Quartzsite is something that is hard to imagine if you have never seen it. There are literally thousands of campers and their rigs settled into the desert landscape living off the grid for a few days or for the entire winter season. There are large areas where you can camp for free for up to 14 days and then move to another location, plus there are “long term” areas that for $180 you can stay all winter ($40 for two weeks) and have access to water, dump, and trash receptacles (and plenty of neighbors). I will have more on Quartzsite and the boondocking areas in an upcoming post.
The Boondocking Capital of the World transforms the sleepy little town of Quartzsite, located west of Phoenix, into a hubbub of over a million winter visitors. For as far as you can see in the distance there are Recreational Vehicles (RVs), many with numerous solar panels on the roof, parked in the desert.
Another one of the things that draw people to this area is the “big tent show” that happens in January of each year.
This event is a combination of a RV show, RV supply sales, mobile RV repairs and maintenance, flea market, and much, much more. Hundreds of vendors congregate in the immediate area to take advantage of the warmer/drier weather and the large crowds.
Besides the crowds during the “big tent” week, Quartzsite is best known for rock and gem vendors and gatherings. The “rock shops” are numerous with some very impressive natural objects. Quartzsite is the self-proclaimed, Rock Capital of the World.
Because of all these happenings, numerous groups gather in the area for annual events. These events are as diverse as RV brand specific rallies to groups of rock collectors. The Escapees RV Club, for example, has many groups that gather here.
We attended the Escapees “Boomers” gathering. While this is only one of hundreds of groups who come to Quartzsite, this particular one had over 200 RVs in attendance. They had scheduled events led by volunteers every day. One highlight was a free astronomy presentation by GeoAstroRV. This group provides free presentations to the RV community during the winter. The night sky out here in the desert is amazing. Another fantastic happening was the Escapees “C.A.R.E” auction that raised over $18,000 for a RVer respite care facility based in Livingston, TX. Yes, you heard that correctly, respite care for folks who live in RVs.
There was a day trip with the group to the “Desert Bar” near Parker, AZ. This is another place that is almost impossible to describe. Located at the site of an old mine in the middle of the desert, this establishment provides music, food, outdoor seating, bar, helicopter rides, and of course T-shirts. One interesting thing is that the Desert Bar is completely powered by solar panels and large battery banks. Hundreds of folks descend on this very remote off the grid location to enjoy the desert, the eats, and the music on Saturdays and Sundays. The road to get there is very rough so fasten your seat belts!
On one of our first nights here we attended a free outdoor BBQ dinner hosted by Redlands RV in CA. We had a great time with friends and made some new ones, too.
Speaking of friends, we quickly realized that many of our full-timing friends were in the area. They were in the free BLM areas around Quartzsite. We had fun catching up with each other. Some of them we had not seen since our trip to Alaska.
The sunsets here are wonderful and almost daily there is an incredible one. If you are from the east, like we are, being surrounded by the color brown takes some getting used to, but now we truly see the beauty in the Arizona landscape and the daily light show.
Our new solar panels got a really good test as we have been over four weeks completely off the grid. Celia and I have gotten skilled at conserving water and can go 14 days without needing to dump the tanks. Thank goodness the Bighorn has large storage tanks.
We are having a great time spending the month in the Quartzsite area. It is warm enough that Celia is able to paint outside and now that many folks have left it is giving everyone plenty of space to spread out. As usual, I have had plenty of Bighorn repairs to keep me busy.
It is difficult to describe the Quartzsite desert experience, but the warm winters and fellowship with friends, will no doubt beckon us to return as we do some more piddlinaround.