Quartzsite, Arizona, has long been Party Central for RVers in midwinter, and this year — 2022 — we took our truck camper there to check out the action.
In many ways, the RV scene out in the desert surrounding Quartzsite was not too different than in years gone by.
There were crazy rigs rolling through the desert, sandwich signs advertising everything from at-your-campsite RV holding tank emptying services to ultra pure firewood for sale to libations of both the morning and afternoon kind.
Quartzsite is known as boondocking heaven
We always see unusual rigs roaming around the desert here
Time to dump your holding tanks? These guys come to you!
A welcome sight in the morning
A popular spot in the afternoon!
These folks sell the healthiest firewood on the planet!
In town, vendors were selling all kinds of things that would appeal to anyone living in a rolling home…and then some!
Lots of goodies for sale
But there were some startling differences in Quartzsite this year too.
As we drove through the desert boondocking areas we know and love north of town, there were a lot fewer rigs than in past winters, perhaps just 10% to 20% of what we saw a few years ago.
We used to see huge RV rallies in the desert too.
In the past, we would always tuck ourselves in between the massive Montana fifth wheel rally, where dozens of Montana owners circled the wagons around a huge campfire, and the Alpine Coach rally where we sometimes saw members enjoying catered meals along with movies displayed on a big outdoor screen by their communal campfire. Across the road, we used to wander around the Safari motorhome rally, admiring the unique paintings of wild animals that adorned the back of each rig.
These informal gatherings were always held in the same place in the desert, but this year, we didn’t see any of those rallies.
However, we did find a much bigger Arctic Fox rally than we ever remember seeing before, and we hooked up with our friends at the intimate Hitchhiker rally next door to the Arctic Foxes. With our new-to-us Arctic Fox camper and our many fond memories of living in a Hitchhiker fifth wheel, we felt right at home parking between the two groups!
Just like the rather deserted desert boondocking areas outside of town, many RV parks in town had a lot of vacancies.
An RV park on the main drag in town was empty
There wasn’t just a lack of RVers, though. The number and types of vendors was diminished too. In the past, RV dealerships from Arizona and California set up temporary lots on all the major roads through Quartzsite, and they were filled to the brim with new and used RVs.
This year we could find only three RV dealerships selling RVs from temporary lots, two in town and a third inside the RV show grounds.
All over town, the temporary RV dealership lots that used to be overflowing with rigs now stood vacant, many with locked gates and a sign indicating which dealership operated that lot.
Full of RVs in other years, the World Wide RV lot was empty in 2022
Despite the lack of RVs for sale as well the big reduction in the number of RVers staying in Quartzsite this year, we’ve seen reports that RV manufacturing has been absolutely booming. According to the RV Industry Association (RVIA), in 2021, a total of 600,240 new units were shipped, a 19% increase over the previous record of 504,599 units set back in 2017. After our visit to Quartzsite, we learned that RV shipments in January 2022 set a record too.
Apparently, despite that enormous increase in supply, the RV manufacturers aren’t keeping pace with demand.
Last summer, we visited an RV dealership selling Momentum toy haulers and were told they were not selling any units off the lot because they weren’t sure they could get replacement units to put on display for future customers. All new Momentum sales at that dealership were by pre-order only.
The same has been true with diesel truck dealerships. Most dealerships in our area have no diesel truck inventory on display and are selling new trucks by pre-order only. If a rare new one that isn’t already spoken for arrives at their lot, they price it at $5,000 over MSRP.
Of course, things change in the blink of an eye and the RV industry has always been cyclical. At the time we made this trip to Quartzsite in late January, we were paying around $3.69 a gallon for diesel fuel. Now, in late March, it is $4.99 a gallon. Although lots of people still want to get out and travel after having to stay home during the pandemic, this jump in fuel prices might discourage buyers from getting a new RV.
It was a shock to see the La Mesa RV lot completely empty. We remember fun free pancake breakfasts in their lot in other years
Whatever the causes and ramifications of the small turnout in Quartzsite in 2022 might be, we started calling this year’s edition “Quartzsite Lite.”
There were certain advantages to attending Quartzsite Lite, however. For one thing, parking was a cinch. Unlike past years where traffic was heavy and parking was difficult, traffic this year was minimal and we were able to park with ease right next to the show grounds.
As always, the Quartzsite Gem Show was in full swing at the same time as the RV show, and we admired the many fabulous and enormous crystals and gem stones that were on display.
There was a big table full of pretty amethyst crystals at the Gem Show
Herkimer diamonds! There’s a great mine in New York where rockhounds hunt for these stones
Inside the RV show we saw many familiar vendors, including the homemade ice cream vendor. A little further on, we saw a booth selling New England lobster quesadillas!
Homemade ice cream – yum!
Flown to the Sonoran Desert from the Atlantic Ocean.
Under the Big Tent we stopped by the Escapees booth to say hello and then chatted with some folks in a nearby booth promoting UTV trails in Utah. A salesman representing an RV resort in a northern state told me they came to Quartzsite looking for workcampers for the upcoming summer. He was thrilled that they filled all their positions by the third day of the RV Show! So, even with a lot fewer attendees and vendors, the companies looking to hire RVers and the RVers looking for work were still happily finding each other.
One unusual surprise was that several vendors advertised they were accepting payment in crypto currency.
Crypto currency has made it to Quartzsite!
One thing that we always love at the Quartzsite RV show is all the dogs being wheeled about in strollers, and there were quite a few!
Quartzsite is a magnet for pups in strollers!
The dogs that walk the show on their own four paws have to contend with a sea of knees and ankles, but Buddy was a trooper. While we and everyone else had all eyes on the vendors and their wares, the dogs had all eyes on each other!
There were plenty of people, but we all had room to breathe as we shopped.
Fortunately, just like the light traffic in the streets, there was light traffic inside the Big Tent too. Unlike past years, we didn’t have to shuffle cheek-by-jowel at a snail’s pace and instead could walk easily up and down the aisles.
Even though the predominant hair colors you see on the people who hang around Quartzsite are white and gray (with a few dying their hair shades of blonde and brown), there was a very hip poodle in attendance whose fashion sense leaned towards much more showy colors. She sported a bright pink tail!
The Quartzsite crowd prefers gray hair over pink, but this poodle dared to be different!
Each year it seems that many vendors at Quartzsite gravitate to one new product or another. In past years LED lights were all the rage. This year it was lithium batteries. It seemed there was a lithium battery vendor on every corner.
A variety of lithium battery brands seemed to be everywhere.
We always get smitten by some product or another, and this year we fell for two products.
First was the Mr. Sticky pet fur roller (available here). It is a roller with a long handle that you dip in water to activate its stickiness. Once it is wet, you roll it on any fabric or carpet that has pet fur on it and magically the roller pulls all the fur off. We were fascinated, and even though the vendor insisted we had to buy all three styles of roller and not just one, we’ve ended up loving them all and we use them on our fluffy comforter all the time (it is one of Buddy’s favorite napping places).
These rollers work GREAT! Her demo was good but the proof was in our fur filled comforter at home.
The other product that caught our eye was the Siberia Spirit wool socks. The vendor was from Russia and the socks were fluffy, soft and warm. The overnight temps at Quartzsite were in the low 40s during our stay and these socks were just the thing to keep our tootsies warm.
I bought a pair of goat hair socks and Mark held one out for Buddy to smell. He was enchanted. He rubbed his face all over the sock, sniffing it and brushing his snout and ears on it over and over!
Siberia Spirit – warm wool socks sold with a Russian accent!
Buddy absolutely loved the pair made of goat’s wool that had fox faces like his on them.
For the past few years RVing has been making a big splash in the media, and sure enough, there was a fenced off Media Tent right outside the show grounds. They were filming The RVers / Aviators.
A huge poster warned that if you entered the fenced area you irrevocably granted the Producer permission to film and record you and to use that material for commercial purposes indefinitely!
Gosh, and here we thought Quartzsite was just a bunch of RVers casually living it up in the desert.
If you don’t want your likeness used commercially, steer clear!
Getting back out into the desert ourselves, we headed out with a friend on a 4×4 loop trail up on Plomosa Road. This was the first time we’d ever brought our RZR to Quartzsite and what a wonderful change of pace it was.
The 4×4 trails in the area are wonderful.
We had a great ride with our friend Roy from the Hitchhiker rally
There are a ton of trails in the desert, some well worn and others seldom used. We had to consult the map to stay on track!
Some trails are small and others are very large and well traveled.
The guys had to check the map to see where the heck we were!
In one area there were plush sand dunes. The wind made wonderful patterns in the sand and Buddy loved romping around in it. We also found open mines all over the place. Lots of these old mines have been fenced off by the Bureau of Land Management so people don’t accidentally fall in, but this one was wide open.
The sand had beach-like wind patterns.
There were many open mine shafts. Mark dropped a rock into this one and it took a long time to land!
We saw a few other UTVs and ATVs on the trails and even crossed paths with a group from Salome.
One of the best things in Quartzsite is the vivid sunsets that fill the wide open sky, and we were lucky to catch a really vivid one.
A classic Arizona sunset!
We had a lot of fun going to Quartzsite this year, even though many things were dramatically different from past years. But that’s the unpredictable way of life.
Hopefully, when we drop by Quartzsite in the future, we’ll no longer call it Quartzsite Lite because it will be Quartzsite Full Strength once again!
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