By Russ and Tiña De Maris
On Highway 95, shooting down from Lake Havasu and Parker, a constant, steady stream of travel trailers, motorhomes and fifth wheels is driving the typical California car driver nuts as the former ones roll along at or a bit below the speed limit. In town, grocery store shelves are starting to show more empty than full. The snowbirds are decidedly making their presence known.
In Quartzsite, the Snowbird Capital of America, the scene of the world is changing.
A few years ago, when we ourselves were snowbirds, we had a run-in with a local when we went down to Yuma to do a bit of shopping. We met up in the parking lot outside a grocery store, and we’re not sure what set her off, but soon it was a full-blown diatribe. Her dislike for the winter visitors wasn’t just evident, it was palpable. The longer she talked, the more upset she became and, fairly soon, she was reduced to sputtering noises. We just didn’t know what to make of it.
Fast-forward 20 years. Now we call Quartzsite home. Yes, we sneak out of town when the Monsoon Season approaches. After all, who really in their right mind would want to sit here and bake in 110-degree weather? But the bulk of our time is here, in the Snowbird Capital of the World. Has our viewpoint of snowbirds changed? We have to admit, yes, a little bit. But we haven’t reached the sputtering point, and we don’t ever see that happening.
But there are a few things that some snowbirds bring with them. Yes, we have to underscore “some,” as not everybody with a Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, or Utah license plate is guilty of. But there are some things that do cause us to grit teeth, hold onto the steering wheel, and mutter under our breaths. OK, sometimes it’s NOT under our breaths. Here are a couple of the perennial favorites:
• Drive at least 10 miles per hour under the speed limit – in the fast lane down the B-10 (Main Street).
• Forget that stop signs apply to the person who comes up on them.
• And while it doesn’t affect us personally, stay at one of the local RV parks that offers WiFi and download HD-quality movies.
THE DREADED ‘QUARTZSITE CRUD’
There are things that snowbirds do (or bring with them) that probably can’t be helped. Sometimes we feel like we’ve gone back in history a couple of centuries.
We feel a bit like the Native American population when the Europeans came bringing illnesses the “locals” of the time had never been up against. Every year we can count on taking our share of what’s colloquially known as “The Quartzsite Crud.” Yep, out here in the vast and lonely summer desert, if you sneeze, it’s because the Palo Verde trees are in full bloom, dusting you with pollen. Come along November or December, you can be sure you’ll have at least one bout of “the Crud,” that creates a snotty nose, achy muscles, and a nasty, hacky cough. We’re sure it’s a gift from the northerners.
If you’re a Verizon internet customer, come the end of November you can be sure that your internet speeds will decline – dramatically! It’s not your fault, oh visitors – we know that. We’ve made countless appeals to the gods of Verizon for them to simply bring in a COW (Cellular On Wheels – an additional portable cell tower) to take up the heavy lifting when tens of thousands of internet users drop in for a few weeks. The gods aren’t listening and, believe us, it’s a major pain in the posterior if you depend on an internet connection for your bread-and-butter.
The other day we let the milk run low. Usually we’re smart enough to keep an extra gallon of no-percent in the freezer but, hey, we boo-booed. No problem, we knew a quick trip down to the General Dollar would fix that for $2.25 and a short trip through the line. Guess again! The line was stretched out like a boa constrictor after a nice lunch. The dairy case was empty. The cussed competition, Family Dollar, was suffering from the same malady. Sure, we could blame the snowbird influx, but we know that better thinking on the part of corporate management would see to it that they ordered up more stock, and actually had enough hires that there’d be more than just one or two folks working the registers.
The lines at the post office are things of legend, and if you had the time to ask you’d find out it’s not the local management that’s to blame – it’s those yokels that sit in offices higher up, and farther away, who don’t have the foresight to see to it they’ve got enough workers to work the mail.
We know these things are true. Still, some of our fellow citizens just get crabby about it. And come next April, when you could pitch a hardball down the B-10 from Burger King to the post office and never hit a car, you can be sure these same folks might actually miss a little of the excitement. A little. Just not that Quartzsite Crud.
We’d love to hear your stories about your visit to Quartzsite! Please leave a comment.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The author of this article, Russ De Maris, currently is experiencing the Quartzsite Crud!