On the way to Burning Man, I questioned whether I would take any drugs at all. There is so much to do and see, and the event is so moving in any stage of sobriety, that drugs were an afterthought.
Of course, I didn’t come unprepared. We had on hand small amounts of cocaine, ecstasy, GHB and LSD. By the end of the week, our stash would be dry.
Preparing for the Playa
Our first trip to Burning Man. Virgins. And we were excited. For three months we customized our shopping list (this was our starting point), researched all aspects extensively and talked with our many friends who had gone before. We were camping with friends in one of the larger sound camps, so we had plenty of resources to draw upon. Finally, our bikes were decorated, our bins packed and the week of our departure was upon us.
Then disturbing news started to flood our social media outlets…. Law enforcement was out of control on the way to Black Rock City, so much so that the organization was threatening legal action and put out official guidance on dealing with law enforcement.
The problem was the federal government was engaging in pretextual stops, and using drug sniffing dogs to determine illegal substances. The government eventually put out word that these heavy-handed tactics were not related to Burning Man, but was simply a crack down on opioid smuggling. They didn’t clarify why the dogs being used were trained for stimulants and THC, not opioids nor why the crackdown ended as soon as the event began… Yes, they lied. Shocking. Eventually nine arrests were made, and of these nine, seven were never prosecuted due to questions around the pretextual nature of the stops.
We decided to risk it, but took several precautions to minimize risk. First, we ensured that our vehicle was entirely compliant with applicable law. This meant not using a bike rack for our two bikes, and instead arranging alternative transportation; the bikes would have blocked the license plate. No feasible workaround existed for us to relocate the plate in strict compliance with Nevada law.
Second, we took the minimal quantities we thought the two of us would likely consume: Eight 1.25 mg MDMA pills, 1 gram cocaine, 30 ml of GHB and 6 hits of LSD (in hindsight that doesn’t sound so minimal).
Finally, we waited until the morning of our departure to carefully vacuum seal each drug in a separate pouch, then seal it again in a second bag, and then put it in a ziplock bag and then put each one in a small glass jar. We then placed each drug in separate well thought through concealment points high in our RV. All of this is to reduce the risk of a dog triggering on the drugs. Dogs are amazing at finding the stuff, but if no molecules from the drugs escape the package there is nothing for the dog to smell… and if a microscopic amount does escape, you want to make sure it’s as far away from the dog’s snout as possible.
Turns out by the time we left for the playa, national news had picked up the story on police harassment and it seemed to have stopped. We arrived to the entrance around 8 p.m. Sunday and after an 11 hour wait in line we made it to our camp. (This was the year the gate was closed to a dust storm most of Sunday…. the epic 11 hour wait year!)
All the prep was worth it as we parked our RV and discovered that we had a view of the man out of our side window. Camping on the Esplanade has its downsides, but seeing the man out our window every day was a hell of an upside.
For the first four days, we practiced radical sobriety…. The excitement of the event was all the stimulation we wanted or could handle. Most nights we stayed up late, buzzed on living the amazing life we were experiencing in the desert. But on Thursday we decided we would try a small hit of acid.
Alexis and I split a 125ug dose. We decided to walk across the Playa to visit an art installation we had noticed earlier in the day. We arrived as the sun was setting…. A short lined formed and as we chatted with others in line the LSD started to hit. For me it was quite mild, but I could see it was impacting Alexis more strongly. It was our turn and we climbed to the top of this airplane art thing in the desert. We climbed the spiral staircase, and then the ladder to get to the top. With my trip now becoming more intense, the ascent was interesting, but very doable. Alexis also reached the top…. clearly starting to feel a fairly intense trip.
Alexis and I have often had very different reactions to the same dose of LSD. And this time Alexis was feeling a quite intense experience and it was becoming more intense by the minute. The view from the top was very nice, but the climb down was becoming a more daunting proposition as each minute passed. We made our way down, happy that this was one of the safer art pieces to climb on … no hand rails but no sharp edges either.
We next headed over to Destiny Lounge, a camp with a 3D underwater adventure theme.
It was amazing, although I found myself enjoying the odd effect on backpacks and shoes created by the black lights as much as the whimsical artwork.
We then milled around the B and C streets, which were pretty quiet, ate a few tacos that a camp was providing, and then headed back home.
Back at the RV I decided that I was decidedly not tripping strong enough and took another half, upping my total to 125 ug. And Alexis announced that we should grab our bikes and hit the Playa. This came as a bit of a surprise…
Before Burning Man, Alexis had expressed concern about biking. Not biking on acid…. just biking. The first few days on the Playa proved that she could ride a bike just fine. Now the test would be whether riding while peaking on acid would prove challenging. Turns out she did just fine. As did I. You see, both of us have many years of video gaming experience. And riding your bike on acid at Burning Man is pretty much like playing a video game, where the object is to dodge all the bright shiny things that come flying at you.
The experience wasn’t without some fear on my part, however. Alexis sometimes becomes paranoid on LSD, asking me repeatedly “are we safe?” I can always assure her that we are 100 percent safe. I was very happy she did not ask me this question as we biked through the desert, with mutant vehicles and bee lines of bikes buzzing by…
We ended up riding to Sonic Runway, parking our bikes and exploring the Sanctuary art car/mobile stage and enjoying the insanity that we were experiencing…. Someone once described an experience to be “like Burning Man, on acid”…. Well, riding our bikes to deep playa, while tripping heavily was exactly like Burning Man on acid. And it was good.
We started to come down a bit, so rode back to our RV. We reconnected in the blue star laser light of our RV. Waking up the next morning, we both realized that the night before was one of the most magical and connecting days of our lives. Burning Man is magical whether one is sober or intoxicated, exhausted or energized. But that trip was a perfect storm of psychedelic perfection.