11 October 2009

Burning Man 2009: Days 10 & 11

Ok, so I'm a month late with this...

Monday, 7 September, was day 10 on the Playa. Black Rock City was packing up and it was time to "leave no trace". The biggest task was to pull down out 70-foot tower. Pavel had started stripping the tower the afternoon before by removing the WD9XSP lighted sign. He started this new morning by removing the antennas.

(He's about 60 feet up there. We took this through a telephoto lens.)

While Pavel did that, most of the rest of the campers packed up the shelter and I bicycled down to Heavy Equipment Camp, part of the Department of Public Works (DPW), with a half liter of tequila. I was going to see if I could get a crane to help pull down the tower. When I got to Heavy Equipment, I walked in through the gate, set my donation bottle on a table next to the coffee pot and took a seat with a few other would-be customers in the "lobby": a bunch of old sofas drawn around a low table under a shade tarp. This is how you borrow a crane in Black Rock City. We were waiting for Chaos, the dispatcher. I was informed that the weekend burns had been very busy for DPW and that Chaos was sleeping in. No problem. On the coffee table there was an overflowing ashtray and can labeled "Tactical Bacon" with an outline of an assault rifle on the wrapper. After a while, an older gentleman came out from a shipping container with 3 or 4 VHF radios clipped on his vest. It was Chaos, the same guy who had inspected our tower installation a week earlier. He walked into the lobby area, talked to each of us and took a few notes. He told me they would be there when they got there. I went back to camp.

We kept packing. The neighbors loaned us a leaf-blower for clearing the dust out of the back of the truck. John came by and we opened a bottle of peach lambic left by a supporter a few days earlier to toast all the people who had helped us so much over the last month. Then we took down the shelter and started contemplating how we were going to remove the guy-line stake from the rock-hard ground, a task we could not safely start until the tower was down. John got impatient waiting for the crane, climbed up the tower with the gin-pole and started pulling it down himself.

John took down the top segment (#7) of the tower himself and was starting to remove segment #6 when the crane arrived. He connected the crane hook to the tower and climbed down. We detached all of the guy-lines and watched the crane lift the whole tower and lay it on its side. It took about 5 minutes.

We spent the next two hours pounding the guy-line stakes out of the ground with sledgehammers. The trick, we found, was to swing at just the right angle to hit the inside of the eye. It was more important to hit accurately than to hit hard. It just took patience.

By the time we were ready to drive out, the sun was already setting. We said our goodbyes, mounted up and went to sit in the 2-hour traffic jam on the way out the gate. We ended up spending the night in Reno due to car problems, finally unloaded most of the camp into a rented storage locker on Wednesday and spent the rest of the week blowing dust out of our equipment. And we are already scheming for next year.


  1. Shoulda hooked that crane up to the guy-line stakes and it pull them out.

  2. Yes. In 2010, we used the crane to remove a few straight (non-screw) stakes. Bent the hell out of the stakes, but that's OK since we're using nothing but screw-anchors in the future.