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The princess ride

In one of my many adventures in the wonderful and wondrous Land of Burning Man, I found myself exhausted, far from “home” (camp) and deeply, desperately not wanting to have to walk all the way back to camp.

For those of you who have been to Burning Man, you know: it’s big, especially when so much of the traversing of the land happens on foot. Yes, I had a bike. Yes, I rode said bike; but on this particular day and at this particular moment, I was on foot.

See, I’d been out and about with some campmates. We’d found our way to a camp with a huge, almost circus-like tent with tarps on the floor to tamp down the dust and rugs all about. There were cushions and low tables and hookahs and a DJ playing Middle Eastern-themed groovy music. People were napping. (I did too, for a bit.) People were lounging about. (I did too, for a bit.) And people were dancing. (I did that, as well, for a bit.) It was all quite lovely. But I was tired, and I wanted to head back to camp.

I said goodby to my campmates, left the super-groovy place, started walking and was suddenly overcome with an exhaustion that had me questioning whether I was going to make it the mile or two, or whatever, I needed to cross to get back home.

There are — as you may have seen from a photo or two, or 200, from Burning Mans past — a sanctioned and approved type of locomotion called “art cars.” They need licenses from the DMV (the Department of Mutant Vehicles), and they are held to strict standards for visibility, speed, artistic endeavor and such.

Sometimes art cars are stopped out in the open for a bit and allow people to hop on. Sometimes they are out with a group, or maybe just their campmates and friends, and do not have a “come join us” vibe, and, sometimes, magic just happens.

As I trudged, step by step toward home, in the vast and open deep playa, a well-known “front porch” art car passed in front of me about 20 yards away. I looked at the people on the car; some of them looked at me. I willed them to stop, to ask me to join them, to give me a ride.

They didn’t.

Front Porch art car. Photo by Duncan Rawlinson.

The disappointment of hopes dashed had me now feeling even more exhausted than before. I felt alone. I felt tired. I just wanted to get off my feet and relax, but the open playa, near dusk, while I was still in my day clothes and not bundled up for the temperature drop likely coming with the soon-setting sun was not a good option. So I took some more steps.

And then–a mere minute or two later–a huge, double-decker, totally bedecked art car/bus pulled up near me, stopped and a man popped his head out and said, “Hey, would you like a ride?”

“Why, yes, I would,” I answered. “Thank you.” He held out his hand to help me up the steps and onto the first level of the vehicle, where he then explained it was just him, the driver and an “official” Burning Man photographer on board. [I’m figuring with a google search just now of “brazil, burning man, photographer,” the photographer was Sidney Erthal. (I remember the guy who invited me aboard, my host, saying the photographer was originally from Brazil.)]

My host said they had just offloaded a big group of people who’d been partying and hanging out on the bus for awhile, but now it was time to visit some key locations the photographer liked to capture at dusk: mainly, the temple, The Man and some specific large art projects he wanted to photograph. I was welcome to be on board while they did these “errands” for the photographer.

Oh, the relief I felt! The prayer, answered! I also happened to be wearing an ankle-length, late-1960s, hot pink, vintage negligee with some silver trim. It looked as much like a gown as a negligee, and I felt a bit fancy and rather elegant in it, simple as the item was.

My host offered me access to their cooler filled with ice and cold drinks, then said he needed to be focused on supporting Sidney and the driver to make sure they got to the places Sidney wanted to photograph at dusk; thus, leaving me to myself, now atop an open-air, double-decker art car/bus, traveling through deep playa as the sun was setting.

I think I was a bit of a sight to see: standing alone–the only passenger atop this double-decker art car, wearing what appeared to be a “gown,” while viewing from on high the temple, large art installations, and the people below. It looked like I was being personally chauffeured, and other than the functional errands the bus was making for the photographer, I kinda was being chauffeured. Many people waved at me; I waved back. (“Isn’t that what princesses and royalty do when passing the crowds?)

After a while, and as the sun’s light was starting to disappear from the sky, my host came upstairs, told me they were headed back to their camp and asked me where I wanted to be dropped off. They didn’t take me all the way back to my camp, but they got me a whole lot closer than where I’d started from. I thanked him for his hospitality, hopped off, walked home … and that, my friends, is how I got The Princess Ride! 🙂

2016 Temple, being built. Photo by Trancentral.
Photo by Tristan Savatier.
There it goes. Photo by George Krieger.


  • Anita Clemmer
    Posted May 13, 2023 at 9:50 am

    I love your writing Jessie!! It always sucks me into your story!!

    • Post Author
      Jessie Newburn
      Posted May 19, 2023 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks, Anita! It took me a long time (until I was 58 — I’m 59 now) to realize I was a writer. Now I am just loving sharing my stories.

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