Thursday, October 9, 2014

Moving into the Quartzsite season

As fall leaves begin to change in the high country, the question on the mind of every business owner in Quartzsite is, "Are they coming?" Well, maybe not, "are they," but more, "When will they." If the number of rigs populating Quartzsite's Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs) is any indicator, the snowbirds are coming early this season.

Earlier this week we drove out onto LaPosa South LTVA, the area where the Bureau of Land Management provides a dump station and fresh water fill outlets. From the highway, it appeared as though there were a few early-comers, but moving on to the back, there were rigs popping up everywhere, some "digging in" for the long term, with temporary tarp buildings festooning the desert. Up closer to town, at LaPosa West and LaPosa North, plenty of RVers are moving into the coveted areas near where the Big Tent Show will pop up come January.

If you're wondering about fees, the BLM has held the line on price increases. A full season permit still costs $180 (good until mid-April) and the short visit (two week) permit is still steady at $40. A lot more than when we first started boondocking on Quartzsite's desert back in the late 90s, but still a bargain. Where else can you get your pick of campsites on over 11,000 acres? A bit of warning to Canadians who've never been here: The BLM won't take checks drawn on non-U.S. banks. They also turn up their noses at loonies and toonies, so come prepared with American currency. And everyone, it's "exact change only."

You'll spot a few changes in town if you cruise on in. One of the biggest questions, "When is the big tent RV show?" You might think Kenny pulled the plug, because the big billboard advertising the dates has vanished. Well, not vanished, but collapsed is a better descriptor. The big sign, that used to stand tall next to those big yellow elephant water tanks, took a big hit in the summer monsoon winds, and crashed right down. But sign or not, the show must go on, and will run from January 17 thorough the 25th.

The local Business Chamber of Commerce also took a hit from the winds, with the local office roof peeled back like a tin can. Rather than fix the roof, the Chamber folks towed out the old office-on-wheels and have brought in another office building. Down the block, you old hands may recall good food served up at the Stagecoach Restaurant. It closed a few years back, along with its associated motel building. New owners bought up the place, reopened the motel, and started renovating the restaurant. Then, hey presto! Not long before the eatery was to reopen, fire leveled the joint. We wondered if the setback would be the end, but no, a new metal building houses the newly reopened Stagecoach Restaurant. We'll bring you word on the quality of the meals served up, later.

And if any of you entrepreneurial-minded folks wants food for thought, there's food for sale, after a fashion. Both the General Store and the Big Market have "For Sale" signs out front. The only other regular grocery store contender in town, Roadrunner Market, doesn't have a sign out, but did take a hiatus, closing up for a few weeks this summer, while its competitors sweltered the high humidity. The Road Runner is back up and running, and smaller, seasonal "dent can" competitors are putting down their green carpets and raising their tent walls for the season.

Winter must be coming, you can't hit a hardball down Main Street without hitting a car at high noon any longer. Come on down.