“Adrian! Where are you?”
“In the desert.”
“In the desert?! Is it cold?”
“No, there’s a party.”
Adrian exited the telephone booth and returned to the party. There were bright lights, flashy costumes, loud music and free alcohol pouring out from every orifice. Against all odds, we were at Burning Man.
Although we’d always been planning on attending Burning Man, we hadn’t actually made any serious efforts to acquire tickets until about a week before it started. Our logic was that all but the most serious ticket hunters would have given up and everyone who had experienced last minute tragedy that prevented them from making it to Burning Man would be strapped for people to sell their tickets to. But that was not the case.
The San Fransisco craigslist resembled a piranha tank. If you wanted a response from a seller, you had to email them within a minute of their ad going up. I spent probably 6 straight hours on craigslist one day and ended up actually holding one ticket in my hands. But it was taken away because my daily atm withdrawal limit put me at $27 short of the seller’s asking price.
I was a mess of nerves for the days leading up to our departure for Black Rock City. Because of that, I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am that we were not technically hitch hiking, as planned. Thanks to our new friend Eric, we cruised the whole way there in comfort and style.
Due to a profoundly sad circumstance involving a comrade fallen ill that we can’t actually be happy about at all, the group wound up with a spare ticket, which we bought, solving half of our problem. But when we arrived at the traffic jam, we were still only 50% of the way to getting in. We had a plan, though. And it involved our oldest trick in the book: a cardboard sign.
We borrowed a couple of bikes off the back of the bus, put some water, cash, and a speaker blasting dance music in a backpack, then took off down the line, flying our SEEKING TICKET sign proudly. We biked as hard as we could, trying to keep ahead of the cars as they pulsed forward intermittently. As we went, many people told us “Good luck!” “The playa provides!” and “I have a vehicle pass if you need one.”
I don’t know if I’ve ever had so much fun being so stressed out, but after about two hours, we finally got called over. A guy named Jim who had gotten his ticket at the gate the year before had shown up with an extra ticket to pay his luck forward this year. We exchanged the cash and a few stories before the traffic pulsed forwards again.
The next car that stopped next to us, as we were celebrating asked us if we had found a ticket, and then, all of a sudden, we were being interviewed for a documentary about hitch hiking. It’s apparently a real thing that’s going to have a website next week. I’ll add the link when it exists.
We were maybe a mile outside the last small town before the open playa began, so we biked the rest of the way in search of a bit of shade and something more interesting than empty desert on either side of the road. There we met a charming couple of vagabonds who were also looking for tickets with hearts painted on their chests. We never ran into them again, but we really hope they made it and know how grateful we were for the fig newtons they gave us.
About an hour later, the bus finally caught up to us. We put the bikes back on the back and piled in, happy to refill our very empty water bottles and relax the rest of the way to the gate. It turned out that we had biked 7 miles that morning, mostly riding as fast as we possibly could.
After setting up camp, we hit the playa and spent the night biking around as fast as we could from art installation to art installation, completely overwhelmed. After that long day, we fell asleep quickly in our tent, only wondering what the bright lights we’d seen in the distance were.