Visiting the Western Arizona desert has become an annual winter destination for us since I retired in 2004, The area around Quartzsite, AZ (referred to as “Q” by everyone) is known as a “mecca for RVers”. The population of this little town swells from 3,000 during the summer to over a million and a half visitors and hundreds of thousands RVs during the “winter snowbird season”. The biggest draw to Quartzsite for us is the “Big Tent RV Show” which runs for about 10 days in late January. There are also thousands of swap meet-style venues that line every major street in Q. The other major draws are the rock and gem shows and you-name-it vendor booths.
The Big Tent, vendor areas, and the white roofs of RVs everywhere you look.
We made our obligatory visits to the “Big Tent” but didn’t buy much. We also had the “bushings” on our Road King shock absorbers replaced under warranty by the service teams from Redlands RV and Henderson’s Alignment. Luke arrived early with the RV to avoid the heavy traffic mess in the area. Star and I followed him in with the car so we had a place to hang-out during the service work which took most of the day.
Found this metal camel sculpture behind the service tents while taking Star for a walk. The camels are all around town as a salute to an 1860s military experiment in using camels for desert work.
BOONDOCKING IN BOOMERVILLE
While the town has plenty of full service RV parks, most visitors opt to stay on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) desert lands and “boondock” – live in their RVs without electrical, water, or sewer hook-ups. Modern RVs are fully self-contained with power generators (or solar), large fresh water tanks, and waste holding tanks allowing for extended time off-the-grid. (We go about 8-12 days before we require a trip to town “to dump” or a visit from a “honey wagon” and water tank.)
You can also pay to stay in “Long Term Visitor Areas” (LTVA) where “2-week” or “season” permits allow RVers access to water, garbage, and tank dumping services. We only did that our first year in Q. Instead, we now go to a section of desert that our RV Boomers Club has claimed for years where we can stay free for 14-days before we are supposed to move on to land at least 25 miles away (not always enforced). Our area, fondly called “Boomerville”, is actually about 6 miles from the Tent area and transforms into a well-developed community with parking areas for those who prefer the quiet of a solar-only area or, closer in to the action, a series of graveled branch roads where vehicles park however they prefer. The focal point of activities is called “the fire pit” where Boomers gather daily for Happy Hours, “circle” chats on posted topics each day, and, of course, food events and evening campfires.
One of our members, Tom, is a power hang-glider and each morning he flies over Boomerville capturing aerial photos he gladly shares with club members. This year about 140 RVs “checked-in” during the two-weeks of the annual club gathering. Some folks stay the full two-weeks while others stay a short time and bounce around the desert with other club gatherings or traveling friends.
Our dark colored rig is hard to see on the far left edge of this photo. Solar-only rigs are in the upper right corner across a gravel wash and the fire pit is in the middle.
Unfortunately, we were off-site when the group photo was taken for our Boomer Newsletter.
For our non-Boomer friends, I’ll try to explain the attraction to the Boomerville experience. The Boomers RV Club is not an age-based group, but rather based on a fun-loving, active state-of-mind. Our club has about 550 registered “rigs” and has an unofficial motto of “no officers, no rules, call it and they will come”. Every year hundreds of Boomer converge on this plot of desert land from all over the US and Canada on dates that coincide with the Big Tent RV Show. Most folks visit the sales tents at sometime during their stay, but the real reason for the gathering is renewing friendships, comrade and fun times. Rather than having just one or two couples hosting this gathering, in recent years, there have been various folks who have offered to “host” different events.
This year, Gretchen and Bob Mattison set-up the Welcome check-in area where new arrivals signed-in and where we would check the daily activity board. Each day’s activities from morning walks, hikes, and Zumba exercises, were hosted by different Boomers. Gretchen and Bob also provided multiple pancake breakfasts for everyone. They raised about $350 in donations for CARE (see below for more on our Escapees charity).
4:00 pm Happy Hours at the fire pit were hosted by Pam and Steve Ritchie, who made the daily announcements of upcoming events and welcomed each day’s arrivals and offered the microphone for self-introductions. “Newbies” to Boomerville are given a red piece of yarn so us ol’ timers could make them feel welcomed.
We missed a couple of popular events while we were en route and/or off-site having minor repairs done at the Big Tent service centers.
The judges had their work cut out for them (and their Tums nearby) with 30 entries. This year’s Chili Cook-off was won by Bill Rayner (shown with fist raised in victory).
The “Geraldine Contest”, which honors a late member named Jerry who dressed as a woman one day so he could attend a ladies-only outing, was won by Mark Thurmond (far right). If only their former co-workers could see these guys (oops, gals) enjoying retirement and the RVing lifestyle.
Food events are always high on any Boomer agenda. In addition to the frequent pancake breakfasts mentioned above, the potlucks and a Happy Hour wine-tasting were popular again this year.
Add an iPod boom box and the desert floor becomes a dance venue.
COLLECTING FOR CARE
In the past I have written about CARE – Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees – an adult daycare and assisted living facility (in your own RV) at our Escapees headquarters in Livingston, Texas. Most of the clubs within the Escapees (SKP) structure have adopted CARE as our RVers’ charity. Each time there is a large gathering of SKPs, you can count on some type of fund raising event. At our Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta gathering back in October our group of 46 rigs collected $2,876 through the donated auction items, wine sales, and services. Boomerville attendees were equally generous and got caught up in the “spirit” of giving – even more so after a bit of wine, tequila, and snacks. A total of $3,085 was donated this year.
Left: Vicky Webb, one of the great organizers of the CARE Auctions here and in Albuquerque, uses her purchase of Tequila to keep the bidding going. Right: Judie St. Croix and Mark Thurmond “delivered” wine refills for more donations. Thanks to all the others who helped with the auction.
I WAS BEING “GOOD”
Because of my current bout with Valley Fever, when we were welcomed I announced to everyone that I had planned to be “good” and not take on any teaching assignments or to do any physical activities. Except for a round of golf (with a cart) and chatting too much during the Smartphone discussion group, my activities were limited to food events (duh, gotta keep the strength up!), watching an evening presentation at “Pace’s Theatre” (outdoor slideshow projected on the white sidewall of Sue and Ken Pace’s motorhome), and visiting with lots of old and new friends.
Above: Sue Pace runs the slide show while hubby Ken shares G-rated images from his Burning Man trip. Right: Bob Williams (?) entertained around the fire pit one afternoon and into the evening around a roaring campfire.
I golfed with Ken Bloedel, Marc Snyder, Gary Smith, and Steve Ritchie at the Blythe Municipal Golf Course. All the women backed out so I had all the men to myself for a five-some. Hmmm, don’t go there! :-0
You can’t talk about life in the desert without talking about the magnificent sunrises and sunsets.
Thanks to Gloria King, Jenny Sheppard, Diane Hitzel, and anyone else who recognize their photos in this blog!
NEXT: GEOCACHING BOF RALLY