Monday, May 30, 2011

Camp It Up!

I’m headed to Black Rock City for Burning Man this year. Have I told you this? This isn’t new information, is it?

Anyway, my friend, Steven, called me a month or so ago and told me I needed to take my camping gear on a practice run before heading out to the playa. Absolutely every piece of camping equipment I have is brand spanking new. Steven doesn’t want that new equipment to spank ME. My new tent had never even been unwrapped. I had no idea what color it was.

I thought it was a good idea. “Great,” he says, “Lets go camping!” We decided Memorial Day weekend would be good; lots of other campers taking advantage of the sun & warm weather and it was a long weekend. We found what sounded idyllic: private camp ground – Sun Struck – It is clothing optional with the wide open deserts to hike through, communal kitchen facilities, showers, etc. The website looked great with verdant, peaceful looking campsites.

I called & made a reservation for one night with the option for a second night. I modified my Burning Man list (read last blog) for this trip, culling out all the unnecessary items like a solar shower, bicycle, wild Burning Man costumes. I shared my list with Steven to see if I’d neglected anything.

He laughed. OK, I will admit my list is a bit OCD-ish. His only comment: “Honey, I thought you would have at the least put it into alphabetical order! AND you forgot the tent stakes.”

“Um… no, they are on the list. See? Rebar stakes, tent.”

“OK,” he says, “if a towel is a towel, hand or towel, bath, then the damned stakes should be stake, tent, rebar!”

“Yeah. He’s right. Now I need to re-do my Burning Man list.”

We did our food shopping on Friday. Next morning, I picked Steven up at 8 AM. We packed up Steven’s gear and off we went to Yucca Valley and Sun Struck, our idyllic campground out in the wide-open space that is California.

We arrived at the Sun Sturke gate - at the very end of a long corduroy dirt road. The directions were clear: enter through the gate and bear left at the old tractor.

Sounds clear, but, which of those old rusted out hulks was a tractor? We made a guess and arrived at a building Jedd Clampett would have been proud to own when he was still shootin’ for some grubb.

There were supposed to be cabins. All we saw were those 8 x 10 garden sheds from Home Depot. They were set about the grounds without rhyme or reason. Oh… those WERE the cabins! And those trailers sitting cockeyed by one flat tire? Those were the other accommodations! Thank god we brought our tent and booze!

We checked in. Our host looked absolutely comfortable in these surroundings. Scary thought.

We asked where we should pitch our tent. “Oh, just about any where.” We looked around. Just about anywhere looked undesirable. We asked if we could camp off a bit from the center of the grounds. Yep. Clem took us on a tour of the property. Clem pointed out the sites: “That there’s the spa. No one can figure out how to turn it on. You’re welcome to use it.” “Don’t camp there. cuz there’s a leak in the septic system somewhere over there.” “There’s the garden spot. We’re trying to save that there tree what fell over 5 years ago.”

We settled on a spot around a hillock from center camp. The only building in sight was the only occupied guest cabin. The interior of the cabin was taken up by a huge king size bed. We could tell because that side of the cabin was a sliding glass doors that remained uncovered and open the entire time we were there. That door/window WAS the end wall of the cabin. Small. We had to walk right by that open sliding glass door every time we headed towards the main buildings. It got to be embarrassing. I think the occupant enjoyed it. Sun Struck.

We pitched the tent. It took 10 minutes to erect a 12 foot by 16 foot tent. From unzipping the tent bag to driving the last stake: 10 minutes. Our view (other than the show going on in the cabin) was of the wide-open valley. Stunning view, in that direction. We had our camp chairs out, beds made up and gear sorted out by 11:30 AM.

Camp was set. We ate a simple leisurely lunch and were ready to explore and hike the surrounding landscape. We zipped up the tent and took off to explore. I’ll continue my story next week.

Oh, the tent is green & gray. The photo is my tent pitched next to some sort of sculpture. At least I think that’s what it is.

As always, thank you for listening

Jerry L. Hanson.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Musak to My Ears, Those Liszt....

Had I’d known about Burning Man 40 years ago, I would have checked for gas money and taken off for Black Rock City thinking I would pick up the “crap I need” on the way. And I would have been perfectly happy and content. I would have had a great time.

Not today.

I’m older, but not necessarily wiser. I’m going to Burning Man this year. That’s probably NOT a wise decision. I’m over 60 years old, for crying out loud! I need more assurance than enough gas money. I need a list…

That list protects me. I check it daily – yes, you’re right; I’m not heading out to Black Rock City for a few more months. What’s your point? I need to know what I need to take and I need to know what I’m taking. The list is fine tuned daily as I accumulate the “crap I need”.

Forty years ago, I used a hatchet to pound in tent stakes, chop fire wood AND open the Pork & Beans. Today, I pack a rubber mallet, a 3-pound hammer, can opener and cork screw. No hatchet. Swiss Army knives are so out of vogue these days. I tossed one into the tool bag none-the-less.

Forty years ago, my tent was a pup tent: a flap of oiled canvas, two 3-foot poles, rope and 6 stakes. No floor; open on both ends. It worked and kept me dry. Sometimes.

Youth and ignorance seem to protect the young: I’m not so hardy these days. I have a real tent for Black Rock City which requires its own subheading on my list. It documents everything I need for this tent including tennis balls and clothes pins. There are fifteen separate entries under “tent.” I’m not sure it’s complete.

My list has over 160 line items. My mentors, Joe & Bill, have nearly 1,000 items on their list! I figure I’m roughing it. Last evening, I ordered a solar charger for my iPhone, MacBook Pro, camera and Nano. I need to remember to add those items to my list along with the music to bring. Franz Liszt is an obvious choice. It’s rough.

This excursion to Black Rock City may be the most challenging trip I’ve taken in my 62+ years. I’m looking forward to new experiences and challenges. I’m looking to re-connecting with that 22-year old geek who could take off for a weekend with a few cans of beans and a case of beer to explore the unknown. And I plan to have the time of my life!

While I’m obsessing about Burning Man, check out my web site at . Contact me if you see something you like.

Contact me if you want to buy one of my pieces or if you have any questions about a specific piece. My contact information is on my website or you can leave a comment on this blog site for me to contact you (include your contact info!). You can e-mail me at or you can telephone me on my studio phone 760-992-3157. You can call me. I won’t mind!

Lastly, I apologize to any lovers of classical music or of Franz Liszt. I couldn’t resist the word play.

And thanks for listening!

Jerry L. Hanson