Thursday, February 1, 2024

Desert Parties, Performances, and Meet-ups – Quartzsite, AZ

The remainder of January in Quartzsite, AZ was jam-packed with special activities for us in addition to line dancing and pickleball.

Another of my desert self-portraits.

Gold Star RV Park hosted a musical variety show that we enjoyed immensely.  Our friend, Chrissy, acted as MC, and her comedic bits rivaled those of today’s late night talk show hosts.  The talented musical artists played an array of instruments, from guitars to violins to autoharp, complimenting their beautiful voices.

This fiddler is amazing!  And would you believe she is 94 years young!

We also attended an ukulele performance by 20 of the more than 60 members of the Greater Quartzsite Area Ukulele Group.  I am shocked at how many people play this instrument, including about a half dozen of our friends!  It was a fun and enjoyable evening, and we thank Gold Star RV Park for providing their venue.

These ukulele players were so much fun, Mom may be inspired enough to learn to play the ukulele herself!

We had two days of heavy rains, which canceled two group happy hours/get togethers for us.  But the forced “relaxation” was probably a good thing, and we were all rewarded with a lovely rainbow afterwards.

The nearby washes began to fill from the rainfall.

The rainbow appears to be coming out the roof of the outhouse!


The next day we all made up for lost time at the Escapees RV Club annual event, Party on Plomosa.  Held within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 14-day dispersed camping area, this event is open to the public.   The Status Crowes always provide terrific musical entertainment, and many of us with dancing feet couldn’t sit in our seats, including our friend Lisa, known as the Dancing Unicorn.   Free refreshments, games, door prizes, and an annual visit with RVing friends—what’s not to enjoy!


Friends from Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Denis and Vivian.

Catching up with Kirsty, whom we met initially at Delta Junction, AK in 2016.

Friends Jack and Sue (and adogable Teddy), whom we met when we all volunteered for CARE Octoberfest in 2019.

So great to have our annual meet-up with Deb and Randy, friends from our 2016 Amazon Camper Force days.  Meeting so many great folks, remaining in touch, and getting together down the road has been such a wonderful perk of full-time RVing.

My parents with friend Lori, the Dancing Unicorn!

Great performance by the Status Crowes.

We attended a happy hour with fellow DRV owners Davie/Nicky, along with their group of Xscapers who were hanging out for a short time at the Roadrunner 14-day BLM dispersed camping area.  Everyone was very welcoming, and a fun time was had by all.

We popped over one day to the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation, and RV Show, also known by us “locals” as “The Big Tent”.  My parents took advantage of Escapees RV Club’s show discount for membership and renewed for another 3 years, saving $30 (that translates into more cheez money for me!)  There were the usual vendors, but one that caught our eyes and my parents’ wallet:  The Geyser System Low Flow Personal Shower/Wash System.  Designed specifically for van life and car camping, it utilizes 1 gallon of water for a 15-minute shower through its proprietary tank and sponge system.  There are two options:  the tank set-up or the showerhead conversion.   We are not vanners/car campers; our fifth wheel has a 100-gallon freshwater tank onboard; and we have an inflatable 150-gallon water bladder for when we boondock for extended periods (like here in Quartzsite.)  So, you are probably wondering why the heck we purchased the showerhead conversion ($105).  Well, we loved the entrepreneurial spirit of the founder/CEO Jonathan and the fact that the product is manufactured in a small plant in Montrose, CO.  We shower every day, even when boondocking, so it would extend the life-cycle of our water supply.  But most importantly, every drop of water we all can save, especially in these Western states, helps to sustain our natural resources.  Just think of the consolidated benefit if every “dwelling”, whether a sticks/bricks or home-on-wheels, utilized this system!  And for those whose water bills are exorbitant (like folks in areas of CA), that translates to a huge monetary savings over the course of a year.  All I can say is that the product earns one of my Rambling RV Rat 5-cheese awards, and we are considering buying a second conversion set-up (again, sans the tank) for our kitchen sink.

Full system with water tank made specifically for vanners/car campers.

This is the shower conversion we purchased.

Speaking of the kitchen sink, did I tell you about the fantastic job Dad did this fall of making Mom a happy camper?  From Day 1 of purchasing Suite Retreat in 2019, Mom complained that the sink angles were no conducive to proper draining.  And the divided stainless kitchen sink was too small for her Italian-sized pots.  Her frustration was so bad, she said she no longer wanted to cook.  WHAT!  Dad went into panic mode!  He immediately got quotes for a replacement stainless steel custom-sized sink, but they were astronomical, the cheapest $3K+ and the highest $6K+.   Dad, trying to ward off Mom’s cooking boycott, decided on a do-it-yourself project.  He made an extra-deep, custom-sized fiberglass/epoxy resin sink for Mom for a mere $500.  It is so big, Mom can stack tons of dirty dishes/cookware in it and still fit the countertop sink covers, forgetting she even has dishwashing to do!  This DIY project was a winner, giving Mom the sink she desired without breaking the bank.


We took a trip down to Yuma, taking friend Sylvia for lunch at Bernardo’s, which offers tasty pizza and Italian subs/hoagies.  Bernardo’s even obliged Dad by using his plant-based cheese!  Mom found her Italian sub/hoagie delicious, and Sylvia and I enjoyed sampling both options.  We three then ventured to Fortuna Hills for Howling at the Moon.  We arranged to meet up with Vivian/Denis again, who left Quartzsite and were spending just a few days in Yuma before returning home.  If you have never been to Howling at the Moon, it is an awesome party in the desert each month between October and March when a full moon occurs.  Food and merchandise vendors, bands, and the star of the show, the full moon, combine for one howling good time.  We had spectacular weather, good friends, a fun crowd, the chance to line dance to a half dozen songs, and a gorgeous full moon for us all to howl at like wolves.  I sure am looking forward to attending again in February.


Friend Sylvia with whom we volunteered in 2020 in Idaho for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Denis was in full wolf mode, practicing his howl for when the moon rise occurred.

Dancing in the desert!

We got together for dinner at Silly Al’s with friends Debbie/Steve (from the now defunct RV Dreamers group) and their friends Rick/Angie.  We have gone to Silly Al’s on prior occasions when the Big Tent Show was ongoing, but had never seen it quite this crazy.  My family arrived at 5 p.m. to get our party of 6 on the seating list.  But we didn’t get seated until 6:30 (the host was taking parties of 2 before groups of 4 or more, which seemed weird), and we didn’t get our food until 7:30!  Good thing we had great company and lots to talk about, though no easy feat with the unbelievable noise level.  The Senior Center dance my family was to attend afterwards started at 7 p.m., but we didn’t arrive until 8:15.  At least we had a chance to join our classmates for a few line dances.


We heard from our dance classmate Cheryl that musician Kelly Hughes was putting on an impromptu concert in the desert on Saturday.   We had seen Kelly perform 2 years ago at a Howling at the Moon in Yuma, and he put on a great show.  Dad and I hopped on Maximus the Trike and Mom on her motorcycle, Yellowjacket, and headed about 5 miles down US-95 to La Paz Valley Road.  What a fantastic time!

Dance buddies Lee and Nikki.

With a blink of an eye, it is already February.  Our time in Southwest AZ is flying by rapidly.  I’ll bid adieu with some more photos of spectacular sunsets (they never get old).

Sunday, January 21, 2024

From Marfa Mystery Lights and Big Boomer’s Plight to Quartzsite Camel Delight

Yipee!  After being stationary for 14 months at home base in Livingston, TX, we were super excited to return to our nomadic lifestyle!  We began our trek to our winter “home” – the desert lands of Quartzsite, AZ.  Mom was apprehensive that she would forget all the travel preparation processes, but we departed Livingston without a hitch (a little play on words there!).


It was a damp, overcast day, and as luck would have it, we hit some rain (Mom was thankful it was not during her driving shift).  We took our usual route, utilizing the less stressful US-90 than I-10 outside of San Antonio.  We overnighted for $5 in the boondocking section of the Alamo Area Lone Star Corral, an Escapee co-op in Hondo, TX.  We chatted with a friend or two during our brief stay and headed back down US-90 the next morning.


I was so glad to see Dominic the Donkey again!

Bob and Nicky popped over to see us.

There are a multitude of big ranches along this route, which provided me the pleasure of seeing lots of pronghorn deer, sheep, goats, and cattle.  We stopped at Amistad National Recreation Area near Del Rio, TX to purchase our America the Beautiful Pass, peruse the Visitor Center, and enjoy lunch before returning to the road.   

I studied this display so intently, I think I am now an expert in animal poop identification!

We reached our destination for our second night of boondocking, the Mystery Lights Viewing Center in Marfa, TX. The first recorded sightings of these mystery lights were by Robert Reed Ellison in the early 1880s.  No one knows for certain what creates the lights, which can be red, white, or blue, and appear on the horizon above Mitchell Flats.  Some say they are caused by headlights or campfires; others assert that they are atmospheric reflections; some believe they are extra-terrestrials.   I’ve seen the Marfa lights only once on my 3 prior visits, and the conditions then were similar to this visit:  Very chilly with below freezing temps, a mid-week evening with very few people at the Center, and little traffic on US-90.   So, there were no headlights/artificial lights to play games with my eyes.  And lo and behold, I saw them!  They were prolific, much brighter spheres of white than my prior sighting!  Personally, who cares what causes the phenomenon (heck, the Marfa Chamber of Commerce may be out there in the Flats tossing lanterns around to drum up tourism).  It is just an awesome experience!


We had a fitful night’s sleep and arose early the next morning to continue with our journey to Quartzsite.  But Big Boomer, our medium duty truck, said, “not so fast!”  The engine started but conked out and would not restart.  And then there was an error light on the dashboard module.  Mom wasted no time calling Coach-net, our emergency road service.  They called every 20 minutes to give us status reports.  After an hour, they called to say they could not find any tow trucks that could handle our set-up, but they were able to reach Skip Wilton, a mobile tech outside of Alpine, TX, about 25 miles away.  What a godsend!  Skip had the computer and program needed to diagnose the problem:  failure of the injection control pressure  sensor.  The only place that had the part was an International Truck dealer in Midland, TX, more than 2 hours away.  Skip drove up the next day to purchase the part and bring it back.  Big Boomer started up immediately after Skip installed the sensor.  Coach-net would only pay for Skip’s attempt to start Big Boomer, but we didn’t care.  He was more than fair in his fee, and we were grateful he went above and beyond for us.  Skip gets a coveted Rambling RV Rat 5-cheese award for excellence!

Mobile tech Skip has one bad-ass set-up!

This puny (but quite expensive) part was the culprit!

With it being too late in the day to reach our next destination, we stayed in Marfa yet again, but we hit the road at daybreak.  As we traveled along US-90, we viewed the roadside attractions near Valentine, TX. 

A tribute to the movie, Giant, starring Rock Hudson, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor et al, which was filmed in the area.

Put your wallets away--there's nothing to buy at this Prada Store.  It is just an art exhibit.  

At Van Horn, TX, we hopped onto I-10, which provided a straight shot to Escapees Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming, NM, where we would do our laundry, refill our water, dump and tanks and enjoy a stress-free night of sleep. Dreamcatcher RV Park is reasonably priced, has spacious sites, and is offers easy access to the Interstate.


By late-afternoon on Sunday, we reached Quartzsite’s Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Tyson Wash Long Term Visitor Area (LTVA), arriving just before the payment booth closed.  Though we will be here only through mid-March, we opted for the $180 seasonal pass, which saves us about $20 over the rate of $40 every 2 weeks.   We selected a boondocking spot not far from where we stayed in 2021 and 2022.

The back yard view.

This LTVA area has changed dramatically since we were here in 2022:  BLM has installed dump/pump stations, water tanks, and stabilization ponds.  No one knows for certain when they will be available to utilize since BLM is having difficulty drilling an abundant water well.  One thing is for certain:  it’s gonna stink over here when the winds start blowing and the body waste (Mom says that is a more polite thing to say than "caca") in those ponds start to ferment!

We all had our chores to keep us busy.  Dad unloaded the motorcycles and buggy, Mom was unpacking and cleaning (again), and I had to create yet another rock art self-portrait to delineate our latest “homestead”.  (You will find my self-portraits in several places within the Quartzsite desert.)     By Monday afternoon, we were all settled in and ready to have some fun.


My Rambling RV Rat rock art self portrait.

Over the past 2 weeks, we have attended 4 days of dance lessons at the Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA) and received a warm welcome back from Vee, our beloved instructor, and all our dancing buddies.  It was SOOO good to reconnect with everyone!  Like our dancing cohorts in Livingston, TX, our group in AZ goes to local dances at various venues to put our lessons to good use.  We were happy to join our Quartzsite crew on 4 occasions already.


Classmates all listening attentively to instructor Vee.

We joined fellow line dancer, Charlie, and his group that plays pickleball at the Holiday Palms RV Park on 2 occasions thus far.  Friends Pam/Red, whom we met years ago through the now defunct RV Dreamers group, came in from Brenda, AZ to join us in play one day.  (We had so much fun, though, we forgot to get a photo.  We will be playing with them again soon, so I’ll be sure to get us all to strike a pose). The Holiday Palms RV Park graciously allows non-guests to utilize its facilities for a cost of $3/day/person or $30/month/person.  It also offers 6-month seasonal rates.  It sure felt good to be back on the courts.


Speaking of reconnections, we are parked not far from friend Melana, whom we met in Livingston in 2021 and haven’t seen since we were all in Quartzsite together in 2022.  So, we went together to Salome, AZ to view the 9/11 monument, see some petroglyphs, and shop at the Farmer’s market in Brenda, AZ.  We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Buck-a-roos, a quaint eatery within the Country Store in Brenda.  Though small in size, they have a diverse menu, even a plant-based sandwich option for Dad.  And they make all their French Fries from scratch.  I just love this little cafĂ© and my family is always happy to support a small local business!  Shortly after we returned home, friends Denis and Vivian, whom we met at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in 2022, stopped by for a visit.

9/11 Memorial in Salome, AZ

Cool petroglyphs near Salome, AZ

Lunch at Buck-a-roos in Brenda, AZ

Mike, a friend from Q dance who just got to town, came for a visit and to enjoy one of Mom’s plant-based meals.  We last got together with him in Pahrump, NV in 2022 since we were unsuccessful in having our schedules jive last year when we were all in various parts of TX.

We are so blessed to have met and remained friends with so many wonderful folks who share the full-time RVing lifestyle.

We attended a parade and an array of other events over the course of a long weekend collectively known as “Camelpalooza” to commemorate the life of Hadji Ali (whose name Americans transformed in pronunciation to “Hi Jolly”).  Ali was the first camel driver to be hired by the US Army in 1856 to explore utilizing camels for cargo transport across the Western desert lands.  From listening to bands, perusing the goods of vendors, and witnessing a historical re-enactment, I enjoyed every minute of this year’s Camelpalooza.  But, the highlight of the event was taking not one, but TWO rides on Freckles the Camel!  It certainly made up for the fact that I missed out on a ride in 2022 because the Camel Corps left town earlier than they initially indicated.


Roadrunner Rock and Gem Club won 1st Place in the parade for "Attitude".

Hi Jolly's tombstone in the background.  So fitting it has a camel adorning its peak.

Members of the historical re-enactment.

Members of the Camel Corps

Camelpalooza included music, vendors, food, and Ferris wheel.

Our first Silly Al's pizza of the season, made with Dad's faux cheese.

We have attended the Cowboy Church held at the LaPosa South LTVA pavilion, catching up with folks we’ve met in prior years.

I am thrilled to report that we sold our Polaris RZR side by side a few days ago and have a deposit already in hand from a buyer of our swivel wheel!  So, we can start to research getting a new set of wheels!  We are hoping to purchase a Jeep that can be for on-road as well as off-road use.  I said good-bye to Rat Patrol II and thanked it for the wonderful adventures it provided us with the AZ Sun Riders Off-Roading Group and for the opportunity to discover the hidden treasures within these desert lands.


It was quite chilly during our first few days here, but it has since warmed up quite nicely during the day, with comfortable temps of 60-70F degrees (sorry, I just had to rub it in, didn’t I!).

One of the things I love most about AZ is the magnificent sunrises and sunsets!  God sure paints a magnificent canvas!  The mourning doves, sparrows, and humming birds have graced us with their presence each day at the feeders.



The stages of...


These two Hummingbirds were dancing the dance while feeding.

Though we have been here just 2 weeks, we have immersed ourselves quickly into the happenings within this quirky desert town.  We are looking forward to more fun times in the upcoming 2 months.


Talk to you again soon!