The White Dust Bikes

I saw the first one in Alturas, or maybe on the road leading into that small town in the far northeast of California. Little did I realize they would be the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Over each of the next five days I would see more of them. They would be in the even smaller town of Tule Lake, at the Lava Beds National Monument, and spread out along hundreds of mile of roadway south to June Lake, and beyond. The white bikes. My initial reaction was, "what the hell, someone is stealing Ghost Bikes en masse." Everything on those first ones was white - frame, tires, handlebars. But then I made a more studied appraisal. 

Those first ones were packed into a box trailer. Later there would be more such trailers, while others were stacked on the roofs of cars, of vans, or piled above cab-height in the backs of pickup trucks. Some were loaded onto bike racks, seemingly far beyond their recommended carrying capacity, though there were a few singles and pairs as well. Most were easily identified as of the beach cruiser variety, though there were also some mountain bikes, many bmx bikes, and the occasional road bike. Each of the vehicles used to transport the bikes was white as well, to varying degrees perhaps, and that is when I realized that the bikes were not white in, and of themselves, they were coated in white dust. What bike event took place up here that I missed out on, I thought. Then I remembered photos I have seen, and I knew it had to be Burning Man. Being focused on the bikes, I had not noticed the people steering back towards home, after their time in the Nevada desert, and I could not confirm the dates, but I was sure, it had to be Burning Man.

Four days later, pulling up to the market at June Lake, we were followed in by one of those tell-tale vans with trailer filled with bikes and other accoutrements. If I were to give a brief categorical description of the young couple to would be Millennial Hippies - he with the tattoos and piercings, she with the sexy, shear flowing clothes and long dreadlock hair. Up to this point the Burning Man connection had always been a best guess; being able to associate riders and bikes was the final piece of evidence.

The last of the white dust bikes I saw were packed into a trailer, being driven southward, somewhere along the 395 south of Lone Pine. Some color was returning to them after all those highway miles but the tell-tale white dust was still clearly evident. I wondered if the dust would be washed off at the end of their journey.