Written September 3rd, 2014
Somehow I can find people who snore. I zero in on them unconsciously and make arrangements to co-habit with them. Out of the 60,000 people in Black Rock City I found the one person who was a) going to Kansas and b) snores so loud that the ground-shaking quality of his bass is more bone shaking than the beat pounding from the large sound camps at Burning Man. When he napped in the passenger seat, I could tell when he was sleeping by the way the entire car shook. When we crashed in hotels for 5 or 6 hours, I slept only a percentage of the total time my eyes were closed - the rest felt like trying to sleep through an actively operating sawmill.
We left from Black Rock City a hair before 10:30 at night and were off the playa by midnight. The procession of cars from Burning Man were obvious from the moment we joined the exodus - cars caked with fine white dust, stacked bow to stern with furry bicycles and pieces of lumber and metal jutting out of storage compartments.
The signs of the playa are recognizeable for literally a thousand miles. When we first left, literally every vehicle on the road was part of the exodus - a city of 60,000 gradually emptying of all life. When we stopped in the morning on September 1st, the first 6 hotels and motels that we checked were 100% full and the parking lots were layered heavily with dusty RVs with men and women wearing fun fur dashing back and forth between their rolling haven and the hotel room where the hot showers lived. The next night, 14 hours of driving and about 1500km later, the truck stop was again filled to bursting with RVs and trucks coated in familiar playa dust and sporting equally familiar furry bikes and outlandishly dressed people. 2000km later, nearing the end of the trip, we stopped to fill up the gas tank. There was another RV, skin washed clean by a powerful thunderstorm as we approached Kansas City, driven by a man with piercings and tattoos and outlandish clothing. We talked about the burn. It was inescapable. I suspect on the road tonight burners are a common sight as far away as the East coast.
When I first connected with my ride, who's nickname is simply "D," it felt deeply uncomfortable. I was leaving the good company of a group of 12 people I had come to love over the course of an incredibly challenging, incredibly rewarding week. I stepped into emptiness. I was driving off the playa with him and committing myself to the inside of a metal box for 2000-ish km, even though I had only met him one time before. It felt equally strange again to step out of his car and make my way to the Amtrak station in downtown Kansas - another human connection made, and here I am stepping away from it again. I built a little bridge and now I've kept walking. That bridge is retrospect. I was D's vehicle companion for less than 2 days all told, and even so walking away from him felt abrupt and a little bit sad.
Now I'm raw... three pit stops for less than 5 hours each, and sleep constantly interrupted by incredibly decibel-intensive snoring. This combined with the lack of sleep starting months ago, culminating in 3-4 hours a night all through the burn. I'm working the start of this trip on top of an absurd sleep deficit. Maybe 10 days in Lawrence with nothing to do but write, eat, drink and reflect will begin to scratch the surface of that problem. I'll let you know how it goes.