Burning Man 2011 Exodus – one hour neighborhoods

A seven hour Exodus was my Burning Man Rite of Passage this year. exodus2011_img_0485Rather like your first full on playa dust storm, Exodus is one of the many challenges we rationalize as part of the Burning Man experience, to allow us acceptance with patience and grace.

So this year, for the first time, I threw judicious timing onto the playa wind and set off on Monday morning. exodus2011_img_0460 All seemed smooth at first. The exit road is 5 miles long, so there is plenty of open space to lull you into thinking it will all be fine, then whammo – the line appears in the dust ahead. Too late now. You have broken camp, piled all the dusty gear into the vehicle, generally in a far less orderly manner than how it arrived. And the Exodus line is one-way so technically you cannot really turn around anyway.

I did say at the beginning of this burn that I wanted to experience the event in different ways, from different perspectives than I had before. exodus2011_img_0463 Well, stuck in a seven hour Exodus surely qualified. But by just accepting the inevitability and relaxing into it, it actually was not the ordeal one might expect.

The new pulse system makes the process infinitely less painful. I recall a three hour Exodus a few years ago that was far worse. We would advance regularly, small distances, so it was necessary to stay with your vehicle at all times. Anytime you dared to be a little way distant, the driver behind you would positively freak out and blast the horn with impatience, wanting to creep his five car lengths ahead immediately. It was stressful and aggressive and a very poor way to end a great week.

exodus2011_img_0487 With the pulse system, once per hour the front 1/3 mile of vehicles advanced into a sort of holding pen area. The six lane holding area was released two lanes at a time so the released vehicles merged calmly. Everyone else knew they had an hour to fill, hence the One Hour Neighborhoods.

Motorhomes and buses throw nice big shadows. In these shady spots, chairs would appear, stories were exchanged, snacks were served up. These hour increments passed quickly, meeting new friends, living so briefly in these ad hoc ‘neighborhoods.’ It became a pleasant extension of the week in the desert, a sort of decompression.

The few arguments which arose were commented on as inappropriate and stupid. Most people were still their happy, friendly, Burning Man selves. So though I may again choose to time my Exodus more carefully next year, it was good to have shared this seven hours with so many new, transient friends.

I had a really nice visit with these folks.


These guys were cooking noodles and invited me to join them, but my previous one hour neighbors had made sandwiches for us all.


This fellow had cut up zucchini, cucumbers and red peppers from his home garden. With his truck packed so tightly, it was impressive that he was able to organize that. While we sat there nibbling and talking, another man came by with hunks of watermelon.


Out of several varied One Hour Neighborhoods, this one was definitely the best.


The farther this fellow walked before finding his ride, the better off he would be. I was mildly tempted to follow his example and come back for my car next week.


We had some nice clouds in the morning, but by afternoon they had gone. I took my folding chair to whatever big vehicle was near me and tucked into their shade.

I really liked this impromptu shade structure.


This was the line of cars behind me by mid-afternoon. By this time my camera lens had been dusted and fingerprinted.


The playa says farewell, see you next year.



Pyramid Lake

Aha – this means I am almost home –
shower, clean hair, clean clothes,
piles of gear to deplayafy.

Already looking forward to next year.


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45 Responses to Burning Man 2011 Exodus – one hour neighborhoods

  1. K`shandra says:

    This was my first Exodus, as well – I volunteer for the event, and am usually on-site well into Tuesday, but Reality Camp required my presence sooner this year. I was not quite four and a half hours playa-to-pavement, having gotten up well before dawn (saying goodbye to my camp-mates as they were just going to bed). We didn’t quite get the same neighborhood effect, but several folks walked the lines with goodies, including one sweet girl who was giving out hand-made keyrings as Exodus gifts.

  2. Jerril Nilson says:

    Love the one hour neighborhood take on Exodus! 2011 was my first Burn and I worked Exodus from 9 am to 3 pm on Monday at the second pulse station. It was an amazing day of greeting and directing hundreds and hundreds of people making their way “away from Home.” As you experienced, there were so many thankful and happy folks along the way, and yes there were a few who had different attitudes about the process. I just really appreciate your take on this and that you took time to post it. And a personal Thank You to all the wonderful Burners that took my smiles, waves, and herding directions with respect and love, especially those who took the time to get me a snack, water, and that really handsome wonderful man who put lotion on my very dry hands. Hope to see you all back Home this summer. Shimmer

  3. Wanda says:

    The Burning Man gate crew is incredible… from entry to exodus, they do an amazing job. I had to wait in line a long time to get in, when they finally got to me they were polite and quick, yet thorough. They wouldn’t answer too many questions, and referred us to the next station up the road for that. I was grateful to see my time waiting hadn’t been wasted by a bunch of slow people getting drunk and partying instead of working… I was quite surprised actually. I’d heard about exodus, so we tried to be prepared for another long wait. It took all day, but I did enjoy being able to get out of my car and share stories with my fellow travelers. Overall I was very impressed.

  4. miranda says:


    Just wanted to give you a shoutout that your posting is making the rounds within the Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus department at burning man.

    We all just want to say THANKS for not only taking the time to photo-document Exodus, but what we really love… is your take on Exodus… it’s a dusty, thankless job, but reading your blog and the way you’ve embraced it lends a certain amount of “cool” to Exodus. It’s brilliant!

    So brilliant, that we’d like to ask it it’s possible to include a link to your blog on our Gate website.

    We think your idea of “One Hour Neighborhoods” offer a great persepective of what Exodus is (and can be) and we’d like to spread the word.

    So let me know if that’s possible… and Thanks again from the Gate Crew!


    • Christine says:

      Hello to all you wonderful gate, perimeter and exodus folks. I am so loving the fact that many of you have been enjoying this One Hour Neighborhoods concept.

      Exodus in its prior form was, as I said in the post, stressful and aggressive, and a poor way to end a great week. The fact is that getting 50,000 people off the playa in such a short time is inherently difficult. At least with the pulse method, it is possible to keep one’s burn on rather than burning up with frustration. Yes, it works.

      Of course you can link to the blog. You guys rock!!

    • Eeve says:

      Our very last pulse, I was show to rally up a home-brewed bottle of rum and a 12-pack of beer for our last gate crew guys! YOU ALL WORK SO DAMN HARD FOR THE COMMUNITY!!! EF YA TO THE ALL MIGHTY GATE CREW!! )’( !! )’(

  5. David in SLC says:

    I didn’t “get” the pulse system in 2010 except from a gas-saving standpoint but last year I totally did and boy am I so glad for it. The moment my car stopped, I hopped out and started wandering around, making new friends along the way (being naked might have helped). I ate, laughed, napped, drank, enjoyed some air conditioning, made some quality time with a new friend ;) – it was like a mobile burn!

    If only we could find a way to make coming into Burning Man as enjoyable!

    • Christine says:

      Hmmmm, oh yes, and then there is The Arrival! I will long remember 2008 when gate was closed for painful hours because of a total whiteout. I had made it in just before and just had time to setup camp before the hours of whiteout descended. Spent the rest of the day hiding out in a friend’s motorhome, bless her generous soul!

      • David in SLC says:

        I remember that too. We were still looking for a camp site when it hit. After picking a spot we ended up sitting in our cars for at least an hour as I recall. We had to recruit some guys from next door to help us get up 1 of our 3 carport tents cuz the wind was a nightmare.

  6. Hilari Scarl says:

    Thank you for a GREAT article! I had an adventurous exodus as well and am happy someone wrote about it. This last year was my first burn, and my camp mates all encouraged me to leave before 5AM. I couldn’t get it together in the dark after my last night playing on the playa, and thought, “What could a few extra hours really do?” Add several hours to my exodus is all.

    After donating my leftover dried goods at the volunteer tent at 8AM (the perishables and other things were later gifted during my 7 hours in line – somehow I still managed to have cold beer left to give.)

    Some of my favorite one-hour neighborhood experiences include playing an extended round of the card game Set laid on a large atlas over three pulses (we gained and lost members each pulse), having my tarot cards read on a cooler out of the back of my tiny Rav 4 and singing songs while in line with the “ladies of the loo.”

    It definitely gave me perspective on how you can make anything – even waiting in line for 7 hours in the sun – an adventurous, joyous experience.

    • Christine says:

      Hilari, thanks for sharing your similar experience. I’m not so sure an earlier exit would have made a ton of difference. I had friends who left at all various hours and still encountered significant delays. That’s just the way of the Monday exit The backups actually tend to begin on Saturday night right after the Man Burn.

      The best defense is to find your positive attitude, and to keep the burn going in your heart. Just as you did.

  7. Eeve says:

    This was a perfect time travel for me, right now on a lunch break from work. The photo that was taken of my fiancee and I during our one hour neighborhood is now our official wedding photo )’(

  8. James Dishongh says:

    As a ‘never been, really hoping to go this year’ person I just want to say ‘Thank You’ for your post. I’ve talked to folks about their experiences but the whole ordeal of leaving didn’t even occur to me, so I appreciate the fair warning. Also, the Pulse plan seems like it worked very, very well, and the One Hour Neighborhoods seem like an excellent transition away from BM and back to the ‘(un)real world.’ What I appreciate most are the pictures. The cliche is true, and the pictures not only tell me the story, but help me plan for my future trip. So again, thank you.

  9. matt nelsen says:

    as a 7 year burner i learned to get up early for the exodus and beat the rush. if we leave at 7am we can get in line and hit the pavement within 45mins. this year with the “pulse” we sat for 2hrs before we even moved then we started to be “pulsed” forward. it took 4 and a half hours before we hit pavement. for my exodus to quadruple in time doesn’t seem like an improved process. i would think a pulse would work like a concert where they hold people for say 15mins at a time then let the next group forward. how the hell we sat for 2hrs and didn’t move doesn’t make alot of sense to me. just like the ticketing fiasco these processes need to be questioned and improved.

    • Christine says:

      Matt, I think you may have just been very lucky in the past. This time you seemed to have caught the transition time. Luck plays big – this year starting with the ticket lottery.

  10. Wawa says:

    2011 was my first burn, and didn’t mind the seven hour wait at all.
    This 1-hour neighborhood worked amazingly well. I feel exactly the same way as Christine. People in our group, spreaded among 3 cars, some of us really bonded during Exodus!
    Hopefully we all get to go back ‘home’ this year! )’(

  11. KrysP says:

    No reason to have just one exit. Those who eventually pass Winnemucca or Boise, and know that they are well prepared for 100 miles of unpaved road should be permitted to enter Jungo Rd by Trego or go further east on the playa to a road that hooks up with SR140. Judging from the wrecks along the 447 it may be safer for some of us to take alternative ways into and out of BRC.

    • Christine says:

      KrysP, I was thinking pretty much the same thing. I felt that a second exit upstream of the usual one would still allow safe pacing of traffic on the paved road, whether those using it were heading north or south. As the population of BRC increases, such a solution would really be welcomed.

  12. BrotherMichael says:

    Two years ago, I was in the middle of a 5 hr. exodus and growing crankier by the minute. Suddenly, a naked woman appeared out of nowhere holding up a sign as she danced and wove her way around the line of cars, greeting each departing citizen of Black Rock City. Her sign read KEEP THE SPIRIT ALIVE.

    When does the event end and exodus begin? When does exodus end and re-entry to the default world begin? It’s up to each one of us to make that decision. To realize we have a choice.
    This is one of my favorite Burning Man memories (12 yr. veteran) that profoundly captures what is at the core of our community. It’s an attitude. A state of mind. An action. Its not about an ancient lake bed or a location.
    I would like to extend this message to all of us:
    During exodus: KEEP THE SPIRIT ALIVE.

    • Christine says:

      Brother Michael, you are so right. Burning Man is not a location, it is something more significant, and hopefully something more lasting. We can not only keep the spirit alive during Exodus, but even beyond that.

      What do we bring back with us to the Default World? If we come back exactly the same as we were before, have we missed something important and potentially valuable? Personally, and in a wider sense?

      Perhaps this is a worthwhile challenge for us all to try to embrace.

      Brother Michael, thanks for your very wise comments.

  13. miriam says:

    Gotta join the choir and praise this wonderfully light and fun post. Last year was my first year and the seasoned crew I camped with and I left after dark on Monday and slept most of the way. I had no idea what I had missed out on! (Part of what’s so great about the Burn – no two people experience the same things). Thanks for demonstrating how our playa person-ability can transition back to a land of pavement, but needn’t be forgotten.

    I wonder how we can apply the one-hour community idea to other groups – unnecessarily silent lunch break neighbours, long venue (or toilet!) queues, bus and train commuters (at stops/on vehicles), elevator-mates, etc…?

  14. newlight says:

    Due to crossed signals, we left five hours later than planned and exodus took seven hours. Aside from the dust storms, caused by moving RVs, it was definitely a community-builder. Thatʻs me in the orange outfit in the porta-potty line, just before a wood sprite came along to offer dark chocolate to all. Yay!

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  16. UVee says:

    I think pulsing is great. We hung out, talked to folks, and had a generally good time all around. I do wish you’d consider doing it for ingress.

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  18. BIBO says:

    Love the attitude & spirit of this “One Hour Neighborhoods” posting.

    My suggestion is for ingress. Why have “they” not figured out that most of the hold-up is for all of the virgins who hold up the line for up to half an hour clanging the bell, rolling in the dust and taking pictures?

    Let’s create a separate line for those vehicles bringing in the first-timers. Let them take as much time as they please with this welcoming ritual and allow the rest of us seasoned burners access to our Home more directly!

  19. Jon Mitchell says:

    Hi Christine. I can’t find a better contact link for you on the site, so hopefully you’ll get the message this way. I’m writing about Exodus for the Burning Blog, and I’d love to use a couple of your photos alongside linkage and quotage from this post. Is that all right with you? Reply by email if you please.

    Thanks for your helpful and inspiring take on the subject.

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  21. Adam says:

    Is it just me or is the pulse party THE thing to look forward to?

    • Christine says:

      Yeah, kind of like a party where you find yourself staying longer than you’d meant to because your ride home is not yet ready to leave – so you just relax and have a fabulous time.

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  23. Rob says:

    Hehe, so silly! My Playa prep this year is in full swing, so of course I’m cruising any article related and was so tickled to see the photo of the car with the umbrellas – that was me and my friend Kevin! Just joy, even in the simplest and silliest of circumstances!

    Thank you for the wonderful read – passing it on! Xoxo

  24. I missed Exodus last year but I’m looking forward to the pulse system this year.

  25. mama burn from slc says:

    hello playa luvs, 6year burner here. If i can unload any mama burn wisdom to the newbees its that it matters not what time you enter or exit…You cant always plan for the unexpected! Every year is different, if it “only took an hour to exit/enter” one year at ???-O’clock…this does not indicate a simular experiance the following year… just breath, open your self to the experience and an experience you will have )’(
    See you all soon…30 days till burning man!!!
    Mama burn

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  27. carole (waiting for my playa name) says:

    i loved your post and pics. as a virgin burner this year i will definitely take to heart all of your great suggestions and i think the ad hoc one hour neighbourhoods are just one more gift to send us on our way. thank you!!!!

  28. masnail says:

    Well written article covering the “Alpha and Omega” of the Burn. 2012 my son fulfilled an item on my “Bucket List” by bringing me to Burning Man at age 65! We were both virgins and had no idea of what to expect. We were making good time after Reno until we paused at one intersection puzzled at approaching lights that appeared to be a train. Wrong move! It was a large caravan of burners and we ended up at the end of their line. We managed to stay awake crawling onto the playa because we were fascinated by people “out and about” their vehicles. Burners dressed in ponchos and fuzzy orange rave boots and little else. Guys in top hats and finally someone gifting sticks of incense. All waiting was forgotten when we saw the extraordinary sunrise! Once inside, we knew no one and pulled into an area and slept until people arrived for an organized camp. We then moved to a great location for me. Across from the maintanance area near center camp. Since we had no bicycles it was a doable walk for me to stay entertained the entire time at center camp and the Eggs Bar. I do not remember anything remarkable about Exodus. 2013 we knew what to expect. We pulsed in and arrived in the dark at our chosen group camp, Aqua Zone Love Water. A totally different experience working with a group but equally enjoyable. Exodus was a bit of a crush because bad weather was predicted and everyone wanted to leave ahead of it. We had saved perishables so were able to give away water, cheese and olives and others came by giving chocolate and ice tea! It took awhile but we enjoyed the “neighborhoods.” Thanks for the photos and memory.

  29. Pingback: Burning Blog » Blog Archive » Exodus Traffic Pulsing = One-Hour Neighborhoods!

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