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A bicycle built for two

There is something about the dust at Burning Man. It’s an “in-everything, everywhere, all at once” aspect of the experience there: part foe, part friend; part fear, part fun. It’s ubiquitous, unavoidable and inside every pocket, crevice, daypack, tent and shoe … There’s nowhere It isn’t.

Many people speak of avoiding the dust, keeping their tents dust-free (hah, as if such things were possible) and staying out of the dust storms. Understandably. So, why did I head out into a dust storm, intentionally, one afternoon? Short answer: I needed it. I wanted it.

There hadn’t been any big dust storms yet that year. Not yet at least. The days were going by and I wanted to feel it, to smell the dust in every breath, to be in it.

This particular afternoon I’d been feeling a bit blah and doing a bit of nothing back at camp (a perfectly acceptable option for any hour of the day), when I heard the wind pick up and felt a dust storm coming on. Yay, I thought, as I quickly transformed from being in a reasonable state of high-heat, late-afternoon doldrums to suddenly feeling excited and ready for an adventure.

Rather than hunkering down and staying in while the storm passed (also a perfectly acceptable option), I decided to pack my bags, fill my water container and head out for a stroll. As I emerged from my tent and saw/felt the direction from which the winds were blowing, I turned to face these oncoming winds and dust, and started walking straight into storm, head on.

It was glorious!

Wind and dust, and dust and wind. Relentless. Assaulting. Exquisite.

I walked for some time, not looking for anything to do, per se; rather, simply enjoying the smell of the dust and the feeling of the dust-filled air whipping about. I had no where to go, and no destination to reach; I simply wanted to be out while the dust storm raged.

At some point, a man in a covered, carriage-like bicycle pulled up beside me and asked me where I was going, and if I wanted a ride as far up as I Street where he was camped. (I was around D Street when he stopped beside me.) I told him I wasn’t headed anywhere particular, but I’d happily accept his offer of a ride. I climbed into the passenger seat, put my feet on the pedals below me, and helped power along his bike.

His bike looked and functioned a lot like this.

We chatted. Basic Burning Man banter. He told me he’d made his own bike, and I marveled over that. We stopped at the portos on the way to his camp, a wise move; and, eventually, in reasonable time at a reasonable pace, we arrived at his camp. He invited me in for a beer, at which point I met his sister, her husband, a good childhood friend of the two siblings and a neighbor camping solo whom they had adopted and welcomed in.

The small group had ferried their gear in with a 10-ft box truck and were using that now-empty truck as their storm shelter and hang-out space. I sipped the beer, yapped a bit, then thanked them for the company and hospitality, thanked my co-pedaler for the ride, and moseyed on.

climbing a pyramid

My moseying led me soon enough to a wood-structure pyramid–more Mayan than Egyptian–with a flat top and observation deck requiring a good 25-30 or so steps up to the top. I climbed it and found myself now looking down on the dust storm. It was glorious. It was beautiful. Like a wind-based serpent slithering through the city, I could see the dust storm blow by, below. I stayed up top the pyramid for a good hour or so, then felt it was time to get back onto the ground and back into the impact zone of the dust storm.

Once again, I felt exhilarated walking directly into the storm. I held as sacred the land and place and space where Burning Man takes place. I honored the dust storm as integral to the experience, and I kept on walking, face forward into the wind.

Nowhere I needed to be; nowhere I needed to go, all of which were quite perfectly acceptable options for anyone, at any moment, and in any circumstance. At Burning Man and in life.



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