After almost 2 years of planning, hundreds of YouTube videos, and over 2 months of traveling, we finally landed in Quartzsite, Arizona. Land of the eternal RV paradise and Mecca of the full time traveler. Finally, we were here.
And a week later, we left.
After all the hype and hoopla, all the videos and blogs extolling the wonders of this incredible promised land, to us at least, it fell flat.
To be fair, we tried. We tried very hard. First impressions weren’t fantastic, but we felt we had to give it a fair shake. After all, all the YouTube gurus swore it was the place to be for the winter.
But I’m still trying to figure out why.
Quartzsite itself is a tiny little town, situated in the desert where two highways cross, miles from anywhere. At first glance, it has a very run-down appearance. Corrugated metal pieces and plastic orange landscape fencing form boundaries between properties, front yards are full of all sorts of oxidized metal objects and other assorted junk, hand-painted, misspelled signs advertise shops and businesses. Civic pride seems to be all but non-existent, save for a couple of RV parks with a few well placed palm trees, and even those are just gravel parking lots.
When we stopped at the Long Term Visitors Area to purchase our permit for the winter, one of the very first things we were asked was “Do you have a way to securely lock up your generator? It’s the first thing they go after.”
Great, who’s “they”? I’ll sleep well tonight. And although nothing actually happened, the town was the kind of place that made me want to lock my doors while I drive through it. Just to be on the safe side.
There were a few ‘nice’ communities on the outskirts of town. Gated. This also didn’t do anything to settle my suspicions. Was it the influx of travelers and out-of-towners they were trying to keep at bay? Or their own townspeople? Everywhere you looked there was a definitive line drawn between the haves and the have-nots. What seemed to be lacking was a sign of any sort of middle ground anywhere. Townies were either at the top of the heap, or down-and-out, and the latter certainly made up the majority.
Small wonder. The reason becomes evident when you start shopping. Being miles from anywhere, I expected the prices in Quartzsite to be somewhat higher than larger towns, but wow! $4.35 for a loaf of bread? We’re outside the realm of reality here. Just about everything in Quartsite (except gas) fell into the higher price bracket. To the point where it made more sense to drive the 30 mile trip to Parker to get cheaper groceries, or even the 75 miles to Lake Havasu, if you wanted real selection. Which we did. Twice.
The other thing that everyone who loves Quartzsite seems to mention is the “Big Tent”, an enormous outdoor flea market geared toward RV’ers that goes on from November through to March. Again, I wish to be fair here. There are only a handful of vendors set up and selling right now, with the lion’s share of sellers to show up in January when things really get rocking. But the ones that are here seem to be intent on making their year’s income in a month or so. Prices were ridiculously high, like 20-30% higher than retail in some cases. I’m not sure where all the ‘great deals’ were that YouTube promised, but I didn’t see any. Perhaps the prices will drop when more competition shows up after the holidays. I certainly hope so for the shoppers who stay.
Please understand, this is not coming from some diva temper tantrum. I was raised in a very small town and I certainly wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. And I’m not warning anyone off or telling them not to go there. Go. Visit. Make up your own mind. I’m just giving you my take on the place. I wanted to like Quartzsite. After hearing about it for 2 years and all the wonderful things people said about it, I really wanted to like it. After all, we had planned to spend most of the winter here.
But I didn’t like it. And neither did Mike. To the point where I didn’t even bother to take any photos to post with this entry. It just wasn’t worth it.
So after a long heart-to-heart and a lengthy drive to check out the other areas that our winter permit covered, we found the Imperial Dam site just outside of Yuma. Out of the 7 LTVA areas, it has the most amenities (even showers) and the shopping in Yuma is far superior. We’ve only been here a day so far, but it already seems better. Time will tell.
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