By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Name the two most useless possessions in Quartzsite, Arizona. If you said “Snow shovel and raincoat,” you’d join a big party. We’ve been in Quartzsite for the better part of 25 years. While we’ve seen snow in the Kofa Mountains, nary a flake has touched down in town. But that raincoat part? There is such a thing as Quartzsite rain. It can catch people off guard, as it did last Thursday night when a light patter of the stuff touched down for a few hours. It does pay to be prepared.
Man, it pours
Unlike “home” for most snowbirds, the two “wettest” months of Quartzsite rain are July and August. December is one of the drier months, but come January, look out! A wonderfully clear, blue-sky stretch can suddenly change. We’ve seen plenty of boondockers scurry out of their rigs, running for tarps to cover stuff susceptible to precipitation damage. Often the rain is accompanied by – or preceded by – gusty winds. We probably should have remembered that. On Thursday, our few-months-old Harbor Freight Tools carport cover tore like a cheap bedsheet. Today, our around-town car, parked “inside,” which was previously sparkling clean, looks like an overzealous flock of birds used it for target practice.
And here’s the warning note to newbies. Just because the rain may not fall in Quartzsite proper, doesn’t mean the town won’t be affected. “Don’t park in the wash!” is the refrain from BLM officials. We see inexperienced ones who think parking on the gravel in a desert wash is just “the thing” for a neat campsite.
But a heavy storm, many miles away, can quickly run a fast race right into the area. Don’t think it’ll do any harm? Here’s a photo of a “gully washer” that rolled under the Tyson Wash bridge a few years ago. The water came so close to the bridge deck, locals shut traffic down on Main Street until the water receded. If you make camp in a wash and one of these bad boys comes through, your rig, and maybe your life, is gone in a flash. That’s Quartzsite rain.
More wash “watch words”
There’s a corollary to “Don’t park in the wash.” It’s “Don’t drive through a running wash.” Here’s a lift from Wikipedia – we can’t say it any better than this: “The ‘stupid motorist law’ is a law in the U.S. state of Arizona that states that any motorist who becomes stranded after driving around barricades to enter a flooded stretch of roadway may be charged for the cost of their rescue. The law corresponds to Section 28-910 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.”
As little as six inches of running water in a wash can lift your otherwise stable vehicle and push it off downstream. Fast-running washes have required, and continue at times to require, helicopter extraction of fortunate motorists. We say fortunate, because there are plenty who don’t live to tell the tale, or pay the bill.
There’s a good reason to stay out of washes, wet or dry, and it has nothing to do with Quartzsite rain. Some years ago, as a somewhat new-to-the-desert fellow, the male of this writing team was researching a story on geocaching. That’s the game of hiding a cache somewhere, and leaving clues to where to find it, predominantly with geographic coordinates. A cache he was looking for was in the area of Tyson Wash, south of town. The accompanying photo indicates the outcome of trying to plow through the wash. It was a couple of hours before help with a l-o-n-g tow rope was able to effect a rescue.
Someone who’s never experienced Quartzsite rain wrote us with this question: “Could you address the negatives for us ‘never beens’? I am referring mainly to all of the references to pack rats, snakes, scorpions, and others.” We’re happy to report that snakes are only seasonally active in Quartzsite. Right now, the snake populace is largely “holed up for the winter” and won’t be making a return to activity until late March or April.
Scorpions, on the other hand, can be active even in winter. We well recall a night of sitting around a campfire on the desert. One of our companions suddenly jumped up and ran for her RV. Her husband decided he’d better check up on her. Inside the rig, he found her, having dropped her sweat pants to the floor. She was hopping around, uttering odd noises and holding her thigh. Sure enough, inside the sweat pants was a small scorpion. No life-threatening damage was done, but she spent a considerable number of days nursing a nasty bite. The scorpion’s outcome wasn’t so good. The following winter she returned – still dealing with the pain.
It can be fun, we’re told, to take a black light and shine it around after dark. If you can’t find a suitable flashlight with black light, consider rigging up a shore-power “black lightbulb” with an inverter. You’ll be surprised at how many of the little characters you’ll find. Advice? Don’t stick your fingers where you can’t see them. Wear gloves if you like to turn over rocks, and when handling firewood.
No lions, tigers or bears – but coyotes and pack rats, Oh my!
Pack rats in the desert? Oh, heavens, yes. They do delight in running off with small, shiny objects. We learned in a hurry that if you had a project involving small hardware, like shiny washers, that you don’t leave them out overnight. But we’d be more concerned about larger critters that carry stuff off. Looney Tunes’ “Road Runner” wasn’t the only prey of the Wile E. Coyote. Every year coyotes find cats and dogs to be tasty additions to their regular desert meals. Generally the problems occur at night, but we have heard apocryphal tales of coyotes chasing after Fido and Fluffy even by day. Keep your pets close at hand, and DON’T let them out by night unleashed. More good tips here.
And a final reader question
Finally, another reader asked us about a local business. “Wondering if the little shop Quiet Times is back this year. The owner was considering retiring.” We’re here to report that Quiet Times is up and running, and receiving the typical rave reviews. If you need help getting a UPS or FedEx shipment out, or you need to have an “address” to have your stuffed shipped to by same, Quiet Times is your place. They also have a range of greeting cards and such. You’ll find them at 90 E. Main Street. Parking is a little weird, so don’t try and take a large Class A motorhome there.
We’ll close out this week’s review with statistics.
How many folks in Quartzsite? It’s impossible to accurately gauge. We’re using the census count from the Hi Jolly Short Term Visitor Area as a gauge.
|Last Week||This Week||Change|
Fuel Costs (Average)
|Last Week||This Week||Change|
|Propane||2.770||2.780||.36% increase (Best price, Pattie’s RV Park at $2.73)|
|Last Week||This week|
|Verizon||5.0D/4.9U 2:25 PM
7.79D/1.16U 6:50 PM
|4.26D/1.52U 2:50 PM
0.32D/FAIL U 7:50 PM*
*Not an error, actual results, double checked.
|ATT||16.6D/11.3U 2:25 PM
10.04D/11.30U 6:50 PM
|17.93D/10.63U 2:50 PM
2.00D/0.10U 7:50 PM
Discussion: The late-in-the-day results were taken while there was rainfall in the area. We theorize that instead of sitting around the campfire in the Quartzsite rain, snowbirds decided toasting marshmallows in front of the computer or internet TV was preferable. Next week’s results should give us more to go on.
Our “face mask count” based on numbers of folks at three locations. A popular grocery store, the post office, and a “dollar store.” The count is the total number of folks present and those who are masked up. The percentage given is the percentage of mask-wearers. We are changing our COVID patient count methodology. We’re including new cases within the last week, and comparing the percentage of change from two weeks back. The data is provided by the Arizona Department of Health.
Face Mask Count [Total people counted/masked (% masked)]
|Last Week||This Week|
|87/11 (12.6%)||46/13 (28.3%)|
Discussion: Fear of the new COVID-19 variant? More snowbirds bringing their masks with them, outweighing locals? Smaller sample number skewing the results? We don’t know.
COVID Patient Count
Our previously available data on COVID specific to Quartzsite is down this week. We’re working on resolving that. At this point, all we can provide is the number of cases that have been uncovered in QZ in the last month, which is 23.
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Updated 12/15/21 @ 1723 MST, correcting address for Quiet Times.