Roughing it Smoothly in Quartzsite, Arizona

After the holidays, I had a strong desire to get on the road again. In the RV blogs I read about many snowbirds, (or us rainbirds minus the rain) heading to the California and Arizona deserts in search of dry, warm weather. Ralph was game, so after preparing for two days, we hit Interstate 5 south towards the desert. We decided to bring my Mini Cooper instead of the motorcycle and rented a tow dolly so we could tow the car behind us. For $220 we could see if we prefer having a car with us or a motorcycle for getting around the areas where we are camped. To tow the car on a regular basis will take a $2000 investment for the tow bar, tow bar receiver and auxiliary braking system for the car (so it brakes when the motorhome brakes) and a shield to protect my little baby from road debris kicked up from the motorhome. That’s an investment we were not prepared to make just yet. It’s definitely a must for the full-time RVer’s. That’s not us…yet. Don’t know if it will ever be.

Took us two days to get to Quartzsite, just 20 miles east of Blythe, CA about 700 mile total. The Colorado River is the boundary between California and Arizona. The first thing we noticed is the .50 cent a gallon difference in the price of gas. That is .50 cents a gallon lower in Arizona. Apparently that’s the additional gas tax we pay in California.

Simon is finally getting accustomed to riding in the RV. I was shocked when he came out of his usually hiding space in the bedroom and jumped up on the sofa to enjoy the ride. Part of the time he even rode in my lap in the front seat. He’s come a long way, baby!


Why Quartzsite you may ask? In the Winter, Quartzsite, let’s call it Q, a small desert town turns into the biggest gathering of people in the country. Over one million visitors gather here in their RVs. There is an RV show at the end of January that lasts 10 days. We missed this madness by a couple of days. Besides the mild weather (average 70 degrees) and the big RV show, the draw for many snow/rain birds is the 11,000 acres of BLM (US Bureau of Land Management) land surrounding the town where you can dry camp for free or next to nothing.

Dry camping (AKA boondocking) means no hook ups for electricity, water and sewer. The RVs are designed to be self-contained…that’s why they have generators, fresh water, grey water (for sinks and shower), and black water (for toilet) holding tanks. Also there is propane for heat, stove/oven, and refrigerator. Ralph installed a solar panel on the roof that helps keep the batteries charged…that is when there is sun. We’ve had several days of overcast weather and a little cool (in the 60s). It is supposed to warm into the high 70s this weekend. We were anxious to boondock and see how long we could camp off the grid. We are now on our 8th day and the water is running low. We’ve been conservative for sure, but not really inconvenienced very much, if at all.

We are camped seven miles west of Q on BLM land that allows 14 days of free camping. The Dome Rock area is not nearly as crowded as the areas closer to Q. It’s also a little hilly. We can see the sun rise in the east and set in the west and are surrounded by mountains in all directions. This is where we’ve called home for the last nine days.


Done Rock Mountains

Done Rock Mountains

Our closest neighbor

Our closest neighbor


The sunrises and sunsets have been awesome at times.





And how about the size of this cactus!

Speaks for itself!

Speaks for itself!

There was even a boat parked here in the desert. Took a wrong turn??


Ralph built a stone fire pit from the many rocks here. We’ve had some wonderful nights next to the fire, under the stars and talking, talking, talking. And he designed a special cup holder. How’s that for Michigan ingenuity?




This trip is completely different than the last trip to the Southwestern US. We are not moving from place to place, staying in campgrounds with full hookups. It’s kind of nice to stay in one place. And it is amazing to me how fast a day can pass doing pretty much nothing other than going to the store or taking a long hike in the hills of the Dome Rock Mountains. This is also ATV country, so there are lots of dirt roads to hike. Other than going into Q to the store, our big outings have been to the vet twice and to the Kofa National Wildlife Refuse and hiking up to Palm Canyon.

Our cat Simon has a problem pooping on the road. He hadn’t gone since we left home…and that’s not good. So into the vet for a little rotor-routering. Seems the colon on old cats stop working properly. And I learned something I want to pass on to other cat owners. This clumping cat litter that we all buy for our convenience is not good for our cats…especially older cats. That stuff gets on their paws, they lick their paws and the stuff gets into their system and turns to cement while sucking all the moisture out of their digestive track. It’s the clay in the clumping litter that’s the problem. So…it’s only Yesterday’s News for my boy from here on out. It’s recycled newspaper. Simon is still adjusting to the new litter so we’ll see what happens.

The 23 mile drive south on Hwy 95 down to Kofa didn’t take long, however the seven mile drive down the dirt road to get to the trailhead for Palm Canyon was a long, bumpy ride. There are a lot of dry camping sites and it is very private and beautiful. This isn’t the desert of the Death Valley style…long flat expanses of sand. This is mountain desert with a lot of green, rocks, cacti and mountains. We wanted to visit Palm Canyon as it is the only place in Arizona with native palm trees. They are clustered in a narrow canyon in the Kofa Mountains. They are California Fan Palms and are suspected to be descendants of palms growing in the region during the last North American glaciation. The palms are able to survive in the narrow side canyons where direct sunlight is limited to about two hours and day and some moisture is available. We were able to photograph them in partial sun. Met a few people on the trail and stopped to chat for a few minutes. I must say, traveling people are very friendly and HAPPY! I do understand why.

Palm Canyon

Palm Canyon

Kofa Mountains

Kofa Mountains

We’ve decided to head back into California tomorrow morning after a stop at the RV Pit Stop to empty the grey and black water tanks and fill up the fresh water tank. We are headed to the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park for our next bookdocking camping site. We will take the car and tour the park for a couple of days. It’s only 90 miles west of here on Hwy 10. It will be an easy day.

I’m glad we came here to check it out. We both liked being here and are ready to move on down the road. The desert has a beauty all unto itself.  We will cross Quartzsite off the bucket list for now.


To quote Ralph, “There’s some beautiful-ass shit around here”. I totally agree! 

Categories: RV | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Roughing it Smoothly in Quartzsite, Arizona

  1. Bob

    Nice trip and great photos. Sure beats the 0 degree temperatures and 9 inches of snow and ice we have here in Michigan. Thanks
    Bob & Sandy

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