Friday, July 30, 2010

Flipping Bikes for Burning Man

Serendipity is a funny thing. On the years I carefully plan and save money for Burning Man, the preparation is a year long affair. The times when I only decide to go after the cheap tickets are gone, somehow, the resources materialize.

Monday, on the week of the Burn last year I was lamenting how much I wanted to be on the Playa. By Thursday, I was there. I was randomly gifted a ticket, a gift that I will never forget. Fast forward to June of this year. I was once again fretting about missing the event, now at the end of July, with my other plans unexpectedly changed, I have a ticket and about 75% of my equipment and supplies.

Since, this year’s trip wasn’t planned, I had to come up with a fast scheme to raise the money. I decided to try bike flipping. And by bike flipping I don’t mean juggling bikes on a street corner for tips, but finding forgotten unwanted bikes at yard and estate sales, fixing them and selling at a profit.

There’s quite a market for used and vintage bikes (those that are at least 30 years old). And most of my buyers appreciate the work I put into them. Usually it’s a new inner tube and maybe some rust removal. Sometimes it’s fresh tires too. And almost always it’s cleaning grease and goop from in between gears with cotton swabs and WD40. They come out looking like the amazing treasures they are.
Now that the Burn is drawing nigh, I have started flipping Burner bikes. The best way to traverse the Playa is by bike. And when peddling through packed alkali dust you don’t want to be on your best bike. You want to take the bike that won’t break your heart if it doesn’t survive the trip. So now in addition to cool vintage bikes, I look for not so cool but still very useful bikes with big fat tires. Although some people are adverse to what I do, buy low, sell high, but when I tell them what I use the proceeds for they almost invariably approve.

After doing some math in my head, I figured out that I will have flipped at least 20 bikes before the Man Burns. At this point that’s six more bikes and 36 more days. I wouldn’t be surprised if I hit 25 or 30. Regardless, I’ve found a new pastime that benefits more than just me. Anybody wanna buy a bike?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Burn Baby Burn

It's that time of year, when Burners can recognize each other by a shared frenzied gleam in the eye.

It's Burning Man season.

In the months prior to Burning Man, an annual festival of expression in the Black Rock Desert, participants plan, scheme, create and fantasize about the one week event staged on an ancient lake bed in the Black Rock Desert where we build our city. Yes, I say we, because I will once again be going home, and home is what we call the Playa.

With plenty of time to plan, I've taken to making a series of list for my preparations: Things I Need, Things I Want, and Things Not to Forget. These augment a master list I keep for packing, which includes Clothing, Health & Safety, Tools & Equipment, Food, and Sundries. It takes a lot of organization to go out and be spontaneously expressive, which is the Irony of Burning Man.

The level of organization that goes into the event rivals that of most military operations. It's a place where one can participate in self expression without caring what others think, but not a place to be careless in terms of safety and well being. Its very hot, and dry and there's always a lot going on, so attention to detail is of utmost importance. Things like forgetting goggles and a dust mask on a trip to the Jonny on the Spot can prove dangerous when you open the door to a white out dust storm.

This year, I came up with a scheme to raise money for the Playa by flipping bikes. I buy old, forgotten, forlorn bikes found at yard sales or in dusty basements at estate sales, clean them, fix them, and then resell at a profit to appreciative buyers. It's proven to be an effective strategy. In five short weeks, I managed to raise enough money for both my ticket and my camp fees. Plus it's therapeutic giving these bikes a second life and feels kind of zen which is quite appropriate for funding this trip.

So now the countdown begins.