The final stop on my 3-city social tour was Quartzsite, Arizona. Never heard of the place? That is to be forgiven as it is just a tiny spot on the map that Interstate 10 cuts through in extreme western Arizona. Except for a few months during the winter when the place explodes from a HUGE migration of snowbirds.
Quartzsite (or “Q” as it is known by people, well, in “the know”) is really a nothing town that is a major destination for RVers in the winter. Surrounded by BLM land that allows for long term camping (up to 7 months when you are normally limited to 14 days in one location), it is a haven for RVers escaping the cold northern weather. For the low price of $180 a season, you can stay for up to 7 months around Quartzsite area in the La Posa Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA). Thousands of RVs take advantage of this deal, jam packed into the desert in one of the four La Posa LTVA areas that start just 2 miles south of Q, off of Arizona 95 (the main north-south road in the area).
People park their rigs anywhere from right off the highway to miles into the desert. RVs can be found for almost as far as the eye can see. Lots and lots and lots of people, with the vast majority being retirees. Not exactly my scene. Not one bit!
After spending 3 weeks at two locations (Anza and Yuma) with the same group (and sub-group) of people, it was time to leave them and meet up with a separate group of my friends. I was intending on spending just a week with them before heading out on my own, but I quickly decided that was stupid and ended up staying 3 weeks with this part of my tribe. 3 great weeks where I was both social and being a hermit. Fortunately this group understands the need to do both and there was zero pressure to be social at all times. I have a great group of friends!
Rather than be in the madness of the LTVA areas just south of Q, an advanced scouting party settled on a nice piece of BLM land 12 miles south of Interstate 10 on MST&T Road, which is a well maintained gravel road that leads to a communication tower. We gathered about 2 miles due east of Highway 95, in a spot big enough to hold the 12 or so rigs that ended up at this gathering. I had a spot to myself, a couple hundred feet away from my nearest neighbor, giving me the solitude I needed, but still close enough to be social when I wanted. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of generator noise, so being set off on my own meant I didn’t have to hear much generator activity, though I heard som.
Most importantly, we were out of the madness in the immediate Quartzsite area and enjoyed peace and quiet at our little chunk of public land.
During the social part of my 3 week stay I participated in the typical activities that happen when a group of like-minded nomads gather in the middle of nowhere. Plenty of epic campfires, including some around propane campfires. Playing Cards Against Humanity. Everyone piling into the biggest rig and sampling coffee one afternoon. Watching NFL playoffs. Lock picking and e-commerce classes. Yoga. House tours. Typical things one might be doing in suburbia, just in a much more peaceful setting. 😉
I arrived in the Q area as the second official Xscapers convergence was taking place. I participated in the first convergence last October at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and was interested to see what was going on at the second one. I wasn’t going to camp with the Xscapers as I was already committed to my group a bit to the south.
While the official convergence was just Friday and Saturday night, much of the group moved to one of the 14-day stay BLM areas just to the west of Q, where they hung out for a week or so longer. I made the 30 minute trek to this spot a few times, where I visited with friends, watched a movie under the stars, and hung out at their campfire.
There was a different vibe to this convergence than I felt at the first one. I’m sure it had to do with me being an outsider as I wasn’t camping there. Or maybe it was because the group of people was different. I don’t know. Having spent a couple of brief periods of time with this group, I am happy with my decision to hang with my tribe down on MST&T Road.
The Nellie E Salloon (aka, the Desert Bar) is an off-grid (totally run off solar) bar in the middle of nowhere, just outside of Parker, Arizona. A group of us made the trek from Q, some of which took the longer, multiple-hour off-road route, while the sane among us took the civilized, little over an hour, route to the same destination.
The Desert Bar is the kind of place that I only need to go to once. It’s a novelty. You definitely don’t go for the beer (Coors Light is a premium choice). The food is OK at best and expensive ($27 for a tray of nachos – enough to feed 4+ people, but still). No, it’s a place you go to so you can say you have been. And then never have the need to go back. IMHO.
Q RV Show
Mid-January in Quartzsite finds the annual big tent being erected and the RV show is on! For 9 days you can find most anything RV (and non-RV) related for sale. From monster 40 foot diesel pushers to crap that apparently every RVer needs. Much of the action is centered around a massive tent put up for just this event. The inside is mainly filled with crap that I certainly don’t need, but apparently someone buys this junk.
My good friends Jeff and Deb were doing their thing working the Dometic booth, one of the few actual RV related booths under the tent. The rest of the booths catered to the older set. You know, the types that have a baby buggy for their little yappy-ass dogs (WTH, people? Really? You think this is cute? Sigh. NEVER let me become that person!).
I tried, rather unsuccessfully, to buy new LED bulbs for my bathroom vanity. The kind of thing one would expect to find under the tent. Apparently not. Whatever! There is a reason Amazon exists.
Overall I did my best to avoid Q. Not my type of place. Not my people. Hell, even the food choices were the worst I have come across in a very long time. Other than the occasional trip for water and package pickup, I was fine to hang out 12 miles to the south with my group.
Several of my nomadic friends claim I have a lady Jeep. Because it’s 2 wheel-drive. And they have “true” off road 4 wheel-drive vehicles. Whatever. It works for me and was purchased at a time in my life when I had other priorities than spending money to get 4WD.
Having a lady Jeep doesn’t mean I won’t go off-road. Quite the contrary in fact. I’m not afraid of getting a little dirt under the tires. I just know my limits.
A few miles east of where we were camped, farther down MST&T Road, is the KOFA National Wildlife Refuge where there is a network of trails you can off-road. One day I drove to the end of MST&T Road to check out the view from the tower and then decided to head down one of these trails. I stopped at the top of a hill that I wasn’t sure I could get back up should I have to. Driving a lady Jeep and all.
One of my tribe has a 4WD Jeep and suggested that we go off-roading – his Jeep and mine. I had zero problem doing this, knowing that Eric and Jeanette would get my ass out of trouble, should I get stuck. So Eric and I loaded up in my Jeep and took off, with Jeanette and two other ladies following in their Jeep.
I had zero to worry about. No issues whatsoever, with Eric guiding me when necessary. The lady Jeep amazed me, how well it went straight up some stuff that I would have thought it would have had issues with. I guess even a 2WD Jeep is fairly capable.
We came to the hill that I stopped at the top of on my solo trip but from the other direction. Which meant I had to climb it. Eric guided me expertly. This was the only spot that my Jeep’s forward momentum was stopped involuntarily. My wheels started to spin, so I got off the gas, backed up a couple of feet, and made a run at it. My lady Jeep motored on up the rest of the hill like it was a walk in the park.
This being Arizona, awesome sunrises andsunsets are the norm. When there are clouds in the sky, the normal becomes spectacular. Here is a selection of what I observed during my 3 weeks in Q.