Camping on a Gold Mine

January 21, Thursday

Field trip!

So, one of our number at the Xscapers convergence here at Dome Rock just outside of Quartzsite is a bonafide tour guide. He works 6 months on, 6 months off and is currently theoretically off, but I guess when out taking a walk he happened upon a fellow who is prospecting for gold on a claim only a quarter mile or so from our camp, and he arranged for a group of us to come out and get a little informal lesson in gold prospecting. A tour guide’s work is never done.


We walk out to meet the the guy, Todd, at his RV, and he takes us to the area he has been working. He does this for a hobby and has only been at it for about three months but is quite knowledgeable at good at explaining what he does. Sadly I’m not as good at remembering, any errors here are not his but my own.

He is not the owner of this claim, it is owned by a prospecting club that he is a part of, and one of the benefits of membership is that members can work any claim owned by the club and keep what they find. So he arrived a few weeks ago and scoped out the area to find a likely spot. You can see in the photo below that his dig area is in a wider section of a wash, where another wash dumps into it. Apparently the reason why this part of Quartzsite is flat enough to park RVs on is because it was bulldozed years ago when there was a gold rush in the area. Any gold found here is not a new deposit, but runoff from the mining years ago that gets exposed during heavy rains, so washes are a good place to look.

The area he's worked is circled in blue

The area he’s worked is circled in blue

There’s more to finding a good spot than just that. Gold is heavier than most other sediment, so ideally when you’re panning for gold you want to get down to the bedrock to find it. In Quartzsite the bedrock is a good 90 feet down so that’s impossible, so here Todd has scraped down a good 6-8 inches to the top of a conglomerate layer of rocks and hardened clay. He did most of this excavating by hand which takes a while. The location was also carefully picked. The widening of the wash in this area following a narrower section uphill means that when it rains, the water slows down here, allowing sediment (including gold) to settle out to the bottom.

Has Todd found gold here? Yes he has! Back at his camp, he shows us a clear cylinder with water and a little bit of sparkling sediment in it. Gold dust. But before you think about moving to the desert, hold on. There’s a reason people no longer escape out west to find their fortunes in gold. In the three months he’s been prospecting, Todd has made about $250 in gold. Nowhere near enough to live on. Apparently what you find out here is very small particles and not high quality. He says California is better and he intends to work a club claim out there in the future, but he doesn’t expect to get rich. He does this because he loves working outdoors and doesn’t mind the monotony of sifting through buckets of dirt for hours at a time.

Todd demonstrating panning technique

Todd demonstrating panning technique

camping-on-a-gold-mine-xscapers-4Recently, Todd took the $250 he made and invested it in a machine that’ll do some of the panning for him. He’s just gotten it set up and it looks interesting, the water flowing over the blue part washes lighter material out and allows the heavier materials to climb up the spiral to the hole in the center, where a container catches it for inspection. Only a teaspoon of material can go in at a time so you need to babysit it to keep it fed, but at least there’s no arm shaking.

All in all, it’s a super interesting trip and we all thank Todd heartily for his time at the conclusion of the “tour” and history/geology lesson. It turns out we’ve been camping on a gold mine and didn’t even know it!

January 22, Friday

Yesterday, a couple staying with our group quietly announced that they were putting on a music performance outside their rig tonight for anyone who was interested in showing up. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what greeted my eyes around 6 pm as the sky was getting dark.

A true stage complete with sound system, lighting, and lit backdrop. She was playing an electric keyboard, he was playing a guitar, and both were singing. And they were really, really good.

Live music and fire dancing!

And Cherie fire danced for us, awesome!

What started as a quiet gathering, sitting in chairs and tapping a foot along to the beat slowly morphed into a party. Someone got a fire going and before long there was food and drink. By the last song, every single one of us was up front dancing, and never mind talent or lack there of. It was a celebration of friendship and life on the road. A truly magical experience that I can’t really put into words; the epitome of the camaraderie I was hoping to find when I decided to go full-time RVing years ago.


The Xscapers convergence has been a gold mine in a figurative sense too – the community here is amazing

And it didn’t stop there. Following the concert a good number of people got together to play Cards Against Humanity. If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s basically Apples to Apples for adults who aren’t easily offended.

J.P's motorhome is only 30...maybe 32 feet long and it can sit 14 people, talk about space

J.P’s motorhome is only 30…maybe 32 feet long and it can sit 14 people, talk about space

What a great evening!

camping-on-a-gold-mine-xscapers-8January 24, Sunday

Besides the big tent show, there are other quirky attractions in the Quartzsite area that are worth a stop. One I won’t be making it to this visit is the nudist bookseller in town (he apparently plays a mean piano besides selling books), but today a group of us are driving out to the Sand Bar, a bar/restaurant that is quite literally in the middle of nowhere near Parker, AZ.

After exiting the highway, one must drive four miles down a primitive road through a canyon. Any vehicle can make it when the road is dry (we saw a smart car and a low-rider), but the road is not well maintained and it is very bumpy and slow going – I wouldn’t try it with a vehicle you wanted to keep in pristine condition.

Good view though!

A bit harrowing, but a nice view…

Oh, but the drive is worth it! The Sand Bar is a funky place with two tiers of outdoor seating built into the canyon and a bar and restaurant at both. It’s only open from October through April on Saturdays and Sundays, and then only from noon until 6 pm (last call for alcohol is 5). The hours may seem strange, but it makes sense in a way because it would be very easy to have an accident on the dirt road after dark and would be hard to get help out here, the place is powered entirely by solar, and outdoor seating would be miserable in the summer.

You cross a footbridge to get in

You cross a footbridge to get in from the parking lot, look at all that solar!

It’s a popular attraction and is usually very busy, but we get lucky going on a football day (no TVs here…or phone signal for that matter), so crowds are down. The food is decent (I like their seasoned fries, and the party nacho platter is ginormous!), the alcohol is decent too but the beer selection is limited from what I hear, since I don’t drink much I can’t really give an opinion. A fun place to visit either way and worth a trip for the experience.

A gem of a place in the middle of the desert

A gem in the middle of the desert

* * *

On Thursday the 28th at 7:30 pm MST (9:30 pm EST) I’m going to be a guest on a live video chat hosted by Chris and Cherie of about the joys and challenges of Solo RVing, you’re all welcome to attend!

After Chris and I present (Chris started off solo before he met Cherie), there will be a Q&A – so bring your questions about free/cheap camping or other nomadic topics. The video will be archived to YouTube afterwards for those who can’t be there.

Here’s the broadcast link:

You will need to create a quick free account with Livestream to view the video cast. Just click the link and setup an account in advance… a couple minutes ahead of time should be sufficient, but you can do it anytime.

At the Desert Bar

At the Desert Bar. Being a solo RVer doesn’t necessarily equate to being alone!


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  1. Willy on February 12, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Becky, I just found your site through technomadia and relized you guys where camped at dome rock when I was. I also visited the RTR for a couple days. The night of the music and fire spinner I was camped right above that camp. At first I was kind of disappointed because I was tired from work and just wanted to chill and thought it might be loud. But the music was good and being an old burner I injoyed the spinner. Anyway safe journys .

    • Becky on February 12, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      Funny you should comment Willy! I noticed a van parked up the hill from there and I made a comment to folks that I hope whoever was staying there didn’t mind music haha. Glad it didn’t bother you too much, the couple who performed were really good and as always Cherie rocked the fire dancing.

  2. Wendy on January 28, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Hi Becky –

    I’ve been a “lurker” on your website enjoying it for a few years now but I’ve never replied to anything. My husband, son, and I are full timing but still working regular jobs for a while longer before we can travel like we want to. One thing we really wonder about is if there are are many kids/families down there. I’m also an avid reader of Cheaprvliving and I spotted a kid in one of the pictures that had been posted. We really want to be able to gather with like minded people – everyone in our family and all of our friends basically think we’re nuts to give up the house, the rat race and all of the “stuff” that we’re all supposed to covet to live in our RV. Obviously, there are many, many people out there who feel the same way but we kind of worry about coming to some of the gatherings we get so excited about with our son. I would love to hear any thoughts you or your readers have about this. Thanks for your blog!

    • Becky on January 28, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Heya Wendy. First off, I’m glad you came out of the woodwork to comment!

      Second, the RTR had two families, and Travis and Melanie who started Xscapers have a 4 year old with another on the way. Neither of these gatherings had a lot of children, but there are certainly other full-timing families out there. Try one of these blogs and you’ll probably find more info about gatherings that are more geared toward children:

  3. Steve on January 27, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    It’s good to see you are having a great time in the desert. Well deserved after working all those hours at Amazon this past season.

    • Becky on January 28, 2016 at 2:28 pm

      It is great having this break Steve.

  4. Gary Wood on January 27, 2016 at 11:27 am

    How fun. I’m always interested by prospecting for gold. I met a young man in Shelby Idaho, along the snake river, almost two years ago that had a fifth wheel full of equipment. Everyday he would leave for his claim and return that night. He said he was making a sizable amount (whatever that is). The sure if it was a fish story, but he seemed like he was doing good.
    Gary Wood recently posted..The Cannon RoarsMy Profile

    • Becky on January 28, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      Would be a fun hobby Gary.

  5. Kelsey on January 27, 2016 at 11:20 am

    We need to join a group like that. It’s so boring coming places like this by ourselves. Def going to check out the sand bar this week!

    • Becky on January 28, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Xscapers is a good one Kelsey, and there are others out there too. Most online RVing groups have get togethers throughout the year. Enjoy the sand bar!

  6. Jim Schmechel on January 27, 2016 at 7:54 am

    I’m so happy to hear you are having fun with other nomads! 🙂 This seems like the perfect mix of alone time and companionship for you. My guess is you will leave this experience with some new long term friends. I hope your life continues to be blessed.
    Jim Schmechel recently posted..all inMy Profile

    • Becky on January 27, 2016 at 9:08 am

      Yes Jim it’s been a good time! I am enjoying the social activities but I’ll be ready for some alone time once all these gatherings are done. It’s hard to concentrate on writing with all these distractions. 😉

  7. Ron on January 27, 2016 at 7:43 am

    And who said the desert is boring? Great post, sounds like you are having a great time. Too bad those campground fees are so high.

    • Becky on January 27, 2016 at 9:06 am

      Yeah Ron, it’s too bad. 😉 Glad you enjoyed this.

  8. Dawn from Camano Island on January 27, 2016 at 6:48 am

    The boondocking lifestyle looks as if it’s agreeing with you! So glad you’re getting to see everything Q has to offer–and more! Don’t skip the used bookstore just because of the nude owner. He wears a cod piece so isn’t totally naked. We were there in December when it was cold & he was bundled up in jacket & hat. He wasn’t working at the bookstore–he actually looks quite frail & elderly. Other people appear to be running the store in his absence. And he has a great selection of books–all in all, worth a stop.

    • Becky on January 27, 2016 at 9:03 am

      I didn’t skip the bookstore for that reason Dawn, I just ran out of time. My 14 days was up and I had to go, but I’ll be back at Quartzsite on Feb 8th for the third and final gathering and hopefully will have the time to see it then.

      Yes, I am quite enjoying myself!

  9. Sandy on January 27, 2016 at 5:19 am

    YAY! I was so excited this morning when I got a notification that Becky will be the guest on Technomadia’s next Live Session on Solo RVing. Can’t wait!

    Getting ready to put the house up for sale in PA. If I had my doubts, they diminished in the aftermath of the blizzard. Living a lifestyle where you can drive away from impending storms sounds even better. Of course, you have to have a good warning first and the sense to leave, but that would be up to the driver (me).

    • Becky on January 27, 2016 at 8:58 am

      I heard that blizzard was really bad Sandy, happy to hear you made it through okay! And yeah, being able to avoid bad weather is a definite perk of RVing. As long as one has the sense to leave as you pointed out. I have weathered a blizzard in my Casita (actually I did give in and stay in a hotel room, but Cas was right outside) before and I can’t recommend it!

      Looking forward to Thursday’s broadcast, should be a good time. 🙂

      • Sandy on January 27, 2016 at 5:02 pm

        I just read your post on your blizzard experience in SD. We had it pretty easy by comparison. For once, the power didn’t go out and you had much higher winds. Amazing something worse didn’t happen. Glad you, your co-lead, and Cas survived the ordeal.

        • Becky on January 28, 2016 at 2:21 pm

          Glad it all worked out in the end Sandy. Yeah, it certainly wasn’t fun at the time but it does make a good story now. 😉

  10. Shelly on January 27, 2016 at 4:34 am

    Oh what fun! Great post Becky, looking forward to your video chat.

    • Becky on January 27, 2016 at 8:45 am

      Glad to hear you’ll be able to attend Shelly! Thanks for reading.

  11. Ed Brownfield on January 27, 2016 at 3:57 am

    Oh, how I miss that crystal blue cloudless desert sky! Only six more days until I leave the snow covered central Virginia and return to the warm southwest desert. Sounds like you are having a great time. I’m glad you are relaxing and having fun after the high anxiety time that you experienced just before getting there. Don’t you love the clear “starie” night sky too?

    • Becky on January 27, 2016 at 8:44 am

      Yep Ed, the desert is a pretty special place and the stars are amazing out here. I hope your trip out from Virginia goes smoothly, enjoy!

  12. Terry Brawley on January 26, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    Sounds like you are having a great time!

    • Becky on January 27, 2016 at 8:42 am

      Yep! It’s been everything I’d hoped it would be years ago when I was apartment-bound.

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