Passing Through Quartzsite


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.



About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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