The Greatest Ride of our Lives Part 6: Burning Man

The cross-country road trip our family undertook this summer had a purpose, a destination, a goal: Burning Man, in the Nevada desert.
Regular readers and friends might know that I’ve been out to Black Rock City, as it’s also known, four of the last five years with just my older son Campbell: it’s gone from a rite of passage for us to a ritual. But with Campbell entering Senior Year at High School we all realized that this was the one year we could go to Burning Man as a proper family unit; the event takes place so late in summer that, assuming Campbell goes to college next year, he would already be on campus by the last week of August. And it was in making that decision to go to Burning Man as a family – not just me and Campbell, but my wife Posie and our 7-yr old Noel included – that we realized we could also finally undertake the cross-America road trip we’d always talked about. It was, truly, two great adventures in one.

Burning Man changed/saved my life back in 2007. It can’t be expected to do so every year. But while many long-term Burners have come to consider their trip to Black Rock City something of an annual homecoming/renewal instead – and I would typically count myself among them – I had the advantage this year of experiencing Burning Man through the ‘eyes’ of two virgins, Posie and Noel. That made it a particularly special year for me; I felt like I got to enjoy Burning Man all over again, even as it seemed so familiar to me in so many ways. I also got to watch it from the perspective of Campbell who, on the cusp of his 17th birthday, finally hit it off with other teen Burners this year and frequently disappeared on a bike, completely putting paid to the idea that Posie and I might have a willing child-sitter in our midst. Knowing that this was Campbell’s fifth trip to the Playa and that he knew his way around, I did have the satisfaction of asking him, the Sunday morning after the Saturday night burn, “And what time did YOU get home last night?” – And to the answer, “3am, dad” having the equal joy of retorting, “That early?” Watching Campbell grow up at Burning Man, from the little 11-yr old of 2007 to the big 16-yr old of 2012, has been one of the joys of my life.

I’m not going to try and explain the whole trip that is Burning Man all over again. I would recommend you read my account of my first year to get that sense of wonderment. I will say that my wife Posie turned out to be a natural Burner and that, if she hasn’t talked about it as a life changer, has assured me that not a day has subsequently gone by that she hasn’t thought of the experience. Going out there together – especially with the road trip either side of it – turned out to be the smarter things we’ve done in our 20-year marriage. Our little boy Noel struggled somewhat with the distances to get across the playa and with the mid-afternoon heat, as is to be expected with little kids, and after a first adventurous night on the playa riding multiple mutant vehicles and being very much everyone’s source of fascination and devotion, stayed closer to our home camp, Kidsville, with its trampolines and face-painting and frequent visits from other art vehicles and the like; this too was to be expected. Still, other than being forced to take a mid-afternoon bath one day in a shallow paddle pool of cold water, he seemed to be very engaged and quite enlightened by the whole experience, and his habit of walking up and down the cross-roads playing guitar seemed to make the burn for others.

Herewith then, a series of images from this year’s Burn. Click on each image to see it full size. The last one is a fun one – Noel back in Reno, dirty and hungry. Otherwise, I decided against posting captions. I’ve been writing about Burning Man for five years now. If some of it doesn’t make sense, go back and visit the previous years’ posts to get a fuller understanding. Better yet, come along next year and experience it for yourselves. Burning Man is about radical inclusion. You’re welcome.

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October 2021