Quartzsite is an undeniable phenomenon. Imagine a town that grows from less than 4,000 people in August to 1,500,000 in January and you’ll have some idea of it. It’s in a desolate part of Arizona between Ehrenberg and Salome on I-10, so why, you might wonder, is it so popular? It’s a sunny, 75º here in January. I myself wonder what it must smell like with so many fun-seeking humans converging, mostly in campers, in one spot?
When Ruth and I asked long-time returnees John and Marilyn, who live in South Lake Tahoe, about this, they shrugged to indicate it wasn’t a problem, at least for them, because they never dry camp like the masses in the numerous BLM campgrounds in the desert surrounding Quartzsite. Nicknamed “The Gathering Place”, Quartzsite’s Chamber of Commerce promises, “Accommodations…are many and varied” so “You can have your pick of any kind of accommodations you prefer.” I still wonder how this gathering is humanly possible in January as I imagine a veritable sea of RVs containing more than a million temporary residents with bowels and kidneys.
Ruth & I passed through in March, when things were winding down. In January and February, the 2 really busy months, Quartzsite, according to John and Marilyn, offers a steady barrage of swap meets, gem shows, gun and cheap jewelry buying opportunities, craft fairs, music jams, etc. Marilyn told Ruth that bargaining is OK. John told me that the annual RV show is the highlight of the season. They both told us that Quartzsite attracts lots of snowbirds. I asked if they met many Canadians, and they told me about a couple who comes every winter but goes to Mexico for 2 weeks so they can stay in Quartzsite longer. Canadian snowbirds, it seems, can usually stay in the United Stats each year for 182 days, but this may be changing. Snowbirds from other countries can stay, legally, for only 90 days.
Activities in high-season Quartzsite tend to have cute names. There’s a Ground Hog ATV Rally, a Masters Tough Golf Tournament, a Soup and Chowder Festival, etc. Ads in abundant visitor guides tend to be for dental or chiropractic care, rock shows, mobility scooters, antiques, etc. We talked to a couple of satisfied vendors who were getting ready to leave. They assured us that some of them would remain until the end of March.
Staying until the end of March in this fort that grew into a mining community and is now a Chinese-sized city 2 months each year sounded like such a bad idea that we got into our rented car and headed west.