And so it goes! After traversing Arizona moving south and westward, I finally arrived at the RVing Nirvana known as Quartzsite, or “Q”, as one mountainside proclaims visually.
I had seen a video or three on this place. Seemed cool enough. However, after having the freedom of truly boondocking, this is just a leetle different than that experience, for a van dweller. The LTVAs are more strict about rules, I suspect due to the size of the crowds. Vans or other vehicles must be camped within range of a pit toilet. You can imagine how crowded, noisy and close in those areas become as the crowds grow. Adding to the crowding issue is the fact that some self contained rigs huddle there too, leaving little room for those of us that cannot disperse. People get creative after a while, partnering with contained units to use their black tanks and try to follow the rules. I personally had done this and spoke to the ranger directly about it and had no issue. But something went awry this week, new sheriff in town I suppose, and they were going to begin demanding proof that we had black tanks in our vans. So now I’m far from friends and fireside chats, movies and potlucks, along with helping hands. But I am close to a toilet that is not on a noisy main road, crammed to the gills, and closed in. This way I can work without closing the van doors, being basically stuck with no view nor experience of the outdoors, the entire reason I’m out here to begin with!
It’s difficult enough to be working when the majority of your travel pals are retired, free to do and go when they see fit. They can pick up and move to another place on a whim; I cannot. I have to plan, coordinate with weekends or time off, and I’m not traveling light. Packing and moving 600 watts of solar, a generator, the outdoor kitchen and so forth requires time to pack up, drive to a new spot,arrive before dark, unload, and so forth. Sites must be chosen for relative quiet during the day, and always support a good quality cell signal.
True boondocking allows one to eliminate nickel and dime cost creep as well. There is no use of my shower tent allowed, so now I must go into town and pay to shower. Pay to do laundry instead of washing a days items and hanging them to dry outside. Food costs here are high comparatively – you trade convenience for the alternative two or more hours round trip to a non-tourist priced locale. Many businesses, including the LTVA fee stations, deal only in cash. Only one store provides cash back. The rest require you to use their on site ATMS, for which there are fees from the machine and from my bank. It adds up when you are travelling on a budget.
But it is fun and beautiful here, with nearly daily sunrises and sunsets to take your breath away and fill up your SD card quickly. Night skies the likes I’ve never experienced. Interesting people to meet and chat with. The camp I was with previously was terrific. Big campfire most nights, many with potlucks, lasting two to three hours. The perfect length for someone like me just breaking back into socializing after over a decade of mostly solitude. That still left time to retreat to my van on the edge of camp and have downtime with music and internal musings before an early bedtime. That 0345 alarm is pressing, as I still work East coast hours!
For a desert, it has rained often and at times, hard. We experienced 60mph gusts with constant 25-30 mph winds one night! It is overcast more often than I expected, reducing solar gain quite a bit. I’ve had a non starting van, problems with propane, and other small challenges. Do I regret it? Heck no!! But it does require thinking ahead, being more mobile than anticipated, and keeping a good perspective.
There are petty politics I wasn’t expecting, a given I guess within any group of size. There have been fun ATV rides to petroglyph caves. Delicious food whipped up in tiny kitchens by amazing cooks, including smoked Alaskan salmon chowder, spinach salad with goat cheese and roasted pine nuts and native American three sisters soup. We had movie night outside on a big traveling screen! And most importantly, I have watched people help others time and time again, restoring
It is a privilege to be here, to experience different places and people, while still working. I take that seriously. Does it cramp my desires to be off with the gang at times? Yes. But I am so thankful and grateful to be living this life at this moment. Thankful for the support of friends and family who, while they don’t really understand it, or desire it, share these joys vicariously with me. Thanksgiving has passed, but let us not forget that while our lives may sometimes be unspeakably hard, and for some, even tragic, we are alive today. We can gather up new friends, new vistas, new experiences, to enrich our memories and make new ones. We can find beauty and joy if we only look with a grateful heart.
Be open. Be forgiving. Reach for joy and delight as a child does. Laugh. Always be thankful.
From the road…