My legs are begging me to stop biking, but my grumbling stomach urges me to continue pedaling. A large dragon art-car blasting heavy bass electronic music toots a fiery hello. I yell over the roar of their music, “ HAVE YOU SEEN A 40s DINER ANYWHERE?” Two people dressed up like pirates shake their heads, while the other dozen dancing souls gyrate in their own worlds. As the dragon glides away I assess my desert surroundings in the pre-dawn darkness. A speckled ocean of glowing lights bobs and twirls as I feel the air pulse from the hundreds of speakers playing various types of electronic music.
It is my third year at Burning Man, the annual weeklong art festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. I try and summon some “playa magic” to help me find the Dust City Diner art car that is hiding somewhere in the expansive desert and serving up grilled cheese and hot coffee. My hunger and curiosity are still fueling this solo middle of the night wild goose chase.
In the temporary city of Burning Man, theme camps are situated at numerical coordinates of avenues that extend radially from the Man sculpture at the 12 o’clock position and concentrically arcing streets that are organized alphabetically. Beyond the Man is considered “deep playa” where synchronicity rules, art cars roam and burners on bikes weave around art installations. About two miles from the man, a plastic “trash fence” marks the boundary of the event.
While all of Burning Man can be considered a string of unexpected surprises, I feel like the deep playa is where the some of the richest magic happens, as well as some of the deepest frustration and disappointment.
After another unsuccessful 45 minutes searching for the Dust City Diner, I head back to my camp with my head hung heavy to get a few hours of sleep before sunrise. Back at camp, I plop down on a couch that coughs up a plume of dust and devour a granola bar and a squeeze pack of maple-flavored almond butter to quiet my grumbling belly. My alarm starts beeping at 6:30am and I crawl out of my sleeping bag, put on a tutu and some sunscreen and head out for the day.
If you have never been to Burning Man, then bringing food and water for an entire week in the desert may seem like an impossible and unappetizing feat. The food at Burning Man, however, is so much more than cup-o-noodles, beef jerky and trail mix. Exploring the animated city, you’ll find various food-themed camps that embody the second of ten guiding principles of Burning Man –- that of gifting -- by providing nourishment for any burner who happens by their camp. Some camps entice you with skimpily dressed megaphone hecklers, while others simply draw you in with colorful signs and the promise of sitting in the shade.