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desolate debris
The morning after.

We hadn't even left yet and already the real world was crashing in on me. As we were breaking camp, I watched as the end of the line of cars slowly approached, then passed us as the backlog got deeper and deeper.

Radio Free Burning Man reported that the crawl to the highway was now about two hours long. And it was three hours beyond that to Reno. I was never going to make my flight.

And if I had not yet slipped into total panic, it certainly came upon me when the van wouldn't start.

It was actually pretty easy to find someone with jumper cables -- the line to get out hadn't moved in so long that people were back out of their cars, talking and hanging out. So we got the car started, but what then? The line wasn't moving at all, and we had to keep the engine running to recharge the battery (never mind the likelihood that it wouldn't start again if it stalled while idling in line).

So we did the only sensible thing. We turned and went the other direction.

We headed all the way out to the far side of the playa, until we were riding parallel to the orange mesh fencing that delineated the edge of Black Rock City. Suddenly we spotted an official-looking truck crossing into the playa from the vast reaches of empty desert beyond. It slowed to a stop as we approached.

The guy was with the State of Nevada -- like a park ranger or something. "Can we get out this way?" I asked hopefully.

His eyes shifted back and forth between me and the wheels on the van. "It's about eight miles out to the next highway access point. There's still some pretty thick mud out there from the rain we had. Look for other tire tracks, stick to those and you should be alright."

The unspoken alternative, of course, was getting stuck out in the desert miles from anyone who could help.

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