Many go camping to get away from people or to social distance. Especially in the backcountry or off grid, campers want space, privacy, peace and quiet and to enjoy nature. But nothing grates on another camper’s nerves more when another camper comes to set up camp really close to their site. But, why do people do that? And, how close is camping too close?
America’s desert southwest is chocked full of wildlife of every shape, size and species. But some are dangerous and can cause injury or even death even though they are amongst the smallest of the animal kingdom. Desert spiders of the southwest United States are some of those that can pack a mean punch should you encounter them. So, it’s best to just stay clear of these venomous arachnids!
RV shows are the best places to get a peek at the new models of motorhomes, fifth wheels and campers of every size and type. But they’re also great for attending informative educational seminars, seeing and buying the latest and greatest RV accessories and products. And, they’re also great for scoring a great deal on a brand new RV! But where and when are they?
Quartzsite, Arizona has become the RV Boondocking Capitol of the world. In the past few decades, this small, eclectic desert town draws hundreds of thousands during in January and February has become a pilgrimage for traveling RVers.
One week every January, the sleep little town of Quartzsite, Arizona lures RVers from all over the United States and Canada. But what draws RVers to make this pilgrimage?
In the small desert town of Quartzsite, Arizona, a lesser-known historical achievement took place involving the United States Army, a middle eastern man and camels. The project was called The Great Camel Experiment. And Quartzsite is the place that honors the who proved to the U.S. government that camels outlasted other means of transporting military supplies across the desert southwest.
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.