BRC and the Mobility Challenge

Many older people won’t go to Burning Man out of concern for their mobility on the Playa.  It’s an appropriate and understandable worry – especially for those of us who find “getting around” a lot harder than it used to be.  Black Rock City, while a small town in many ways, is vast when it comes to transporting yourself from point-to-point.  Restrictions on the types of vehicles available means that most people either walk or bike to get anywhere.  The surface can be tricky at times, with sand build-ups that can present pedaling challenges should you encounter one of these “mini-dunes” unexpectedly.

If you have the kind of serious mobility issues that entitle you to a handicap placard on your car, then it seems obvious that Burning Man is not your venue.  But what sometimes seems obvious is merely a lack of knowledge about resolutions already in place.  For example, there’s the Black Rock City Department of Mobility, which states on the Burning Man site:

“… we offer the gift of mobility to fellow Burners who might have difficulty traveling to the far reaches of Black Rock City. It is our goal to expand and enhance the opportunities for our Theme camp guests to PARTICIPATE!”

To find out more about BRC’s Department of Mobility camp and the services it offers, contact or

But you can also take the route of independent transportation by bringing your own special vehicle and licensing it through the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles).  There are restrictions and limitations on such vehicles such as size and type of vehicles (see the list below), but there’s plenty of room for creativity and there’s a genuine desire for inclusiveness (Radical Inclusion one of Burning Man’s “10 Principles”).

Our bikes ready for a day on the Playa.

Our bikes ready for a day on the Playa.

I remember one pedal-powered art car built in the shape of a foot, and operated by a Burner who was actually missing one of his feet.  The vehicle not only gave an otherwise disabled person a means of transportation, but also made a public statement that both grieved for and celebrated the missing limb.

Those with mobility challenges can also choose to traverse the Playa on one of the plethora of art cars, but will have to cope with the randomness of art car routes — recognizing that you could end up stranded far from your home camp.  Fortunately for all of us attending Burning Man, the Playa provides, and there’s usually plenty of help anytime we find ourselves in jeopardy.

Below is the specific information from the Burning Man website pertaining to vehicles for people with disabilities:

“If you have a physical disability, you should be able to receive a disabled license from the DMV. Pre-registration is necessary. Please go here to find out more about vehicles and transportation for those with disabilities.

The following vehicles will NOT be licensed:

  • Vehicles larger than pickup trucks (converted “mobility vans” are acceptable)
  • Vehicles having multiple levels
  • Vehicles with trailers
  • RVs
  • Motorcycles
  • ATVs”


To reiterate one of the most crucial statements from the above directive:  “Pre-registration is necessary.”  Coming to the Playa unprepared and trying to meet a special-needs situation on the fly can result in disappointment and a bad Burn experience.  So check all the information carefully, and come well-prepared to meet your personal mobility needs.

But one thing you will never find at Burning Man is rejection of people based on disabilities, or on any other inherent issue.  We mean it when we say “Welcome Home” to everyone who arrives at the gate.

Sex and the Single (or Married) Burner

Sex is a frequent subject when it comes to Burning Man.  There’s an openness to discuss matters of sex at the Festival, sexual references throughout the playa, naked people and dress that would be called – in the default world – provocative.

My wife once entered a Miss Black Rock City pageant and won in the best-dressed category – principally because she was the only candidate who actually had clothes on.

There’s a great divide between age groups in society, which is also at least somewhat true about those who attend Burning Man.  Sex seems to have less significance for people who grew up in the 90s than it did for those of us who grew up in the 60s.  That really came home to me some seven years ago when my wife and I attended our first Burn together (I had gone to my initial Burn with my son the year before).

Judie and I decided that Burning Man would be the perfect place to “get married” in honor of our 40th anniversary.  So we made arrangements to hold the wedding ceremony at the Ashram Galactica Hotel International.  Everyone in the bar/disco that night became a guest at our wedding.

Exchanging vows at our Burning Man wedding.

Exchanging vows at our Burning Man wedding.

After the ceremony, one girl – probably barely in her 20s – came up to me and said, “Can I ask you a question?”

Naturally, I answered “yes.”

Her question:  “Have you been monogamous for all those years?”

My answer:  “Why, yes, I have.”

Her response:  “Would you please talk to my boyfriend?”

I turned down her request suggesting that the conversation needed to be between the boyfriend and her, without the intervention of some old codger who lacked a therapist’s license.

I’ve since heard stories (possibly apocryphal) about couples that go to Burning Man and get a temporary divorce, or at least a release from their marriage vows for the week.  There may even be a camp that issues such short-term documents.  I know of individuals who go without their spouses and enjoy of week of sexual pleasures with the winking acceptance of their wife or husband.  Everyone’s entitled to his or her own approach to sexuality at Burning Man (or anywhere else, for that matter), but what I find healthy and pleasurable while remaining committed to my spouse is the recognition of sex as a life-force and the permission that Burning Man gives to keep that life-force out in the open and fully alive.

I’ve written on more than one occasion that the openness of sex at Burning Man is one of the reasons I feel younger after attending each Festival.  It’s good for me personally and for us as a couple to live in that environment once a year, to revel in our own and the world’s sexuality, and to remember how much we enjoy each other physically as well as emotionally.

Taking STEPs Toward a Ticket

Still hoping for a Burning Man ticket, despite the sold-out sale of a few weeks ago?  The BM organization has just begun STEP (Secure Ticket Exchange Program) for re-sale of tickets to those who decide they can’t or won’t go.  The information below comes directly from Jack Rabbit Speaks.  I realize that some of you may have already read this material, but I know that a lot of newbies don’t subscribe to JRS, so I’m re-publishing this article in whole:

“STEP is the secure, safe, hassle-free way for Burners to sell their extra tickets, and for eager Burners to buy them. Here’s how it works:

To buy a ticket through STEP:
1. If you want to purchase a ticket through STEP, log in to your Burner Profile ( and sign up to join the STEP queue, starting February 28, 2013 at 12pm (noon) PST. Anyone who has not already purchased a ticket through one of our other sales can sign up to purchase a ticket through STEP.  NOTE: If you do not yet have a Burner Profile sign up before Thursday ( – having a profile ahead of time will speed up the registration process and ensure you are as close to the front of the STEP line as possible.

Giant statue made of steel cables.  It was as big, or bigger, than it looks.

Giant statue made of steel cables. It was as big, or bigger, than it looks.

2. When a ticket becomes available, the first person in the STEP queue is offered that ticket (at face value, plus usual service fees and a $4 per ticket STEP fee) via email. If that person decides to purchase the ticket offered to them, the sale is made. If they decline to purchase the ticket, it’s then offered to the next person in line … and so on.

To sell a ticket through STEP:
1. Burners who have an extra ticket to sell can go to their Burner Profile ( to put it into the STEP system (so long as it is before tickets have shipped or you selected WIll Call for your order).

2. Once your ticket has sold, your credit card will be credited for the price of the ticket plus delivery fee.

Since STEP offers tickets for sale to the people waiting in the queue, you can’t specify who is offered your ticket. Additionally, signing up for the STEP queue doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to purchase a ticket … nor does offering your ticket guarantee it will sell. We’ll stop accepting STEP sign ups on July 31, 2013.

For more information about STEP, see the STEP section of our Frequently Asked Questions:

Good luck to all of you who want tickets but failed to get them during the big sale.  And keep in mind that history tells us more tickets will become available as we approach the festival and people realize that they can’t make it.  Besides tickets available through STEP, there will be those that show up on Craigslist.  Don’t give up; there are usually enough tickets for everyone who wants to go to Burning Man 2013.