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Home Again: This Snowbird Roosts in Quartzsite, AZ
Honey, I’m home!! Those were the words that went through my mind as I drove into Quazrtzsite, AZ yesterday. That means that summer and fall are officially drawing to a close because I have returned to my winter “Home” which is Quartzsite. I love this place! It has such a wonderful “feel” and vibe to it. If you aren’t familiar with Quartzsite, it is the winter home of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of RVing and vandwelling snowbirds just like me. There are several reasons we all migrate here every winter:
- It’s full of every kind of live-aboard vehicle you can imagine! From million dollar coaches, to bikes with tents, to the worst piece-of-shit vans you can imagine! Young and old, rich and poor, we are all (mostly) accepted and welcomed by the locals and by each other. I just love to go down-town and watch the parade of rigs drive by and watch the people in them and ponder their lives and what brought them here. As different as we all are, underneath is a similar drive to travel and live free that makes us hit the road. It gives me hope! If you are willing, you can make many new friends while you are here!
- It has mild winters. While it can be surprisingly cold when a storm blows through, it’s still a whole lot warmer than most parts of the country. Here it is November 17 and it’s still in the 70s every day and high 40s every night. That’s much better than many places in the country where they are already getting their first snowstorms of the year!
- It is a very pretty part of the desert with some of the most consistently fantastic sunrises and sunsets of any place I’ve ever been. It’s also surprisingly green. It’s very easy to find campsites where you can nestle under big trees and your van can be totally in its shade
- If you have Verizon, there is very good 4g LTE internet and cell phone in most places. If you depend on free WIFI hotspots, there is an abundance of those in town, many with power plug-ins. The other cell providers are here, but much more spotty.
- There is a huge amount of free or very low-cost camping on BLM land that surrounds town. If you stay in one of the popular free camping areas close to town there will be Ranger enforcement, but it’s pretty lax. I’ve stayed in one spot for 2 months before they visited camp and told me to move and I know many people who stayed a month before they got the Ranger “visit.”
- But some people don’t like to ever worry about a Ranger visit or having to move at all, and for them there are several LTVA (Long Term Visitor Areas) where you can camp for 5 months for $180. Some of the LTVA (but not all) have facilities like dumpsters for trash, showers and dump stations. Here is the page for La Posa LTVA near Quartzsite: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/recreation/camping/LTVA/laposa.html nd here is information about all the LTVAs: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/elcentro/recreation/ltvas.html But to me, there is so much land, and so few Rangers, that finding a place to camp where you won’t be visited by a Ranger is very easy. You just have to move further away from the town of Quartzsite. I’ll move 17 miles down Interstate 10 to Exit 1 at the little town of Ehrenburg. It’s close to Blythe, CA and has zero Ranger enforcement. That way I don’t pay to camp here (or anywhere else for that matter) and I don’t recommend you do either.
- As more and more RVers spent their winters here, the town evolved to meet their needs. So it’s no problem to find water, take a shower, get rid of your trash or dump your waste tanks. It’s an RVers or vandwellers paradise!
- Another reason Quartzsite is so popular is that is famous for its gems and minerals. That has attracted lots of prospectors and rock-hounds over the years and gives many RVers something to do with their free time. In the winters there is a Gem and Mineral Club that you can join for $15. It has every tool you can need to work with rocks and minerals, and after you take a class on using the tools, you have nearly free access to them. So if you find some beautiful rocks and want to cut or polish them, you can. They also teach classes on many subjects like wire wrapping or making your own. You buy a metal blank and turn it into a hand-made knife under the direction of an experienced knife-maker. Or you can take field trips to different areas to look for gems, metal detecting contests, dinners and many other things that make spending winter here a lot more fun! This is their web page: http://qrgmc.org/
- The combination of RVers and rock-hounds has made it very attractive to vendors and over the winter the town is filled with hundreds of mom-n-pop stores that operate out of tents. It creates a state-fair or carnival-like atmosphere where you can buy just about any kind of RV or rock-hound thing you can want along with just about anything you can imagine!
- All the vendors brought the Big Tent RV and Gem and Mineral Show to town where they set-up this huge tent and fill it with vendors. It attracts RVers from Los Angeles (and all of Southern California), Phoenix, and Las Vegas so that when it’s on the population around Quartzsite swells from its normal 2500 to over a million people!
But everything isn’t perfect in Quartzsite, it has some serious disadvantages as well:
- The nearest Wal-Mart is 35 miles away in Parker, AZ and shopping in Quartzsite is very expensive. For that reason I suggest you come stocked up on as many supplies as you can carry so you limit your shopping here to perishables and a monthly trip to Wal-Mart.
- The wind blows a lot, and sometimes it is severe. When big storms blow in from the Arctic we get hit with windstorms that bring gusts of more than 50 mph. At other times the storms will blow in from the south out of Mexico and bring big windstorms. I generally tell people that it isn’t practical to live in a tent here because the wind will either destroy their tent or make their lives miserable—or both!
- When those storms blow through, it can get quite cold, and then the wind makes it feel even colder. If you look at pictures from the RTRs, you’ll see most people wearing coats, hats and gloves; we needed them, it gets cold here! Yuma is almost 100 miles south of here, and is a good 5-10 degrees warmer, so many people will go there when it is at its coldest.
So there you have my review of Quartzsite. It isn’t perfect, but no place is. And to me its imperfections make it even better by giving it flavor. Come join us! There are already 7 of us in camp and all are welcome. This is the map to our camp. We are an obvious group of vans on the right so we are easy to spot.