You’ll hear this warning over and over, but it’s important to heed it: drive the speed limit and drive carefully on Highway 447. Watch for changes in those speed limits as you frequently go through small towns or tribal areas that usually post 25 MPH speed signs. There are Nevada and tribal cops just waiting to pick up speeders on their way to the Burn. Burning Man is the biggest week of the year for this area and therefore the biggest opportunity to bring in some cash to the local coffers. Save your money for the merchants rather than giving it to the Nevada and tribal courts.
Passing on 447 is not difficult because the road is mostly flat and straight (albeit with some climbs and curves here and there). Obviously, you should always pass with care. But you should also make an effort to stay out of the way of others who want to pass you. Slow down just a little as they go around you to make their passing easier. You’ll always see some hot-shots in an enormous hurry to get to the Burn. Let them get by you. Later on, you’ll probably pass them on the side of the road with a cop giving them a ticket.
Helping others: it’s a Burning Man tradition to help each other while at Black Rock City. Does this ethos extend out to car problems on 447? That’s an individual decision, and one you should make with caution. We find it best to help out by making certain people have a way of contacting the authorities or AAA for help rather than getting entwined in their problems and changing the arc of our own trip. It’s a lonely road and you don’t want to get involved in something that could end up costing you dearly. I’m speaking here for us older folks and preaching caution. Others may feel differently.
Picking up hitch-hikers: I’m more inclined to pick up a lone hitchhiker or two if there’s room in the vehicle. Just make sure they are willing to stick to your rules (e.g., no smoking in the vehicle) and aren’t carrying any illegal substances that could cost you your entry into Burning Man or even a night in jail. It’s a judgment call.
Now for the enjoyment part: if you travel by day, you’re in for some visual treats, including the desert itself. You’ll pass beautiful Pyramid Lake on your left as you’re traversing 447. It’s a huge lake with almost no development around it. There’s fishing, but only with reservation-issued licenses. Although I’m sure there’s boating on the lake, we’ve never seen a single vessel on the water in all of our trips. But we love just watching the lake go by and wondering at its beauty.
Traveling by night has the advantage of fewer cars on the road, but you’ll see almost none of the unique geography that marks this area. Of course, you can always drive back during daylight hours. But we find it more exciting to actually see the desert evolve around us. Plus, the Gerlach and Empire shops are usually closed at night.
As you near the festival, you’ll hit two towns that are badly in need of whatever you can afford to spend. Both Empire and Gerlach were hard hit by the bankruptcy of U.S. Gypsum – the only major employer in the area. Both towns have been enterprising in finding ways to serve Burning Man customers with their shops and eating places. You can even buy a bicycle in Gerlach and benefit the struggling public schools.
There’s not a lot of room on the side of the road, and there are many Burners who traditionally stop at these small towns for supplies or a bite to eat. The traffic can be a bit tricky at times, and pulling in and out of the little shops requires full concentration.
But you’re almost at the Burn when you’ve reached Gerlach, so let yourself relax and start smiling. You’ll soon be at the gate and where at Greeter will say, “Welcome home.”