We’ve never been anywhere like Quartzsite. In the winter this town of 3,000 permanent residents burgeons as 100,000 RV’s arrive to camp on the Bureau of Land Management desert that surrounds it. From afar it looks like a huge city, but as you get closer you realize that all those white squares are RV’s. Most folks camp for free, parking anywhere they want for as long as they want. They pay nothing and get nothing. There are RV pit stop places in town to empty their tanks, and take on fresh water and propane. People take pride in how long they can last living off the water in their holding tanks and the power their solar panels provide. They recycle their dish washing water and use it in the toilet. For people on a meagre budget, this is the place to be. The elevation is about 3,000 feet lower than it was in Tucson, so it is warmer in the winter and will be unbearably hot in a few months. The vegetation is far less lush than what we’ve been enjoying in Tucson and Phoenix - no saguaro or barrel cactus and scrubby gray-green bushes growing in rock hard ground. No worries about the motor home sinking into the sand here.
For much of the winter the main attraction is a gem and mineral show, but we are here for the RV show. We come every few years to make repairs and buy new gizmos and gadgets. We’ll need the three days we’ve scheduled to be here to see it all. There are also huge lots of used and new RV’s for sale. The prices could be good, but it you have a problem the dealers that are here in January are long gone by May when the temperatures begin to rise and the shoppers have left. Many RV groups host rallies here and park their rigs in large circles just like our pioneer ancestors did back in the day. Sometimes I wonder how they find each other is this vast emptiness.
Because Quartzsite is such a small town, its services can be overwhelmed when all the RV’ers arrive. We went out for fish fry at the Quartzsite Yacht Club whose motto is, “Long time, no sea.” Ken is an official member and was told that he can use his card to gain entrance to yacht clubs that might really have a boat or two moored nearby. The town has no grocery or drug store. We were going to meet friends here, but she had a medical emergency. Quartzsite is not a town for anyone who is sick.
The first time we came here we drove deep into the desert and parked. Then we realized that this could be a mistake when we couldn't find our rig again. This was in the pre-GPS days and there were no landmarks, streets signs or lights - just desert. This time we returned to an area where we’ve been before and stayed near the expressway. When you are running a generator the highway noise is barely noticeable. And marking our location on the GPS makes it easy to find our way back even in the dark.