Friday, January 9, 2009

What About Quartzsite?

We spent one day exploring Quartzsite. That was enough for us. But if we ever wished, hoped and prayed for an limitless and unending flea market, then one day would just be the first day of forever. When we lived in a stay-at-home base in Florida, I used to think that everyone who ever owned an RV and had time off in the winter drove it to Florida to park it for the season. Apparently though, there are a million fold more who drive their rig to Arizona and park it in the great desert parking lot of Quartzsite. If you are unfamiliar with the "concept" that is Quartzsite, officially it is a town and it does show up on the map, assuming the scale of the map is adequate. It is, in fact, quite a a sprawling place. Downtown is listed as a two mile wide span; compare that to Key West which is four miles across and you get a sense of the scale. The difference is that the "town" is not made up of housing developments and brick and mortar buildings, but rather RV's, trailers, tents, stick shanties, mud huts, and anything else temporary that provides shelter from the wind, the sand, the cold nights. Additionally, pretty much everyone in the community sells something. A lot of it is pure, unadulterated junk. But not all. Lots of rock hound shops, some neato antiques. Tools. Indian artifacts. Herbs. Oils. Sculpture. Paper art. Hats. Beads. Kites. Mining equipment. Food stuffs. RV supplies are big! Flags. Tattoos. Mexican pottery. Asian Imports. Anything. Everything. If you don't need it, they sell it. If you need it, however, they probably do not. Did I mention junk? Nice junk, though; one man's trash is another man's treasure, and that said, there is lots of treasure here.

From "downtown," in any direction, as far as the eye can see, there are "rigs" parked in the desert. Some are in "parks" with some level of hookup, but many times more are just pulled off the road and into a section of the desert to form some loose enclave....and there they are. I'm sure there must be some rhyme or reason to the way things are managed, but I wasn't what I would call highly motivated to find out. Seeing was disbelieving, and I am content to leave it at that. It was not, as they say, my cup of tea. But well worth the day of exploration and now I can say I was there and I have some frame of reference for the next person who asks me if I would ever like to spend the winter there. Thank you. No. The surrounding area is very nice. And should you ask, "Did you see everything there is to see in Quartzsite?" That is not even possible. And to make that point, this one short story:

Our first stop was the Chamber of Commerce. I use the term loosely. We asked if there was an ATV dealer (booth) in town. The lady tending the office did not know. She said, and I quote, "How could I know, they are out there and I am in here." We asked to borrow the phone book, but there wasn't one. Vendors show up if and when they feel like it. Some years yes, some years no. They can set up where they usually do...or anywhere else the spirit moves them. The "map" of town shows areas where "markets" are established, more or less- even that map was not so hot. Literally, there are thousands and thousands of little "stores" under tarps of one color or another. What used to be called "The Main Event" was purchased by a guy, split into three areas. When we got to where it used to be (the lady at the Chamber apparently didn't know it wasn't there any more), a vendor told us it didn't really exist any more, however we did find the closest thing to it clear on the other side of the highway that runs through town. With all those vehicles, gas stations, even truck stops do really well. All others? Crap shoot.

The most unusual thing about the day: never (at least not in this country) have I found so many people who refused permission to take their picture. Some wouldn't even let me shoot a picture of a table full of generic beads, and one Kenyan guy got downright hostile. I understand protecting artistic propriety ( I owned a gallery and photographs were not permitted without permission) but this had nothing to do along those lines that I could understand. Heck, even the guy wearing the Wisconsin Cheese Head and passing out samples of deep fried onion rings refused to go on camera. When I asked him why not, he said it was because most of his family works for the government. Huh? What? We theorized that there were either some bad drugs in the lot, some WANTED:Dead Or Alive types behind the vendor tables (and under the cheese head hats), illegal aliens, or what have you. But you can be sure, all the images from our stroll around Quartzsite come with a verbal, even if not a written release from those whose faces and/or product appear in this slide show.

Oh, and as for the ATV part we wanted ( a whip flag so others can see us behind a dune), we drove to California and picked one up at a shop just over the border. It was only a few more miles from Quartzsite, but it SOUNDS like a big deal, doesn't it. You will note that while we have now been in California, it is still not colored in on the visited states map. Gotta stay there overnight first! Fair is fair!

Images From Quartzsite

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