Sunday, January 25, 2015

In Quartzite it is all about making new friends…

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I am not sure what my real expectations were when we finally decided to go to Quartzsite but I think I mostly envisioned a lot of people packed into the desert with huge crowds visiting the exhibits and the big tent. Sharon envisioned lots of down time that might become a little stifling.  Well, as it turned out nothing could be farther from the truth!

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I was correct about the sea of RV’s packed into the desert and thousands of people crammed into the big tent…  However, what I hadn’t envisioned were the tight communities of people who gather in Quartzite for the social side of the RV’ing boondocking lifestyle. People who are nomadic but still in search of “community” find just that here in the Q. From the minute we drove up people such as these greeted us with open arms and made us feel right at home. Remember these are people we have never met before…

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The Class-less group of Escapees who began as a class of 2008 fulltimers have evolved into a large gathering of RV’ers who have been on the road since 2008 and others who have been on the road only on a few months. They call themselves the Class-less group since they are composed of so many different classes of fulltimers. This all inclusive group of very friendly folks far exceeded our expectations… truly an oasis in the middle of the desert!

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We have gone on hikes with some of our new friends, partaken in fireside chats, enjoyed semi-organized events such as the exquisite margarita night which even included a beautiful “house on wheels” piƱata. The evening social time beginning at 4:30 has been a big part of the frivolity that this group represents. I can truly say there are very few, if any, neighborhoods in the cities and towns around the USA and Canada that could rival the friendly atmosphere here in the Q. It has been so refreshing to spend time with like minded people who embrace this lifestyle as we have. Thank you so much Marsha and Paul Weaver for inviting us to this wonderful gathering and it was fun finally meeting the two of you for the first time too..

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We urge anyone out there contemplating retirement, whether early or not, to come join the denizens of people wandering around the USA and Canada in an assortment of homes on wheels. Quit your jobs, sell your houses and enjoy exploring this great land of ours. We guarantee that in addition to wonderful sights, you too will meet more friends and interesting folks than ever before in your life…

Take a chance and we cannot wait to welcome you on the Road of Retirement…

NOTE: We leave for Mesa, Arizona today but I am a bit behind in blogging (due to all this fun and adventure) so one more blog is forthcoming on Quartzite and our stay here…

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Few Days in Quartzsite…

imageAfter nearly four years on the road we finally decided it was time to visit the boondocker’s mecca – Quartzsite, Arizona or would it be more appropriately called The Woodstock for RV’ers… We spent one night boondocking in Quartzite on the way to San Diego along with our friends Dan and Merlene and Jim and Cookie.  At that time passing through the town we noticed it was very quiet and hardly any RV’s were taking advantage of the free overnight camping. This time would be different…

Quartzsite, located in western Arizona, is just off of Interstate 10. It's was widely known as a paradise for  rock hounds since the 1960s. Things have changed since the 60’s and Quartzsite, or the “Q” as it is often called is now home to one of the world's largest open air flea markets and home to over a million visitors each year. There obviously isn’t enough hotel space for these visitors so most of them arrive in thousands and thousands of RVs mostly during the months of January and February. It is an unbelievable sight to see.

Since we had no real affiliation with any group who annually camp out in the Q I had pretty much settled on staying with the Boomers, an Escapee Birds of a Feather group. But the morning we were departing Yuma I changed my mind after Paul Weaver contacted me and asked us to join the Classless Class which is a popular group on the Escapee Forum. We had always hoped to cross path with the Weavers one day and this was the perfect opportunity to finally meet in person! 

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We drove about 85 miles and turned off on Plumosa Road where we found the The Classless Class (a really fun group of fine folks – don’t let the name fool you!). Though we arrived ahead of the Weavers the entire Classless group was very friendly and welcoming. The week looks to be full of potlucks and group outings making us instantly feel really glad we came.  We are scrambling to learn all the names of these fine folks and testing our memory while gathering around the fire at 4:30 each afternoon for Happy Hour.

Anyway no trip to the Q is complete without a visit to see the thousands of vendors of selling rocks, gems, minerals, hats, shirts and everything else imaginable. This sleepy little town of 2-3000 people (depending on which source you trust) swells to over 100,000 in January and February. They say that about 1.5 million people visit the Q annually and mostly in winter. And with very little precipitation in the area (only 3.51 inches annually) there are plenty of days to shop.

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Our impression of this very large show was that we must already have all the “stuff” we need as we walked for over half a day and never found a thing we just had to have. Sharon did see a few things she wanted but wasn’t willing to get rid of anything (if you know the rules). So after seeing nothing special we chose to drive over to the mountain with the “Q” emblazoned on its side and hike up to the top.

This isn’t a very long or overly steep hike and it’s not all that scenic as there is a bunch of trash in the area. the real treat was the expansive views we got once we got to the top and summited… The panorama was a sea of RV’s all over the desert replacing creosote bushes as the most common thing found in this desert. It was indeed a pretty cool sight from the top…

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We ended the day by stopping at the Yacht Club bar on Main Street in Quartzsite to meet other RVillagers for a happy hour hosted by the founder of RVillage, Curtis. We met lots of RV’ers and quite a few bloggers there. We sat a table with fun group that included the Geeks on Wheels while Curtis and the Technomadia Bloggers, Chris and Cherie sat at the table next to us. We had fun but had to leave early missing the opportunity to meet all of RVillagers there but the big fire back at camp was calling our name.  This boondocking experience is becoming as event filled as any resort we've ever attended.  We just never know what to expect in this RV lifestyle while On the Road of Retirement......

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bye Yuma, Hello Quartzite!!!

 

Our last few days in Yuma Arizona had us taking one short drive over to see Mittry Lake Wildlife Area with its boondocking sites as well as simply enjoying the amenities at West Wind RV and Golf Resort.

We drove AZ Highway 95 north about 9 miles to Imperial Dam Road. Imperial Dam Road passes through part of what is known as the Yuma Proving Grounds, an Army base used for testing military equipment. Next we turned off on a pavement road that later became a dirt road which traveled alongside a canal to Mittry Lake.

As we drove around Mittry Lake we saw several boondockers in place and located a few spots that had great views overlooking the lake. The lake itself is rather striking with its blue waters and marshlands as stark contrast to the surrounding desert with its brown hued mountains. We thought it might be a nice place to get away from it all in the desert yet still see water.  And with all the coots on the lake I am sure one would be serenaded to sleep at night…. There were trash dumpsters and a vault toilets on site for convenience and little or no traffic.  We only saw one other car at the day use area while we were there.

Heading back we stopped to look at the historic military equipment on display near the Army base. I also stopped to take a picture of the base for a friend back home who had been stationed there during the Viet Nam era. He was a helicopter pilot and when I sent him the picture he relayed a funny story he recalled about his time training there:

“It was fun then. There were lots of allied soldiers there for training - Brits, Aussies, Germans - they all had much better bar drinking songs than Americans.“

I enjoyed seeing the interesting military equipment including one old Sherman Tank. As we looked closer we saw several indentations in its armored shell where it obviously took on enemy fire. I am sure there are many interesting stories that go along with each piece of equipment on display at the Proving Grounds.

Back at the RV resort Sharon and I played several last rounds of pickleball and I visited their spacious hot tub one last time the morning of our last day.  Also on our last day we used the first timer's breakfast coupon given to us at checkin.  What a fieast it turned out to be as we each took home leftovers to enjoy later.  Westwind RV and Golf Resort was a very enjoyable two week stay  The friendly Canadian neighbors around our site made it all the better and it was great to see Reg and Karen, friends we met at Betty's RV park in Louisiana. However, it was time to move on and so we did.

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We headed north on AZ Highway 95  to Interstate 10 to the town of Quartzsite Arizona. Next we drove east out of Yuma onto Dome Rock Road turning south on Mitchell Mine Road until we found the Boomers Class-Less group.  These Boomers are part of the Escapees Group and we are anxious to meet the fun folks in this group. We plan to be here for six nights to fully explore the Q experience....