Like all small towns, Quartzsite has a unique personality all its own. There are no Wal-Marts, grocery store chains, or Outback Steak Houses. Everything is owned and operated by local citizens, and January is ‘the season’ for hordes of RVers (approximately 1.5 million according to Wikipedia) to descend on the town and boost the local economy. In the summer months, Quartzsite’s roughly 3,400 residents are on their own to live, work, and enjoy the scorching Arizona Sonoran Desert.
In our experience, contact with the local businesses and residents were friendly, open, and welcoming. The congeniality continued even when the streets of the small town resembled Christmas at Disney World with streets and businesses packed to the gills. A humongous white tent (known as the Big Tent) was erected for the annual RV show, and thousands of people swarmed the vendors both inside and outside the tent area. We visited before the big show opened and got pictures of the general crowd beforehand, but opening day was packed with no elbow room to walk the tent aisles, shop the outside vendors, or get out the camera. Quartzsite hosted this massive event without a hiccup.
There are a few interesting places to visit outside the flea market and RV show area. One was the Reader’s Oasis Bookstore. The store is relatively famous for the naked owner, who tends to his customers sporting only a “banana hammock” throughout the year. There’s a lot more to this gentleman, though, as you can read in RVLove’s blog HERE. Mr. Paul Winer is an accomplished (albeit still naked) piano player known by the name of Sweet Pie as well as running a successful bookstore. I’m semi-sorry we missed meeting Mr. Winer this trip. Maybe next time?
When entering Quartzsite, the solid quartz city limits sign features three iron camels. I wasn’t sure the significance of the camels at first, but it all became clear when we visited the Hi-Jolly monument in town. It’s quite an interesting story and a very unique historical marker. The short tale is the camels were an abandoned government experiment in 1856, but the story is quite interesting in its entirety (see below). The monument is set amidst a cemetery, which has settler families interred from the early 1800s and is meticulously maintained. It’s obvious the citizens of Quartzsite have pride in their town and care for its history.
Visitors and locals recommended Silly Al’s as the place for pizza and beer, and it wasn’t bad advice. The pizza was delicious, service wonderful, and there was a live band and dance floor where patrons got their groove on. We had a great time there with Moving Forward Adventures.
Mike and I visited a second time and were seated at a large table that accommodated couples and solo diners. A gentleman was directed to a place at the table a couple of seats down and the waitress asked, “Want your usual, Ed?” He nodded his head. It didn’t take him long to strike up a conversation and he introduced himself as a former mayor of Quartzsite. He told us elaborate stories about how the western town still abided by the Old West idea of law and government just a few years ago, all corrupt and taking advantage of the citizens and their taxation. He shared information on how people were escorted out of town council meetings in handcuffs by the crooked police chief and how his own life was threatened when he decided to run for mayor. Ed had no difficulty with keeping a conversation going about how he helped the town become what it is today by fighting the corruption of the local government. To be honest, we thought he was feeding us tall tales. Upon research when I got home, Mr. Ed Foster was telling the honest-to-goodness truth. He even had a New York Times article written on his battle with the town council, which is found HERE.
Besides the unique and larger-than-life personalities we came across in the local population of the desert town, signage of companies with clever and humorous names kept us entertained. There was also interspersed evidence of artistic flare.
The little town hosted us for five weeks, and we have absolutely no complaints. We’re not sure if we’ll return next year, but it definitely made our initial rite of passage as RVers a pleasant experience.
Thank you to the friendly people of Quartzsite.
Safe travels until we meet again.
Amazon affiliate product of the day in honor of Hi-Jolly: CLICK HERE
I love Quartzsite! Now that I live in Texas, I miss going through it on my trips between CA and AZ. I’ve been enjoying your blog reading about one of my favorite towns. Thank you!
What an amazing place! I enjoyed reading about it.
Ah! A place that’s close to my heart! My parents had a trailer there for probably 15 years after they retired. Down they’d go every winter. They always loved it when the Air Stream trailers started rolling into town. My dad had a band there called Desert Varnish. They put a plywood dance floor together and would play on the weekends. They had one of those class balls they hung up and dubbed it The Star Dusty Ballroom. It was so cool to see all the folks get out there and dance. It was out in the desert. Eventually, though, the BLM put a concrete dance floor in for them. They used to have upwards of 100+ people on the weekends. The band was also on one of the local TV stations on the weekend. And during their time there a documentary crew from the BBC did a film of Quartzsite and its goings on called “Spending The Children’s Inheritance.” Dad’s band was it in briefly. The title was a bit misleading. It ended up being about “trailer-hopping”, if you get my drift! One of the last winters they were there mom and dad were at a gas station filling up and when dad walked in to pay, a guy ran up to the car and said to mom, “Was THAT Ed Moore???” When he got back to the car mom said, “Well, you’re finally famous!” 😀 Thanks for the trip down memory lane. That was 20 years ago, bw… Dad died in 1997.
What an interesting community from so many perspectives. I don’t know if I would visit, though, because of all those visitors. That’s a bit too crowded for my liking. But I certainly appreciate your insightful tour.
Thanks for sharing a little more about Quartzsite, Dawn. It is a word we hear often in the RV community, but have never been ourselves. Frankly, it all seemed a little overwhelming to me, but your description of the locally owned businesses and history made it a little more personal.
Ahhhhh, been to all of those places. Funny story, my parents went there long before I did and mom had her picture taken with Paul. Years later, after she passed away, I had my picture taken with him. He is quite a character!!! I can’t wait to get back out there. Although I prefer to go after the RV show is over. Lots of vendors hand around until mid February.
There was a crazy amount of people there. When we went to the RV show, it was worse than waiting in line at Disney (and there wasn’t too much RV related). I’m glad we were there before and after and got to enjoy the small town without the crowds. I’ll have to eventually get a picture taken with Paul.