During the summer, Quartzsite, AZ is nothing out of the ordinary. A dusty little pit stop not far from the boarder of California along I10 where one can get gas on the way to more interesting (and cooler!) locations.
But during the winter, thousands of RVers descend upon this unassuming town and vendors arrive from all over to serve them. RV parks that go empty most of the year become full to overflowing and the town swells in a grid of tents and stalls with walkways between, lending a very ‘state fair’ type feel to the place.
At these stalls one can buy everything from clothes to sewer hoses, and homemade honey to solar equipment. Rocks and gems are a big draw and there are several businesses in town that sell them. Other events that run part or all of the winter include swap meets, ATV rallies, arts and craft shows, and of course RV shows.
One could spend a lot of money in Quartzsite with all the shopping to be had, but my interests lie elsewhere. All around town is public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). While the rules vary from location to location, the big benefit to RVers is that a lot of BLM land is open to camping, and for a much cheaper price than a campground up to and including free. There are no hookups, no shower and laundry facilities, and phone signals out in these remote locations can be sketchy to nonexistent, but for those RVers who love being out in nature, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Boondocking (camping in a natural setting without hookups) is something I’ll get into in a later post as I’m still getting my thoughts together about this, my very first experience, but I will talk a bit more about where I’ve been boondocking: the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR).
Numerous RV groups arrange gatherings, meet ups and rallies near Quartzsite this time of year due to it’s mild winter weather, abundance of BLM land, and proximity to all of the services an RVer could need. Bob Wells of Cheap RV Living started hosting this one four or so years ago and it’s grown every year.
It’s not formal like some rallies are: there is no admittance fee, no assigned parking, and no pre-arranged outings. It runs for two weeks (most BLM land has a max stay limit of 14 days, including this area) and there are seminars most days on a variety of topics from solar power to kitchen gadgets to crossing the boarder into Mexico for dental work. Seminars are informal, Bob runs some and other folks can volunteer in advance to run one, there is no pay involved.
Other activities include a nightly communal campfire (bringing wood or money for the wood fund is appreciated), and a weekly potluck soup meal (bring a can of soup or ingredients, and it all gets dumped into a huge pot and shared).
Many RTR folks are vandwellers or traveling in a smaller RV, but there are larger rigs out here too and I haven’t heard of anyone being discriminated against for what they’re traveling in – it’s a very accepting group of people.
As I mentioned last post, I came to the RTR to help give a seminar on work-camping but that aside, there are two big advantages for newbie boondockers to make their first outing with a group like this – even people like me who aren’t afraid of camping alone. First, it gives you easy access to folks who are familiar with boondocking and can give you tips and answer questions you have. Second, they’ll also likely have camped in the area before and will know where to go for the best deals on essentials like groceries and who the dependable service folks are if you need work done.
And of course these people, like you, enjoy being out in nature so you’ll have that in common (aside from being an RVer) for striking up new friendships. While the crowds and shopping of Quartzsite are not really my thing I’m definitely glad I came out for the experience and I have a feeling I’m going to leave here much richer in community than when I came.
* * *
Since a lot of people have been asking about my plans, here they are although as always it’s all subject to change. The Xscapers convergence is taking place on the 15th and 16th and I’ll be attending at least parts of that, although I’m not sure yet if I’m going to park my rig there yet or not. I may go back for the last few days of RTR after that (it runs until the 19th) and I might not. After that, I’ll be at my 14 day max limit for camping in Quartzsite and will have to leave for at least two weeks (I’ll probably get my fridge taken care of during this time), and then I’ll be back at Quartzsite, on the west side near Dome Rock for the Fiberglass RV rally that starts February 8th. Everything after that is up in the air.
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