wide, with quotations that relate to this year’s theme: Evolution. Since we are camping independent this year we drive up and down several streets looking for a “good” spot. We find the “perfect” spot at 5:15 and Genome, on the man side by 11a. Not bad. Another three hours of set up – carpeting, stretching the Aluminet between RV and trailer, tricking out Santa’s Summer Sleigh – we think we are ready for the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles). However, after waiting in line almost an hour, we are denied a license! Devastated, we cry on each others shoulders, discuss leaving NOW but hold out hope to get, at least, a night license. We had illuminated the flamingos, the tree, the undercarriage and added a disco-style flashing light on Rudolph as he drives the team. We HAD to get that license. We didn’t. Too dim. Compared to a three story bus carrying 50 people, looking like a sailing ship, we are. Devastated again, but armed with experience for next year we hear one more piece of information we can use. We find out about a “disabled” license! We have a little used handicapped placard, and we thought to bring it. Advised to return the next day and apply for this license, we have renewed hope.


There is one more “problem”. Santa’s Summer Sleigh doesn’t go very far per charge. To center camp and back is about all. Noel tries many things but to no avail . . . to sleep the sleep of an emotional day at about 11p.


Tuesday, September 1 – Noel has a suspicion that we aren’t attaching the charger to the batteries long enough to get a reasonable length of use from the sleigh. We set up the batteries into two separate lots so we can run out one set then switch to the second and return home. We changed each to 12v parallel instead of 36v series which restricts our top speed to about 3mph. Perfect for the roads but slow for open playa. Oh, well . . .


Anyway, we spent the morning pulling off the flamingos (for weight) and giving the batteries a good long charge (we thought) and showering and general fixup/cleanup. At 2p we trudge to DMV again and apply for the Disabled license. We get it this time! Took quite a while as we had to start from scratch but we can use the cart most everywhere it has enough power to go. The rest of the afternoon is spent changing out a bike tire and readying the bikes for  playa travel incase the sleigh’s range continues to be limited. We took the SSS to visit some other camps. We’ve also learned being parked by the porta-potties draws a huge crowd to the sleigh that “Mrs Claus” may give away many of her beautiful creations. Everyone is very impressed with the quality and very grateful. Plus we’ve received many very nice pieces as gifts, too. The gifting setup also attracted our new acquaintances, Natasha  and Delvin, who set and talked with us for a very nice hour or so.


Turned in by 11p, hot, tired and happy . . .


Wednesday, September 2 – Not so sure of the sleigh’s range, we took a bike excursion late morning. First stop was for a bag of ice to take on a bike for cooling breaks. We keep forgetting to bring the camera along but this time remembered but batteries dying. Diana waited at Center Camp while Noel hurried back to camp to replenish them. We reconnected in Center Camp and peddled to the Man. A quite different presentation this year. The Man is about the same but his foundation is quite different. It’s a criss-cross of bare wood, arched and latticed. Should give quite a fire on Saturday. On the return to camp we saw several other large pieces of art. The Gee Gnome is rather quiet by day, surrounded by a white picket fence and is said to squirt flame 40ft straight up just after sunset. Also, we saw this year’s presentation of the Flaming Lotus Girls. It polished steel with branches of electrical synapse. Another piece bet experienced at night.

The Man

The Man from within the base

From within the base of the Man looking toward the temple

12 o'clock road to the temple

An art car

Another . . .

An art sculpture with BRC in the back ground

Noel reflected in an art project

Another art car

The Flaming Lotus Girl's project

Their setup area

The Gee Gnome

. . . closer

A sculpture celebrating all mothers, especially the Earth Mother


This was an extra hot (100*F+) day and we peddled rather than just road today so an hour or so nap was in order in our air conditioned gift. Health issues resulted in a quiet evening and we turned in about 9p. Gift giving has been marvelous so Diana spent a lot of time preparing more pieces,


We decided to give the battery charging one more long go so left the generator and charger on all night.


Thursday, September 3 – Slept nearly 12 hours! Did turn off generator about 2a – 6 hours of charging. We got around and headed to Center Camp and ice with the sleigh. Gave away many, many more of Mrs Claus’ gifts, several frozen ice pops and the SSS went all the weary there and back with out being swapped! By far our longest trip yet!


More thing went wrong . . . Many thing went right, too. We are having fun but there seems to be something "asking" us to leave. We stopped for ice and lost the "playa" wallet. About $50, mostly ones for ice. We could work around it but the list is piling up. Then the final straw. The generator won't start. Plenty of fuel and electricity for the starter but won't kick over. We decide to leave tomorrow :(


Friday, September 4 - We did pack in the morning and said good-bye's to all around. Got back to Desert Rose RV Park about 2p and took their last spot. Showered. Went to Black Bear for dinner and turned in. A comfortable day and we are mostly happy about our decision.


Saturday, September 5 - Got an early start for a very long day. All was OK, if long and hot, 'til just after sunset. A cop stops us just into Wyoming - about 30 miles from the RV part we booked for the night - because tail lights on trailer didn't work. Just a warning and the flashers did work so we headed up the hill from a dead stop and not far the engine started a terrible racket. We limped into the RV park sure that the NuWa would never run again . . .


Sunday, September 6 - We slept in some and showered and breakfasted before trying to start the engine. It started! Noisy but worked. Could we limp home? Is this way we left a day early to go 40mph all the way to Colorado? We will never know. Five miles down I-80 the NuWa breathed its last breath very loudly. It "threw a rod" and we called AAA. We got a "free" tow to Rock Springs. Called Harry (thanks Harry!) to come get us. Packed and rested while waiting and we all got back to Johnstown just before mid-night. Many lessons learned and we still look very much forward to next year's BRC adventure!


Here are some videos that were accidentally taken. You'll need Internet Explorer and Apple Quicktime to view them. ( Each one you can see the first few seconds are a "still" image Noel thought he was taking but actually had started a movie. The camera then went around his neck and this is what he got . . . Fun and weird!


Video21 - the only shot of the grey water evaporative system we set up. It worked great!

Video22 - Diana in front of our camp hanging up necklaces to give away.

Video23 - started as a still of an art car and ends with he camera hanging around Noel's neck as he looks at an art project.

Video24 - a shot of the "ice house" then of passerby's.

Video25 - quickly seen camp next to the ice house then a short walk along the Esplanade..

Video26 - intended to be a look at the high presence of ambulances this year.

Video28 - camera bouncing on Noel's chest with a view of the Man and an art car