We've come to Quartzsite about twenty miles from the California border for one of the largest RV shows in the US. Quartzsite is a strange place, hard to describe. It's in formidable desert only getting about four inches of rain a year. The landscape is sand, rocks, gravel and an occasional scrubby plant. The town has less than 3,500 full time residents, but this time of year there are an estimated million visitors here. Quartzsite has little to offer except barren property that is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, which allows folks to camp here for free. From the highway all the rigs make it look like a large city is here, but there is little in the way of stores, restaurants, and other life essentials. Last time we were here for a length of time, we had to drive ninety miles to stock up on things we needed. By April almost everyone is gone.
Because so many RV'ers are here, it makes sense to have a two week RV show. A huge tents houses hundreds of vendors and it is surrounded by other freelance vendors outside. The main tent has mostly RV products for sale, although you can also buy acrylic nails and get on a machine that jiggles and promises to help you lose weight. Once the RV show is over a huge rock and mineral show will take its place. Around the tent are hundreds of vendors selling all sorts of products from socks to foodstuffs to toy helicopters. According to their license plates they come from all over the country and appear to sell stuff the whole winter. We saw a group of vendors from Africa selling ethnic statuary and baskets, and a "desert rat" selling rusty tools out of the back of his car. The variety is mind-boggling.
For many folks the shopping frenzy is immaterial. They come here to live off the grid and pride themselves going for weeks without taking on fresh water and electricity. They have solar panels and generators and recycle every precious drop of water. Many have satellite dishes like we do so they can watch more than the two Spanish language TV channels we can get over the air and stay connected. They park in communal circles which look from above like the circles settlers made as they traveled across this country to protect themselves from Indian attack. It feels like there are almost as many dogs as people here. The small ones are brought to the RV show in baby buggies or carried on the owner's chest in a halter and the big ones on leashes trip us up every so often. Over all the people here don't look like they come from middle America - fringe America comes to mind.