We’ve all been in this situation: You want to leave a party, but you keep getting sidelined on your way out the door. This year’s Burning Man festival abruptly dumped 70,000 people into that scenario when torrential rains turned the hardpan of the Black Rock desert into a soupy, muddy mess and organizers told attendees to shelter in place and conserve food and water.
If that sounds like a major harsh on 70,000 mellows, it was, particularly for those Burners who had somewhere else to be. Among that crowd was Nave Black, who’d been camping in a rented 30-foot RV trailer. Conventional wisdom says you can’t tow a 30-foot trailer through deep mud, but it turns out conventional wisdom doesn’t apply when there’s a guy who really wants to leave Burning Man and has the keys to a 2023 Ram TRX.
“Nobody was even trying to get out, and definitely not with a trailer,” says Black. “But my wife is at home with our baby, and I said, ‘Either I have to try to get home or she’s going to shoot me.’ And I decided to take off.”
This was on Saturday, when organizers were forecasting that roads wouldn’t be passable until Wednesday.
The Venn diagrams of RV towing and mud running don’t typically overlap, but Black may have invented a new sport in his haste to peace out. A video shot by fellow attendee Brendan Cogbill shows the supercharged, 702-hp Ram charging through the muck and rounding a corner, spraying mud and issuing determined high-rpm crackles from the exhaust as the trailer seemingly hydroplanes across the soup—a tandem-axle toboggan meets freestyle tow-boggin’.
Courtesy of Brendan Cogbill
As many viewers of the video have noted, the RV’s stairs are still down. That, says Black, isn’t because he forgot to stow them, but because his escape from Black Rock really was a spur-of-the-moment decision. “I had the stairs down because I initially only planned to move the trailer a little bit. But once it got moving, I said, ‘Fuck it, I’m getting out of here!'”
As Cogbill’s video and another one show, Black is a successful adherent to the “when in doubt, add throttle” school of off-roading, which is particularly relevant when dragging thousands of pounds of RV through a rich silt mousse. “It was two or three miles in the mud, and if I didn’t keep moving, I would have been stuck,” he says. While this was his first time driving his TRX in the mud, Black does have some prior off-roading experience by way of the Israeli military. (When it comes to Burning Man, you never know what kind of training will turn out to be useful.) In one video, Black is going fast enough that he appears to be drifting the trailer, which is the kind of thing you might expect to earn skill points in some demented offshoot of Forza Horizon but never see in real life.
COURTESY OF NAVE BLACK
As for the rented trailer, well, it got muddy. “I called the owner and said, ‘Look, this thing is so muddy that I might have to actually buy it from you,” Black says. But on the way out, he discovered a carwash set up by local Native Americans. “They worked on it for two hours, and after that I called the owner and said, ‘Forget what I told you. It’s cleaner now than it was when I picked it up.’ ”
Given all that transpired, will Black ever return to Burning Man? “Sure, no question,” he says. “It was a good experience. But you’re hearing that from someone who got out. I think a Ram TRX is the minimum truck you need there.”
Ezra Dyer is a Car and Driver senior editor and columnist. He’s now based in North Carolina but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove 206 mph. Those facts are mutually exclusive.