Thursday, September 03, 2009

Burning Man - Dust

Think of the playa as a giant flat piece of baked earth with a small dunes of dust that drift around from pile to pile in dust storms with their final destination being your face. The dust gets everywhere. It seems to become a main pivotal player in the story that gets played out each year.

The thing is that the dust had the consistency of chalk powder. It had the same feel and smell of the dust under my house. (Which I also associated with the itch of fiberglass, so I got weird itching sensations sometimes.) When blowing around it was white, but when it got wet it turned orange; and it is what caused my tent to creak at night like an old ship.

Because I was spending so much time in the sun I was getting tan so it was becoming harder and harder to tell the difference between dust that was stuck to me and me just being tan. Using wet-naps before every meal cleaned most of it off but I noticed as the week wore on that I cared about it less and less. Because it was very alkaline dust even breathing it after a while gave you a craving for acidic food like pickles and chillies.

I was taking notes on a small pad of paper but after a while the dust and heat dried up my pen so I had to switch to using a pencil.

Because the wind blew pretty steady from the same direction the dust seemed to accumulate into the same area, on the 3:00 and 9:00 roads. This meant that when the water trucks drove around to knock down the dust the dust dunes would turn into potholes.

I wore sandals the first day. Within that time the dry air, and alkaline dust wore a blister using broken-in comfortable sandals into the top of my foot. I had heard of “playa foot” but I didn’t think it could happen so fast. I wore hiking boots the rest of the time and had some people make the comment that they could tell I was an old veteran because I was wearing boots.

Normally a dust storm would last 10-15 minutes and be over. There was usually around 4-5 a day. It wasn’t until Friday that we had our first bad dust storm. Of course I had been packing away my sleeping bag and pillow so that they wouldn’t get covered in dust should there be a bad dust storm during the day but this was the first time I forgot so now everything was covered.

Even in the small dust storms it was easy to loose your bearings. As long as I didn’t stop I could pretty much keep riding a straight line across the playa. But, if I stopped to look at some art then continue I could be off by as much as 45 degrees when I arrived at the other side of the circle.

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