Burning Man: The complete drama in 5 minutes

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

From the folks over at Gawker, a time-lapse video of Burning Man from set-up to MOOP removal:


I thought I’d had enough, but now I want to go again next year.

Categories: Uncategorized

Beautiful pictures from Burning Man, plus an amazing claim by Time Magazine

October 4, 2011 1 comment

Here are two very fine collections of photos from Burning Man (not taken by me):

Scott London: www.scottlondon.com/photo/burningman2011/index.html

Ales Prikryl: www.flickr.com/photos/colorstream/

Also, Time Magazine has included Burning Man in its book Great Places of History: Civilization’s 100 Most Important Sites.

Categories: Uncategorized

Map of route

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I decided to include a map of the route I took. Direction of travel was counter-clockwise. The numbered yellow boxes are not (necessarily) stops I made. They’re waypoints I had to create in Microsoft Streets & Trips to force the route to go exactly where I wanted, rather than leave the decision to the software. Unfortunately, there’s no way to hide them at this magnification, so we just have to deal with the clutter they create.

Expedition Great Western Circle

Expedition Great Western Circle

Categories: Uncategorized


September 22, 2011 2 comments

For those (including me) who weren’t able to follow the description of Black Rock City in my blog entry titled “Plain Geometry”  here’s a satellite photo, courtesy of the European Space Agency, that was shot at 11:49 a.m. on Friday, September 2, 2011:

Black Rock City, a.k.a. Burning Man

And now an aerial view that helps provide a sense of scale (click it):

Black Rock City, 2011

Categories: Uncategorized


September 22, 2011 1 comment

September 20/Day 65. Only 400 miles to go. I roll out onto IH-10, another concession to the interstate since Hwy 90 swings too far south and, like an old horse, I can smell the barn. The most direct route will serve my purpose best.

I’ve driven this highway so many times over the past 45 years I’ve practically got it memorized. One thing that’s changed is the speed limit, now 80 mph, which puts me in the slow lane at about 65 mph. Everyone passes me; I pass no one, which for some reason I find mildly amusing.

The closer I get to home, the worse the landscape looks. Even before Ft. Stockton, the green desert scrub, creosote bush and sage, are brown and desiccated by drought, something I’ve never seen before in this area. It’s the same all the way to Comfort.

About 20 miles west of Junction, the dreaded wrench icon on my dash lights up. A few minutes later, I watch the engine temperature needle rise into the red and a warning flashes on the dash: “Check Engine Temperature.”


I pull off the highway as far as I dare and let the engine idle until the temperature drops to normal, about 10 minutes. Then I switch the engine off and restart. Good. The wrench light is off.

I lumber back onto the highway, keeping my speed down to 55 mph, which is like standing still at Daytona. Sure enough, the needle starts to rise again after a few minutes.

It seems I still have one more adventure left in this trip. I pull off the road again and wait at idle for the needle to drop. Then I shut off the air conditioner (something I never did even in Death Valley, where there are large caution signs warning you to do so to take the extra load off the engine) and merge back into the traffic lane, this time going only 45 mph with my 4-way flashers on.

It happens that there are some substantial uphill grades through Junction and the Kerrville area. I play an off and on game, sometimes driving off the traffic lane on the shoulder because I’m so slow, other times pulling into the lane as I coast back down a hill. I am determined that one way or another I will make it home under my own power.

Finally I exit the interstate at Comfort and feel more easy driving ridiculously slow on the back roads. The last gasp is a steep hill leading up to my house. The needle is in the red, but screw it! I’m here! Jane opens the gate as I make the last few hundred yards, practically wheezing all the way.

To paraphrase T.S. Elliot: This is the way my journey ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

NOTE: To all who’ve followed this blog, thank you. I’m gratified and humbled that you took the time to read it. I hope in some small way I’ve given you the chance to ride shotgun.

Happy trails….



Total miles: 6,649.6, including side excursions
Total days: 65
Number of camps: 19
Cost of fuel $3.61-$4.99/gal.
Weight of trailer, wet 11,460 lbs.
Weight of truck, wet 8629 lbs.
Total weight 20,089 lbs.
Avg. mpg 10.4
Total cost $$$$ and counting
Experience priceless
Categories: Uncategorized

Birthday behind the wheel

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

September 19/Day 64. My 65th birthday. It seems odd that I’m not spending it with my family, but also appropriate that I’ll be on the road. Thoughtful as always, before I left home Jane gave me a slice of my favorite cake—carrot—to freeze and save for today. I let it thaw overnight and eat it for breakfast.

I’m on the road early, soon crossing into the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. A string of small towns—Luna, Reserve, Alma, Glenwood—line the highway as it parallels the Gila Wilderness, the first wilderness area declared by Congress a hundred years ago. This is “getaway” country, the kind of place you want to head for Armageddon, so remote is it from people’s consciousness.

Then comes Silver City, in my mind one of the last remaining true frontier towns, followed by Deming, then the destruction derby that is El Paso.  By now dusk is setting in and I’m ready for a break. I pull into a rest stop east of El Paso near Fabens, only four miles from Mexico. There are four or five 18-wheelers already parked here, their diesels rumbling at idle, comforting companions in the dark Chihuahua desert.

By the time I eat my dinner, however, they’re gone and I’m the only vehicle in the rest stop, feeling exposed and vulnerable within walking distance of the border in an area notorious for its drug violence. I lie on top of the covers, fully clothed, eyes wide open, but in spite of myself I’m soon asleep. When I wake up at dawn, the rest area is filled with the reassuring sound of idling trucks.

Categories: Uncategorized

Headed home

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

September 18/Day 63. The trip off North Rim up through Jacob Lake is one I’ve made a number of times before. This time is different though; the beautiful pine forest, dotted with meadows, was extensively burned several years ago and all that remains are the gaunt blackened daggers of bare tree trunks pointed skyward. Perhaps it’s this depressing sight that’s helped prompt my decision to leave my beloved North Rim early.

At Jacob Lake, 40 miles from the North Rim, the road turns east and begins a winding descent from the Kaibab Plateau, past the fortress-like Vermillion Cliffs, which stand up to 2,000 feet high parallel to the highway for 30-odd miles. The high bridge over the Colorado River at the upper reaches of the Grand Canyon marks the highway’s southerly bend past the Navajo Reservation. Here ancient diminutive Navajo women, who seem even tinier in their voluminous skirts and billowing shawls, sell jewelry and amulets at rickety tables beside the road. Each untidy homesite, scattered sparingly across the desert at distance from the highway, includes an octagonal or round traditional hogan, used for ritual purposes by every Navajo family.

In an uncharacteristic departure from the blue highways, I catch IH-40, passing through Winslow, a place as bereft of any natural enticements as any I’ve ever seen, to Holbrook, where I leave the interstate in favor of a route pointed more directly toward home. My day ends at dusk outside St. Johns, AZ at Lyman Lake State Park.

As I drive my mind is a mass of thoughts and feelings. First, of course, I look forward to seeing Jane, who’s been a stalwart on the homefront, including managing the installation of a complete new air conditioning system for the house while working three jobs: her day job, her Miche Bag business, and her Votre Vu business. Oh, and feeding two horses, two dogs, two cats, three birds, and seeing Hannah off to college for her second year. All in 103 degree temperatures. Without her support, my dream could never have come true. I love you Jane.

I also feel a sense of satisfaction in having accomplished a number of personal goals, some seemingly trivial, others more expansive. I’ve tried to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak several times but have always been stymied by weather conditions at the summit that forced me to turn back. This time, I made it. I’ve always wanted to drive over Trail Ridge Pass, but it’s been closed by snow before. Glacier National Park has been on my to do list as long as I can remember; it was worth the wait. I could go on. Suffice it to say that every stop along my path, whether planned or otherwise, has fulfilled a purpose.

I can still easily conjure the heart-stopping fear I felt stranded in the middle of the desert at 1:00 a.m. with no cell phone service, in a dangerous predicament, completely helpless.  Those were my bleakest hours.

Then, knowing the number of fatalities that have occurred, there was the psychological conflict I had to overcome before I commenced the hike to Angels Landing. I confess to a feeling of satisfaction in conquering the mental struggle that’s at least as great as my pride climbing the actual trail.

There are fleeting friendships that grew out of chance encounters. On the shuttle bus in Glacier, I happened to sit by an architect from St. George, UT, who was vacationing with his large family (he must have been Mormon….) After a pleasant conversation while riding up the Going to the Sun Road, he offered his home as well a guide services in Zion, where he had been countless times since he was a teenager.

In Death Valley several weeks later, I struck up a conversation with two young women, sisters from Belgium, who in turn introduced me to their father. After half an hour of chatting, the three said good-bye and left to continue their journey to Las Vegas. A couple of minutes later, the father returned and offered me his card. “I’m not in the habit of doing this,” he said, “but if you’re ever in Brussels, please consider that you have a place to stay.” It turns out he’s the medical director at a large research hospital.

I fall asleep with a welter of images flashing across my mind. I’ll have a lot of post-processing to do….

Categories: Uncategorized