The Burning Man exhibition

I arrived at Burning Man (The Man, Black Rock City, NV) on Sunday, August 28. I got there pretty late in the afternoon so I had to hustle to just get camp set up before dark. I started assembling the frame on Monday morning. As I have done a dozen times prior, I start with the wheels and lower frame upside-down then I flip it over. However, this time, the frame snapped in half — on the left side and right side of the seat where the stress is greatest.

Ironically, I even quipped back in May "I used the pipe from my friend's house on Burkhard Place — it was the original water pipe that was installed 110 years ago … so if it breaks sometime in the future, that might be why." It was actualy the threaded part that broke … the threads made the walls of the tubing thinner and finally gave way.

Someone (I think his name was Cram) suggested Black Rock Hardware camp to see if they had a welder, but they didn't. However on Sunday evening I met people at Recycle Camp and they did. I talked with Angry Butterfly who said she'd probably have a free moment on Tuesday morning and took pity and/or sent me searching for energy drinks and cheeseburgers for her. I went back to Hardware and ground off the paint and made pipe inserts to further strengthen the joint.

Tuesday morning (my birthday) I took the frame parts to Recycle Camp and hung out with the crew a while. Angry Butterfly had to repair their can crusher so I helped with that and then she got my stuff welded.

Here's how the unpainted frame looked when I first built it.

Here's Angry Butterfly's welding job after the wear-and-tear of Burning Man.

I got back to my camp and assembled the project. I put in a fresh battery and flipped it on and … nothing. The computer wasn't running. I did some testing and realized the power supply spikes above 5 volts initially and it seemed to be latching up the computer which has an "Absolute Maximum" voltage of 5.5 volts. Wiggling the wires got it booted up and running, though.

I pushed it out to The Artery, signed in, and had now officially completed (almost) everything for the grant requirement. I pushed it out to Lost Penguin which is a chill-space with couches and such where they give away chocolates and wine. While I was sitting there, only one guy stopped to even look at the project.

Would you look at that? My project sitting out on the Playa.

I headed back to where I left it later but it was gone. I couldn't see it anywhere around on the horizon so I went back camp and found that "Ben and Babz" brought it back, leaving a note in the dust on my car. A couple other people tried it out and in the process seemed to loosen one of the wires. The computer stopped working again and I couldn't get it to do anything. So, in the last two hours of sunlight, I pulled all the existing chips and threw in a simple circuit to get all the blue lights to go on when it's dark.

My neighbor Troy and I figured out how to slowly ride it forward and took it about 3 miles to Alien Semaphore and left it there.

Wednesday morning I got up and started a hunt for the project. I went way out to the north trash fence and headed back … no luck. On Thursday I got up and did the same thing. I was getting a little alarmed when I couldn't find it — I prepared myself to let it go, but I kind of thought I'd see it way off in the distance maybe once a day … or at least have someone I know tell me they saw it, but no word at all. Friday morning was a repeat … another unsuccessful hunt. By Saturday I was getting quite worried. I never found my project at all and I started feeling trapped — after all, I'm responsible for removing it, so I'll have to stay forever until everything is gone.

Babz and Ben left a note on my Civic.

I returned to fix a couple things only to find it intact and in action.

Sunday I got up before sunrise. I felt a bit numbed to the idea of hunting for the project again, but I decided to systematically scour the city. I started at 6:00 and Hysteria — the furthest street — and rode from there to 2:00 and Hysteria. I then returned on Gestalt, back out on Fetish, then Ego, Delerium, Catharsis, Bipolar, and Amnesia … in all nearly 11 miles. No project found. I took a brief break then started on the other half of the city … 6:00 and Hysteria to 10:00, then back on Gestalt and … found!

It was around Gestalt and 9:00 — pretty much as far away from my camp as you can get and still be inside the city. One of the forks broke and a tire had blown out in the back. It had been cobbled and patched — the tensioner spring on the generator had been replaced with some wire and a condom and the tire had been patched a bit with duct tape.

I met this guy Gabriel who was somewhat incoherent … he apparently was awake at least all night and might still have been drunk. Their camp (or neighborhood) had adopted it and called it the "Space Car." They said they had tons of fun on it … he said that "sometimes it would make noise and we thought it was sad so we'd ride it some more." Someone else who was packing up and leaving thought it appeared sometime around Friday in its broken state but couldn't be sure.

I finally found it in such sad shape.

People apparently had tried to keep it alive for me.

The forces really ripped the fork apart, though — I expected that some part on the back would fail, I just didn't know which.

I biked back, grabbed some tools and the spare fork and went back to get it. I fixed the broken bits enough to be able to move it. I actually towed it with a strap to my bike. I stopped by Borrachos y bicicletas but they had no spare 24" tubes, but they suggested I just take the tires and tubes off the back wheels and ride it on the rims. I did that and managed to get the MP3 player started again so I took it to Kidsville so the kids there could play on it.

Sondra and her daughter Electra take their turn at Kidsville.

I locked it up that night so I wouldn't have to worry about it.

Monday, September 5 I got up early and started slowly packing. I got the project taken apart and managed to fit everything back in the car again and headed back home.

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Demonstration for the musicians

I invited everyone who provided music or made an effort to provide music to my house to see the bike. Jon Peone (XLTieRack) and Jessica stopped by … I guess the rain drove everyone else away. It was a pain in the butt putting things together in the rain, but at least it was a good test. They thought it was pretty cool although the wet ground was pretty terrible to try and ride on. The sound system was in place with most of the finished music on it … all running off batteries. I was using a mostly-dead 12-volt sealed lead-acid battery (probably with 2 amp-hours instead of the original 7) and it ran fine for about 4 hours, powering both the sound and half the blue LED's (which would be about typical given the light system I plan to use.)

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Mom and Dad stop by

I got to show off the bike to my parents. My dad brought a couple parts I asked him to make: stand-offs for the computer control box. He was particularly impressed that it works and comes apart to fit into the car.

Me and my Dad, Frank Olshefsky, go for a spin.

Then me and my Mom, Joan Olshefsky, do the same.

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More people in the back yard

I showed off the Bike With 2 Brains to my friend Sondra who had bought me a ticket to go to Burning Man in 2004 for my birthday. She was really impressed that I actually got as far as I have. Plus, it's insanely fun to ride. Later on, some new friends Elliotte and Sarah got to try it and they liked it as well. Sarah slipped off the pedal and hurt her foot a little, so I think I'm going to find some other pedals.

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Independence Day picnic

I got around to getting the vehicle out of the car and put together the front wheels. Now that I can see it in good light, the paint job is pretty dinged up — I'm not too happy that it chips as easily as it does. Anyway, I got to let some friends of mine try it out and they really liked it.

I think I damaged the back wheel when I was on the back end while Jan and Todd were trying to drive, but we kept going. Jan and I finally broke it in when Jan spied dog poop in my yard — and I don't even have a dog. Oh, but anyway, the cheaper-forked back wheel slipped out of the fork halfway, bending both the axle and the fork irrepairably.

Nothing like spotting poop in your yard to get you to slip the nut off the side of the fork and bend it to uselessness.

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I packed the vehicle parts into the car (using the freshly made packing crate for the straight parts) and headed to Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) Around 9:30 or so I got some help getting all the parts into the back yard. In all, I think it took about 30 minutes to get the whole thing assembled in the dark. I think about 12-16 people got a chance to try it out … I took some video and posted it on my other website a few weeks ago … same as here.

John and I took it to a nearby parking lot to see if we could get it to go straight. The traction was so much better than in the dirt that we actually broke one of the spokes on the steering wheels in back. In the end, we found it was pretty easy to get it to go straight backwards (although it's hard to get it to change direction) and it's probably impossible to get it to go straight forward (although it's easy to get it to go in circles.)

I had to take it apart in the dark too and I guess it also took 30 minutes or so. I got back home and was somewhat amused to find that my feet got the dusty clay dirt all over them. It was very reminiscent of the playa, except it didn't burn or anything.

(For a while I was using something called the Coral project to host the video, but it has apparently gone away.)

(Click to play; 12MB)
Grainy, reduced-frame-rate, black-and-white, "NightShot" footage of The Bike With 2 Brains in the learning process of hell

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Friends ride at my house

Peri and Kage stopped by and got to see me put the Bike With 2 Brains together. We tried it out and Peri described it as "riding a Spirograph." Courtney and Disa stopped by a little later and they rode it around as well.

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