Dooby Lane aka Guru Road

We take stewardship seriously.

Dooby Lane aka Guru Road

written by Matthew “Metric” Ebert

Dooby Lane is a unique artwork just outside of Gerlach that has been around for over 50 years, long before Burning Man emigrated to the Black Rock Desert. Stretching a mile adjacent to Route 34, the main medium of the artworks is modern petroglyphs— multiple rocks carved with witticisms, tributes to local Gerlachians, and reflections on the nature of existence. Also known as Guru Road, the artwork was built by Dewayne “Dooby” Williams, self-styled as the Guru of Gerlach. Twenty-one years ago, I launched an effort to preserve and repair art installations along the road with the help of Dooby’s son, Dewayne Arthur Williams II (Dee). At that time, I was the ranch manager for Burning Man, and their volunteers joined locals and the BLM to repair artworks along the Road. That effort continued with me when I was Executive Director of the Friends of Black Rock High Rock, and even after my tenure there, Friends of Black Rock has helped to maintain the Road. The impacts of vandalism and natural erosion have unfortunately accelerated, while preservation efforts have not kept pace with demand.

Throughout last year, I worked with Friends of Black Rock and the Travel Nevada 3D tourism Project to pursue grant money to support volunteer projects and other preservation efforts on Guru Road. The text of my portion of the grant application is below. Unfortunately, that part of Friends’ grant was not supported because there had been no effective communication with the Williams family who retain authority over the Road.

On March 25, 2024, I reached out to Regan Williams, the holder of the BLM right-of-way that authorizes the preservation and maintenance of Guru Road. It was then that I learned that Dewayne II had recently passed away on March 9, 2024. Regan and I have come to an understanding, in spirit, that Stewards may take up the responsibilities of maintenance on the road. While this has yet to be codified in BLM policy, I am continuing to collect information to help with future restoration and maintenance efforts, eventually hoping to produce a documentary for KBRU-LP 92.5FM and perhaps even a video documentary as well. I created a Facebook group to collect images and memories, and to keep future volunteers in the loop. Dan Deveny, who along with Dooby’s son Dee put a lot of effort into the road, came to Gerlach on March 22, 2024, to record some interviews and visit the Road. I have also met with Peter Goin, UNR professor and author of the Dooby Lane book, and he is supportive of our efforts going forward.

Most recently I have been working to improve the sound quality of a 2-hour interview with Dooby on the road recorded around 1990. I just uploaded a snippet on YouTube.

Guru Road Management Plan Proposal, December 1, 2023

Guru Road is a unique art installation with an authentic, quirky vibe just outside the remote Black Rock Desert town of Gerlach. Situated on public lands with a view of the Black Rock playa, Guru Road is a one-of-a-kind drive-through attraction for visitors seeking an experience that is literally just off the beaten path, extending for about a mile adjacent to Rte. 34 between Gerlach and the desert entrance to Burning Man. While the attraction has been a valued local feature and destination for tourists, this 50-year-old installation has also been subject to destructive impacts from rockslides, cattle, and vandalism. In order to mitigate these impacts, we propose a program that will restore elements of the artwork and provide missing context to visitors. These elements will work together to promote respectful, responsible visitation and accentuate appreciation of this important part of Gerlach’s past.

The program consists of three main parts: direct service restoration projects, oral history, and an interpretive panel.

Direct Service Projects: We propose a series of volunteer projects to stabilize elements within the art installation while also providing historical interpretation and community spirit. Support for these projects would include lunch and drinks for volunteers and a T-shirt to recognize their effort. Knowledgeable members of the community will be present at these events to tell the story of Guru Road, how it came to be, and what it means for those who have lived nearby. The outcome of this aspect will not only include the physical repair of several installations, large and small, but also help foster the sense of stewardship required to protect Guru Road from future negative impacts.

Oral history project: This project consists of audio recorded interviews with notable people involved with the creation and historical intersection with Guru Road. Whenever possible, video will be recorded for a possible future short film project.  Support for this aspect would include travel reimbursement between Gerlach and the locations of these people in Reno, Carson City, and Winnemucca. The outcome of this project will be a 55 to 60 minute audio recording suitable for broadcast. The effort will also help to collect photographs of Guru Road in its earlier pristine condition, and to promote community pride in the artwork.

Interpretive panel(s): Visitors to Guru Road are able to experience the artwork directly but without understanding important context about what they are experiencing. We propose producing an interpretive panel to explain major installations along the route and provide context to educate visitors about expected behavior on the road. This professionally-produced panel would be permanently installed near the beginning of the route, strategically placed to accentuate the experience without detracting from it. Future panels may be installed along the road near significant art works.

Restoration: The art installation known as Guru Road consists of a number of larger pieces interspersed with many smaller expressions. The smaller expressions mostly recognize individuals from the Gerlach community, but also include an occasional humorous aside (drinker’s memorial, equalizer toilets, weather station, et al.). These smaller installations resemble a gravesite with each chiseled message stone placed in a small field of red rock material bordered by white rocks.

Here is a list of the major works:

  • Ground Zero: vandalism, missing rocks
  • Elvis: some landslide encroachment, cape made of aluminum can pieces is degraded.
  • Big Medicine Tipi: collapsed and overgrown
  • Trickle-Down Art Show: destroyed by rockslide.
  • Dan & Doobie North/Aphrodite Grotto: missing couches, mirror
  • TV Station: leaning, opaque hut treatment failing.
  • Women’s Memorial: mostly intact
  • Wedding Chapel: mostly gone
  • Weather Station: fallen over

These larger works each require attention, and some of the work would entail multiple visits. In some cases, new rocks would need to be sourced to replace crucial missing ones, unless the originals can be found in the vicinity. The many smaller works generally require maintenance tasks such as straightening the border of each mock gravesite and addition of new red rock material. Chisel marks should be painted carefully with white as undertaken by the original artist. Excess plant materials can be removed to restore visibility.The road itself has been graded and large rocks from a landslide removed to make it passable with a normal vehicle.

Interpretation: There needs to be an installation near Ground Zero that explains the history of the installation in order to set the tone for responsible visitation and provide a deeper connection to the artwork. This could include a biography of DeWayne Williams, a map of the major art works, an explanation of how it came to be, and other supporting information. A general information panel about the region and its general history would also be appropriate.

Media: An effort should be made to collect photos, video, and oral histories from people who have had a connection or attachment to the artwork. Photos can help determine what stones are missing and, even if not replaced, better document the original work. A website to help manage this effort should be created, perhaps with a distinct social media account to invite participation. [Note: this effort Is underway.]