A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Day at the Races

Conditions at Bonneville could not have been better the day we were there. The temperature dropped by nearly 20 degrees, the skies were clear and the wind was nil. The BUB motorcycle only event was much more enjoyable in the fact that there were less people and you could focus on one subject alone - motorcycles. The bikes ranged from right off the street (Run Watcha Brung) to ground up from nothing creations (Special Construction). There were brand new 2010 bikes to the oldest which I believe was a 1937 Indian. They also ranged from one which had two engines combined which was over 2000cc down to a 50cc 60's era Honda. That last bike belonged to a young lady whose husband raced a bike on the salt. She said that she could ride a motorcycle in a straight line, so he got her this rusty bucket basket-case, and restored it back to life. They were from Cleveland Ohio and all she had to do was run it through the measured mile and she would have a record set, for none existed for that size motorcycle in that class (Vintage). There was another 50cc bike (different class) that ran at a speed of 50mph. Now think about that. That is one mile per hour for each cubic centimeter the little quarter-sized piston displaced. No other motorcycle can lay claim to that.

Later in the day some clouds blew in, the wind picked up a bit and they stopped the runs about 20 minutes before the scheduled time of 6pm. Although I wore long pants, a long sleeve shirt and was in the shade most of the time my face still got sunburned from the reflected glare off the salt.

Heading for home now with an overnight in Lovelock most likely. At the time as I am writing this it is 7am on Monday morning. Last year at this moment I would be just arriving at my camp site in Burning Man recovering from the madness of crawling along in line starting from 3am. I miss it none.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Update for the Salt Flats

We are in Ely Nevada, first Internet hook-up. We plan to arrive at the flats around lunch time. Inspections were for Thursday with runs from Friday on into next week. We had thunderstorms the night before last and if it rained on the salt that will impair conditions for them to run on. I just checked the weather for Wendover Utah which is the closest town. It is to be windy today and tomorrow. When the wind is up, they don't run. Monday's forecast calls for showers after Sunday's isolated thunderstorms. All this does not bode well for the time trials. I feel bad for the racers for they have waited all year for this week. We will at least be able to walk through the pits and view the motorcycles. If I have to drive through standing water at the entrance as I did the last time there, I will not be too happy about that. Nasty stuff getting all that brine splashed up underneath the vehicle. Oh and one other thing, there will be a 20 degree drop in temperature tomorrow. Below is a picture taken on the salt when it dropped like that on my first trip out there. I used the picture to make a Christmas card out of since it looked as if I was at the Arctic. It sure felt like it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Going to the Salt Flats...again.

Since I am not going to Burning Man, this leaves the week open to go back to the Salt Flats. We leave Wednesday taking our time as usual to travel Highway 50 across Nevada. What will make this different from previous trips to the Salt is this week is devoted entirely to motorcycles. So I am excited to see a lot of this...

Probably will not be able to post anything until I return a week from now.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bigger is Not Always Better

I've always been attracted to the smaller less grandiose art pieces on the playa at Burning Man.

This man is about 10 or 12 feet tall made completely out of padlocks and keys by one person.

The dinosaur was made from 5 gallon white buckets for the spine. I think the ribs were bands of white plastic material. The flippers were plastic folded over. From a distance this looked so real.

 Then you see a speck far away and ride towards it. When you arrive there is a man sitting on a chair made entirely out of little toys and dolls. The next speck on the playa turns out to be a sort of sign post with distances to various parts of the worlds equipped with meaningless gadgets that really do nothing but look like they belong.

Sometimes you come up on an art piece quite unexpectedly as I did with this lady Madonna.

In case you wanted to know what time it was...
note bike wheel in order to get an idea how large the pocket watch was.

This though I was really fascinated with and I can't explain why. Maybe because the artist (the woman with the white cap) was so enthusiastic, especially when you saw and understood what she was making. She called it something like The Plague of the Mormons [Crickets]. Each cricket she hand made. The little ones had just hatched from theirr green egg mass with the two large parents herding them along. She had a tape playing a loop of cricket chirping sounds and at night they were lit up. I would never have found this had I not done my usual ride along the perimeter fence 2 and a half miles out from the City. That too impressed me for she was out here all by herself creating her little art piece that you couldn't see from a 100 yards away.

A lot of the art is interactive. You can climb on it or do something with it and be part of it. Any place other than Black Rock City you wouldn't be able to do whatever without first signing a waiver acknowledging that your participation may result in serious injury or your death. Or perhaps the device wouldn't exist at all due to insurance companies and legal ramifications. This one I just had to do. I don't think  you could really hurt yourself on it but losing a layer of skin or two to astro turf burn was a definite possibility. The Astro Turf Slide of Death.

Okay the truth of the matter is when I saw this little girl doing it, then I had to. There was no turning back.

Here is another piece to climb on. It doesn't look like much to do but when you get to the top, and it is moving, it gives you something to think about. Now if you remember being a teenager, you'd never give it a thought. Nowadays I think a lot. Each year there is always something high and perilous to climb.

              Yep that's me and that is all the higher I went.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Art Cars of Burning Man

I thought I had more pictures than this but realized most are prints - long before I entered the digital age. I guess over the years I grew tired of taking pictures of art cars as there are hundreds of them out there.

In my search I came across these two shots. This is of the Exodus, leaving the event the day after the burn of the Man on Saturday. On Sunday night is another major burn of the Temple. I decided to leave Sunday day and avoid the mess. All day long the line to get out was backed up for miles. It finally shortened somewhat in the late afternoon as fewer people want to drive at night on long lonely desert roads. I made my move at this time. The first shot is at 6:45 pm as I pulled up to the back of one lane of 6. I chose the far right lane so as to at least have a view of the desert and sunset. The second photo is about 45 minutes later. Note I am still behind the same car. I progressed maybe a quarter of a mile. The tail lights of the cars fade away far off into the distance, several miles to the two-lane highway at the base of the mountain range.

You can walk to the highway and be there in 30 minutes or so. It took me two hours to drive the same distance. From there it is a bumper to bumper drive to Gerlach 10 miles away, but at least you're moving along at 30 mph and finally a sense of progress settles in.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Some Images of Burning Man at Night

These last two images are of from the night the Man burns. During the last several years pyrotechnics have been added to the show. It is impressive and probably unlike any 4th of July display you've seen, yet I like the burn of years past. Then a fire was started at the base of the Man and he slowly was engulfed in flames. Later on he was erected atop a stack of hay bales which provided a better burn and view for those in the back. Today he is shorter and built atop some other type of construction.

This picture shows little white circles floating around. Those are specks of dust in the air reflecting the light from the flash. All nighttime photos will look like they were taken in a snow storm if you use a flash. All the photos above were done with no flash, thus no snowflakes, but you must hold the camera real steady or use a tripod for a sharp image. This is Pete, a friend we made there early on in our trips to Burning Man. He lived in Connecticut and drove out to the event every year by himself. This particular year I was there by myself so Pete and I hung out several nights together hitting all the bars we could. This was the last photo of him I took. He died several months later in a freak accident working on his new home. The friends you make at Burning Man are like no other friends you will ever have. You see each other for only one week every year, and it is like one big a family reunion. I have many stories of people I have met one year and only by chance happen to meet up again among thousands of people out on the playa, in Center Camp or bicycling along the streets of Black Rock City. This I will miss very much.

More to come.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Burning Man

Normally at this time of the year I would be making final preparations for departure to Burning Man. This year I am not going. After 15 years I feel I need a break. Well, really the truth of the matter is I feel as I am done with it. When I find myself sitting there at camp in Black Rock City thinking “What am I doing here?” that is a pretty clear sign it is time to pull the plug on the event.

I discovered Burning Man in 1995. That is a story in itself. Back then around 3000 people were in attendance. The last couple of years the population pushed 50,000. For me it isn’t so much the numbers as it is the logistics of getting into and out of the event that have deterred me the most. Now I liken it to going to the airport. You need to arrive 3 to 4 hours ahead of time before you past through the gate which officially opens at midnight the Sunday before the Burn. It really doesn’t matter when you arrive, daytime, nighttime, the next day or after, count on crawling along in line for hours before you’re in. Picture scenes of the border crossing at Tijuana coming back into the U.S. and you have a good idea what it is like. Eight or so lanes backed up for a couple of miles. Once at the gate you’re subjected to searches just like at the airport or border, minus the metal detectors. The object of the search is for illegals – your friends you are trying to smuggle in who have no ticket.

As the night of the Burn approaches these last few years I have found myself dreading the Exodus, what leaving Black Rock City is referred to. Thousands of cars, buses, Rv’s all trying to leave the Playa on four lanes that narrow down to three, then two and finally the one single lane for access onto the two lane desert highway that heads south towards I-80, 80 miles away. It doesn’t matter if you leave before the Man burns or two days after, you will be in the thick of it. I’ve tried every means possible to avoid the messy mass exodus. Last year I thought I would be real smart and leave the afternoon of the Burn, camp up on the ridge overlooking the Playa and watch all the madness high up from a distance. I would then get up early in the morning and head for home missing the insanity. Ha! I got caught in the traffic jam backed up for ten miles on Hwy 447 leading into the little town of Gerlach.

The event itself is like no other and I will truly miss the friends I’ve made over the years, the people, the costumes, the music, the carnival-like atmosphere and most of all the art which is over the top. I will miss the sunrises when the city slowly comes to life, the sunsets when everyone is gearing up for a night of fun and silliness. I’ll miss the wind, the dust, the heat and the cold, whatever the Black Rock Desert will throw at you. I have a lot great memories of the past Burns and am thankful for that. I will continue to visit the Black Rock Desert Playa every year, just not during Burning Man week.

Looking through pictures to place here I found I have so many that I will add some to the blog thoughout the next few days. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Bicycle Race

A couple days ago my son sends me an e-mail about a mountain bike race to be held in Annadel park next month. This is somewhat big news for the last time there was a bike race in the park was 23 years ago. We both took part in it. I don't remember how we did, but we finished...and it was still daylight. I still have the t-shirt. Now the news that once again a mountain bike race will be held there got me wired and fired about doing it. I don't think my son was considering doing it but seeing my interest he now is up for it, sort of. The course is to be about 25 miles long. The only information given so far is that it will start going up Canyon Trail and finish coming down Rough Go Trail. The rest of the route will be given on race day. I decided to start training for it.

Canyon Trail is my favorite to come down on after a ride through the park. It is a rough fire road littered with rocks about the size of your fist embedded in the dirt. Going up is a bit of work picking your way through for the smoothest line. Rough Go is like the name implies. I don't think it can be ridden up without having to get off several times. The rocks here range from the size of a loaf of bread, to the breadbox itself and throw in a microwave oven and kitchen sink every once in awhile. For those reasons I have never ridden that trail. Now I needed to try.

I planned to start by doing those two trails with a loop around the lake thrown in the middle. This works out to be about 7.5 miles. The first time was on the Santa Cruz bike with it's 26" wheels and full suspension. Ideally this combination would work better negotiating all those boulders on Rough Go. Well it did to a point. I made it down through Rough Go without crashing and causing my immediate death. But I was beat at the end. No way could I do 3 times that distance on the Santa Cruz. I figured I'd try the Fisher bike the next day. The Fisher has 29" wheels so this makes it more difficult to pick your way through tightly congested breadboxes. Technical stuff it is called.

The next day the ride went much better. The Fisher is a much faster bike (some bikes are over others. Don't ask me how this can be for I don't know) and Rough Go wasn't that bad on the bigger wheeled bike. "I can do this" I thought and the Fisher would be my bike of choice for race day.

This all sounds well and good. Not really. As I reached the upper portion of Canyon Trail where it levels out  I see a bike in my rear view mirror and it is gaining on me at a steady pace. She passes me like I am walking. Yes, it was a woman and if that isn’t enough, she’s wearing gym trunks. At least she is riding a high-end mountain bike (I think, it all happened so fast) and not something picked up at WalMart. Later as I loop the lake we meet on the trail and she is still moving fast. At least I am too, sort of. In the blur she looked to be in her 30's. On Rough Go coming down I am following a fresh bike track and figure it is her for I've been following this track all along the lake. Maybe she too is training for this race.

Today I decided to do the same loop with another portion thrown in to increase the mileage a bit. I am on Canyon, still on the somewhat level part where the fist-sized rocky part begins and I am passed by...the same woman! She has become my nemesis. Now it is early in the ride and I'm fresh so I decide to try to stay with her. That lasted only long enough for me to determine she's probably in her late 20's, her arms are about the size of my wrist, she's got different gym shorts on plus a small backpack. Soon she is out of sight. At the level portion where I saw her yesterday I am now in oxygen debt and remained that way throughout the rest of the ride. I had to stop four times to catch my breath and drink some water. I thought if this were a race, everyone I passed back there would now catch up and pass me back every time I stop to check my vitals. Coming down Rough Go my arms felt as if they were the size of...well, my fist and spaghetti for muscle. I had only the strength left to barely hang on and hope for the best. This is what she looks like, just add longer hair.

I leisurely rode the remaining two flat paved miles back to the car. 9.8 miles total for the day. I thought about having to do that again, then add another 5 miles more on top of that. That would be a sufferfest of over 3 hours. I loaded the bike, sat there in the shade and returned a call to my wife. "What am I doing? Sitting here in the shade at the park thinking about taking up shuffleboard."