The Burning Man exhibition

I arrived at Burning Man (The Man, Black Rock City, NV) on Sunday, August 28. I got there pretty late in the afternoon so I had to hustle to just get camp set up before dark. I started assembling the frame on Monday morning. As I have done a dozen times prior, I start with the wheels and lower frame upside-down then I flip it over. However, this time, the frame snapped in half — on the left side and right side of the seat where the stress is greatest.

Ironically, I even quipped back in May "I used the pipe from my friend's house on Burkhard Place — it was the original water pipe that was installed 110 years ago … so if it breaks sometime in the future, that might be why." It was actualy the threaded part that broke … the threads made the walls of the tubing thinner and finally gave way.

Someone (I think his name was Cram) suggested Black Rock Hardware camp to see if they had a welder, but they didn't. However on Sunday evening I met people at Recycle Camp and they did. I talked with Angry Butterfly who said she'd probably have a free moment on Tuesday morning and took pity and/or sent me searching for energy drinks and cheeseburgers for her. I went back to Hardware and ground off the paint and made pipe inserts to further strengthen the joint.

Tuesday morning (my birthday) I took the frame parts to Recycle Camp and hung out with the crew a while. Angry Butterfly had to repair their can crusher so I helped with that and then she got my stuff welded.

Here's how the unpainted frame looked when I first built it.

Here's Angry Butterfly's welding job after the wear-and-tear of Burning Man.

I got back to my camp and assembled the project. I put in a fresh battery and flipped it on and … nothing. The computer wasn't running. I did some testing and realized the power supply spikes above 5 volts initially and it seemed to be latching up the computer which has an "Absolute Maximum" voltage of 5.5 volts. Wiggling the wires got it booted up and running, though.

I pushed it out to The Artery, signed in, and had now officially completed (almost) everything for the grant requirement. I pushed it out to Lost Penguin which is a chill-space with couches and such where they give away chocolates and wine. While I was sitting there, only one guy stopped to even look at the project.

Would you look at that? My project sitting out on the Playa.

I headed back to where I left it later but it was gone. I couldn't see it anywhere around on the horizon so I went back camp and found that "Ben and Babz" brought it back, leaving a note in the dust on my car. A couple other people tried it out and in the process seemed to loosen one of the wires. The computer stopped working again and I couldn't get it to do anything. So, in the last two hours of sunlight, I pulled all the existing chips and threw in a simple circuit to get all the blue lights to go on when it's dark.

My neighbor Troy and I figured out how to slowly ride it forward and took it about 3 miles to Alien Semaphore and left it there.

Wednesday morning I got up and started a hunt for the project. I went way out to the north trash fence and headed back … no luck. On Thursday I got up and did the same thing. I was getting a little alarmed when I couldn't find it — I prepared myself to let it go, but I kind of thought I'd see it way off in the distance maybe once a day … or at least have someone I know tell me they saw it, but no word at all. Friday morning was a repeat … another unsuccessful hunt. By Saturday I was getting quite worried. I never found my project at all and I started feeling trapped — after all, I'm responsible for removing it, so I'll have to stay forever until everything is gone.

Babz and Ben left a note on my Civic.

I returned to fix a couple things only to find it intact and in action.

Sunday I got up before sunrise. I felt a bit numbed to the idea of hunting for the project again, but I decided to systematically scour the city. I started at 6:00 and Hysteria — the furthest street — and rode from there to 2:00 and Hysteria. I then returned on Gestalt, back out on Fetish, then Ego, Delerium, Catharsis, Bipolar, and Amnesia … in all nearly 11 miles. No project found. I took a brief break then started on the other half of the city … 6:00 and Hysteria to 10:00, then back on Gestalt and … found!

It was around Gestalt and 9:00 — pretty much as far away from my camp as you can get and still be inside the city. One of the forks broke and a tire had blown out in the back. It had been cobbled and patched — the tensioner spring on the generator had been replaced with some wire and a condom and the tire had been patched a bit with duct tape.

I met this guy Gabriel who was somewhat incoherent … he apparently was awake at least all night and might still have been drunk. Their camp (or neighborhood) had adopted it and called it the "Space Car." They said they had tons of fun on it … he said that "sometimes it would make noise and we thought it was sad so we'd ride it some more." Someone else who was packing up and leaving thought it appeared sometime around Friday in its broken state but couldn't be sure.

I finally found it in such sad shape.

People apparently had tried to keep it alive for me.

The forces really ripped the fork apart, though — I expected that some part on the back would fail, I just didn't know which.

I biked back, grabbed some tools and the spare fork and went back to get it. I fixed the broken bits enough to be able to move it. I actually towed it with a strap to my bike. I stopped by Borrachos y bicicletas but they had no spare 24" tubes, but they suggested I just take the tires and tubes off the back wheels and ride it on the rims. I did that and managed to get the MP3 player started again so I took it to Kidsville so the kids there could play on it.

Sondra and her daughter Electra take their turn at Kidsville.

I locked it up that night so I wouldn't have to worry about it.

Monday, September 5 I got up early and started slowly packing. I got the project taken apart and managed to fit everything back in the car again and headed back home.


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