Thursday, January 22, 2015

Quartzsite, AZ: Woodstock for Senior Citizens

      We stopped for a few days in Mesa, AZ to restock, refresh, retool, as well as visit with my cousin BJ Schroeder, her husband John, and meet Turk, the Wonderdog!  John and BJ love to camp and canoe/kayak whenever they get the chance. I loved chatting with John as his list of skill sets far exceeds mine.   He did give me some excellent ideas for improving my solar setup.  They also publish their own travel blog which is quite fascinating and I have borrowed a few of John's RV remodeling ideas for my own projects.  BJ is still just as outgoing and fun as she ever was.  In fact although she is older than I am, BJ is actively involved with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Unit so that tells you how much better shape she is in than her cousin.  It sure was good to see them again. 
      Quartzite, AZ is located about 140 miles west of Phoenix and only about 15 miles from the Colorado River/California border.  It is home to the not only the largest RV show, but many other events throughout the year give reason to congregate here in the desert.  Photo below courtesy of the city website. 

       No less among them are the thousands of retirees that come from wherever in the Great White North to escape the cold of winter.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has thousands of acres throughout the southwest available for unimproved or primitive camping.  Quartzsite, AZ is home to several of these.  For those of us who like to 'boondock' this is heaven.  Here, the definition of boondocking does provide several fringe benefits.  Although there are several Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA) in this region we stayed at La Posa which is just south of town and central to all the activities.  Many people camp here for the shows and even many more stay for the entire winter. The area is very hospitable to retirees, RVs, and folks such as ourselves.  These areas used to be free, but leave to the government to figure out another way to squeeze a couple of $ whenever and wherever they can.  Still, the costs are super cheap.  It is $40 for a 2 week pass and only $180 for a 6 month ticket.  For us this translated to $2.85 per day.  Once registered we are privy to camp anywhere we want in the desert in any of the BLM LTVAs.  At La Posa this included about a dozen vault style toilets, many dumpsters for trash, a dump station, and about 12 water stations for watering up your rig before heading out. Then, it's just a matter of finding a level spot with some privacy that suits your fancy.  We chose the north end of our area so as to be within walking distance of the show.  We filled our 40 gallon fresh water tank, but did also use our two 5 gallon water jugs to top off later in the week.  Solar Panels were put out and boondocking protocols in place.  This time of year the daytime temps run in the high 60s to mid 70s with cooler nights so no A/C was needed.  Obviously, there is plenty of sunshine available for solar.   
      We were about 60 yards from our nearest neighbor yet there were many, many other RVs in the area and the show was still 3 days away.  Trust me, by show time this picture contained at least another dozen RVs. 

      Still, it is a friendly, communal atmosphere here and there is no lack of services including (if you wish for a price) water delivery, sewage pickup, and even mobile RV Repair should the situation arise.  I didn't inquire as to pizza delivery.  They probably don't have reindeer pizza anyway.  Our first night we simply just relaxed and enjoyed the atmosphere and a great salad.  There were many types of RVs throughout the area:  old, new, motor coaches, 5th wheels, trailers, tear drops, RPods, Aliners, Hi-Los, Airstreams, home made, and retro-refurbished.  Several had expanded their awning areas to include a tented room and yet others built small additions, decks, and porches for their winter relaxation.  There were areas with consolidated families, or groups to include the Airstream Gang and RV Forum Group.  I couldn't help but notice what I liked to call the Goernicke Family Bus.....from the movie "RV".   Still, you have to admire the work and craftsmanship required to restore as well as maintain this vehicle.  There is a little something for everyone here. 
     Several days of shopping before the show started consisted of visiting the other main event:  The Quartzite Gem & Mineral Show as well as visiting several gazillion venders and booths to see what we couldn't live without.  Mostly, we just added another 5 pounds of rocks to our collection.  Barb did get some lapidary hardware so we can try our hand at jewelry making when we return home.   One trip to the grocery store (there are only 3 small stores in town) led to believe we needed to stock up on several items as everyone was very busy unloading, stocking, selling, and restocking as fast as they could.  This is a BUSY week for everyone and it won't get any easier. 
      Interestingly, I did see a 'skeleton' of a Saguaro Cactus for sale. It is phenomenal that the interior structure of these cacti is actually a wooden structure of the inner vesicles and skeletal structure of this magnificent cactus.  They are truly unique.     
      Thanks to a great idea John gave me earlier in the week, after shopping at several places we made a decision on upgrading our solar.  Our battery bank is located in the back of the truck and as such, every time we go somewhere the portable panels aren't effectively charging anything.  They are in camp charging the single on board RV battery. 


      We purchased a very efficient Kyocera 235 watt single solar panel that we had mounted on the top of the truck bed cap.  We went with a single panel rather than a pair due to the cost efficiency.  Mounted with brackets allowing it to be tilted up or remain flat (for travel).  This is a very large panel.  We did have to remove the Thule Rack Bars (but not the mounts) which we will store in the truck due to room.  We added a 20 amp Sun Electronics controller that was mounted along with the wiring and mounted fuse block within the truck cap (with SAE quick disconnect) and then directly to the Trojan T-105RE battery bank itself.  This system will provide nearly 12 amps of charging capability. 
      The current 130 watt portable panel (7 amps) will remain at camp charging the on board RV battery while no matter where we go the main bank is charging as well.  Additionally, at sunset I will disconnect the truck solar SAE and use the fused portable solar extension cord to jumper from the truck bank to the on board battery for plenty of nighttime power. was not only the most reasonable quote we got, but they even understood what we wanted in the first place.  In fact one of their installers has the exact same setup on his truck.  Tough, you ask?  Nearly all RVs have their solar mounted to the roof and Kyocera has a reputation for high efficiency, tough hail resistant panels.  Additionally, I checked with my vehicle insurance and as the panels are mounted to the vehicle they are covered as well.   
      We checked out the RV show and except for a few LED lights found nothing we couldn't live without, including too many people.  There was an abundance of motor coaches and 'ginormal' 5th wheels, but not much in the way of anything else except used stuff.   NOTE TO SELF:  Quit eating BBQ at shows cause it is rarely as good as the real thing.  Since when did 'pulled pork' become the only BBQ known to man?  We spent a few more days geocaching and exploring the Hauser Geode Beds south of Blythe, CA before heading out.  This area encompasses several hundred acres of low desert floor and some hillsides. 

We found a couple of geodes as well as collected a few other interesting specimens to cut.  John Schroeder also arrived during the week to test out the new solar system on his Scamp 5th wheel.  We had him over to Mobile Casa Hilts for dinner one night and spent hours doing the 'man thing' talking about our systems and plans for future improvement.   

      We thoroughly enjoyed the Quartzsite experience.  We will certainly return here again when able, but NEVER during show week.  There are just too many people with which to contend.  I imagine it would be a bit like Super Bowl week or Mardi Gras.  In fact as one gentleman at the water station was explaining the week to me......"Its very much like Woodstock for Senior Citizens". 
      We head north now, along the Colorado River and past Las Vegas and Ely to Battle Mountain, Nevada to visit my cousin Tom, whom I haven't seen since high school. 
WiFi provided by our Verizon Hot Spot....there was plenty of signal in the desert.




  1. Thanks for dinner and conversation. Both were excellent!

  2. Nice solar set-up on your truck! I've been thinking of doing something like this as there is no room in/on a Casita for the necessary batteries and panels that I would require. Question; are you sending AC or DC from your truck to the RV, and what size & length wire are you using to do that? Huh... 2 questions. I only have a lot more actually!

  3. I have to give credit to my cousin's husband who suggested I top load the panels on my truck cap. He is quite knowledgeable on this and you might want to check out his blog. He tows a Scamp 5th wheel. "Just Finding our Way" It is a 230 watt panel on my truck that (through a controller) feeds 4 Trojan T-105 REs 6v batteries hooked series parallel. This DC than in turn is jumpered to the RV onboard battery using 16 feet of 4ga wiring capable of handling up to 60 amps although it will never draw that much. I use long cabling cause you never know where the truck will be parked at times. I have them tilted and aimed at the sun, but the truck panels always keep the battery bank topped off even when traveling. I have another 130 watt suitcase style panel that hooks directly the RV when me and truck aren't there.