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Member Visit: Lisa Elford & Arun Cook

Lisa and Arun had been in the USA for about two months, roadtripping across the country when they arrived at Boots HQ late on a Saturday night. A chance to stretch out after being cooped up in a rental car was welcome relief.

Arun and Lisa

Arun and Lisa

After some initial shyness, Arun was full of energy and stories of places he’d been and things he’d seen in his travels across the country. DisneyWorld in Florida was certainly high on his list, with the French Quarter in New Orleans, Graceland and the Grand Canyon not far behind.

Lisa had sold up just about everything at home in London to finance a RTW trip that will take her and Arun from the States to Fiji, Australia, Thailand and India. From staying with people in New York she contacted via the Internet, Lisa was amazed to discover a guy who needed his van driven to the west coast; he asked her if she would like to do that. She gratefully accepted and saved a bunch on accommodation, as most hostels still charged her full price for Arun, who is 7.

Lisa and Arun stopped off in Eugene because they were heading off to the annual Burning Man Festival in Nevada. The Green Tortoise bus stops off here on its way south from Seattle, and since they could catch it from Eugene to get out to the desert, it only made sense to stop in with us for a while too.


At 7 years old, Arun is our youngest Boots member – and possibly the most energetic, too.

Arun and Lisa took off on Aug. 28, and when they returned from Burning Man on Sept. 3 they looked like a couple of road warriors. For a couple of Londoners the desert was a new experience, a “leveler” as Lisa described it. Water was scarce, and you had to bring that and all your other supplies and necessities with you, as well as pack everything out at the end of Burning Man. Here’s a free desert survival tip, by the way: The Nevada desert sands are very alkaline, and when you walk on them constantly you need to rub your feet with lemon juice. The acid in the lemon balances the ph.

As they recounted their experiences, they said the Green Tortoise bus picked them up in Eugene, and an hour later they were cavorting naked in a hot spring with the entire group of passengers. This is one of the things the Green Tortoise is known for, and they have only 2 rules:

  1. No cigarettes
  2. No shoes on the bus

Everything else is very laidback, so much so they even have beds on the bus.

They arrived the next day at Black Rock City, the unofficial town that is home to the people who come for Burning Man. It is near the real town of Gerlach, Nevada. The bus parked right next to the “kids’ camp,” much to Lisa’s relief. Arun instantly made new friends and was able to enjoy his own space without Mum having to watch him all the time.

Arun, Sean and Chris

Sean and Chris make Arun one of the men, and fit him with his first BootsnAll cap. He’ll have to wait a little longer for his first homebrew though.

Lisa told us the Burning Man festival had many aspects to it, and people were encouraged to “be themselves” and not stress on what other people thought. Many revelers took this as a sign to be very creative with costumes and themes ranging from creating lightning, to a climbing exhibit to the “violence tent”.

Lisa liked the way people were not judgmental, and how everone helped each other and were creating an atmosphere of peace and harmony. She also liked the fact that the Green Tortoise had the best food selection of any group there. According to her it was the best food she had eaten while in the US. The company had a bus filled with supplies, and they were constantly bringing out even more decadent offerings: poached/grilled salmon, fresh muffins, fruit salads, cheesecake, etc. In fact, other revelers came over when they heard about the spread on show.

The Burning Man festival often gets wacky, and Lisa found herself getting Shanghai’d into riding bicycles around the camp with a large group of women… topless.

Lisa and Arun

We saw a lot of Arun’s grin, and this is one of the few shots we were able to get of him being still!

For people contemplating the next Burning Man, Lisa advises getting a tent that can keep the dust and sand out, as her ventilated tent filled up every time there was a sandstorm. Sharing is a big thing too, so bring small creative gifts to pass to strangers, plus things like vodka that people will appreciate. If you don’t want to appear to be a “spectator” try to at least have some kind of costume or outfit. A bicycle is also makes it easier to get around Black Rock City.

There was a sadness in the air the morning after the “Man” was burned, and Lisa found it quite moving at times. Hopefully the Boots Boys will be making an appearance at next year’s.

A couple of nights R&R here in Eugene helped Lisa and Arun prepare for the next leg of their trip. They’re driving down the coast to the Redwoods, then on to Los Angeles. They will then fly out to Fiji, and we had to break the news that the flight wasn’t four hours as they expected, but 11 hours. Fortunately for Lisa, Arun says he loves flying. He even says he loves airline food.

  • Click here for Lisa’s posts on our message boards
  • Click here for a video of Arun describing where he’s been
  • Click here for a video of Arun giving a news report on Burningman

    If you’re travelling to the West Coast of the USA and want to make a stop in Eugene, Oregon, click here for details on where to find us.