The trip to Burning Man is both a joy and a chore. Be ready for both.
The number one rule of thumb for our family is good preparation of the vehicle. The final leg of the trip that most people take – highway 447 north from Wadsworth to Gerlach – is 75 miles of lonely two-lane highway with only limited space to pull off for a flat tire or other repair. Once you reach Gerlach, you still have a good 8-10 miles to the gate, and you sometimes have to wait as traffic snakes along slowly.
While there’s no way to prevent car problems, you can take sensible precautions to reduce the potential for breakdowns. Check those tires. If you’re driving an RV or pulling a trailer to Burning Man, remember that your tires may look better than they are. RV and trailer tires can rot from lack of use and still look like they have plenty of tread. My personal advice, replace suspect tires before you depart.
Overheating can be a significant problem as you approach the Black Rock Desert. It’s hot, you’ll have your air conditioning on and you may find yourself in a long line creeping slowly toward the gate. Prevention is the key to making the trip a safe and enjoyable one. We always check all our fluids, belts and hoses and replace anything that is slightly suspect. We also carry extra supplies of oil, brake fluid and radiator coolant.
(Judie and I will be putting together a post on how she prepares our RV to enter the Burning Man environment and depart without heavy dust contamination. We’ll also discuss other RV-specific issues. Look for it soon.)
The drive down 447 offers some interesting safety challenges of its own. There are areas without much in the way of shoulders, so you don’t want to drift over too far to the right. If you’re sleepy, stop and rest, or, better yet, change drivers. There are a few places along the road where you can pull off and rest (and there are even a few food stands – most featuring Indian Tacos). It’s always nice to give some of these tribal folks your business as they rarely see much traffic along the route.
Don’t depend on timing your gas consumption for a fill-up in Gerlach. We usually top-off when we get there so we have plenty of fuel to run our generator and so we can leave the burn without making a stop in Gerlach, but we try to go onto 447 with a full or nearly full tank. You can always fill up in Reno (if you’re coming from the west), but you can also do so at the Wadsworth gas station that is very friendly to Burners. It’s the only one between 80 and Gerlach, so think hard before you pass it up. You can also get a decent cup of coffee at Wadsworth to help you stay awake on the road.
In Part II we’ll cover safe driving on Highway 447, plus the “joy” section of the tale. Meanwhile, for more about how to reach Burning Man, click on http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/how_to_get_there.html