After having heard about Burning Man from friends for years, and having meant to go for a couple of years, I made my plans early enough in 1997 that I finally succeeded. In July I'd gone on a road trip with my friend Chris (Taz) to spend the Fourth of July on the Tulalip reservation in Washington where his grandfather lived (and where the use of any and all fireworks was enthusiastically supported). I asked him if he'd like to go to Burning Man with me and he was up for it. Later, after we had our tickets, he had work obligations consuming his time so he asked me if I could find someone else to go with, but I didn't come up with anyone so we went together. I'm sure he's glad now that it worked out that way :-)
We left Santa Cruz late in the afternoon on Friday the 29th. After passing through Gerlach, we kept our eyes open for the site. That year Burning Man was held on the edge of the Hualapai Playa, so it was further from Gerlach. We eventually began to wonder whether we'd missed the entrance. And then off in the distance we saw bright lights, which eventually resolved into a brilliantly lit city. Then we were SURE we had missed the site! Yes, really. At least we didn't turn around! We eventually came close enough to see that this was no ordinary city, and marvelled at what rose up from the playa.
When we arrived and entered the city, I drove somewhat aimlessly through the dark until I found what seemed like a good enough spot to stop, off at the edge of things. Then we leapt out and began our adventure. Despited all the literature I didn't have a good feel for how the city was laid out or where I was, but it didn't matter. It probably even enhanced the surreality of that first night. I just wandered, awed and dazed. Somehow I found my way back before dawn.
This is some of what I experienced that year.