R. Lance Hunter (lancehunter) wrote in burning_man,
R. Lance Hunter

Hitchhiking from Reno to Black Rock City - A Half-Ass'd Guide

(Two things to note: 1. Consider this a rough draft and if you have anything you'd like to add then
chime in. 2. It should also be noted: this guide is primarily for people flying in to Reno, though it should also work well for others who managed to make it that far.

So, you're thinking about hitch-hiking from Reno to Black Rock City for Burning Man. First, there are three things you should understand perfectly.

1. Hitchhiking is NOT SAFE! - When you accept a ride, especially a long-distance ride, from a person you don't know, you are putting your life in his or her hands. Before your ride begins, there's no way to be certain that the person driving is sane, a competent driver, or even actually going to BRC. There's also no way to be certain that the vehicle you're riding in will be able to make the trip. There's no way to be certain that the driver or other riders in the vehicle aren't carrying something tremendously illegal and are willing to tell the police that it all belongs to "that hitch-hiker we picked up" when they get pulled over.

2. Hitchhiking is NOT radically self-reliant. - When you decide to hitchhike, you are putting your ability to get to the event in the hands of others. No one is obligated to pick you up, even if you are offering things like payment for some of the gasoline. If someone does pick you up, it is a gift from them to you and should be appreciated as such.

3. With just a bit of planning, you don't have to hitchhike. - If you have the prep time, especially if you're coming in after the gates open Sunday night, you can check out the rideshare info and find a ride that way. It's like hitchhiking 2.0.

Now, none of those items means you shouldn't hitchhike. However, you should be very aware of both of them and be fully prepared to accept the consequences of your decision. You can have some fantastic times and meet some fantastic people while hitchhiking, particularly when going to Burning Man, but you should be prepared for anything.

There are a few things you can do before you even leave your door to make hitch-hiking easier. First of all, you can pack light. As light as possible, in fact. If you can fit everything into a small suitcase, that's okay. Into a small carry-on bag, better. If you aren't carrying anything but your ticket, then you're really set. (Of course, you should still have gear waiting for you out on the playa. Just showing up on the playa without a thing will make you the object of severe scorn at best, and at worst you could end up dead. The "carry only your ticket" option is for those who have friends that have already hauled out the gear.)

The next thing that you can do before even leaving your house that will help you get a ride is to dress the part. Someone should be able to see you from a moderate distance and think "that person is obviously going to Burning Man!" It's a lot easier to get ride to BRC if people can tell that you're going to BRC, and not just some random normal person sitting in the Reno airport. Also, letting your freak flag fly generally lets people know that you are down with this whole burn thing, and that you may be a pleasant companion for the long ride to BRC.

As for actually finding a ride once you're in Reno, I'm going to start with one of the primary points for hitch-hikers headed from Reno to Burning Man: the Reno Airport.

In my observation, the place where you'll most likely be able to get a ride is at the baggage claim. It's a big, open area and it isn't uncommon to see groups of burners sitting around looking for rides, as well as other burners walking up to people who appear to be waiting for something and offering them rides.

An important note: you aren't supposed to loiter at the baggage claim, but the airport staff is generally cool with people waiting around as long as they aren't sitting somewhere that will block the flow of traffic. One thing they will not abide, though, are people with signs proclaiming that they need a ride. If you want to make it completely clear that you are looking for a ride to BRC, write it on your shirt in big letters ("BRC or Bust" is traditional). Then you aren't violating airport policy by using a sign to solicit a ride, but people can all see what you're looking for. This will make it much more likely for you to be approached.

Now, as active as the airport is, don't expect to get a ride immediately. In fact, you should be prepared to be waiting around for 3-5 hours. To help pass the time I recommend starting conversations with the fellow hitchhikers, burners waiting on lost luggage or rental cars, and the other people in that baggage-claim limbo. Not only can this make it easier to find a ride (sometimes people waiting around are there because they've got a friend with a bus or RV that will be picking them up, who might have extra space), but it makes the time go
by much faster.

Should the airport prove a bust, your next best bet for finding a ride is, sadly, WalMart. Now, I've never gotten a ride from WalMart, but I have been in vehicles that have picked up random hitchers there. From what I've observed, your best bet there is to approach people standing outside the RVs and buses in the parking lot (and there will be many). You might offer to help them put together the bicycles they just purchased, or just start a conversation. Many of these vehicles are full of cargo and passengers at this point, but you're almost certain to find someone on their way out to BRC with an open slot (especially if, as mentioned earlier, you're packed light).

So, those are the basics for hitching a ride from Reno to BRC. Hitching can be a great way to save money, meet interesting people, and have a little adventure before hitting that thing in the desert. It isn't for everyone, but it is something you'll always remember.

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