Quartzsite clings tenaciously to its claim of being the “Snowbird Capital of the West.” With the Big Tent RV Show, hundreds of miles of ATV trails, and loads of open space on BLM land to camp on, there are plenty of attractions. And when Minnesotans groan as they pull on Long Johns to face sub-zero weather in January, Snowbirds in Quartzsite are in “Hog Heaven.”
Here’s what one website says: “The average temperature in Quartzsite in January for a typical day ranges from a high of 68°F (20°C) to a low of 43°F (6°C). Some would describe it as mildly cool with a gentle breeze.” Locals refer to the “Crazy Canadians” whom they see donning shorts and short sleeves and sunbathing. But it’s not January anymore—and the Quartzsite heat has arrived.
Quartzsite heat—Get your “Desert Rat Merit Badge”
We write this as June is about gone. And we’re about gone, too. Traveling on the holiday weekend is pretty much taking a fool’s chance, both with traffic and RV park availability. But the Quartzsite heat isn’t just centered on Quartzsite. As we go north for our summer road tour, we have to reach the 5,000-foot level in Nevada before it’s cool enough to boondock. So we aim for CalNevAri, a wide spot on the road just south of Vegas. We can put in there for our first overnight on the road and run air conditioning, for less than $35 a night. From there, we can get out of the heat by the end of our next travel day.
But what’s it like “back home” in the Quartzsite heat? The locals say if you stay the whole year, you earn your Desert Rat Merit Badge. We haven’t been able to exactly pull that off. Last year, due to medical issues, we were stuck in Quartzsite until September rolled around. You know how they say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”? Bah humbug. It’s both. The average daily temperature in July here is 107. And yeah, that’s an average. In 2021, there were plenty of July days that were a smidge over 110. And the rocker was 118. Last year we saw 122. Quartzsite heat? Some would say, “Quartzsite Hell!”
From Charles Atlas to Minnie Mouse
Did we say humidity? Come July, the heat increases, but then comes the monsoon. The humidity jumps. We recall well the “home-handy” male of the tribe, easily working outside in 105-degree weather. Then one day, it hadn’t even hit 100 and it was like hitting a brick wall. The humidity had set it, and “Charles Atlas” was reduced to the likes of Minnie Mouse.
Perhaps the worst part of the Quartzsite heat is the relentlessness. There have been times when the nighttime temperature didn’t bother to drop below triple digits. Try living with that with an RV refrigerator. No cool at night, no cool anything inside that so-called ice box. And bless the hearts of the town utility department. Since it rarely goes much below freezing at any time of the year, why, surely there’s no need to plant water lines down too deep. Every year, signs appear in the truck stops, warning shower users that they will not have cool water. Many Quartzsiters simply turn off the water heater and use it as a reservoir for “cool” water. If you want a shower and not be scalded, you’d best take it real early in the morning. And just turn on the “hot” valve and work quick, you might just get the soap off.
And that “summer breeze”?
When we first came here, a local told us about how hot things got in the summer. We commented, “Well, we hear you at least have a breeze in the summer. That must make it easier to take.” After failing to try to suppress a laugh, our local guide gave it up. In the midst of his guffaw, he described that nice, cooling breeze as “a blast furnace.” For Seals and Crofts, their “Summer breeze, makes me feel fine” doesn’t work that way. And forget about trying to gain a little shade by rolling out the awning. Invariably, by the hottest point in the day, that wind will readily tear your awning right off the rig.
As we make the short trips north to Parker via Highway 95, we pass two short-term BLM camping areas. In the past, we could pretty well guess that by April 15, those areas would be looking like a scene from a ghost town. This year, it’s a different story. There are a number of rigs parked out there, even today. The same is true south of town. What is it? Has the economy gone so sour that some poor folks are actually stuck living in the Quartzsite heat in an RV? We, “anchored” as we are with electricity to run our swamp cooler (only until the monsoon comes), can put up with it. Those dear folks out in the middle of the sunbaked desert are hanging on, somehow—most without air conditioning.
The Quartzsite Chamber makes a lot of effort to attract winter visitors. But even they’re smart enough to know, come summer, it’s best to just “Get out of Dodge.”