By Chuck Woodbury
You must visit Quartzsite. It’s in the middle of nowhere in the Arizona desert. Technically it’s where I-10 and state route 95 intersect, about 20 miles east of Blythe, California. It’s no place to be in the blazing hot summer unless you’re a lizard.
It’s home to 3,600 year-round residents. In the winter, with its abundant sunshine and mild temps, the population jumps to as many as 50,000 at times. Nearly all of them are RV snowbirds. In January, I’ll bet there are more solar panels per capita here than anywhere else on Earth.
RVers in every shape, size and condition of rig squat in the desert for free for weeks at a time on the public lands of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Or they can camp in a Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA) for seven months for $180 — about 85 cents a day.
The town itself isn’t much — a half dozen gas stations, a few small markets, some restaurants and fast food joints, a nearly-naked bookseller named Paul (the “first male stripper”), 60 RV parks, a couple of truck stops and modest homes with no lawns but lots of cactus. The nearest Starbucks is 20 miles away.
For a couple of weeks each January, a tent the length of two football fields goes up for a big RV show. Three long aisles are lined with hundreds of booths hustling everything from sewer hoses and RV park memberships to cookware, back adjustments and wonder creams.
Nearby flea markets, which are open all winter long, sell nearly every conceivable gadget, most from China: It’s like a giant dollar store in the desert. Rocks, gems, petrified dinosaur poop and other rock-like things are also available in abundance. The Quartzsite Yacht Club bills itself as the “Largest Yacht Club in the World,” even though it’s unlikely there’s a seaworthy boat for miles.
I BOONDOCKED a few days with some friends at an Escapees “Boomerville” camp a few miles out of town via a dirt road. Members settled in by campfires each evening to chat, tell jokes, dance to oldies and enjoy happy hour libations with friends.
For miles around, other groups gathered — members of clubs or just friends who meet up each year to hike, explore with ATVs, and share stories by their campfires. At night, with practically no city lights, the sky is breathtaking with a million stars.
Quartzsite is an experience. Whether you come with a group or by yourself, there are miles of wide open space to park your rig, hang out and enjoy the desert and solitude. For many RVers, a few days of Quartzsite and its dust is more than enough; but for others, Quartzsite and its surrounding area is a wonderful, dirt-cheap place to spend a winter season, enjoying the sun and the vast desert, and the company of friends they will surely make.
This originally appeared in RVtravel.com newsletter #778; ##RVT822