The Steampunk World

Being the continued explorations of a living steampunk.

The steampunk world is all around us, lying just out of sight, in a continuous thread of steampunk builders and culture that extends from the Victorian era to the present. You'll find no science fiction here: This is real life steampunk.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Toasted Dude
Last October I was contacted by the LLC of a large annual party... let's just call it the "Toasted Dude" festival. It turns out they have a major bicycle problem. Forty thousand partiers show up in the desert and leave behind about a thousand bikes. Last year the LLC paid $2000 in dumpster disposal fees to get rid of those bikes. The LLC being somewhat environmentally inclined, this bothered them, and so they brought me out this year to deal with the problem (some background: This party has 40,000 attendees who pay $300 each, it operates on a $7 million annual budget, and it has a staff who work year-round to throw the party. In 2003 the payroll budget for the five owners of the LLC was $400,000, plus considering the monetary investment it takes to spend a week in the desert you can forget all preconception that this is some dirty hippie Rainbow Gathering. This is a spectacle of mass consumption for the wealthy, but it's damn fun).

When I arrived in Reno I just rode around asking for the house with all the bikes in the yard. Noone was home at the Black Label house so I immediately got to work on the Toasted Dude yellow bike program. The test program fixed up 40 bikes and took them to the party for participants to use, and the Black Label Bike Club has been handed the responsibility of being the bike crew. I wrenched bikes all day but when the residents got home I learned that my ride to the desert had already left. So we threw my chopper and another pile of yellow bikes in the truck and headed out there.

It was late and dark when we hit the salt flats. We actually went in the wrong direction and one of the beefed-up border patrols was on us in maybe three minutes. Man, those guys are buffs! They must live all year to wait for that one week when they have an excuse to use their night vision and radar and all that stuff. But they're good guys, so they helped us out.

The gate was pandemonium, even a week before the party. I can't imagine how many weasels, mooches, and sneaky scammers try to come and talk their way in- these guys were hardasses and I understand why. They gave us trouble for about five minutes when, by an amazing stroke of luck, up walked none other than THE woman who runs Toasted Dude. She recognized me from B.I.K.E. and handed me a $400 ticket, just like that, and in we went.

Even this far before the event there were probably 5000 or more people there setting up. Since my job didn't start until afterwards, I was put on the Shade Crew, which just goes around erecting shade structures for city functions. It was hot work but the pace was lax, we were kept plied with beer and smokey treats, fed out of a commissary, and the Department of Public Works's fleet of vehicles is comprised of all kinds of flame-throwing Mad Max stuff so in the end this was my favorite part- riding around in the desert on Mad Max assault vehicles BEFORE all the oonce-oonce types got there.

At the time, however, I had no idea what was to come.


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