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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The phenomenon that is Quartzsite

Ask an RVer about his opinion of Quartzsite, Ariz., and you will receive as many different opinions as the number of RVers you ask. However, one thing they may all agree on, is that every RVer should experience the phenomenon that is Quartzsite at least once.

Quartzsite, set in the middle of a wide open desert, has plentiful camping and boondocking possibilities on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and lures hundreds of thousands of snowbirds to the weather-friendly western Arizona desert in winter. Most RVers boondock around Quartzsite, so you could end up as crowded as in a hook-up campground. But the beauty of it is that the choice of where and how sociable you want to be is yours, since there is plenty of desert out here to get lost in.

One of your camping options includes gathering a group of friends and circling the wagons much like the early pioneers did on the Oregon Trail. Though the pioneers chose this method mainly to protect themselves from marauding Indians, today's RVers seek social camaraderie instead, putting tables, chairs, and a communal campfire in the "hub" of the circled wagons.

Where to place your circle of wagons includes options like camping in close to town and having other nearby neighbors, or moving further out and having your group area all to yourselves, a definite advantage if you are nudists or practice strange rituals or ceremonies.

Several hard compacted dirt roads capable of supporting even the largest and heaviest rigs lead off into the far reaches of the desert where campsites of hard "desert pavement," resembling tile or cobblestone paving, are readily available.

If you intend on staying the season wandering the desert like nomads, camping in any or all of the seven BLM Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) in California or Arizona costs $180 for a season pass, September through April, or $40 for two weeks. You can move freely between LTVAs within the pass period.

The other option is to avoid the designated LTVAs and find your own boondocking campsite. You will not have to pay the LTVA fees, though the BLM limits your camping period to two weeks, then you have to move at least 25 miles from your previous location. You can take your chances on staying longer but you risk getting a $50 ticket (maybe more since the last time I was ticketed).

Like other RVers, you may find it a winter paradise, with random potlucks, lots of spontaneous live music jam sessions, a swap market Nirvana, Paul Winer (a nearly nude bookseller and local legend, ask anyone where he has set up shop--see photo at left), petroglyphs and other Native American sites, gem, mineral, and RV shows (the biggest events are in January), a bonanza of RV parts and accessories (including solar panels and wind turbines) at rock bottom prices, impromptu dealership sales lots eager to get you into your next rig, lots of friendly RVers to trade stories and locations with, and spectacular sunsets. On the other hand, the size, scope, and activity level may not be your cup of tea, but is still worth the adventure--at least once in a lifetime.

Check out Bob Difley's Boondocking and Snowbird Guide eBooks at

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