We build Black Rock City from scratch, the myth goes. But strictly speaking, we build it largely out of cars.
Even before we get there, the playa isn't quite empty. Trailblazers have lit the way for us, mapping out a ring of roads and staking them out with signs.
When the time comes, we saddle up our gas-powered vehicles and point them toward the desert. As the sun sets, our first wave hits Route 447, headed for Gerlach and points beyond.
We float out there in the dark, an incredible snake of red lights unfurled ahead of us, a starry, white trail behind. The flow slows down as we get closer, and then we turn off the pavement and onto the dust.
The line at the gate sometimes takes all night, maybe even all morning.
The greeters approach us, we roll down our windows, pass them our tickets, and we're in. There's a big moment after that: the traffic splits off left and right. Depending on which side of the clock our camp occupies, we make our choice and start driving around the ring.
We're so tired, 5 MPH is about all we can muster.
But we made it. We pull up to camp, pick a parking spot that won't be in anybody's way, shut off the engine, and we're there. We're home. This is the feeling we rode all the way to Black Rock City from whatever default place we left.
The drive is vastly different when we leave.