Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Quartzsite Boondocking Snowbirds Season 7

We left Livingston by 9 a.m. on January 5 to start our trek to Southwest Arizona.  I-10 was fairly light, but all the road construction and lane closures created needless slowdowns.  We got on US-90 and arrived at Escapees Alamo Area Lone Star Corral about an hour before sundown, giving us time to walk the park.  We are #6 on their waiting list, so we wanted to check out potential sites that may meet our future needs.  The next morning, Mom and I took another quick spin.  As we passed the dog park, a little donkey brayed, trying to get my attention.  Of course, Mom and I always stop to chat with animals (people, not so much).  Anyway, as I complimented him on his handsomeness, a sheep popped around the corner and bleated at me.  Guess he wanted me to dole out a compliment to him as well.  I was happy to oblige.


Mr. Donkey doing his cuteness act 


We were back on US-90 shortly thereafter, with virtually no traffic.  I noticed small piles of white stuff on the ground—remnants of snowfall!  We drove into heavy winds, which really affects Big Boomer’s fuel mileage.  We journeyed about 300 miles that day, pulling into the parking lot at the Marfa Visitor Center, where we would stay for the night.  I was so excited, ‘cause I was hoping to see the famous paranormal phenomena known as the Marfa Lights.  I wasn’t quite sure what they would look like.  Would they resemble the orbs when Glinda the Good Witch Arrived at Munchkin Land?  I waited patiently, and then THERE THEY WERE!  I saw red and white spheres.  The white ones seemed to move more and hang around longer than the red ones.  They were not as prolific as some photos I’ve seen.  Now I know there are naysayers who think these are just the reflection of car lights.   But this Rambling RV Rat believes they are something supernatural, and I sure was glad I had the chance to witness them.


Those piles of white stuff behind me are remnants from recent snowfalls!


Would you believe temps registered at 16F degrees at 6 a.m. the next morning?  Holy, moly, that’s cold!  We had an easy drive along I-10 to Escapees Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming, NM.  New Mexico still had some strict COVID restrictions in place, like prohibiting non-residents from utilizing New Mexico State Parks and requiring businesses like Dreamcatcher operate at only 40% capacity.  Hence, the park was fairly empty and very quiet.

 

We awoke at 5 a.m. to 29F degrees.  We decided to do a longer travel day to go straight to Quartzsite.  And with Mom doing half the driving, this was quite feasible.  That is until Mom completed one of her driving shifts and we stopped in Eloy, AZ for a “quick” lunch break.  Unfortunately, there was nothing quick about it because Mom took a nasty fall.  Now she would love to say that it occurred while hiking to the 3,374-foot summit of Picacho Peak.  But in reality she tripped over a 1-inch change in elevation as she transferred from blacktop to concrete pavement, hitting the side of her head on the cement walkway.  She had bloody knees and a fairly deep bleeding gash on the side of her forehead that resembled Herman Munster’s.  Fortunately, the bleeding stopped quickly, but Dad was certain she needed stitches.  Mom insisted there was no way, no how, she was going to an urgent care or hospital emergency room—they are COVID havens.  She opted instead to be like a pioneer.  So, I gave her a shot of whiskey while Dad fixed her up with liquid bandage and butterfly stitches that we always keep on hand because, truth be told, Mom tends to be a bit clumsy.  I watched over Mom to ensure she did not exhibit any signs of concussion, but she was no more dazed and confused than normal.  Therefore, we continued our journey with Dad at the wheel.         

 

The gash on Mom's forehead, pre-surgery by Dr. Dad


We arrived in Quartzsite by 3:30 and registered at the Bureau of Land Management’s office for Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs).  Then we took out Rat Patrol II, our Polaris RZR, to scout out potential sites for our “backyard” for the next 10 weeks.   Because many Canadian snowbirds, including lots of our friends, could not cross the border due to COVID restrictions, we expected Quartzsite to be less populated than in our prior 6 years.  Furthermore, friends who arrived in October reported that the area was extremely quiet through December.  So we were surprised to see so many rigs in the LTVAs (especially since we arrive the same time every year, between January 6-10).    In fact, the 3 different locations at which we set up in our prior 6 winters were already occupied.   But we ended up with a terrific site with an unencumbered view of the sunset.  The secluded lot and nearby trees made it a fine piece of desert real estate on which to settle.







January started out warm and pleasant, but later in the month we had some heavy rains (the first significant rainfall in several months we were told) and cold temperatures, bringing snow to the KOFA mountaintop.  Overall, it was a cooler and much windier season than usual in Quartzsite.  In fact, during our 2-month stay, we only had about a week’s worth of 80F+ degree days, which is fine since we prefer the more temperate 60-70F degrees.   It seemed at least 4 days a week were accompanied by high winds that lasted throughout the day, rather than just gusting intermittently.  If you are averse to dust or obsessed with cleaning, Quartzsite is probably not for you.  My parents have learned to control their obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) of constant cleaning.  After all, we must accept the negative aspects of the Sonoran Desert along with its beauty and serenity.  You can’t beat the Arizona desert sunsets!  And we were blessed with seeing a rainbow or two this year as well.

 





Due to lack of substantial rainfall throughout the year, there were limited desert blooms.   My annual visit to Celia’s Gardens was testimony to just how dry the season had been.  Several young trees that were planted recently were struggling to survive.   It wasn’t until late March that we saw a few flowering creosote bushes.  But the lack of rainfall sure kept the air arid.  The humidity in our rig registered at a mere 1%! 


A late season creosote bloom

We set up our seed and hummingbird feeders but had few avian customers this year compared to prior years.  I spotted a large bird nest between two intertwined saguaro cacti, but alas, no inhabitants in the nest.  But the saguaro shapes looked like two parents admiring the newborn baby they carried in their arms.

 

Glad we had a few customers at our hummingbird cafe


A nest built between two comingled cacti made my imagination run wild.


Spring sprung in early March: the lizards, ground squirrels, jackrabbits, and insects started to scurry across the earthen lands.  We discovered lots of coyote tracks on our explorations and heard them howl many a night, including during February’s  Snow Moon.  But we had no coyote sightings during this year’s stay as we did in years past. 



 


Sitting around the campfire, admiring the Snow Moon 

Quartzsite is usually like a homecoming.  People from all over the country gather to share hobbies, fellowship, food, and fun.  COVID canceled most group rallies, potlucks, and happy hours.  We rode Rat Patrol II to Plomosa Road, the 14 -day free access area run by the BLM.  We wanted to see what groups with whom we usually congregate might be hanging around “unofficially”.   The Montana Owners Group usually averages 50 rigs in their gathering circle.  This year, only 8 rigs were present, with only a half dozen more expected.  We stopped to chat with Drifty 1 and Connecticut Bob, folks that we knew from prior gatherings.  Then we headed over to Escapees Boomerville encampment, which consisted of a mere 18 rigs at the time of our visit.  Boy, I sure missed Norm setting up his screen and playing music videos, laying out the mats, and dancing with the Boomers under the desert’s dazzling star-filled sky.  Our DRV Suite Owners Group usually hosts a luncheon near Casa Grande.  But the organizers could not find a restaurant there that would allow a party of more than 12 people, so that, too, was canceled.  With so much NOT happening, we were thrilled to attend an RVillage get-together held at Road Runner 14-day BLM.  As would be expected, it was a smaller crowd than during our prior years of participation.  But we prefer more intimate gatherings, and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting and chatting with fellow RVers from all walks of life within all stages of RVing.  A special shout out to Thom and Anna for organizing the event.








We did get together with several friends on our own.  The best things about workcamping/volunteering while RVing is that you meet the most wonderful people and develop long-lasting friendships.

 

We were happy to have a visit from Claudia/Mike, whom we first met while workcamping in 2014.  Though we have kept in touch virtually, we had not seen them in nearly 5 years.  Boy, they looked terrific!

 


While in Phoenix to test ride and order our new Lectric brand e-bikes, we dined at the Vegan House with Bill/Sandy, friends we met at Amazon during 2015/2016 peak seasons and fellow plant-based eaters (Facebook’s Vegan Vagabond).  The Vegan House has an extensive menu, reasonable prices, attentive service, tasty food, and hefty-eater portions that satisfied even my family’s appetites.  Everyone ordered different entrees, and we all were highly satisfied with our selections. 

 



We were invited by Sylvia, whom we met as co-volunteers in Idaho last year, to stop in Yuma to see her new lot.  She, in turn, came to visit us at our desert abode twice, once while showing her friends around Quartzsite, and again to join us at dance and for lunch at Silly Al’s.

 



We also got together twice with Dean/Barbara, fellow DRV Mobile Suites owners.   They are new to full-timing and to boondocking, and we were happy to answer their questions regarding the lifestyle and our mutual DRV fifth wheel model.  We wish them well in their new endeavors and look forward to seeing them again down the road!

 



Linda/Matt, friends from the Grand Canyon Conservancy, asked if they could stop for a visit as they were traveling through Quartzsite.  Absolutely!  It was so good to see them again in person (rather than just through Facebook posts) and meet Linda’s sister Suzanne. 


 

RV Dreamers Steve/Debbie came down to Quartzsite for just a week or two.   We caught up with them and met some of their friends over dinner at Silly Al’s.  By the way, I must commend Silly Al’s for accommodating our half dozen requests this season to use our non-dairy plant-based cheese in lieu of mozzarella on our veggie supreme pizza orders.  Impressive customer service and darn good pizza to boot!


We enjoyed our annual visit with Marie/Bob down at Pueblo El Mirage, fellow full-timers from the Northeast whom we met at Crazy Horse Memorial in 2015.   We chatted and laughed the afternoon away, which is the norm for our get togethers.  (We usually pop over to say hi to Escapees friends Barbara/Al who also reside at Pueblo El Mirage, but we knew they were traveling in Texas while we were in their neighborhood.)




We left El Mirage and headed to Tempe.  Tempe is a college town with trendy, diverse-cuisine restaurants.  It has an array of modern office buildings with unique architecture/attractive facades, particularly along the Salt River.  It is also home to the Improv Comedy Club, where we had tickets to see Anthony Rodia.   Anthony is the comedic force behind the “Uncle Vinny/Tia Lucia” videos.    If you think those videos are funny, you must see Anthony’s stand-up show.  Anthony and his opener, Goumba Johnny, provided us with side-splitting laughter the entire night!  Taking material from real life experiences as a New Yorker and first-generation Italian, Anthony is hysterical!   By far, this was one of the most entertaining shows we have ever attended!   Of course, with all that laughing, patrons produced lots of air droplets with possible COVID-contamination.  Not to worry.  Masks were required inside the theater until we were seated.  There was reduced seating, and a 2-foot piece of plexiglass was installed between parties.  I am perplexed, however, by how air droplets know to go straight toward the 2-foot-high plexiglass and not travel ABOVE it?   Guess this mystery is too much for my uneducated, cotton-and-cheese-puff-stuffed brain to comprehend.

 

Great Show from Anthony Rodia and his opener Jimmy Goumba!

We built up quite an appetite from laughing so hard, so we topped off the evening with dinner at Guac Star, a plant-based restaurant right next door to the Improv.  Only in business a few months, this is a real gem.  All freshly made, tasty plant-based Mexican dishes, reasonable prices, and outstanding service by Krysta.  The smothered Burrito Grande that Dad devoured lived up to its moniker of being "Big-Ass".  Though still a carnivore, Mom was intrigued by several options, but I convinced her to go with the portabella burger with Southwest fries.  Trust me, it was awesome!  Add in the cool music video atmosphere, and Guac Star Rocks, earning it one of my coveted Rambling RV Rat 5-cheese awards. 


 







In the days leading up to the Sports, Vacation, and RV Show, many more rigs arrived in Quartzsite.  This was one of the first large attendee events to be held nationwide.  The organizers followed CDC guidelines:  a smaller footprint which reduced vendor capacity, a mask mandate, directional control of traffic flow, hand soap throughout.  We walked the nearly 3 miles from our campsite and arrived by 2 pm on Sunday of opening weekend.  There was a good number of people present, but nothing like prior years.  There were several “no show” vendors who paid for their booths but had no representatives present at the Show.   And we were disappointed that two vendors from whom we usually make purchases (Aero Wash Wax and the shoe vendor that carries boots in small sizes for Mom) opted not to showcase at the Big Tent at all this year.  We checked out the latest models of Keystone Montanas and Grand Designs Solitudes.  Unlike the prior 2 years, there were two units that we liked and that would accommodate our needs.  We also inspected a few Class A buses.  But after purchasing our 2020 DRV Mobile Suites, my parents are in no hurry to make any changes.  It was no skin off the back of Paul Everett’s RV Country—the RV vendor was successful in finding homes for over 120 rigs during the 2-week RV show, a testament to how many people are turning to RVing as an escape from COVID lockdowns or as a nomadic alternative to a traditional sticks/bricks lifestyle.

 

Once the Show ended, the RV exodus began.  The population of winter snowbirds in Quartzsite reduced so dramatically, it looked more like March 1 than February 1.  By mid-February many of the vendors in Tyson Wash had vacated as well.  We were lucky that Windshield Wizard stayed most of the season, so Big Boomer, our medium duty truck, could get new “glasses”.  The truck's windshield had more chips than a bag of Lay’s.  It was time to bite the bullet and get a new windshield rather than just repair the latest set of rock chips.  Since Windshield Wizard did a fantastic job repairing chips we incurred during our 2016 Alaskan trek, we felt comfortable having him install an entirely new windshield.  We all were mighty glad to have an unencumbered view of the road again.

 


Quartzsite is this desert rat’s natural playground.  It has hundreds of trails to explore, whether by foot, by bicycle, or by off-road vehicle.  I love to join Mom (and Dad on occasion) on 5-mile hikes/walks, admiring the magnificence of God’s work.  I often hunt for rocks/gems (only found 1 crystal this year, but scored some red jasper), and create my own rock art, placing self-portraits throughout the desert.  I tooted around on Rat Patrol II to seek out geocaches and discover desert attractions (caves, mines, cabins).  But best of all, my family became members of the Arizona Sun Riders Off Roaders, joining them on about a half dozen 60+ mile trips through the desert trails.  They are a great group of folks, and we appreciated them taking us to so many interesting and diverse locations.  I’ll tell ya all about those experiences in a separate post.

 

One of my 2021 Rambling RV Rat rock art self portrait creations


I luv the new door detailing on Rat Patrol II!




Dad teed off with friends Gayle/Dave on two occasions while Mom and I walked from hole to hole at Blythe (CA) Municipal Golf Course, scoring us our 5-miles of steps each time (normally, walking is not allowed on the course.  However, there were so few patrons, our walking caused no interference).  Dad had his usual less-than-stellar games.  But he perked up on one occasion after seeing paratroopers drop from C-130 planes overhead.  They glided through the air, landing within the Santa Maria Mountains.  What a treat to watch!  He overcame his scoring disappointment on the second occasion when he filled his belly at Garcia’s, a Mexican Restaurant in Blythe, at which we dined with Gayle/Dave, topping off our day of fun and fellowship.

 





Joan, a friend from Level 2 Dance, invited us to play desert golf at a Quartzsite course.  We scoured the local swap meets and Salvation Army Thrift Store to find old clubs, bought the special tees required, and painted our balls red to find them easily in the desert.   Now Mom normally abhors golf in any form.  Conceptually, she finds it stressful and frustrating to get that stupid ball in that little hole.  But desert golf was right up her alley.  You use only 1 club throughout the course, so she is not burdened with thinking or strategizing requirements.  And to get a hole in 1, you only need to get your ball in the large berm area with a 10-foot diameter that surrounds the stupid little cup!  Thanks, Joan, for the instruction and laughs, and for having the patience of Mother Teresa to stick with us throughout the 18 holes!


Thanks, Joan, for showing us how it is done!


If you don’t enjoy being outdoors, the Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA) usually has lots of activities in which to participate like painting, yoga, dancing, and music events.  Unfortunately, there were fewer activities offered this year for COVID-related reasons.  (For example, we were planning to take Spanish lessons, then learned no lessons were offered this year because the Canadian instructor could not cross the border.)

 

We returned to line dance classes with our favorite, most patient, most fun instructor Vernine.  Our Level 2 class was much smaller than usual since some dancing buddies didn’t feel comfortable congregating (though masks were required and most of us complied) and others did not travel to Quartzsite at all.  But, as always, we had a blast with the gang who did participate, renewing friendships and establishing new ones.  We also hold the great distinction of attending Beginner/Level 1 classes for a record 5 years!  Mom always teases that we are remedial students.  But the real reason is that we don’t practice nor go places to dance with any frequency once we leave Quartzsite each year.  That is why we enjoy March Madness, Quartzsite Style so very much.  It is a 5-hour dance party held the first Monday of March each year and beckons line dancers from nearby areas (Parker, Brenda, Lake Havasu, etc.) and even folks from as far as Sun City and Ajo.  Although we had 50% fewer participants than usual, we all had a blast, and we are so grateful to Vernine for organizing this for us for another year!

 

The Quartzsite Dance Troupe



2021 March Madness Participants


My parents also started round dance lessons twice a week, which included waltzes and two-steps.    Dad is obsessed with all the changing hand motions, which throws off his foot moves.  Mom can’t remember half of the moves and can’t keep up with Dad’s giant steps on “two turning twos”.  She wishes she could just stand on his toes like a little girl dancing with her Dad.  Watching them dance as a couple is like watching a train wreck!  OK, that’s a bit mean-spirited of me, especially since one of their lessons was immediately following the aforementioned March Madness Dance Party and they were a bit pooped.  So let me just say they won't make it through auditions for "So You Think You Can Dance".

 

The grand finales for line and round dance lessons were luncheons in late March at Karen’s Café and Times 3 Family Restaurant.  

 

Quartzsite line dance finale luncheon at Karen's Cafe 

Our Round Dance group luncheon at Times 3 Family Restaurant


We teamed up with some of our dancing friends to put our lessons to good use by attending several concerts at the QIA by the Travelers Band (who, by the way, have now disbanded).    We met a group of gals from a local RV Park who taught us some new moves, too.  We hit it off so well, some of them started attended classes with us.

 








We purchased tickets to see Michael Culipher in concert.   He is a young singing artist who pays tribute to Elvis Presley.  But Michael’s show is not limited to just The King.  In fact, Michael is a talented songwriter as well, and includes several of his original compositions in his repertoire.  His dynamic personality is reflected throughout the performance.  I loved that his show was a family affair, including his Dad, young son, and two pre-teen daughters.  Too bad so few people came out to see him, ‘cause they missed a fantastic evening.         

 



My folks picked up another new hobby:  pickleball.  For those unfamiliar, it is a paddleball sport which combines tennis, badminton, and ping pong (though I just refer to it as “old fart tennis”).  Pickleball is hugely popular in CA, AZ, and FL.   And let me tell ya, people take this sport VERY seriously, holding competitions and tournaments.  My big-time-spender parents made their equipment purchase in Walmart—a starter set of 2 rackets and 2 balls for $25.  The first few weeks they played singles at the Municipal Park, where the basketball court is also lined for pickleball and there is a portable pickleball net to use. Surprisingly, Mom wasn’t half bad (maybe her body remembered some moves from her racquetball playing days).  She and Dad (who played both tennis and racquetball in his prime) had some good volleys during their games.  I acted as lineman, and a good thing, too, since we had interference during a game point.  It seems a neighborhood kitty wanted to partake of the action, too!  My parents were then invited to join a group of friends who played regularly.  Kudos to Holiday Palms RV Resort who let this group of non-Park residents utilize their pickleball courts free of charge!  Alas, my parents didn’t know what they got themselves into!   Lots of things to learn.  First, you must line your rackets up against the fence to determine who is up next to play doubles (singles are rarely played in pickleball).  Through this method, Mom and Dad never played on the same team during all the sessions in which they participated.  There are indoor balls and outdoor balls, differentiated by the number of holes on the ball (who knew?).  The rules state you must stay out of the kitchen.    Mom really loved this rule until she learned it had nothing to do with cooking.  Actually, the “kitchen” in pickleball is the first 7 feet off the net.  Scoring, serving—more rules to remember.  But my folks held their own during play and learned a lot from this group.  Thank you Charlie, Mike, Anna, Ron, Jane, Sandy, Joe, Tom, Paul, Dave and the rest of the gang for sharing your expertise and exhibiting your fortitude and patience with the new kids on the block!


Kitty interference!




 

We experienced a CAT-astrophe!  We ran out of our tabby cat’s prescription Science Diet T/D Dental Care food!  I don’t know what is in this stuff, but she is addicted; it is the equivalent of crack for cats!  Anyhow, we were forced to make a special trip to Novak Animal Care Center in Lake Havasu during President’s Day, just a few weeks before her scheduled annual appointment.  (If anyone is in need of veterinary services, we highly recommend Novak’s.  We have utilized their services for the last 5 years.  The office staff is courteous, caring, and efficient.  Our vet is thorough. She makes appropriate recommendations, but she is not pushy.)  Normally, Lake Havasu would be packed because of the Western Pyrotechnic Association’s annual Winter Blast.  However, the organization decided to make the fireworks display a “virtual” event, so it was quiet in the area.  The good news is that we are well stocked on cat-crack and it looks like our tabby cat will be around for her upcoming 17th birthday.

 




We received the long-awaited email stating that our e-bikes were delivered to the Lectric warehouse.  We high-tailed it to Phoenix, arriving just 45 minutes before closing time.  We can now move forward with our travel plans, which were on hold for several weeks awaiting bicycle delivery.  We celebrated our new “toy” purchase with a visit to Organ Stop Pizza.  It is only a cafeteria-style eatery, but its popularity stems from its Wurlitzer Organ.   It is ginormous compared to the one I have seen at New York's Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show!   In fact, it has 6,000 pipes, percussions, and even some dancing monkey puppets!  The organist’s repertoire included John Philip Sousa, Queen, and Phantom of the Opera.  Organ Stop offers a unique atmosphere, decent pizza, and by granting our request to use our vegan cheese, great customer service.

 




Yes, we missed the company of many friends who did not travel to Quartzsite this year.  But, as you can see, we filled the void, and had another busy, diversified, fun-filled season at our Southwest Arizona boondocking winter get-away!

 

Talk to you again soon!

 

 

 

3 comments:

  1. Glad you survived that head wound Sue...they sure can bleed sometimes. Too bad the weather in Q wasn’t the best but still better than the Pacific Northwest. Looks like you still had lots of fun and socialization despite COVID. We had heard La Paz County was a hot zone at one point. Enjoy those new e-bikes...they sure are the rage these days. Hope to see you in Q next season. Safe travels!

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  2. Ouch! Glad you are alright Sue. Sure missed all of our Quartzsite friends and those beautiful sunsets!

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  3. Hi there! This is Kate from JK and the RV, that you met at Marfa the other day. Sounds like quite a fall you took. Be careful on the Lectric Bikes. Ours ride so much better since we had them tuned up by a professional. I took a fall on mine last summer in Montana, that sidelined me for several weeks. (I am clumsy also!) Hope to see you on the road again soon!
    John, Kate, and our 3 kitties.

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