Having never been to the playa other than during the burn we expected to see scattered tents and vehicles on the horizon, and perhaps locate the faint outline of past BRC city streets. Maybe a land speed run going on, and some recreational rocketry. WRONG. 9th of Juplaya must be the most dead day in the BRD on the calendar. NOTHING. Flatness. Horizon. Playa. Not a single speck of moop. (Playa restoration folks are gods!). It was beautiful, stunning, bizarre (in a Hitchcock/Twilight Zone kindof way... where did you all go?!?!), and once we made the dumb decision to drive out in darkness...kinda sketchy!!
Had I not done the 447-to-playa transition 5x r/t in the past 5 yrs our trusty steed Pandora would likely still be stuck out there. By the time we realized we should follow our own tracks out (or should have taken a compass reading in and made a beeline back) it was too late. Random tracks going every which way. It is amazing how inviting the lights of Gerlach look from that position/circumstance. I wonder how many mixed up playa visitors who try this dumb stunt end up driving straight to the lights, where they ultimately get stuck, and how long it takes from there to hoof it to Brunos (?). In any case, calm, intuition, and misplaced confidence saved the day. Our most memorable Exodus yet!
I posted three "work safe" panoramas of Pandora/9th of Juplaya to my CW gallery (I'm on an iPad right now and can't figure out how to UL photos with it here, but will post hires soon). http://www.classicwinnebagos.com/forum/index.php?action=mgallery;sa=album;id=314
As for the playa condition, it seeemed amazingly hard and almost devoid of dust. My bunny ears smell more like playa in the off season than it did out there! I was running around in my socks and nothing stuck. At dusk the wind was blowing a steady ~30mph (SE) and there was still no dust. Certainly others have made this observation before, but I realized that it is the BRC road system and every other bike/cart/MV tire track striped on the playa that creates the dust. Just add wind to taste for your favorite taste of the playa and associated scurrying. Unfortunately I don't know enough about the playa/crust to determine how this will translate into conditions for the burn, but it sure looked and felt promising.
So that was our playa fix for 2012 y'all. May you all have an epic burn this year!!! Pandora and Deliciosos Helados Frida plan to return in 2013, so don't fuck it up, aight?