Traditionally, naming seagoing vessels was a way to identify and communicate with each other. When two ships would come into close contact, a sailor on watch would put his long glass up to his eye to read the name on the ship’s stern to read the name of the vessel.
What started as a nautical tradition has gone hard aground and meandered it’s way to RVs. However, now it’s called ‘branding’.
Recently, we looked into acquiring a better and more attractive set of entry steps to replace the ones that came on our 2016 Heartland Landmark 5th wheel. Unfortunately, the manual pull-out steps appropriated for our 5th wheel were rapidly degrading and looking deplorable.
In January of 2017, we boondocked in Quartzsite, Arizona with the Escapees Xscapers. Sadly, the weather was just plain snotty, cold, windy and rainy. It reminded us of pre-winter days in New England. Supposedly, we’ve heard that sort of weather is not typical that time of the year, but I digress.
So, what actually IS and WHERE is this place called “Quartzsite”?
Quartzsite is the Rock Capital of the World but to us RVers, its the Mecca west of the Mississippi where RVers make at least a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to. Quartzsite is located about 18 miles east of the Colorado River at the junction of US 95 and I 10 in southern Arizona.
For the first two months of each year, this town blows up with popularity. Its famous Rock/Gem Show and Swap Meet as well as the RV Show are the town’s claim to fame. Its notoriety has grown to epic proportions as does its population from 4000+ residents to an estimated million visitors… (I’m just quoting what we’ve heard from area residents). It has become known for the largest gathering of RV’s in the whole world. We equate this to a bike week for motorcycles but for longer and with more people.
Now, if you happened upon Quartzsite during these two months, you’d see hundreds…no…thousands…no…make that tens of thousands of every possible kind of camper and RV known peppering the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) desert land ‘boondocking’ everywhere.
You’d think we (RVers) had lost our marbles because, why would anyone buy a hundred(s) thousand dollar home-on-wheels with all the amenities to go live it up in the dry dirty desert? Well, that question remains; we all do it for different reasons.
Quartzsite is an annual meeting place for some and a pilgrimage for others. Some do it to get away from the daily grind to party it up while other more adventurous crowd goes hiking, dirt biking, or ATV riding. The usuals though, go rock shopping, RV shopping, and converge with big groups, etc.
One thing we’ve learned; there is no right or wrong at the Q.
|Captain America pulling our Landmark Liberty
to our boondocking site near Dome Rock at the Q
Okay then, what IS ‘boondocking’?
Also known as dispersed camping, dry camping or living off the grid, its when people, who live in homes on wheels or fabric houses go out and park in the middle of nowhere to live with limited or no amenities or hookups. That whole ‘let freedom ring’ thing. And, because its on BLM land, we really do it for free (up to 14 days per BLM). There are no campground or utility fees unless you opt for one of the local campgrounds or RV parks.
For us, our first Quartzsite experience was actually the perfect time to get away from the television because of the upcoming Presidential Innauguration. We had talked about trying this whole boondocking thing before and what better time than to start where there are amenities should we fail miserably at it.
So, being this was our first ‘long term’ boondocking adventure (more than 2 days at a time), this was a genuine learning experience.
Owning our Landmark 365 fifth wheel with a residential refrigerator, convection oven, induction cooktop, keurig coffee maker, and other electricity suckers surely presented some huge power challenges. With a little ingenuity, patience and nerve, we got ourselves through.
We called our friends…
A couple days after our arrival, we contacted our Heartland RV friends, Emily and Tim of OwnLessDoMore, who weren’t very far away and asked them to join us. They too, were new boondockers, so we did this whole experimentation gig together. Tim and Captain Dan worked on figuring out our dry-camping electrical power while Emily and I either relaxed, blogged or attended an Xscaper member-presentation or two…or bitched about having no electrical power.
Oh, about that ‘electrical power’…
Our coach was equipped with a 1000 watt inverter (because we have a residential refrigerator). Our battery bank lasted only about six hours which meant we needed to run our generator a few times a day to charge two batteries to keep running off that inverter. As we’ve shared in a previous blog posting, our Wen Generators have been our saving grace to allow us to boondock and going off the grid.
But we also had to run the generator at meal times because, like I mentioned above, our coach is ‘all electric’ (convection oven and induction cooktop). We had to monitor our electric usage and not have it running all day or night.
We also needed to run one of the generators during the night to supply power to a CPAP machine that requires humidification for one of us so that presented a whole other added issue.
Since, Dan installed a 12volt DC outlet close to the bed so we could plug in the CPAP to feed off of the battery bank so we don’t have to run a genny during sleeping hours.
Sounds simple, right?
To do that though, meant we had to beef up our battery bank from two 12volt house batteries to four 6volt house batteries when we got back to Texas in the next months. We figured approximate cost for that mod would amount to a cool grand ($1000). We estimated that would enable us to run on battery power from 18-24 hours barring use of the convection oven, induction cooktop, and both AC’s. (Note: at the time of writing this, we don’t have solid data yet).
Though we enjoy owning a full electric coach, our issue of cooking while not tethered to an electrical source meant we needed to fire up at least one of the generators just to boil water. Seriously???
So, anytime I needed to use any appliance that produced heat or excessive power draw (i.e. Keurig, induction cooktop, convection oven, etc.), both generators needed to be paralleled to power the higher wattage appliances. *sigh*
Sooooooo, that beautiful and super-convenient Keurig coffee maker I loved so much became a huge inconvenient pain in the behind! In fact, as I have learned, Keurigs are the worst energy hogs! Additionally, anything that has a heating element of some sort replicates.
So, we had to look at plan B; pre-making our coffee when both generators were on and storing the hot coffee in our thermos.
So, those are just a few things we learned on how to survive out there in the Arizona desert in our ‘all electric luxury’ 5th wheel.
Now, about this whole DESERT living…
The desert around Quartzsite is not the pictoral desert of beautiful, rolling hills of sand dunes you’ve seen in magazines. The Arizona Desert is actually craggy and rocky with small mountains and ridges with tons of washes where torrential rain water collects in rocky trenches. What may look flat from a distance is actually deep trenches and troughs. Oh, and when it rains, you best not be anywhere near them as they flood quickly which is one of the reasons why ‘we’ parked up on high ground.
There are Saguaros Cactus, Chollas, Prickly Pear Cactus and Barrel Cactus along with small Mesquites and Junipers peppering the landscape. Its scruffy and quite ugly actually which leads to the question ‘why would anyone really want to go there?’
Well, as they say, ‘when in Rome, do as Romans do’ and we did just that. We, as RVers, went to Quartzsite because it was just the thing RVers do…at least once.
On a good note, despite the cold, wet and windy weather we experienced, Quartzsite boasts awesome scrappy terrain full of single track and double track trails; the perfect playground for Jeeps, dirt bikes, ATVs & RZRs. Being ADV riders, we took full advantage and rode through the washes and trails; as solos or with other fellow adventure riding Xscapers.
|Lisa being her rebel self|
|Captain Dan at the base of Dome Rock|
|Our Xscaper ADVer group is ready to roll|
So, there you have it. Now you know what Quartzsite or ‘the Q’ is all about and our ‘First Quartzsite Experience’. We learned a lot. We failed at some and succeeded at others but we came out alive knowing what we need to do to prepare ourselves for next year.
One of our favorite homemade soups not only warms our bellies but also our hearts and souls. It’s a perfect dish for any day of the year. Soups don’t have to be complex. Though this is a soup, don’t be fooled into thinking this can’t be a meal. This scrumptious soup includes ingredients from every food group.
Almost every week it seems, on one or more of the RV related Facebook group pages we frequent, a topic we call ‘RV Wars’ happens and sometimes…no…EVERY time, it gets very heated. Comments end up getting deleted by the Admin of that group or the discussion is just plain shut down. They always end badly…ALWAYS!
Anyways, this morning, I rose with the sun, grabbed my big cup of hot joe and sat down to see what excitement I missed our favorite pages since during the eight hours I slept. All was going well until…yeah, until I start reading a new member post the forbidden, nails-on-the-chalkboard question that had me snort coffee out of my nose. There it was, staring right back at me on the computer screen…“Hi! We are newbies and were wondering what is the best RV type we should buy?” Now if that ain’t a loaded question, I don’t know what is. If only facebook groupies knew how to use the ‘search bar’ for said group’s page and typed that question instead of posting it, we wouldn’t have this come up almost every week…oh, and my laptop screen would be cleaner, but I digress. We wouldn’t have these perpetual ‘forgive me if this has been posted before but…”; its like watching the movie ‘Groundhog Day’.
Hold onto that thought…
Look, there is no right or wrong answer or best or worst RV out there. Its all a matter of perception and opinion. Everyone’s journey and dream is different. There is no ‘one size fits all’. Our perspective and experience will be different from others. We each find what fits our situation, family size, interests, toys, cost, floorplans, etc. So when someone posts that unnerving comment, “well, motorhomes are better easier…” or “5th wheels are so much better because…” or the bold faced question in the previous paragraph, you can begin to understand why it is such a controversial subject. So to help with that, we’ve compiled lists that may help answer those unnerving questions or comments.
- Easier to set up/take down (this is hugely debatable)
- Huge windshield for awesome viewing and photography
- Comfy passenger seat with platform area for laptop computer working in transit
- Passenger(s) can watch tv/movies while in transit
- Passenger(s) can make sammiches or go pee while in transit
- Generator enabled at the push of a button from inside
- Driver/Passenger(s) don’t have to leave the inside of the coach
- Large propane tank which results in less visits for refill
- More comfortable ride in transit
- Price tag; much more expensive unless you hit the lottery or heir to the queen
- Engine and Maintenance Costs are significantly higher
- Two vehicles to finance; Motorhome and Toad (transportation vehicle)
- Insurance Cost is higher; don’t forget to add in the Toad
- If your engine breaks down, could cost $$ for lodging while motorhome gets serviced
- Built in generator malfunction requires garage service
- Bigger Propane and Fuel tanks scream OUCH at the pump
- While in transit, driver and passenger(s) hears every shake, rattle and roll of everything inside
- must use high clearance/truck stop type fuel stations because of height
- Affordability (new and pre-owned)
- Maintenance is much simpler and less costly
- Space inside RV is not taken up by engine, transmission or cockpit
- Don’t lose RV home to a garage if mechanics needs to go for service
- More floor plan options and roomier
- More homey feel; residential recliners, fireplace, large entertainment centers
- Larger kitchen/galley with island
- Storage is inside the RV (cabinetry) and not underneath
- Extra storage space in truck bed away from hitch (if needed)
- Insurance is substantially less
- Easier to resell
- Can fuel truck at any fueling station without tow
- No making sammiches or potty breaks while in transit; need rest stops
- Setup/Take Down requires precise hitching/unhitching & leveling
- Smaller windshield and cockpit
- Must be proficient in large vehicle towing and backing up
- Most states disallow passengers to ride in the trailer in transit
- Lighter in weight means less stability during transit
- Riding all day in a pickup truck can be uncomfortable
Both still have to hook up or unhook utilities outside (ie. electric, water & sewage) taking the same amount of time. The only difference we’ve observed is that Class A owners can auto-level from ‘inside’ whereas 5th Wheel owners must level or auto-level from an ‘outside’ cargo compartment, however, that said, if both measured on a stop watch, the task length pretty much equals.
Class A owners claim that 5th Wheel Owners must take extra time to hitch and unhitch however, if Class A owners are towing a toad, they still have to take that same time to hitch or unhitch their toad, sometimes taking longer. As well, Class A owners claim in foul weather, they can pull into a campsite or park, lower their jacks and be done with it while its assumed that those towing a 5th wheel or travel trailer must get out to unhitch to do the same. Not true. If its nasty weather, as 5th wheel owners, we can stay hitched, level the front jacks quickly to take the weight off of the hitch and go inside to put the slides out. We can properly unhitch and fully level in the morning or when the weather breaks.
Just keep “living YOUR dream”!