RoadTrip America

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RVing with Alice and Jaimie

The Glory That Is Q: by Alice Zyetz

Aerial view of Quartzsite
Quartzsite RV Show
Quartzsite from the air


Car Show in Quartzsite
Quartzsite RV Show
The "BIG TENT"


Car Show in Quartzsite
Quartzsite RV Show
Checking out the latest generators


Car Show in Quartzsite
Quartzsite RV Show
Biodiesel display


Car Show in Quartzsite
Quartzsite RV Show
Car show in Quartzsite

When I first started RVing thirteen years ago, I had heard insiders refer to Quartzsite, Arizona, as "Q," the place in the desert "not to be missed." Driving east on Interstate 10 in mid-July that first year, I saw a sign heralding Quartzsite. "We have to get off here," I told my husband. "Everybody says you have to stop in Q at least once." So we did. I looked around at the barren sun-baked roads, the lack of people, the occasional boarded up businesses, and wondered what Q they were talking about. In 1875, Martha Summerhayes described this place as being the most melancholy and uninviting that she had ever seen, saying that it "reeks of everything unclean, morally and physically..." As far as I was concerned, it hadn't changed.

But then I returned the following January to a teeming metropolis of tens of thousands of people, mostly living in their RVs scattered throughout the area north and south of the Interstate. According to official counts, more than one million people visit the area during the winter season from November to April.

Modern-day Quartzsite, which started as a community hosting a small informal rock and gem show that attracted rock hounds, has grown to the winter home of major RV shows, swap meets, hobby and craft shows, vintage car exhibits, parades, neighboring bluegrass and jazz festivals, and of course the perennial rock and gem shows. As a result, a winter community exists that has created a variety of activities that serve the visitors when they are not shopping.

You are welcome to visit just for the day or as long as the whole season. Quartzsite is conveniently located seventeen miles east of Blythe, CA, at the intersection of Interstate 10 and US 95. [Map]

BIG SHOWS

24th Annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, January 20-28, 2007. This huge show takes place in the "BIG TENT", just 1/2 mile south of Interstate 10 on State Highway 95. No charge for admission or parking. The attendance for the 2006 show was estimated at well over 150,000. There will be several hundred new and used RV's on display in 2007 and over a dozen service bays will be offering immediate installation, repairs & service on many of the items that will be exhibited at the show. The exhibits range from generators, lifts for handicapped RVers, Biodiesel fuel, inflatable boats, to the Pampered Pooch collars for the ever-present small but darling RV dog. And, of course, there are plenty of dining options since this is a RV gathering.

10th Annual Quartzsite Hobby, Craft, and Gem Show, January 31 - February 4, 2007. More than 200 exhibits of unique clothing, jewelry items plus many other interesting products will be on display. There will be demonstrations of do-it-yourself craft items and many products for the home and kitchen.

9th Annual Quartzsite Rock & Roll Classic Car Show, February 3 - 4. Hundreds of hot rods, street rods, muscle cars and classics will converge on Quartzsite. These beautiful and unique vehicles will be displayed under and around the "BIG TENT" alongside the Hobby, Craft & Gem Show exhibits over that weekend.

The Main Event, January 5 - 31, 2007. Giant swap meet and more in two sections. Phone 928/927-4496 for the East side and 928/927-5313 for the West side.

Tyson Wells Rock and Gem Show, January 5 -14, 2007. You may find amethyst from Brazil, opals and crystals from Australia, turquoise from Africa and the U.S., fossilized geodes and ancient bones from everywhere.

Tyson Wells Sell-a-Rama, January 19 - 28, 2005. Another incredible swap meet.

41st Annual QIA Pow-Wow, January 24-28, 2007. The original super show to raise money for the town's recreation center that started the Q phenomenon. See Chamber of Commerce Calendar for complete schedule.

If you're looking for antiques, T-shirts, souvenirs, socks, wind chimes, pottery, polished rock eggs (and other items), slices of rocks for any craft use, wood carvings, clothing, medical aides, dolls, Indian blankets and jewelry, and much, much more, then Quartzsite is the place to come to in the winter. There is an old saying that if you can't find it in Quartzsite, then it hasn't been thought of yet.

MUSIC

Blythe Annual Bluegrass Festival, January 19 - 21, 2007. Three full days of bluegrass plus a quilt show

Blythe Jazz Festival, February 23 - 25, 2007. Three days of jazz. Jamming. Impromptu musical jams every day at the Q.I.A., senior center, many of the RV parks and BLM campgrounds. Look in local newspaper. Bring your instrument and join in.

OTHER ACTIVITIES

Check the calendar of the local newspaper as well as the Q.I.A. and Senior Center for the variety of classes and activities, including jewelry making, rock hounding, square dancing, various craft projects, line and social dancing, bingo, potluck dinners, etc. For more information, check out Jaimie's column on wintering in Quartzsite. More about Quartzsite is also online here.

Gatherings in Q
Alice Zyetz
Annual homecoming: Friends gather in Q


Quartzsite wildflowers
Alice Zyetz
Quartzsite wildflowers


Quartzsite winter view
Alice Zyetz
Winter in the Arizona desert


Camping off the grid in Quartzsite
Alice Zyetz
Home is where your couch is: Camping in the Spirit of Q

GATHERINGS

Many groups use January and February in Quartzsite as a time to get together. They will meet at the same campground or agree on a special location where they dry camp (boondock) with no amenities except friendship and the ubiquitous potluck meals. In addition to shopping at the shows and swap meets, when our group (more than one hundred rigs) gathers, we have a list of activities that are open to all: bicycling, four-wheeling through the back roads, bird watching, hiking, writing, beading, singing at a jam session or karaoke night, sharing other boondocking sites, sharing expertise, chatting with old and new friends, and so on. We all leave enriched by the fellowship and abundance of activities.

BEAUTY OF QUARTZSITE

One of the joys of being in Quartzsite is that you can shop until you drop one day and the next day travel just a few miles away and still enjoy the beauty of the rugged Mojave Desert and the surrounding mountains. Go south, off of U.S. 95, and explore the Kofa Mountains, including a climb to Palm Canyon, a gorge populated with native palms. Try four-wheeling through the back roads around Quartzsite. Or drive 17 miles west to the Colorado River to enjoy a variety of water sports. Or simply wait until the crowds leave and enjoy the late Spring when the quiet and the wild flowers return to Q.

WHERE TO STAY

If you motel, you can always stay in Blythe, just 20 miles away. If you want the comforts of an RV or Mobile Home park, you have more than 70 to choose from in Quartzsite. Or you could boondock on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. You can stay for free for 14 days on dispersed land (no facilities at all). Or you can pay a moderate amount and stay for up to seven months on LVTA (Long-Term Visitor Area) that includes access to fresh water and dumping facilities.

QUARTZSITE ATTRACTS INDIVIDUALISTS

When you visit, you will see the variety of RVs that come to Quartzsite. The photo at the left pictures one more contribution to the spirit of Q.

Alice Zyetz
12/3/06

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