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Buttercup 09-11-2005 05:04 AM

Our First Trip
Burning Man '05

CLICK HERE to see more pictures.

We just completed our first trip in our ’77 Overlander and it went off without a hitch. We attended the annual Burning Man festival on the Blackrock desert. For those who don’t know about the Blackrock, it is a most inhospitable place. Nothing grows there. No water exist for miles and those who camp there better be prepared for no support from nature because not even she resides there. You are on your own. Our trip was 14 days – one that we have made many times in the past but never in such comfort.

Although many systems had been repaired or replaced (brakes, plumbing, water heater, axles) none had been tested fully prioar to leaving so we were going out to the desert in a trailer that we were completely unfamiliar with how everything would work (or not work). In the end everything worked perfectly with only one minor exception not even worth mentioning.

We were surprised how much stuff the trailer would swallow up. Costumes & clothes, food, additional water (49 gallons in 7 gallon jugs) and of course all the booze an aircraft carrier of sailors could drink packed inside with room to spare. With new 3500 pound axles installed the trailer didn’t even sweat the load.

The journey way 137 miles from our house to “Func Schway”, our encampment at Burning Man. Because we would be traveling down a mountain road 9 miles of grade I was concerned if the brakes would hold out. While I knew that our new DEXTER brake actuator and controller worked while parked in the driveway, they performed well together without problems throughout the whole trip. Riding on freshly repacked bearings (one of them new after discovering heavy pitting on the last repack job) the rotors stayed cool as can during heavy braking. The pads were the old ones that the trailer came with because the rotors were rusty and needed to be turned. There was no time to do that so we decided to just go with what we had. There was still enough meat on them to stop the trailer and they would go a long ways to putting a little polish on the rotors for now.

There was some concern that the heavier rated axles would give the trailer a bouncier ride. We did load up with the extra water but that was not necessary it seems. The trailer rode smoothly and everything was still in place when we arrived and returned. This is surprising because parts of the road were bumpy enough to make it seem like the truck & trailer were at times airborne going down the road. Damn cattleguards!

The Hensley hitch will need a shorter tow bar. With the new axles we gained about 4 inches in trailer height and that made the hitch ride at a downward angle. Wish we would have thought about that before we ordered the hitch so that we would have gotten a more appropriately sized tow bar. The weight distrubution bars don’t seem to pick up as much weight with the hitch at an angle like that but the H2 held up fine. And despite the offset the trailer didn’t sway an inch during the trip.

Heat on the playa WAS an issue as I expected. In order to keep the dust down as much as possible we had to leave the doors closed when the wind picked up. Fortunately we were prepared and didn’t plan on spending too much time in the trailer during the day. The old fridge worked mostly well. On AC power it barely performed but on gas it kept the food cool enough. That fridge will be replaced with a modern unit soon enough.

We were surprised at the size of the water tank, which through conservation lasted throughout the event with water to spare during the 14 days we were out there. But the grey and black water tanks seemed to fill up very quickly. We had to be pumped twice during the event. Not sure of the accuracy of the tank probes but we didn’t want to take any chances. If they indicated full – that was good enough for me.

One thing that we will have to get fixed is whatever access point the mice are using to get in the trailer at our house! The first night we were out on the playa we heard them running around in the ducts and finally caught 1 in the garbage can. The little bugger jumped in after traversing the drainpipe under the sink but couldn’t get back out. He was “dispatched” quickly but his little brother was still running free. We actually trapped him behind the table, which was folded down at the time. After coaxing him into a paper bag he was also dispatched. We laid down to quiet rest. The next evening we were shocked to hear mice running around again. We made several attempts to trap or otherwise catch them but they were savvy to our methods and avoided being caught. The only thing we could do was to pull the blanket over our heads and hope that they didn’t decide to join us. The next day I had to go into town and I stopped to get some traps. When I returned I set the traps with – you guessed it, cheese – and put them on the floor. Within 2 minutes one snapped catching one more mouse and a few minutes after that the other trap went. That was that! The rest of the trip was mouse free.

After this adventure we are looking forward to going to a few rallies and wherever else our heart desires in the coming months before we winterize. Now that we have identified the items that need to be looked at we are confident that this trailer is in sound shape.

rseagle 09-11-2005 05:35 AM

Great pictures of Burning Man. Please explain to us East Coasters what the celebration is about. It looks like alot of fun.

Did you use a generator for AC power? Did you run the air conditioner there.

Buttercup 09-11-2005 05:49 AM

It would be better if you went to the web site to learn more about the event because it is more than words and pictures can say. Come call it a counter culture event but that really is the antithesis of what it is. it is culture in art, music and really life.

There are a few areas at this event that has a large generator (150 KW or greater) providing power for emergency services and interactivity at the event. We were in one of those areas so we had power - called the 3:00 plaza. Most others have to bring out a generator for their power needs. One thing is that when using the power provided at the event it is expressly forbidden to run air conditioning because it uses up a lot of power and can cause the generator to trip. So we didn't run the A.C. The power we did use was for the wall of strobe lights we have, etc...

zoeb nj 09-11-2005 08:07 AM

Buttercup--thanks for the report and the great pics--I love "func shwei"--is the func funk music or more techno?

I would love to go to Burning Man--it seems like an amazing experience--it's just so far away--no time to do it right now--a friend from Reno goes there every year--your post reminded me to email him for his report.

and that's so great that the Airstream worked well for you. Were you tenting it before? That would be harsh in the desert.

uwe 09-11-2005 09:13 AM

Congrats on your first trip! Glad everything worked so well for you.
Thanks for the report on Burning Man also. One of these years I will have to go visit this event.

wahoonc 09-11-2005 09:14 AM

I agree the tank size on the our vintage of trailers sux. IIRC there is 20 galllons of black and only 10 gallons of grey water. Freshwater is a whopping 45 gallons. We usually camp in heavily wooded areas so grey water disposal is not an issue :rolleyes: (thirsty racoons :huh: ) But if you are staying more than a long weekend black water can be an issue. I have looked into modification of the existing tanks but have not come up with a reasonable solution yet. So the blue toter is the way to go for now....

Aaron :cool:

Barbara Peerenboom 09-11-2005 09:56 AM

"We just completed our first trip in our ’77 Overlander and it went off without a hitch"

WHAT???????????????? Hitches, we dont need no stinkin' hitches" ;)

You have atchieved what I continue to dream about............. oh well, maybe next year the GT will be ready.

Thanks for the great pics!


Boondocker 09-11-2005 12:09 PM

Congtratulations on the first trip in the airstream. Im glad it went well for you and that you had a good time. Im sure you will have many more great trips in the years to come.

Stefrobrts 09-11-2005 12:28 PM

Glad to hear your first trip was a good one! I have found that having a great trip has more to do with attitude than anything else - we've had many trips where things didn't work, but we've never had a bad trip!

Someday we'll have to have a forum get-together at burning man - I'm curious to see what it's all about. Of course, by the time people like me show up, it is - by definition - not hip anymore :D

rseagle 09-11-2005 03:19 PM

Wow, what an experience that must have been! Great pictures. I bet the nightly illuminations and sounds in the desert were almost surreal. Wish I was there.

Buttercup 09-12-2005 12:35 AM

I will try to answer everybody in one post here. Yes this is the slow way to becoming a rivet master but it is hard enough doing this at work.

First of all I am posting a few more videos of the trip and I will post more pictures later for everyone but I was trying to keep it somewhat on topic.

zoeb nj,
It was Func Schway and you are right on. we did have several hours of funk on the iPod that was enjoyed by all. I also had some other music for other nights depending on how I felt at the time. But no thump, thump techno.
Kimber has tented it before and says that it isn't all that bad. She has 13 years under her belt for this event so she is the expert. I have 6 years and it has always been the pop-up (which is really a tent if you ask me).

Personal thanks for all the offline help you gave me on this project. I am truly grateful for all you have done. You should plan on going sometime. It is an amazing event with so much to see.

LOL, Thirsty raccoons! thats precious. Actually I do have a few plans for grey water handling for next year. It involves a diverter valve and some plumbing to drain the water to a large pan for evaporation/cooling. We have done something similar before so it can be done. The trick is minimal modifications to the TT. Can't do much about the black water except using the porta potties at the event more often and save the onboard facilities for when we are too drunk to walk out to the porta potties.

Our TT is n ot complete but is done enough to travel in. You will get there and when you do, if your experience is anything like ours, you will be in fantastic comfort. I was amazed at how well Buttercup worked for us.

Gen Disarray,
We are looking forward to some rallies now that we are road worthy so there will be more trips. Think Death Valley in March.....

Attitude does play a part and I find that it is hard to have a bad one out on the playa. What problems we did have were easily worked out including a grey water tank that didn't get pumped until.... It helps when you start drinking as soon as you get up.

The night life out on the playa is the best. No other place in life have I fely so safe and yet so removed from the comfort of the real world. Illuminated art projects at night take on a wonderfully surrealistic quality. That's why we go back year after year!

Buttercup 09-12-2005 05:52 AM

Burning Man Video on the web
Just added some videos to the web site. CLICK HERE to take a look.

pmclemore 09-12-2005 09:29 AM

Thanks for the travelogue and pix, Buttercup. Looks like you guys celebrated in grand style.


cammur 09-13-2005 11:14 AM

Congratulations :clap: on Buttercup and thanks for the memories of Burning Man. Went two years ago in a Coleman tent trailer, but now I have an AS. Look forward to the comfort, but I'm not quite willing yet to take my shinny new baby to Black Rock.

Buttercup 09-13-2005 07:14 PM


Originally Posted by cammur
Congratulations :clap: on Buttercup and thanks for the memories of Burning Man. Went two years ago in a Coleman tent trailer, but now I have an AS. Look forward to the comfort, but I'm not quite willing yet to take my shinny new baby to Black Rock.

Don't be afraid of the Blackrock. The dust is so fine that it will not damage any delicate finishes. In fact I could have filled an entire flash card with pictures of the Airstreams that I saw on the playa. All kinds... Heck, Burnstream court, a camp of Airstreamers, had a rally going with demonstrations and tours. I wanted to go to the polishing demo but couldn't make it. Saw a few 2000+ models out there.

cammur 09-13-2005 08:50 PM

Appreciate the encouragement. I think my memory is mainly of my nice Nikon digital camera that has never operated quite right since BM. I have a new camera, and I'm reserving the old one for things like BM. As if there is anything else like BM.

Buttercup 09-14-2005 03:17 AM


Originally Posted by cammur
Appreciate the encouragement. I think my memory is mainly of my nice Nikon digital camera that has never operated quite right since BM. I have a new camera, and I'm reserving the old one for things like BM. As if there is anything else like BM.

I took my new Canon G6 out there and it did great. Had the laptop out there to download pictures as well. Used a can of compressed air to blow everything out when we got back.
There are waterproof cases that would work well for keeping the dust out if you really needed.
I did post all of my pictures online. Lots of fire spinning stuff.

koltys 09-30-2005 12:52 AM

Burnstream Court
Hey Buttercup,

Looks like you had a good trip. Buttercup is a beauty!

I'm the founder of Burnstream Court. This was my fifth year making the trip to the playa from Chicago, and the fourth time I did it towing an Airstream.

I am sorry you didn't make it to our polishing demo. Did you get by to see the Court? We had a dozen Airstreams parked in a mandala formation. It was quite pretty. I'll be putting my photos soon and will post a link.

Are you planning to attend again next year? Maybe we can talk you into joining us. Info on joining our email list is at:
Pics from previous years are here:



85MH325 09-30-2005 05:40 AM

Hey 'cup... Great site you've got! Thanks for posting this. Burning Man is one of the things I'd like to do "one of these days". Re: your fridge... if it works well on propane but poorly on electricity, you may be able to save yourself a bundle and just replace the heating element. They're relatively inexpensive compared to a new fridge!


Buttercup 09-30-2005 09:05 AM


We were only able to drive by because we are volunteer staff at the event so we are running around quite a bit. But we did plan on going to the polishing demo. If not to learn how it is done, to meet some fellow AS'ers.
We did notice a lot of Airstreams and a Spartan or two. Our eyes were wide open to metal this year.


Thanks for the compliment on the site. But one thing that people are not getting on the fridge issue... and I will expand on that here...

Momma wants a new one, period.:brows:

It doesn't matter what I do with the old one anymore. I will not be spending a lot of time on it because we only needed it to work for this first trip. We did plan on getting a new one from the start but it becomes an issue of when would be the most appropriate, dollar wise, etc...

But in the interest in documentation for the web, I will take pictures and document with facts, etc before I do replace, which I will also document.

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