The Man and I have been talking about buying land in New Mexico since the day we met. (Literally.) It looks as if it’s finally going to happen.
A friend of ours has owned land in southern New Mexico for over a decade. The land is isolated, and our friend is in her mid-70s, so her kids really don’t want her out there alone. She made us a good deal on the half acre, and we plan to be out there early next month.
At first I thought we should haul the fifth wheel out there with us, but then we started thinking about costs. The fifth wheel would need new tires, and The Man said the bearings would need to be repacked (whatever that means). We were going to have to ask a friend with an old truck that can pull a fifth wheel to haul ours, which would mean paying for his gas as well as our own and offering him a couple hundred bucks for his trouble. I quickly realized we were better off selling the fifth wheel and living in our vans on the property for the next couple months, then building some simple living spaces in the fall.
We reached similar conclusions about the solar set-up and the storage shed. Potential buyers of the fifth wheel would want electricity and a place to store their extra things. The place would be easier to sell with the amenities. Besides, where would we store the six solar panels (and three deep-cycle batteries) while we were away from the land in the summer? How would we fit the shed’s metal panels in my van (in addition to all my belongings) to transport them to our new place? It made more sense to leave those things behind and use the money we got from the sale to buy new things. I’m looking forward to a solar set-up on my van (!!!) and a new shed on the property.
I’m also looking forward to saving a lot of money in New Mexico. Gone will be the days of rent. Sure, the $550 I pay to stay in the desert RV park is nominal, but $550 is $550. I’d rather not pay it if I don’t have to. Taxes on the land are cheap, so I’ll be saving most of that yearly expenditure.
We haven’t looked into car insurance yet, but we suspect it’s going to be a lot less expensive than what we’ve been paying in Arizona. A close friend told me her insurance rates dropped dramatically when she left Arizona and changed her domicile to New Mexico.
Perhaps most importantly, we’re only going to be about 15 miles from a town with a real supermarket. Where we are now, we can drive 10 miles to a town with a small grocery store, or we can drive more than 85 miles to a city with real supermarkets. The store in the small town charges two to three times more than the city supermarkets charge. In our new place, a 15 mile drive will take us to affordable food and inexpensive ice and a public library and three thrift stores and a big hardware store and and and…
Of course, New Mexico is where The Man and I want to be. I’ve grown to appreciate Arizona, and I’ve grown to love the Sonoran Desert (those saguaros!), but I’ll be super happy to be in New Mexico again, to have a yellow license plate, to experience the Land of Enchantment morning, noon, and night.
If you’re a newbie attending the Women’s RTR at the end of the week or the RTR in the next two weeks, you may hear a lot of new terms. For the sake of public education, I decided to run this post from January 2016 again after revising and updating it.
the vocabulary or jargon of a particular subject or group of people
I hate lingo. When folks use specialized language, it feels like a separation to me–us vs. them. If you understand the specialized words I use, we have something in common and we are insiders. Those people over there who don’t understand what we’re talking about? They must be outsiders, and good riddance!
I know lingo also makes communication easier for people who share knowledge. Like pronouns, lingo saves us from having to use full descriptions every time we talk. But lingo is often exclusionary, even if folks don’t mean to use it that way. In the interest of sharing knowledge, I will now explain some of the lingo I’ve encountered while living my life on the road.
Airstream–A brand of travel trailer made from distinctively shiny metal, with curves instead of corners.
I boondocked on this BLM land.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)–Government agency that administers public land, especially in the Southwest. There is so much BLM land where folks can boondock/dry camp for free.
Boondocking–Staying somewhere (often public land) for free. Some people use boondocking interchangeably with dry camping, while others differentiate between the two and use boondocking only in relation to public land. To learn all about boondocking, read my post “10 Fundamentals for Boondockers.” My friend Coyote Sue calls dry camping in a parking lot blacktop boondocking .
Canned ham– A trailer, usually vintage, in the shape of a can of ham on its side.
Casita–Brand of a particular style of lightweight travel trailer.
*Class A—RV that looks like a bus with a flat front nose; motor home.
*Class B–A van with the comforts (shower, toilet, kitchenette) of an RV.
*Class C—motor home with a van nose and an overhead cab with a bed.
CRVL–I saw this twice at the RTR and had no idea what it meant, until I saw it spelled out in tiny letters at the bottom of a sticker. CRVL stands for Cheap RV Living, a fantastic online resource for anyone living on the road, no matter what kind of rig is involved. There’s also a Cheap RV Living YouTube channel for folks who’d rather watch videos.
I did some dispersed camping on Bureau of Reclaimation Land in New Mexico, and this was the view of the Rio Grande from my campsite.
*Dispersed camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds; sometimes called primitive camping or boondocking.
Dry camping–Camping with no hookups, sometimes used interchageably with boondocking.
*5th wheel–Trailers which hook to a hitch in the bed of a pickup truck.
Full-timer–Someone who does not have a sticks-n-bricks house; someone who lives on the road all the time.
*House battery–A deep cycle battery used to run household items in a rig.
Motor home–An RV that has a motor in it so it can be driven; a motor home can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C.
Mr. Buddy–A brand of heaters which run on propane and are very popular with vandwellers and rubber tramps.
Nomad–According to Merriam-Webster, this is a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory; an individual who roams about.
Part-timer–Someone who has a sticks-n-bricks house where s/he lives at least sometimes; someone who lives on the road sometimes, but also lives in a stationary home sometimes.
Popup–A type of towedRV that can be collapsed for easy storage and transport.
The Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico is public land.
Public Land–Land owned by a local, state, or federal government. When rubber tramps and other nomads talk about public land, they typically mean land open to (usually free) camping. Public land can include city or county parks, fishing lakes, BLM land, Bureau of Reclamation Land, National Forests, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, wild and scenic rivers, and national seashores and lakeshores.
Primitive camping–Camping on public land in places other than official campgrounds. In primitive camping areas, there are no water, sewage, or electrical hookups and usually no toilets of any kind, no water, no ramadas, no picnic tables, and no metal fire rings. Primitive camping is sometimes called dispersed camping. Folks boondock or dry camp in primitive camping areas.
This was my rig during one part of my life as a full-time rubber tramp/vandweller.
Rig–What one drives and lives in. My rig is a conversion van. A rig can be a cargo van. A rig can be a pickup truck with a slide-in camper. A rig can be a car or an SUV. A rig can be a Class A, a Class B, or a Class C motor home. A rig can be a combination of a tow vehicle and a travel trailer or a converted cargo trailer or a 5th wheel or a tear drop or a popup.
Rubber tramp–The Urban Dictionary says a rubber tramp is a “person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.). They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on.” Not all folks at the RTR would consider themselves rubber tramps.
RTArt Camp–A camp within the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, The RTArt Camp is a place within the larger gathering for nomadic artists and creative nomads to come together to share skills, create art together, have fun, and build community.
Rubber Tramp Art Community (RTAC)–An intentional community for nomadic artists/creative travelers. Members of the group meet to camp together, create art together, teach each other new skills, help each other, and spend time together as a community.
So far, I’ve attended four RTRs.
Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR)–A winter gathering in Quartzsite, AZ for folks who live on the road (either full-timers or part-timers) or who want to live on the road. At the RTR there are seminars about living on the road and opportunities to meet people and hang out with friends. I’ve written quite a bit about my experiences at the RTR in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Also see Cheap RV Living for more info about the RTR.
RV–Recreational vehicle. RVs include motor homes, 5th wheels, and travel trailers.
Shakedown–a practice trip taken before a longer trip. (According to Wikipedia,, this term comes from “shakedown cruise,” which “is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested.”)
*Snowbird–Someone who lives in cool places in the summer and warm places in the winter, traveling as the seasons change. Snowbirds can travel north to south or from low elevation to to high elevation and back again.
Solo–Traveling alone, usually said in regards to a woman. The assumption that most women travel with men is often made, so a distinction is sometimes made when a women travels alone. I’ve never heard anyone asking a man if he is solo or hearing a man describe himself as solo.
Sticks-n-bricks–A conventional home, although it doesn’t have to be made from wood and bricks. A sticks-n-bricks can be an apartment or a manufactured home, or a house made from adobe or stucco or straw-bale. A sticks-n-bricks isn’t mobile.
Teardrop—a streamlined, compact, lightweight traveltrailer, which gets its name from its teardrop profile. They usually only have sleeping space for two adults and often have a basic kitchen in the rear.
Toad–A vehicle towed behind an RV. I guess because the vehicles are towed, people started calling them toads. People in big motorhomes often pull a vehicle behind the motorhome so they can park their rig and use the smaller vehicle to drive around for errands and exploring.
Tow vehicle–What one uses to tow one’s travel trailer.
*Travel trailer (TT)–Travel trailers hook up to a hitch and are pulled by a tow vehicle. Travel trailers vary greatly in size. Most people use the travel trailer as living quarters and don’t live in the tow vehicle.
During my time as a camp host, I cleaned this pit (or vault) toilet many times.
*Vandweller–A person living in his/her van who wants to be there.
Vault (or pit) toilet–Non-flushing toilet sometimes found on public land; basically a tall plastic toilet set over a hole where the waste products sit until they are pumped out.
Seems like it always happens when folks start discussing winter in Quartzsite, Arizona. Someone mentions the Big Tent, and someone else says What’s that? Other folks in the conversation jump in and start trying to explain things and mayhem occurs.
Ok, so I’ve never actually seen mayhem occur during a discussion of the Big Tent, but I know that lots of people who’ve never been to Quartzsite in the winter aren’t quite sure what it’s all about. In the interest of public information, I’ve made today bonus blog Saturday, and I’ll again share what I wrote about the Big Tent in 2015 and 2016. You’re welcome.
“The Big Tent” is what folks call it, but the actual name of the event is The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show. It’s been held every year since 1984, although the location within the town has changed several times. People travel to Quartzsite in their RVs (motor homes, vans, campers, fifth wheels, etc.) from all over the country to enjoy the warm Arizona weather and see what’s new in the Big Tent.
The Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show started with 60 exhibitors and a small tent. In 2015 it had grown to a 69,000 square foot fully carpeted indoor exhibit area at 700 South Central Blvd.
In 2015 the Big Tent was open January 17th through 25th. I visited it on the Saturday opening day and on Tuesday the 20th.
I went to the Big Tent the first time because I was trying to get a job as a camp host. I’d arrived at the tent about ten minutes early, but nobody was getting in early that morning. The line started moving at exactly nine o’clock. By the time I got inside, the place was already packed.
I wasn’t surprised to see RV park booths, RV insurance booths, booths staffed with folks trying to convince people to drive their RVs north to Canada and south to Mexico. I wasn’t surprised to see an Arizona State Parks booth, a KOA campground booth, and a Good Sam’s Club booth.
Several casinos had booths too, complete with wheels to spin. Spin the wheel, win a prize, but not until one coughed up one’s name, mailing address, email address, and phone number. I tried to win several times but scored nothing more memorable than multiple decks of cards.
Several booths were dedicated to recruiting work campers. One of those booths belonged to Workamper News, the website to check out (I was told at the RTR) to get hooked up with work camping opportunities. Amazon.com was present, recruiting for its CamperForce. The sugar beet harvest people were there too, and I had a nice talk with a very pleasant man from the Midwest, but quickly realized that sugar beet harvest work is too strenuous for me. Several companies looking to hire camp hosts were also in the Big Tent.
I was surprised to see multiple booths selling pillows. I understand that RVers use pillows. But why would someone buy pillows at at sports, vacation, and RV show? Wal-Mart sells pillows. Kmart sells pillows. Sears and JCPenney and probably the freakin’ Family Dollar sell pillows. Pillows can be ordered from Amazon.com. Why were these RV show pillows so special? I don’t know because I did not stop at any of the many pillow booths and discuss the desirability of their pillows.
On a related note, the funniest thing I saw in a booth was a man lying in a bed on a platform a couple of feet off the floor. He was selling some special RV bedding, and he was demonstrating this bedding by lying in a bed. The big come-on with this bedding was that one wouldn’t have to make the bed if one had this bedding. Basically, the bedding was a double sleeping bag placed on top of a mattress. There was no tucking of sheets and blankets because this item was a blanket pouch. Is making an RV bed so difficult that people would rather sleep in a double sleeping bag? In any case, whenever I saw this grown man lying down in bed while trying to convince people to buy his wares, it cracked me up. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera to take his photo.
I was also surprised to see people in so many booths trying to sell
kitchen gadgets. I do understand that RVs have kitchens, which might
lead RVers to buy kitchen gadgets, but it seems like those items too are
available in just about any regular store. Do people get caught up in
the frenzy of shopping at the Big Tent, only to wake up to reality later
and find their yellow freebie KOA tote bag full of silicone bowl covers
and long skinny plastic chip clips?
The least explicable booths were those selling makeup, hand creme,
and jewelry (especially an “ion” bracelet some lady tried to slip on my
wrist). I didn’t stop at any of those booths, but from my cruise past, I
didn’t see anything that looked unique or revolutionary.
My favorite booth was the one run by Minute Rice. There was a wheel
to spin and prizes to win. When I spun the wheel, it stopped on “emery
board.” Boring! However, the nice ladies were also giving out two-packs
of the precooked, microwaveable rice. There was even a choice: white,
brown, or jasmine. And they didn’t want my email address!
I know I mentioned it was crowded in that tent, but let me just say again, the place was packed. At one point, the crowd in the aisle was at a complete standstill. There was a tall young man next to me, and I asked him what he saw up ahead. He said it was just a bunch of people standing still. As soon as I made it out of that quagmire (without ever seeing a reason for movement to have ceased), I ducked out of the next exit door into the sunshine. There were more booths on the outside around the perimeter of the Big Tent, but nothing held my attention long enough for me to stop.
When I went back the following Tuesday (because I was in the area to purchase items from several of the booths in the Tyson Wells shopping area), the Big Tent was mostly the same. The Minute Rice ladies were gone (they must have run out of rice), but I made up for it by playing a couple of fun and silly games at the Progressive booth, where the workers were a bunch of young gals dressed like Flo! There (thankfully) weren’t as many people in the Big Tent, so we all had a little more elbow room.
As I left the area, I decided The Big Tent (like Mardi Gras) is definitely something to see once, if one is in the right place at the right time. I wasn’t sure I’d visit the Big Tent again, but I knew if I did, it wouldn’t be on opening day. I hoped if I did go back, I’d own a working camera so I could get a photo of that man in the bed.
In 2016, I did visit the Big Tent again, but not on opening day. There was no need for that. I wasn’t looking for a summer job because I already had one lined up, and I wanted to avoid filling the van with unnecessary items, even if they were freebies. I believe I went on the Wednesday after opening day, on my last day in Quartzsite.
Again, no one was being let in before the official opening time of
9am. I milled about outside the north entrance with the other early
birds. While I was waiting, I got a text from my friend Tina who was at
the Big Tent to look for a job. She met me at the north entrance, and we
walked in together at nine on the dot.
There weren’t very many people browsing through the tent that day, so there was plenty of elbow room.
We hadn’t gotten past very many booths when a guy working for Direct TV tried to waylay us. Who provides cable in your home? the guy asked. Oh, I said casually, I don’t have a home. Tina snickered and the guy was quietly confused just long enough for us to escape.
The next guy who tried to interrupt our rambling was in a booth with hair-salon chairs. He called out aggressively, Ladies, what appliances do you use to style your hair? I told him, I don’t style my hair. It does whatever it wants. He didn’t know what to say to that, and we walked on.
One good-looking young East Indian man with a British accent drew me right into his booth. It was a large booth, and there were several salespeople in it trying to sell reusable heating pads. The pads were pretty cool There was a metal disc in them and when the disc was clicked, the goo inside the pad got hot. The pads could also be used cold by placing them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. The young man was trying REALLY hard to sell the product to me. I finally had to tell him I wasn’t going to buy anything, but said he was doing a great job. We sort of squeezed each other’s hand in farewell, which made me a little giddy.
I got excited when I saw a sign with my name on it. Well, it was sort of my name. When I asked the
man standing behind
the table if I could take a photo of the sign, he insisted on putting
the product beside it. Well, ok. I tried to explain to him that my name
is Blaize, and I like to take photos of signs with my name on it. He
only seemed concerned with showing off the product, which I guess makes
sense because it’s his job to sell the stuff. I know nothing about the
quality of Micro-Blaze, so I cannot recommend it. However, readers, you
now know it exists.
Just down from the Micro-Blaze booth, I saw the salesman I’d been thinking about all year, the man selling RV bedding.
In 2015, I sadly had no camera to take a photo of the salesman and
his wares, but in 2016, I was prepared. I walked up to the man and said
hi. He said hi to me and started telling me about his special sheets. He
sounded super sad. He sounded like a robotic recording. He sounded like
a super sad robotic recording. The way he gave his speech about his
special RV bedding did not make me want to buy his product. The way he
gave his speech almost made me want to cry. I don’t know if he was
having a bad day or if he was just generally tired, but his enthusiasm
level was way low. I asked him if I could take his photo, and he said
This guy, even though he seemed really down, was the high point of the Big Tent for me. I walked around after I talked to him, got a bright yellow (and cheaply made) tote bag from KOA and played a sort of slot machine game with the Flo lookalikes at the Progressive booth, but nothing made me happier than finally getting a photo of that guy.
Now you know a little bit about what goes on at the Big Tent so you can decide for yourself if you want to check it out.
I hadn’t planned to share a post on Christmas Day. I don’t usually run posts on Tuesdays, and I had a fun story from my childhood to share on Christmas Eve. I thought I had done all I needed to do.
Then I took a ride through a small Arizona town in the Sonoran Desert and saw how the locals were decorating for the holiday.
Residents of several homes in the town had decorated desert plants in their front yards by placing brightly colored, shiny, round Christmas tree ornaments on the pointy ends of the plants. The decorations really made the plants look festive, which in turn made the whole yards look festive.
At least one homeowner decorated the saguaros in the yard.
I love this trio of Saguaro Santas. Since I took this photo, I’ve seen desert dwellers in other towns do this too, and it never fails to amuse me.
I hope everyone who reads this post enjoys seeing this approach to holiday decorating in the desert, whether you’ve encountered it before or it’s all brand new.
My favorite of all the decorations was the one put out by Mother Nature.
I love the little red barrel amidst all that green. As a reader explained to me, the barrel is the fruit from last summer’s bloom. .
So Merry Christmas, friends and fans! I hope you have a lovely day blessed with peace and joy.
I took all the photos in this post. Note: I had a lot of fun adjusting the settings on some of these photos to make them POP with holiday cheer!
You’re in Quartzsite and you have needs: goods, services, information, entertainment. Who’s going to tell you how to find what you need? Look no further than the Rubber Tramp Artist, who’s visited Quartzsite six times since January of 2015. This handy list (and the one that preceded it on Wednesday) will help you find everything you need during your stay in what the town’s website calls “The Rock Capital of the World.”
Of course, the best known laundromat in Quartzsite is probably the Main Street Laundromat & Showers (205 E Main Street). I did laundry there once, and it was a fine experience, nothing exceptional or special. I did like that it opened at 6 am so I could get my clothes washed and dried early in the day.
Other laundromats in Quartzsite include Fill-R-Up & Corner Laundromat (10 N. Central), about which their website says, “Longest running dryer time for your money” and “Somebody is always on site to help.” Google also lists Palm Plaza Laundromat (225 N. Central Blvd.) and Bud’s Suds (543 W. Main Street).
Most grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and gas stations in Quartzsite have trash cans out front. If you have a small bag of trash, dispose of it while filling your gas tank or as you walk into a store or restaurant. If you rather collect your trash in large bags or if you have accumulated several days worth of trash, you may need to visit the dump, aka the Quartzsite Transfer Station. The dump is located north of town on Highway 95; the phone number is 928-669-8886. According to the Wastebits website, the hours of operation are Sunday through Wednesday from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm. I forgot to say it at first, but a reader reminded me that there is no charge to dump your trash at the Quartzsite Transfer Station; the service is FREE!
There’s a lot to do in the 40 acre Quartzsite Town Park. Google reviewers listed the following amenities within the park: mini tennis, basketball court, horseshoe pits, two covered play structures for younger and older kids, dog park, skate park, bike course, motto x course, plenty of shaded tables, baseball diamond, grassless football/soccer field, small R/C car track, model airplane strip, and a dance slab. In 2017 during a visit to Celia’s Rainbow Gardens, I also saw a disc golf course out there.
Celia’s Rainbow Gardens are within Quartzsite Town Park. Within those eight acres, one can find a botanical garden of sorts, with lots of different species of cacti, palm trees, and other plants; an archway with bells at the entrance to the gardens called The Hero’s Bell Garden; a palm tree plaza; an area with mining equipment donated by the BLM; the RVing Women memorial area;Adamsville, a miniature village; and memorials to Quarzsite folks who have passed away.
Winter is a great time to be outdoors in Quartzsite, so go have some fun in this huge recreation area. Just don’t forget sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of drinking water! The desert is no joke, even in the winter.
In 2015 I visited the Tyson Well Stage Station Museum (161 West Main Street). Admission was free (and it still is, according to the museum’s website), so it was worth the visit, but I can’t say I was impressed by the exhibits. I thought there was too much stuff crammed into too small a space. Many pieces were on display with no explanation as to why they were there. Of course, the museum could have changed for the better in the last few years, so I urge history buffs to check it out.
The Hi Jolly Cemetery is operated and maintained by the Town of Quartzsite for the purposes of providing a cemetery, historic site and park. The Hi Jolly monument is in the pioneer section of the cemetery where Quartzsite’s pioneer families were and are laid to rest. There is a new section to the cemetery also for those who chose to be interred in Quartzsite.
In the spring of 2015, I stopped at the Hi Jolly Pioneer Cemetery on my way to California. I picked up a booklet with a map of the graveyard at the cemetery’s information kiosk. The booklet offered biographical information about many of the people buried in the cemetery. If you can get your hands on a copy of that booklet, you can learn a LOT about the non-native people who settled Quartzsite.
Whenever I go to a town, I like to browse the thrift stores to see what goodies are available. I don’t need much more stuff in my life, but I do like to look.
The Salvation Army Thrift Store (101 Moon Mountain Rd.) is across the street from the Isaiah 58 Project. Parking is in the gravel lot in front of the store. It has a small selection of mass-market paperbacks, cheap VHS tapes, and a few CDs. There is usually a large selection of housewares, pots and pans, plates and glasses. The selection of linens and pillows tends to be small, and the items seem well used. The shoes available also tend to be well used, and I’ve never seen clothes here that I like in my size. Prices are reasonable. Most clothing costs a dollar or two per piece. Many things in the housewares section are 50 cents to $1. Small toys are very inexpensive, as are greeting cards.
The Quartzsite Community Thrift Store (7 Showplace Lane) is located near the end of the street that runs along the side of Silly Al’s pizza place. The parking lot is also gravel and in front of the store. The store offers some higher-end decorative items near the front of the store. The price of women’s clothing seems to start around $2; I’ve never seen clothes here that I like in my size either. I have found good prices on yarn at this store—50 cents to $1 a roll. There’s a decent-sized selection of books in the second room, as well as mostly inexpensive housewares and a small selection of well-used linens.
The Animal Refuge Thrift Store is on the other side of town, east of Central (Highway 95), on the south side of Main Street. In 2016, the store was filled with only the best merchandise, and the higher prices reflected the nicer inventory. Since I’m never really looking for higher end items, I haven’t been back to this thrift store since my visit several years ago.
I don’t go out much, so I can’t say too much about where to find live music or dancing or other entertainment in Quartzsite. If such things appeal to you, I highly recommend you check out the calendar of the Quartzsite Improvement Association (QIA). In the words of the group’s website, the QIA is
a non profit, community based, volunteer group of people wanting to help the Quartzsite area and all the wonderful visitors we get here every year.
The calendar shows the group’s scheduled events, trade shows, dances, classes and, of course, their biggest event of the year, the gem and mineral show called the PowWow. If you want to exercise, listen to live music, play bingo, learn Spanish, or dance, check out what the QIA has to offer.
Another place to go for fun and fellowship is the Quartzsite Senior Center (40 N. Moon Mountain Avenu). According to the RV Quartzsite.com website, the senior center
also has lots of activities for snowbirds and show visitors.
Lunch and Cards – Monday through Friday year round
Quilters – October to March
Dances – Tuesdays and Fridays, December to February
Bingo – Wednesdays and Saturdays, December to March
Art Guild – 1st and 3rd Thursdays, September to March
Craft Fair – 3rd Friday, November to March 9 am – 1 pm
If you are interested in any of these activities or want to know what special events might be in the works at the senior center, give them a call at 928-927-6496.
When part 1 of this post ran on Wednesday, someone on Facebook said I had “forgot to mention the 3 most popular places…” in Quartzsite. Those places are apparently Beer Belly’s Adult Daycare (121 W Kuehn Street), Silly Al’s Pizza (175 W Main Street), and Quartzsite Yacht Club Restaurant Bar and Grill (1090 W Main Street). I’ve never been to any of these places, so I don’t know how much entertainment any of these places offer. A friend of mine told me last year that the food at Silly Al’s is really good; maybe I’ll get to try it someday.
Where won’t you find shiny rocks in Quartzsite in the winter? Both Tyson Wells (121 W. Kuehn St.) and Desert Gardens Internationale Rock, Gem and Mineral Show (1050 Kuhen Street) are good places to look for gems and minerals. The official Tyson Wells Rock & Gem show will be held January 4th-13th, 2019; show hours are 9am to 5pm each day.
If you like shiny rocks, don’t miss the QIA PowWow (235 Ironwood St.) running January 16 through January 20, 2019.
This annual Show has vendors coming from all over the world. We have over 520 vendor display areas inside & outside the building in our huge parking lot area. There are 50+ Showcases on display inside the building of beautiful gems, minerals and jewelry…
All the merchandise displayed by vendors must be 75% gem, mineral or jewelry related.
I only know of one penny press in Quartzsite. It’s at the gift shop at Tyson Wells (121 W. Kuehn Street). They call it a penny pincher, but it works just like a penny press: put in your two quarters and a penny and get yourself a sourvenir pressed penny embossed with the words “Quartzsite, Arizona.”
I hope my knowledge of Quartzsite helps you find the things you want and need while you are there.
I’ve not been compensated for mentioning any of the businesses included in this post. All the information shared is based on my own experiences and what I found on the internet. Please do your own research, including calling businesses to determine if the information I shared is accurate and if the services I mentioned meet your needs. You are responsible for your own self. I’m not responsible for you. I apologize for any information that is no longer accurate, but offer this post to you as a starting point.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to Quartzsite, AZ. Maybe you’re going to spend weeks or months at one of the BLM Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs). Maybe you’re in town for two weeks of fun, learning, and fellowship at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). Maybe you’re going to stay for one night or two weeks at one of the free BLM camping areas on your way to Yuma or Phoenix or Tucson. In any case, you’re in Quartzsite and you need some things. If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, refer this handy list and let the Rubber Tramp Artist (a six-time visitor to Quartzsite) help you find what you need while you’re in town.
Food and Ice
Quartzsite has two main grocery stores, the Roadrunner Market (200 E. Main) and Coyote Fresh Food (410 E Main). Both sell ice and fresh produce and both charge small-town prices. Family Dollar (470 E. Main) and Dollar General (925 W. Main) also sell food, mostly prepackaged items, but also dairy and maybe eggs. Ice can also be found at most of the town’s gas stations, including the Love’s (760 S. Quartzsite Ave.) and Pilot (1201 W. Main).
Big Market (775 W. Main) also sells food. I have only been in the store once and was not impressed. The people who wrote reviews of this place on Yelp didn’t seem too impressed either. I think Big Market is more of a place to buy alcohol and firewood than food, but I would be glad to hear about positive experiences readers had here.
If you don’t mind buying packaged food that is recently (or not-so-recently) expired, check out the temporary “scratch and dent” food stores in town. Housed in tents, they sell everything from breakfast cereal in torn boxes, beans in dented cans, and expired everything. There’s usually one in the shopping area near the main post office, but I like the one closest to the Big Tent because their prices are low.
If you’re hungry in the mornings, go down to La Mesa RV to get free pancakes and coffee. La Mesa RV (at the corner of Main and Central) is in the business of selling (you guessed it!) recreational vehicles. A marketing ploy the company uses to get people on their Quartzsite lot is a free pancake breakfast six mornings a week (Monday through Saturday) from 8am to 10am.
The first time one arrives for breakfast, one must go up to the counter and fill out a card. The card has blanks for one’s name, mailing address, phone number, and email address. (I’ve never provided my phone number or email address and was never challenged about my omissions.) After the blanks are filled in, a woman working the counter writes one’s name on a nametag and hands it over. The nametag lasts all season, and one is required to wear it whenever one wants to eat breakfast.
If you’re poor and you need food, there’s no shame in visiting one of Quartzsite’s two food banks, the People’s Food Bank at the Isaiah 58 Project (100 S. Moon Mountain Avenue) and the Quartzsite Food Bank (40 N. Moon Mountain Avenue). I’ve been treated with respect and compassion at both of these food banks.
The Quartzsite Food Bank is open Tuesday and Thursday from 8am to noon. This food bank is run by a private nonprofit organization called Friends of the Quartzsite Food Bank. A representative of the organization asked me to let readers know the group accepts all donations of money or food to help them keep the doors open so they can feed hungry people.
In January of 2018 when I went to the Isaiah 58 Project food bank, they didn’t ask for any sort of ID or income verification. At the Quartzsite Food Bank, they did ask to see my ID, and I had to fill out an intake form. When they asked for my address, I simply told them I was camping on BLM land near town. At that time each of these food banks would give a person food twice a month, so it was possible to get food every week if necessary. I would confirm current policies either in person or by telephone. (The phone number for the Isaiah 58 Project is 928-927-3124. The phone number for the Quartzsite Food Bank is 928-927-5479.)
The last time I was in Quartzsite, there were water filling stations throughout town. There was a Glacier Water refill station in front of the Family Dollar and another one in front of Big Market. There was a water filling station that didn’t seem to be affiliated with any national brand near the gas station adjacent to the Burger King. RV Pit Stop (425 N. Central Blvd.) has filling stations for filtered and reverse osmosis water. Most of these water filling stations in Quartzsite charge 20 or 25 cents per gallon.
When I wrote this post (11-19-18), the RV Pit Stopwebsite was advertising propane refills for $2.30 per gallon + tax. I bought propane there the last time I was in town and was satisfied with the service. Rose RV Park (600 E. Kuehn St. ) also advertises propane refills. Google shows Pattie’s Propane (455 E. Main St.) as a propane supplier in Quartzsite, and while I’ve passed by, I’ve never gotten a refill there. While looking for information on laundromats in Quartzsite, I also found a listing for Fill-R-Up & Corner Laundromat (10 N. Central); propane is what they “fill-r-up” with.
If you’d rather do a propane tank exchange through Blue Rhino, the company propane finder page says you can do that at Big Market, RV Pit Stop, and at the Arco gas station (185 N. Riggles Avenue).
If you want to find reading material and possibly see a nudist, Reader’s Oasis Books is the place for you. Owned by naturist Paul Winer, Reader’s Oasis (690 E. Main) is huge and stuffed full of books and handwritten signs and pictures and shiny rocks and memorabilia. There is a lot to see in that store. The selection is broad, from 3 for $1 romance novels to military history to old-school children’s books to cookbooks to books on religion to books pertaining specifically to the Southwest. The bookmark I ended up buying (featuring a photo of Paul with his thumb up and sporting a big beard and shades; wearing multiple turquoise necklaces, a straw hat, and a bit of cloth over his privates) boasts over 180,000 titles, and I believe it. If you buy nothing else, splurge on a bookmark with Paul’s picture on it; otherwise the folks back home may never believe you.
The other place for books in Quartzsite is the public library (465 Plymouth Road). The library’s website says that folks who aren’t residents of Quartzsite can get a library card by presenting their photo ID. Using the library’s books, audio tapes, computers, videos and magazines is free.
The public library is also THE place in town to find public access computers with internet capabilities. You can bring your own laptop or tablet into the library and try to use their WiFi, but I’ve found that an exercise in frustration. In my experience, WiFi in the entire town of Quartzsite is slow, slow, slow, and it’s no different at the public library.
Forget about plugging your electronics in at the library to charge. A friend of mine did that a few years ago and told me a library worker accused him of stealing electricity. Wowza!
The Quartzsite Public Library is open Monday-Friday 8am-5pm. It is closed Saturday, Sunday, & holidays.
You can get your mail at the Quartzsite post office (80 W. Main), but unless you rent a box there (and I don’t even know if that’s possible if you don’t live in the town), it’s going to be a huge pain in the neck. You can have your mail delivered via general delivery, but that mail can only be picked up on weekdays and only during specific hours. People arrive and get in line long before they can actually pick up their general delivery mail because when the pickup time is over, it’s OVER, no matter how many people are still standing in line.
An online review of the post office in Quartzsite says, “[g]eneral delivery must be preapproved or they will return to sender immediately. Pickups can only be done from 12 to 1.” I’m not sure those two assertions are true; I’ve never heard the first one, and I thought general delivery pickup was from 11am to 1pm. If I were going to try to get my mail via general delivery in Quartzsite, I would call the post office (928-927-6323) and get all the details before I told anyone to send me mail that way.
If I were going to receive mail in Quartzsite, I would much rather do so through Quiet Times (90 E. Main). In 2017, I had 100 copies of my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods delivered to Quiet Times. I called ahead (928-927-8081) and was told exactly what address to use to make sure my packages got to the right place. For a very reasonable price (I think it was $10), Quiet Times received two (or was it three?) large boxes and held them for me until I could pick them up.
I’m not certain if Quiet Times receives mail sent through the USPS or only items sent through FedEx and UPS. I suggest you call now before Quartzsite turns into an absolute circus and find out if they provide the service you need, and if so, exactly what address you should give to people sending you mail. The folks who work at Quiet Times are very nice and patient and will be glad to give you all the necessary information.
On the day this post was originally published, I learned about another option for receiving mail in Quartzsite. A couple people in a Facebook group I’m in mentioned BCM Mail and Ship (852 W Cowell Street), which is apparently behind the senior center. One of the people who gets her mail there says customers pay a flat rate for the month, and there is no additional charge for receiving packages. Unfortunately, none of the links to BCM’s website worked for me, so all I can tell you is that the phone number for the business as listed by Google is 928-927-4213.
If you’re staying on BLM land for a few weeks and don’t have a shower set up in your rig, there are several places in Quartzsite where you can clean up. Both the Love’s and the Pilot truck stops have shower facilities, but you’re going to pay premium prices. On the upside, I’ve read that it’s ok for a couple to ask for a team shower and use one shower room at no additional charge. Also, I’ve never been hurried while showering at a truck stop or told I could use the facilities only for a limited time.
Your next option for cleaning yourself in Quartzsite is Main Street Laundromat & Showers (205 E. Main Street). I did my laundry there once, but I’ve never taken a shower at this location. A Google review from 10 months ago says a 20 minute shower costs $8 there, which is what I remember hearing at the last couple RTRs. I’ve also heard a worker does keep track of how long each customer has been in the shower room and will knock on the door after 20 minutes.
The third option for a shower in Quartzsite is a free one at the Isaiah 58 Project. I have taken showers there on several occasions.The last time I was in town, the showers were only available on weekday mornings from 9am until noon and were limited to 10 minutes per person. I’ve always encountered a line of people waiting to shower when I’ve gone first thing in the morning, but friends who’ve gone later in the morning have reported finding no line. The water is hot and the price is right, and in the past they’d even loan each person a towel if necessary. I definitely appreciate being about to take a shower for free, although I wish we could go 15 minutes instead of just 10.
This post has gone longer than I expected, and I still have lots more to share, so I’ll give you the rest of my information about where to go for what you need in Quartzsite on Friday.
I’ve not been compensated for mentioning any of the businesses included in this post. All the information shared is based on my own experiences and what I found on the internet. Please do your own research, including calling businesses to determine if the information I shared is accurate and if the services I mentioned meet your needs. You are responsible for your own self. I’m not responsible for you. I apologize for any information that is no longer accurate, but offer this post to you as a starting point.
So you’ve done it! You’ve decided to attend the 2019 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzsite, Arizona on January 9-20. Congratulations! If this is your first RTR, you’re probably really excited and at least a little nervous too. When I went to my first RTR in 2015, I didn’t know a single person there! However, despite my shyness, anxiety, and tendency to be overwhelmed by crowds, I made friends I’m still close to today. I’ve attended three more RTRs since then, and today I’ll share with you my best advice to help you learn a lot and enjoy yourself at this gathering of vandwellers, rubber tramps, RVers, nomads, vagabonds, and travelers of all kinds.
#1 Do your research now so you’ll know what to expect when you get to the RTR. This post is a great place to start, but don’t stop here. Visit the Cheap RV Living website to learn the specifics of the 2019 RTR. If you like watching videos more than you like reading, check out the Cheap RV Living YouTube channel to get updates about the 2019 RTR. In the last couple of years, Facebook groups related to the RTR and Quartzsite have popped up. If you’re on Facebook, you might want to join RTR Chatter and Quartzsite Chatter. Lots of bloggers and vloggers have written about their RTR experiences, so use your favorite search engine to find those posts. If you want my perspective, you can read about my experiences at the RTR in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
#2 The desert is different from the rest of the U.S. Learn about desert conditions before you arrive. A good place to start is my blog post “10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in the Desert.” Once you know what to expect in the desert, you’ll have better ideas for how to prepare.
#3 Be ready for sun, wind, rain, cold, and dust. Weather in the desert can change rapidly, and nights can be chilly or downright cold. It does rain in the desert, so bring appropriate gear for whatever weather the two weeks of the RTR bring.
#4 If you’re a woman, and especially if you are a female newbie, consider attending The Women’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (WRTR). This gathering will be held January 4-8 (before the main RTR) in Bouse, Arizona. The WRTR will be smaller than the main RTR, so it may be easier to meet people there, and smaller crowd may produce less anxiety. At the WRTR, you’ll learn things (like how to go to the bathroom in your rig!) that you’ll be glad to know once you get to the big gathering.
#5 Stock up on fresh food before you get to Quartzsite. Once you’re in town, you can find good deals on canned goods, snacks, and other processed foods at the multiple popup scratch & dent stores. However, Quartzsite has no big supermarket with low prices. Instead it has two grocery stores with small town prices. When I arrive at the RTR, I make sure my cooler is stocked with eggs, cheese, and produce. If you stay at the RTR for two weeks, you may have to pick up fresh groceries halfway through, but you can save some money by buying cheap before you arrive.
#6 Once you arrive at the RTR, you’re going to have to find a spot for your camp. You can be close to the main meeting area, or you can have lots of space around your camp, but you probably can’t do both. At the 2018 RTR, people camped close to the main meeting area were packed in fairly close to each other. Farther away, there was more room for people to spread out, but folks who had more room around their rigs had to walk a ways to get to seminars, the main campfire, and the free pile.
#7 Forget about privacy. Unless you are more than a mile from the main RTR meeting area, you probably won’t be able to camp entirely alone. Even if you’re able to maintain some space around your rig, you’ll probably still have neighbors close enough to see what you’re doing when you’re outside. No matter where you’re camped, expect drones to fly overhead and take photos and videos. At any official RTR event and even in your own camp, expect people to record and photograph you without permission. While organizers have discouraged filming, photographing, and recording without permission, they’ve also said there’s nothing they can do to stop it.
#8 Find your people at the RTR. Especially if you go alone or this is your first RTR, finding others with similar interests can make the gathering a less overwhelming place. If you’re the creative type, seek out the RTArt Camp. If you like to jam, camp with other musicians. In the past, school bus nomads have camped together, and in 2018 several box trucks parked all in a row. Sure, you might not be able to base an entire friendship on a shared love of finger painting or driving a similar rig, but some common thread will at least give you a conversation starter.
#9 Wearing a nametag can be a good ice breaker, At the last two RTRs, a few ladies had a button-making machine and were making nametags in exchange for a small donation to cover expenses. Some folks brought their nametags to the RTArt Camp to add bling to their button.
If you don’t want people to know your legal name, it’s a time-honored tradition to give yourself a road name. In any case, wearing a name badge can help folks remember you and what you want to be called.
#10 Get to seminars early to get a good spot where you can see and hear the action. The seminars are one of the most popular aspects of the RTR, especially for new folks. In 2018 I estimate two to three hundred people attended each seminar. Even with sound amplification, it must have been difficult for some attendees to hear. I’d plan to arrive at any seminar at least half an hour before it was scheduled to begin. Some folks leave their chairs to hold their places in the seminar area during the entire event.
#11 Drive more slowly than you think necessary.The BLM camping areas in Quartzsite are dusty places. Going more than 5 miles per hour on unpaved BLM land stirs up a lot of dust. Go super slow so the people whose camps you pass won’t hate you. Also, sometimes pets dash out of rigs and into the road. Going slow will help you avoid hitting any renegade pups or kitties.
#12 Bring earplugs for a peaceful sleep. Overall, the RTRs I’ve attended have been mostly quiet at night, but be prepared for the night you’ve parked next to someone who has to run a generator for medical reasons, your friendly neighbors linger next to the campfire laughing, or you want to go to bed early and the Boomers across the wash blast the oldies until 9:59. It’s not reasonable to expect a gathering of so many will be quiet when you need your rest, so have your ear plugs handy.
#13 If one of your RTR goals is to meet people, put yourself out there and be friendly.Walk around. Smile at people. Say hello. Ask respectful questions.
Feel awkward staring a conversation with a stranger? Here are some RTR specific opening lines:
Is this your first RTR?
Have you been to the free pile?
What kind of rig do you have?
Are you full time?
What seminar do you most want to attend?
Have you been to the RTArt Camp?
Are you going/have you been to the Big Tent?
Where’s the main campfire?
What are you plans for after the RTR?
Where did you get your nametag? (Make sure the person is actually wearing a nametage before you use this one.)
#14 Remember that it’s fine to go hide in your rig if you get overwhelmed. I’ve hidden in my rig so many times during past RTRs! There’s no shame in needing alone time to decompress and process what you’ve heard, seen, and learned. Close your curtains, breathe deeply, and relax.
#15 The RTR can be fun, exciting, overwhelming, educational, stressful, aggravating, and wonderful. Take care of your physical needs so you can cope emotionally. Drink plenty of water. Eat enough. Rest. Cry if you need to and laugh as much as you can. Exercise, but not a lot more than you’re accustomed to. Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes so you can make it over the rocks, through the dust, and across the washes. I’ve found a walking stick really helps me navigate the rough terrain.
Whether it’s your first or your eighth Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, following these tips can help you make the most of this gathering of nomads from across North America. If you’re new to the RTR feel free to ask my any questions I may not have answered in this post. If you’ve been to past RTRs, leave your suggestions in the comment section below.
Remember, Blaize Sun can’t prepare you for or protect you from every problem you might encounter at the RTR or anywhere in the desert. Only you are responsible for you! Do your research before you head to the RTR, use common sense, and think before you act.
I was in Flagstaff, Arizona, and money was tight. I decided to visit the food bank to help me get by until I received my first paycheck.
I’ve been to food banks across the country, and some are better than others. It’s disheartening to fill out a bunch of paperwork, answer a lot of personal questions, and wait in line for a long time to receive not much more than a can of green beans and another of store-brand beef stew. Don’t get me wrong—I’m always grateful, but sometimes I’m more grateful than others.
I’d heard the food bank in Flagstaff was generous, so I had high hopes when I decided to pay it a visit.
I called ahead. My license didn’t list Flagstaff as my address, and some food banks only want to give food to residents. I didn’t want to stand in line only to be turned away. The nice woman on the phone said I didn’t need to be a resident of Flagstaff to get food, but I would need to show my ID. No problem.
I arrived early. The food bank was set to open at 9am, but I was ahead of the game and had the van parked before 8am. People tend to show up early for free food, and I wanted to be one of the first in line.
I was writing and not really paying attention to the time when I looked at my watch again. It was 8:30. The parking lot was no fuller than it had been when I pulled in. I was parked on the side of the building, so I thought people must be lined up in front. I grabbed my reusable shopping bags and went looking for the line.
When I walked around the corner of the building, I didn’t see a single person standing in line. I did see orange cones arranged in front of the building to make a lane and cars lined up in the lane. Could this really be a drive-thru food bank?
I hurried back to the van, got in the driver’s seat, turned the key in the ignition, and backed out of my parking space. I exited the parking lot and took my place in the queue which now stretched out of the parking lot and onto the side of the wide, lightly trafficked street. It was probably ten minutes to nine.
Just minutes after nine, the vehicles in front of me started moving. I was soon close enough to the front to see the proceedings. A woman with a clipboard approached a car, and there seemed to be some conversation. The clipboard was handed to the driver; soon the driver handed the clipboard back to the woman running the show. The car pulled up to a predetermined spot and people I presumed to be volunteers unloaded food from a full shopping cart into the car’s open trunk. In a few minutes, the car was on its way.
When my turn came, things went down just as I’d observed. The woman handed me the clipboard and asked me to write my name and address on adjacent lines; she never did ask for my ID. She did ask me where I wanted the food to go, and I pointed to the passenger side of my van. I pulled up to the designated spot and kind young people loaded in two small boxes of nonperishable food, one large box filled with pounds of fresh produce (tomatoes; Brussels sprouts; yellow squash, and red, orange, yellow, and green bell peppers), a case of 12 bottles of Pure Leaf organic black tea, and three dozen eggs. Wow! This food would certainly help get me through until my first payday.
I drove off, marveling not only at the quantity and quality of the food I’d just been given but at the fact that I hadn’t even had to get out of my van. I was very grateful indeed.
shop—and the presses—were deep in the complex, well past the entrance where folks pay the admission fee. If you don’t plunk down $18 for admission, you’re not getting anywhere near those penny presses.
We saw the presses at the beginning of our visit, but we spent the little-less-than-an-hour before our guided tour (included in the price of admission) picking out postcards and a t-shirt for The Boy after freshening up in the restroom. We didn’t have time for immediate penny pressing.
After the tour, we made a quick exploration of the Discovery Center, then looked at the bottom of the crater with the free telescopic viewer. Then it was time for the penny press.
Turns out, The Lady of the House enjoys pressed pennies. Before we left town, she mentioned she was saving her quarters to use in penny press machines. She was pleased to see those penny presses outside the gift shop.
First she had to pick the design she wanted on her penny. Should I get the picture of the crater or the picture of the meteor about to crash into the earth? she asked me.
You saw the crater, I reminded her, but you didn’t see the meteor.
That’s what I was thinking! she said, then began the penny pressing process.
She lined up her design choice and put in her coins. Then she turned, turned, turned the crank. Soon her souvenir penny clanked into the dispenser cup.
The second penny press we found was in Winslow, Arizona. The Lady had never been there, and she wanted to see the Standin’ on the Corner Park. We pulled off the I-40, and I navigated the van through the town to the park. We found a free spot half a block away to leave the van, then walked over to the famous corner.
On the way, we passed a gift shop across Kinsley Avenue from the park. Right outside the shop’s door stood a penny press machine.
Penny press in Winslow, Arizona.
After we took our photos in the Standing on the Corner Park, The Lady stood in front of the machine to choose her design. She’d used up all her quarters at the Meteor Crater gift shop, so after she picked out which penny design she wanted, she went inside the gift shop to get four quarters for a dollar. The woman working the cash register offered her pennies too, but The Lady said she had some. The worker said her pennies were bright and shiny, so The Lady accepted a few. The bright and shiny pennies did make for a nice souvenir after The Lady turned, turned, turned the crank.
At that point I started wondering if I should start collecting pressed pennies.
Fifty-one cents is a good price for a souvenir, The Lady told me.
My main concern was what I would do with a bunch of pressed pennies. Would they just sit in a bowl or a drawer? Would I ever remember to look at them?
The morning after the Arizona double penny press experience, I was lying in my bed, looking up at the ceiling of my van. There are three wooden strips, each about two inches wide running across the width of my van. I could glue pressed pennies to those wooden strips, I realized. I could display my collection in my van!
It’s too late to get a pressed penny from Meteor Crater, but maybe someday I’ll pass through Winslow again. I also know where to get a pressed penny when I go through Quartzsite, AZ; Baker, CA; and Las Vegas, NV. I’m sure my collection will grow in time.
I took this photo on the road to the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark complex the first time I tried to visit in 2015.
I’d planned to visit Meteor Crater Natural Landmark once before. I’d taken exit 233 and driven nearly 6 miles to the parking lot. I’d even gone into the visitor center, but when I saw the price of admission, I turned around and left.
I’d budgeted $10 to see this roadside attraction. I probably would have splurged and spent $12, but when I saw the price of admission was $18, I went back to my van and got back on the road. I doubted looking at a crater would be worth $18.
The Lady of the House thought this story was hilarious.
She’d never seen the meteor crater either, but her son, The Boy (now a grown man in his 20s), had visited some years ago on a field trip. The Boy had been quite impressed by the crater during a time in his life when he was not easily impressed. (Upon visiting the Grand Canyon as a child, all The Boy could say was, I hate this stupid Grand Canyon; his favorite part of the trip was the ride on a shuttle bus from the parking lot to a scenic viewpoint.)
He just kept talking about how big it was, The Lady said of her son after his visit to Meteor Crater Natural Landmark.
The crater wasn’t originally on our trip itinerary. We hadn’t planned to be on I-40 at all, but waiting for my van’s water pump to be replaced delayed us by four days. We cut the New Mexico portion of our trip out entirely, which meant we had to get to Utah by a different route.
Since we’d be on I-40, The Lady really wanted to see the meteor crater.
You pay the $10 you budgeted when you stopped before, The Lady told me, and I’ll pay the $8 difference.
I told her it was a deal.
The Meteor Crater website said guided tours were available. I called the Meteor Crater office and found out the guided tours were included in the price of admission. I always like to take a guided tour if it doesn’t cost extra. I find I learn more from a tour guide than I do if I’m left to my own devices reading informational placards.
The night before our visit to the crater, we boondocked off I-40 between Flagstaff and Winslow, just outside Walnut Canyon National Monument. We’d hoped to arrive at the crater in time for the first tour at 9:15 in the morning, but we were running late. In retrospect, we were glad we’d missed the first tour because when we arrived, we still had time to use the (clean) restroom, buy a few souvenirs in the (well-lit, neatly arranged, not overpriced) gift shop, and watch the (entertaining, informative) short documentary IMPACT! The Mystery of Meteor Crater.
This photo shows the entrance to the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark complex.
Before we did any of those things, we had to pay the admission fee.
The worker who greeted us at the door was all smiles. She welcomed us and pointed to the sign above the box office where she said we’d see the prices listed. We already knew the prices (they’re on the internet, as The Lady said to me later, thus a matter of public record), so when The Lady walked up to the box office, she chirped Two, please! and didn’t balk when the ticket seller asked for $36.
A young couple walked in right behind us. I’d noticed them in the parking lot. They looked like neo-hippies, or at least the man did. He had long hair and a big beard and wore baggie pants that probably allowed him to do the sun salutation in the morning and wrap his legs around a djembe at the drum circle at night. The woman looked less like a hippie and more like a Whole Foods athletic urbanite in a tank top and those hiking leggings that are in fashion with women who engage in outdoor sports.
The fellow was talking to the greeter. I wasn’t following their conversation, but I heard the fellow say $18? in surprise. He lady friend echoed $18? in pure disbelief. I thought it was really funny that the couple was having the same reaction I’d had during my first brief visit.
The greeter must have confirmed the $18 admission fee. Then the fellow seemed to be asking if there were a place they could look at the crater for free; I’d had that same thought during my first visit. The greeter must have told them there was no free viewing because the couple left the building.
The Lady and I, however, went deeper into the building. Then we went out a door, up some steps, past the under-construction Astronaut Park, and into another door. We were now in the area housing the Discovery Center, the restrooms, the Subway restaurant, the gift shop, and the theater.
I guess they wanted to get their money’s worth on that graphic, The Lady said.It was on everything from road signs to restroom signs.
First stop: Restrooms.
Second stop: Gift shop where I bought postcards and The Lady bought The Boy a souvenir t-shirt to replace the one he’d bought during his visit and outgrown.
Third stop: Theater where we watched the informative short documentary IMPACT! The Mystery of Meteor Crater.
After the movie was over, it was time for a tour. We fell in with Jake, our tour guide, who took us right out to the edge of the meteor crater. I was glad we’d opted for the tour because visitors don’t get nearly as close without a guide. I was glad the weather was good too because tours are cancelled due to bad weather, including high wind speeds. I was also glad The Lady and I were visiting in spring because in the hot Arizona summer the tours are cut short.
While visitors can see the crater from the observation area (including through a big glass window for the days it’s too hot and/or too windy to go outside) and can get close-up looks through the free telescope views, no one goes out to the edge of the crater without a guide. I’m sure it would be a huge liability issue to have people standing so close to the edge and perhaps trying to climb down into the crater. The people who own the crater (yes, it’s privately owned) must feel safer having a guide keep an eye on people who go where there are no barriers.
We walked out on a short paved path, and there it was to our left—Meteor Crater. The Boy was right; it was big. Other words that came to mind when I saw the crater were huge, massive, immense, and fantastic, yet it’s difficult to put into words or even capture in photographs just how stupendous the crater really is.
We learned from the movie that the floor of the crater is large enough to house 20 football games being played at the same time, while the sloping sides of the crater could accommodate stands big enough to seat 2 million fans. That’s difficult to imagine, even while I was standing right there looking at the crater.
I didn’t quite begin to understand how big the crater is until I looked through one of the observation telescopes. Looking through the telescope, I could see the floor of the crater where a 6’ tall (I later read) cutout of an astronaut stood in front of a chain link fence. The cutout and the fence both looked itty bitty, even through the telescope.
I learned the following information from a brochure we received at the ticket counter: From the viewing platform,
the floor of the crater is 550 feet deep, equivalent to a 60 story building.
The crater is over 4,000 feet across and 2.4 miles in circumference.
Jake the tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. He talked about the impact of the meteor that had
The Lady dances with (a cardboard cutout of) an astronaut in the Discovery Center.
created the crater and the process by which the theory that the crater was made by a meteor (not a volcano as originally thought) was proven. The Lady really enjoyed the second stop on our tour—The Rock Table—where Jake did a show-n-tell of how the meteor impacted (my pun—totally intended) the geology of the area surrounding the crater.
After the tour ended, The Lady and I made a quick pass through the Discovery Center. This area had a lot of
information about meteors and space. There were interactive exhibits, like the one letting the visitor lift an earth rock and comparably sized piece of a meteorite to show the difference in their weights. The Discovery Center seemed to do a good job explaining scientific information in ways kids could understand, while still keeping the exhibits interesting for adults. I wasn’t so excited about the Discovery Center that day after being out in the sun and the wind during our tour, and knowing I still had hours of driving ahead of me, we kept our visit short. However, the Center must be very popular on days when it’s too windy to go outside or during the summer when the heat cuts the tours short.
You’re probably wondering if the entire experience is worth the $18 admission fee. Folks do get a lot for the price of admission, including the guided tour, the opportunity to view the movie, free use of the telescopic viewers, and access to the Discovery Center. Once you’re in, you’re not nickeled and dimed to death. Also, visitors are allowed to bring in water and snacks, or get their hands stamps for reentry and go out to their vehicles to eat and drink. Every part of the operation The Lady and I saw was clean and well-maintained, so no one is slacking on maintenance in order to line pockets. Finally, all of the employees I encountered (including the clerks in the gift shop) were friendly and seemed happy, so I suspect the workers are being paid decent wages. I’m always happy when workers are earning decent money.
So while I can’t say an $18 admission fee is in my budget, I do think the people who pay that amount get good value for their money. For folks interested in space and heavenly bodies in general and meteors and the impact they’ve had on earth in particular, as well as those interested in geology and the history of the earth, Meteor Crater Natural Landmark would be a very interesting attraction. I’m glad I went, and I appreciate The Lady subsidizing my admission fee, but I wouldn’t encourage travelers on tight budgets to give up something else to visit here unless they were huge fans of meteors and the craters they leave behind.
This photo does no justice to how deep and wide Meteor Crater really is.