Wideopen spaces of blow-torched desert surround Quartzsite.
What attracts snowbirds from BC and Alberta each year to this western Arizona town of 3,500? Warm weather, wideopen spaces and cheap living are part of the answer. Or perhaps it?s just the type of serenity that my wife and I experienced last January, sitting by a campfire in the desert, with gleaming desert stars overhead, and the spicy smell of hot dogs roasting over an open flame, listening to night vibrations and muted conversations drifting in the air while someone nearby plunked a guitar and softly sang a Hank Snow tune.
Our RV was parked alongside others in the no-fee area on the Bureau of Land Management Land surrounding Quartzsite where RVer?s can ?boondock? for free on the desert, as long as they move every two weeks to a new free location close by, or you can pay and camp for seven months for less than a dollar a day.
In town, about 50 RV parks offer full hook-up sites for $100 a month and up. Many retirees hole up until it gets too hot, and then move on, to return in the spring.
Quartzsite is a town of 3,500 permanent residents, just 20 miles east of the Colorado River on I-10, a rock-hound?s paradise since the 1960?s. These days, it is also a Mecca to well over a million visitors each year, most of who converge on this small town in a wave of RV?s during the months of January and February.
They come for the giant, ongoing mineral shows, flea markets, and annual RV Show, but stay for the experience.
Miles from Alberta to Quartzsite, Arizona: 1,850.
Miles from BC to Quartzsite, Arizona: 1,500.
Quartzsite is famous for its mild winter temperatures, giant gem and mineral show, and flea markets galore.
?The Main Event? called the 24th Annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show occurs January 20th ? 28, 2007. The 10th Annual Quartzsite Hobby, Craft & Gem Show occurs January 31st ? February 4th and the 9th Annual Quartzsite Rock & Roll Classic Car Show occurs February 3rd ? February 4th.
The Main Event includes Rocks/Gems/Arts/Crafts & Year Round Swap Meets/ HOT Air Balloons/Ultra Light/ Parachute/Bi-plane & Glider flights. City wide events start in October and end March 3-4th with the Mardi Gras Faire at Tyson Wells. In-between there are continuous happenings ranging from a Poker Run (Summer Meltdown) and the Vienna Boys Choir, Gold Rush Days, and Rock & Roll Car Show to name a few.
And that?s just the organized events. Free musical jams begin whenever two or more people with instruments run into one another, and keep this outpost hopping.
The music runs the gamut, from Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys to Patsy Cline. There are places you can go seven days a week to hear music for free in Quartzsite, like Mac McCartney singing his own true country songs.
Quartzsite has been evolving from a culture of rock-hounds to one of recreational-enthusiasts. In the 70?s the goal was a rock hunting vacation. Driving pick-up campers and pulling trailers, tourists would hunt for quartz in Palm Canyon, or turquoise near the numerous copper and silver mines in the area. Today, their children drive $300,000 rigs and prefer swap meets and music jams to rock hunting.
In January and February, 2,000 vendors, many from Canada, come to show off their rocks, gems, minerals, fossils and everything else imaginable creating one of the world?s largest open-air flea markets. Eight major gem and mineral shows as well as vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors and enthusiasts.
A week is not enough to see everything in the tacky and circus-like atmosphere of Quartzsite. The town is a visual smorgasbord of people, places, and things, which excites all the senses.
Where I live in BC it?s perpetual green. Quartzsite is a direct contrast ? perpetual brown; though sounding ugly, it?s a delightful change of scenery. A hundred steps out on the desert and away from the campsites and you experience the feeling of being in a western movie set, and find yourself looking around for horses and riders.
WEATHER / CLIMATE
Quartzsite has a classic ?low desert? climate of low relative humidity and hot summer temperatures. On the average, it receives less than four inches of precipitation a year. Shops, stores, restaurants and homes are air-conditioned year round. This is what it?s all about. Sunshine, a flawless Arizona sky and few responsibilities create a senior walk on the wild side.
Average January High: 66 degrees
Average February High: 71 degrees
Average August High: 106 degrees
For more infomation, contact the Quartzsite Chamber of Commerce at 495 Main Event Lane, Quartzsite, Arizona 85346. Phone: 928-927-5600. Further contacts include Arizona State Parks: 602-542-4174, and Arizona National Forests: 800-280-CAMP.