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Once a year, beyond the bounds of reason, thousands of RVs all converge in the same place. The spot is a small, dusty nondescript desert town of ~3,000 people in the SW of Arizona. Under normal circumstances you might drive by without even noticing it’s there, but come January the transformation of a desert phoenix occurs. The RV’s come, and not just a few of them either…but in the hundreds and thousands! They pack and populate the desert boonies like a giant ant colony, creating a massive sprawl of boondocking RV’s as far as the eye can see.
The town is Quartzsite, AZ and it’s the biggest RV gathering on earth! What follows is a feast of sellers, flea-markets, rummage-sales, gem shows, artists, professionals and every knick-knack shack you can possibly imagine. Although there are people here for many weeks before and after, the “big show” officially runs around the last 2 weeks of January. During this time a giant tent (creatively known as the “big tent”) is raised in the very center of town, the desert becomes a massive ad-hoc parking lot and vendors cram the streets.
Now, I’ve heard alot of people say they can’t stand Quartzsite and I can certainly understand that viewpoint. There are people and cars everywhere, enough shopping to overwhelm even the most dedicated rummage-lover, and the whole thing is rather staged and crazy. But if you take your time to find a decent boondocking spot and embrace the show for it for what it is, it is SO MUCH FUN!
I mean, for starters here’s just a few of the things you can do during the show:
1/ Rummage Sales Galore – there are masses of large “shops” selling buckets of knick knacks all around town. Looking for that special drill bit? Or perhaps an RV switch? Or some kind of collapsible kitchen or outdoor equipment? Or that weird RV dohickey thing you can’t find anywhere else? You WILL find it here…somewhere.
2/ Art, Crafts & Gems – even before the official Gem Fest at the end of Jan there are massive slews of stores selling individual arts, wood carvings, rocks, gems, fossils, jewelry, unique pieces…you name it. Some are nomadic “communities” that come in and sell their stuff together, others are commercial ventures, or tribal shops. It’s ALL here.
3/ RV Repairs & Upgrades – Looking to upgrade your suspension? Get that windshield replaced? New awnings? Solar? Satellite TV? Not only can you find the shop here, but they will come out into the desert boonies to your site to do the work. Pretty nifty!
4/ People Watching & Activities – Perhaps you’d like to learn how to pan for gold? Or hang and listen to some music at the Belly Bar? Meet an author? Eat some BBQ? Get your teeth whitened (I’m not kidding)? Somewhere around here all of that is happening.
5/ Social Get-Togethers – No matter who you are, or what kind of group you would like to be part of they are ALL here. I went over to the Monaco iRV2 group for an AM get-together (even met some fellow Danes there!), had our buddies Jil&Tom from the Escapees boomers come over yesterday (in fact, these were folks we met our first few months of RVing in Utah in 2010 and just saw again for the first time since then!), had Ivan&kittyHailey come over for a visit (we met his kitty, yeah!), and are planning to see some other folks later this week. No matter if you’re single, alternative, young, old, LGBT, or even nudist there is a group for you!
We’ve actually been to Quartzsite several times before, but this is the first year we’ve hit the “big show” right at its peak. There are multiple RV parks in town, but most RVers chose to boondock in the massive swarfs of BLM land around Quartzsite, and our fav spot is one of the (relatively) lesser-visited 14-day free areas called Dome Rock just west of town. We set-up shop here on Tuesday and in the past few days we’ve been joined by several friends creating a mini-gathering of nomads in our little spot as well as some excellent happy hour’s and sunset-watching moments.
We’ll be staying here until (at least) the beginning of next week, so if anyone is in the area you’re welcome to come by. In the meantime I will be SHOPPING…and sipping
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Where Are We Today?Boondocking in the AZ desert
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