i left the burn before the burn this year. i've been meaning to do that forever, though not quite sure exactly why. i had a short and sweet trek to the playa for 2008, just monday to friday. i had that ominous feeling i get every year the night before i'm going to leave that if i delay any longer the heavens will open and 50,000 of us will be glued by clay to the festering swamp of a health pandemic as the water rises. that or just a normal windstorm/whiteout. i learned this year that whiteouts are a complete bitch when you need to get something done. sure, they're fun when you've got on a good dust mask and goggles and nowhere to go. but, say you just want to find your camp after a long drive to the event, and a windstorm has been raging off and on for 8 hours? you're fucked. i learned the hard way.
i timed it so i would arrive on the playa at about 7pm. enough time to get to camp and set up in the light, but past the hottest part of the day. i was going to hop out, let the greeter hug me as much as s/he wanted, and then i was going to ring the fuck out of that Virgin Bell in celebration of my 10th burn. but 1.8 miles from the 9-mile entrance to the playa traffic came to a stop.
even 30 miles out from Empire those of us heading to the event could see the sky ahead full of sand. i knew it couldn't be good, but i didn't think it would impact me. at least it wasn't too hot at that time of day. i watched the shadow hit the far mountain and hadn't even hit playa yet. i knew this was going to take a while. i was near panic-attack sitting in that line. fortunately, for the most part, people were driving with consideration. no rage, no aggression. it took about 31/2 hours to get to the gate folks who seemed to recognize the situation and were doing a quick inspection job. they didn't even look into my roof rack.
i had the presence of mind as i was sitting in traffic to wonder, after i made it to camp, how much this shitty situation would color my over-all feelings of the trip. i figured it would have some impact when planning for 2009 if i go. but as soon as i had a beer at camp the memory of it would already be quickly fading.
so after 4 hours of slow-moving, i showed up at camp, right about the time the windstorm died down. i was already wind-chapped, the city was already fully shaped. i immediately ran into friendly faces when i parked in front of the Tequila Shack. the plan had been to inquire of them where other portlanders were camping and then i would choose. to my relief, everyone had decided to camp at TS so it was a no-brainer. plenty of space for us. awesome.
it was years ago when people stopped predicting "this would be the year" after the 2000 rains.