No matter how hard I wrack my brain I am unable to recall precisely when I first heard of "Quartzsite". It has been many many years, perhaps as far back as 1991, so why don't we begin in 1989 when Shep and I purchased our first RV. I was elbow deep in the Navy Nurse Corps Anesthesia Program. Neck deep would be more accurate as I was studying for the final exams which would complete two intense semesters of didactic education leading to an even more intense 18 month clinical anesthesia residency. All that aside, Shep and Lew decided to go on an exploration which meant a ride on the Washington, D.C. metro train. Boy did they explore! All the way to the National Guard Armory where they discovered there was an RV show.
We met back up at home late that afternoon and they were bursting with excitement about all they had seen and done. The following day the three of us returned to the show and surprise, surprise...we bought our first RV. Shep had specifically selected the model we purchased because it had twin beds in the back, perfect for spending family time together our boys as well as on trips to explore the beauty of our national parks, forests, and beaches. The RV was a small, affordable Class C that was large enough for the 4 of us.
Fast forwarding through the next 18 months during which time we only got to use it twice, and then another 6+ months for my deployment to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and we find ourselves in Moses Lake, Washington. It is quite possible that Quartzsite might have come up in June/July 1991 when we went to our first Good Sam Camping Club jamboree in Moses Lake. We have very fond memories of that occasion. I was happy to have returned safely from the "1st Gulf War", be off duty for a weekend, be outside in nice weather with my family and have time to simply take a deep breath and go "ahhhhhhh". As if those highlights weren't enough, we had a fabulous time. We were at least 20 years younger than most attendees but that was not an issue. RVers are fabulous folks and everyone is welcomed with open arms. Shep was able to meet lots of very experienced RVing men and soak up information about the usual menfolk topics (power and waste water issues), Lew was one of few children so was spoiled rotten by the plethora of grandparents and I....well, let's just say I hit my stride when I was "crowned" the grand champion of the cow patty toss. Growing up on a cattle ranch, I had tossed (think frisbee here, folks) plenty of dry cow "chips" just for fun. (no, they don't smell when dried out). :-) Returning to the whole point of this ramble, I think I remember that it was at that event we heard many people speak of heading south for warmer climes every winter. Snowbirds? Sounded intriguing to both of us.
Lest you think I'll never answer the first topical question, allow me to share that Quartzsite, Arizona is approximately four hours south and a skosh east of Las Vegas. If you know where Yuma, Arizona is, the "Q" is roughly 90 minutes north of "the sunniest spot in the world". If you passed through the tiny town of Quartzsite from May through October you might not feel inclined to return but I can guarantee that your head would be swiveling this way and that to take in the sights. Hi Jolly monument-what? Why are there camel statues here and there? Why are there so many "interesting" versions of homes on wheels scattered out in the middle of the desert? If you happened here (any year other than 2020 (from November through early April you would wonder who in the world packed all those RVs into this little town. You'd most likely scratch your head in an attempt to reckon why there are million dollar Class A buses parked out on the desert in the vicinity of home made rigs, ancient rigs, high tech off road RV rigs and rigs that simply defy description. Simple answer--nomads, snowbirds, explorers and lovers of all thing Quartzsite have come for their annual fix. Just about any direction you turn you'll see a Polaris RZR or one of its' side by side or quad relatives coming or going out to explore the hundreds of thousands of acres in the vicinity. Old mines, rock hounding, joy riding, exploring-you pick it and you'll never run out of things to do here. The Bureau of Land Management manages over 12 million acres of land in Arizona. Quartzsite is but a speck, but a fun speck for many. High on my list of reasons to return are the wonderful ladies that make up the Quartzsite Quilters Guild.
Last year we decided we HAD to go see what the Q was all about.Our plan was to spend one week in the area, enjoying whatever fun experiences and beauty it had to offer. Every January there are huge rock and gem shows, swap meets for anything and everything, and then there is the "Big Tent". As we were heading south from the small of the city of Parker, we looked down the highway and both said in synchrony "What in the world is that big white thing way out there?" Conjecturing about the myriad of possibilities, from agricultural to military to manufacturing, we came up with the obvious answer,"It MUST be the BIG TENT!",and so it was.
The Big Tent is simply the largest white commercial tent either of us has ever seen. It is replete with everything one expects to see for sale in the commercial booths at home shows or county/state fairs PLUS lots of things RV. Imagine flag poles, repair parts, led lights for inside, outside, underneath and above, chairs, fire rings (LP and wood), cast iron dutch ovens, grills, and then there are the RV tchotchkes, oy vey! As if a cheek by jowl parade of senior citizens pushing their pups in a doggie stroller (and over your foot) and vendors barking about their wares were not enough, just take a step outside. In a normal year there are several very large RV dealerships that display every type of RV in a thrilling showcase that surrounds the big tent. Additional RV sales lots are scattered along the main street that leads to and from I-10. And then there are the food and beverage vendors which include great smoothies, huge ice cream cones, some darn good BBQ, fried turkey legs, for those in need "Beer Belly's Adult Daycare", an outdoor bar. Encircling all of this are vendors for discount hardware, groceries, books, electric wheel carts, bikes...just name it and it's available. If you don't find it, you must not have looked diligently enough. This is all on just one side of the street close to the big tent. Trust me, you have not even begun to scratch the surface.
One highlight I have failed to mention is the annual rock and gem show. From small delights perfect for a young rock collector to giant and awe inspiring amethyst geodes fit for a palace, if you are into the "hard stuff",this is one show you don't want to miss. Like the Big Tent, there is no admission fee and this show stretches from here to there and across the street. With dusty feet as well as arms tired from hauling bags of RV literature and very necessary items we thoroughly enjoyed our "big tent" experience. Would we go back every year? Not necessarily, but possibly for a quick dash through early in the am or late afternoon when the crowds are at their thinnest. But then again, lunch at that fabulous BBQ is a pretty tasty, tempting option.
Our one week in January of 2019 melded into 3 months. We loved the freedom and open space boondocking on BLM land and felt privileged to witness God's grandeur during sunrises, sunsets and night skies so clear and dark that the stars seemed to almost come down for inspection. Riding our bikes, taking hikes and long walks, observing the parade of nature passing our doorstep, meeting wonderful people with a huge variety of interests, feeling the hug of human kindness during the onset of the novel corona virus pandemic and spending time simply "being" made our first visit to Quartzsite one that whet our appetite to return again.
So here we are, not unlike the birds that fly south for the winter, returned as snowbirds to Quartzsite for the winter of 2020-2021. Back for more glorious sunrises and sunsets, back for more awe inspiring night skies with the stars of the Milky Way strewn overhead like a gossamer net of jewels, back for more hand in hand strolls and yes, back for more time for the two of us to simply be.