January 21, Thursday
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.
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.
Recently, 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.
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.
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.
What a great evening!
January 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.
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.
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.
* * *
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 www.technomadia.com 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: https://livestream.com/accounts/10991713/solorving
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.
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