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QUARTZSITE THE DRY CAMPING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD

Imagine sitting on a rocky ledge overlooking a vast desert valley twenty miles wide. In the distance is a row of mountain peaks shrouded in blue. On the floor of the valley sits a sleepy, little desert town of fewer than four thousand permanent residents. The temperature hovers around one hundred and ten as the noon whistle blows from the fire house.

Now close your eyes and open them again to a cool January breeze. The town has grown to somewhere between two hundred to four hundred thousand new residents. No one really knows exactly how many. The horizon is dotted with thousands of little boxes. They are scattered across the desert floor with no real pattern or organization. Most are white but there are colored one too. They vary in size but they all have one thing in common. These boxes have wheels under them.

And what is most amazing is that if you were to close your eyes and open them again in April, as the desert floor starts to heat up for another blistering summer, the little boxes would all be gone, only to return again the next year. These boxes are all RV’s that house the new residents each year. This is the “dry camping” capital of the world. You are overlooking Quartzsite, AZ which has over one and a half million visitors each winter. Some stay for the entire winter and some for only a few weeks. Almost all the new residents are dry camping or boondocking. You pull your rig into the desert, pick a spot and set up. There are no hookups for fresh water, facilities for wash water and sewer waste removal or electricity.

So why do RVers boondock? Well, for most the reason is economic. It is free camping or almost free. Thirty bucks gets you two weeks and for one hundred and forty dollars you get a season pass. But for many boondockers, it has to be the personal pride of being able to enjoy the desert scene for pennies a day and no hookups. What else would explain a circle of motor homes each costing well over three hundred thousand dollars each wrapped in a circle like the covered wagons of the old West with the campfire in the middle. Flags of every state and political persuasion fly on long poles to mark their location. You can easily lose your rig in this sea of RV’s.

If peace and quiet is the major motive of dry camping, most would be disappointed, at least at meal time or during the news hour. One can hear the drone of thousands of generators that start up like clockwork to recharge the batteries or power the microwaves and televisions. Poking out of the roofs of most RV’s are satellite dishes for direct TV. There are no local television stations to be had and satellite radio is all the rage. Some boondockers even have satellite internet dishes at a cost of three to four thousand a pop. WiFi internet antennas dot the area and most pay the 80 to 100 dollars a month to get internet access. Cell phones often require an external antenna and Quartzsite may be one of the few areas left with the exception of truck stops where CB antennas still are evident. Many dry campers stay “pure” and refuse to use generators. You will see solar panels covering the roofs of some rigs and even wind generators to squeeze out every precious watt of electricity they can.

The permanent residents of Quartzsite have developed thriving businesses in water delivery, sewage tank pumping and generator repair. Every day tanker trucks wind through the desert campsites offering to fill or empty your tanks. Sometimes both. There is something somewhat disturbing to us about having the same truck deliver drinking water and remove the contents of your sewer tank but it is done everyday.

All major chain stores have avoided Quartszite. Three months of none stop business can’t even lure in Walmart. The town is dependent on three small convenience stores and does have one bookstore with a local legend, Naked Paul, as its proprietor. He is in his fifties, hates clothes and the color of his skin is a testament to his my years in the desert sun. I visited The Readers Oasis on a day Paul decided not to wear his usual thong and was stark naked. As I browsed through the thousands of used paperbacks, magazines and records, I heard a voice say, “Can I help you?” I glanced up and exclaimed, “No, I was just looking!!” to which he remarked, “I can see that.”

So what in the world would attract so many travelers and temporary residents to a place like Quartzsite? Well, first, it is the shows. There is the annual Rock and Roll Car Show featuring thousands of the most beautiful restored vehicles in the world. Then there is the Rock, Mineral and Gem Show which is billed as the largest in the nation. We are amazed at how excited some people get at opportunity to buy rocks. There is a Chili Cook-off and Salsa Championship, Blue Grass Festival, “Senior Prom”, Gold Show, and the Holly Jolly Dazes Parade and Festival. This event celebrates an Arabian camel driver Hadji Ali. Hadji escorted a consignment of camels in an Army experiment in 1856 to determine if the animals could be used successfully in the American southwestern desert. Hadji Ali was nicknamed "Hi Jolly" by the soldiers. The camels spooked all the horses and cattle and the experiment failed. The Army released all the camels in the desert, never to be seen again, but Hi Jolly was honored with a monument in the town cemetery. It is over 6 ft high with a camel on the top.

The real draw for many is the annual Sport and RV Show which brings hundred of vendors from all over the country to display the latest in RVing equipment. Millions of dollars are exchanged as the folks try to get the latest toys. We will be looking for new lawn chairs.

Along with all the shows there are nightly dances which are well attended. Indian fry bread, clothes, tools, cacti, beads, furs, Italian good luck charms, guns, buttons, antique tractors, dolls, blankets, miracle, magnetic bracelets which can cure arthritis, gout and impotency, flags, windsocks, health foods, vitamins, and magic rocks are all sold from white tents that cover over 10 acres. It is the largest garage sale in the world and everyone seems to be having a good time.

If you still want more, you can tour the hundreds of new and used RVs and motor homes on display. The prices range from a few hundred dollars to a one million dollar Prevost motor coach with its own hot tub. And we are told that many are sold. Well, probably not many Provosts...........

Quartzsite AZ is truly an amazing experience. Oh and the weather is nice, at least during the winter months. Sara and I have been in Quartzsite for a week and it would take a month to see everything.

DOUBLE CLICK ON EACH IMAGE TO ENLARGE..................










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EVERY WHITE DOT IS AN RV-QUARTZSITE VALLEY
EVERY WHITE DOT IS AN RV-QUARTZSITE VALLEY
THIS IS DRY CAMPING AT QUARTZSITE
THIS IS DRY CAMPING AT QUARTZSITE
RV'S AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE
RV'S AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE
SOLAR PANELS FOR DRY CAMPING
SOLAR PANELS FOR DRY CAMPING
THESE BABIES CAN GET EXPENSIVE
THESE BABIES CAN GET EXPENSIVE
WHAT A CHOICE OF GOODIES......
WHAT A CHOICE OF GOODIES......
VENDER BOOTHS FOR BLOCKS AND BLOCKS
VENDER BOOTHS FOR BLOCKS AND BLOCKS
SO MANY THINGS TO CHOOSE FROM
SO MANY THINGS TO CHOOSE FROM
A SHOPPER AND HIS DOG
A SHOPPER AND HIS DOG
REMEMBER PANTS STRETCHERS?  GET THEM WHILE THEY ARE HOT
REMEMBER PANTS STRETCHERS? GET THEM WHILE THEY ARE HOT
LOTS OF GUNS FOR SALE
LOTS OF GUNS FOR SALE
ANYONE FOR A STEAM ENGINE, SLED, LOBSTER TRAP, WAGON WHEEL OR LIFE PRESERVER
ANYONE FOR A STEAM ENGINE, SLED, LOBSTER TRAP, WAGON WHEEL OR LIFE PRESERVER
FOLKS BUY WAGON LOADS OF ROCKS
FOLKS BUY WAGON LOADS OF ROCKS
THE CACTUS SALE TENT
THE CACTUS SALE TENT
LOCAL LOVERS AT QUARTZSITE
LOCAL LOVERS AT QUARTZSITE
SARA IS CHECKING OUT THE GOODS
SARA IS CHECKING OUT THE GOODS
MOM WOULDN'T LIKE ALL THE HATS
MOM WOULDN'T LIKE ALL THE HATS
GEODES ARE EVERYWHERE IN EVERY SIZE AND COLOR
GEODES ARE EVERYWHERE IN EVERY SIZE AND COLOR
GIANT SAGUARO MARKS THE RESTROOMS
GIANT SAGUARO MARKS THE RESTROOMS
THE BURRO SHOW WAS GREAT
THE BURRO SHOW WAS GREAT
THIS TENT IS IN THE GUINESS BOOK OF RECORD-LARGEST SINGLE TENT IN THE WORLD
THIS TENT IS IN THE GUINESS BOOK OF RECORD-LARGEST SINGLE TENT IN THE WORLD
SARA WANTS TO DRIVE THIS BABY AWAY
SARA WANTS TO DRIVE THIS BABY AWAY
THE INTERIORS WERE AWESOME
THE INTERIORS WERE AWESOME
WE CHECKED OUT THE BIG ONES-LEFT THE CHECKBOOK AT HOME
WE CHECKED OUT THE BIG ONES-LEFT THE CHECKBOOK AT HOME
DOES IT REALLY WORK?  THEY CLAIM IT DOES OR YOUR MONEY BACK
DOES IT REALLY WORK? THEY CLAIM IT DOES OR YOUR MONEY BACK
BEAUTIFUL BEADS WERE EVERYWHERE
BEAUTIFUL BEADS WERE EVERYWHERE
THE QUARTZ OF QUARTZSITE-ALL FOR SALE
THE QUARTZ OF QUARTZSITE-ALL FOR SALE
GOLD OR FOOL'S GOLD
GOLD OR FOOL'S GOLD
FLAGS ARE VERY POPULAR TO MARK YOUR RIG IN THE DESERT
FLAGS ARE VERY POPULAR TO MARK YOUR RIG IN THE DESERT
HEY, LACE CURTAINS IN THE RV
HEY, LACE CURTAINS IN THE RV
THE FAMOUS READER'S OASIS BOOK STORE
THE FAMOUS READER'S OASIS BOOK STORE
INTERIOR OF THE STORE
INTERIOR OF THE STORE
POSTERIOR OF NAKED PAUL-2 ND VISIT WITH SARA-IT WAS COLD, PAUL HAD A SWEATER AND SARA WAS DISAPPOINTED
POSTERIOR OF NAKED PAUL-2 ND VISIT WITH SARA-IT WAS COLD, PAUL HAD A SWEATER AND SARA WAS DISAPPOINTED
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