The RV Phenomenon That Is Quartzsite

A place in the desert not to be missed

Every January something happens that is hard to believe unless you have seen it!

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They come in motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, truck campers, converted buses and vans, and even in tents. There are rugged individualists, small groups banded together (circling the wagons, in a modern way), and large groups, all parked in the desert to feel the Quartzsite vibe. Some have been coming for years, returning to a favorite site which they have marked with rock-lined drives (although “saving” unoccupied sites are not allowed under BLM rules). Long-term visitors often expand their domains to include screened “porches” and massive solar panel arrays.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite has become a mecca to visitors and exhibitors for rocks, gems, mineral specimens, and fossils during the town’s famous two-month-long gem and mineral shows and flea markets meet every January and February. From its humble beginnings, the now-massive Quartzsite show has grown to epic proportions with vendors offering everything under the Quartzsite sun.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Being close to town means being close to Interstate 10—the basic amenities that Quartzsite provides and giant flea markets which are the center of attention. Going by names such as Rice Ranch, Tyson Wells, The Main Event, and Desert Gardens, the open-air marketplaces host a variety of “shows.”

Related Article: Woodstock in the Desert

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These are actually a series of events that run through the winter, specializing in hobbies and crafts, gems and minerals, jewelry, classic cars, and RVs. Most are riddled with an indescribable variation of new and old products far beyond their title, plus all the snack foods of a county fair. A lot of annual visitors simply say, “We’re going to the show,” and their RV friends know they mean Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town itself features all the basic services of a southwestern desert highway stop: gas stations, barbecue restaurants, and seedy little grocery stores (several of which are run from tent-sided buildings during the season). Owing to the heavy RV emphasis there are also several places to get propane, RV supplies, and used or cheap tools.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be warned, though. Don’t come in the summer when nothing much happens. The gypsy-like encampment will have long disappeared. Vendors start packing up in mid-February and are long gone before the snowbirds migrate north and the intense desert heat becomes unbearable.

Related Article: The Real Story of Nomadland (aka Quartzsite, Arizona)

But come winter, everything changes as the small desert community bustles with activity. RVs by the tens of thousands camp helter-skelter on the BLM land.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Originally built by Charles Tyson, Quartzsite began in 1856 as Fort Tyson, then became a stagecoach stopover called Tyson Wells and this name still echoes in the annual Tyson Wells Rock and Gem show. A mini mining boom led to its renaming as Quartzsite.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What started as a small-town mineral show in the late ’60s in western Arizona has developed into a phenomenon that peaks in January by bringing more than 1 million people to the town of Quartzsite, where a huge RV show greets them.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 2022 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation, and RV Show (called “The Big Tent”) will run from January 22-30. In 39 years, the event has evolved into the largest consumer RV show in the US. The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Related Article: RV Shows: One-Stop RV Shopping

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The show is heaven on earth for RVers. It’s a ton of fun with hundreds of exhibits, live shows, bargain products, and fellow RV enthusiasts. The fact that the desert is gorgeous and the temperature is in the low-to-mid 70s in mid-January doesn’t hurt either!

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Quartzsite is a popular destination for snowbirds on its own but many come for a week or two during the RV Show. When the gates open on the first day, people are lined up for a quarter-mile at each of the two main entrances to get in. It fills the tent and creates gridlock.

Related Article: RV Travel Bucket List: 20 Places to Visit Before You Die

If you’re an RVer, Quartzsite in January is on your bucket list.

Quartzsite is a phenomenon, a gathering place.

Quartzsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let the shows begin!

See you at the Q!

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

Buying an RV

Take your time, do your homework, talk to owners of similar models, and locate a good reputable dealer who stands behind his products and provides quality service

We’ve been cooped up for months. Now, we are contending with summer sans festivals, fairs, sporting events, and concerts. Pent-up and ready to pop, we’re in desperate need of a vacation.

Alas, planning a vacation during a pandemic is like marching through a sandy beach in 6-inch stilettos. Aside from health concerns, there are travel restrictions, crowds, closures, mandatory quarantines, mask requirements, and confined capsules otherwise known as airplanes to contend with which may be why many are opting for the open road aboard a rolling abode.

7 Feathers Casino RV Park, Canyonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With so many models, brands, sizes, and amenities to choose from, it can be difficult to know which RV is right for you and your family. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or upgrading your unit, this article will help guide you through the process of purchasing an RV.

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to Consider When Buying an RV

There are 5 major factors to nail down before you can really start looking to buy an RV.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Budget

How much do you have to spend on your RV?

Will you be financing your RV?

How much are you willing to spend on fuel, maintenance, and insurance costs?

Do you want to buy a new or pre-owned RV?

Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Use

How often and for how long do you plan to use your RV?

What type of camping will you be doing? Weekend warrior or long-term? State and national park campgrounds or RV resorts?

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Size

How many people do you need to sleep?

How much storage do you require?

Will campsites you plan to use accept your vehicle length?

Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Towing

What size of rig are you comfortable driving or towing?

What is the tow rating of your tow vehicle? You’ll want to stay well within this limit or consider upgrading your tow vehicle.

Will you tow a car behind your motorhome (4-wheels down or dolly)?

Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Features

What features are necessities?

What features are nice-to-haves?

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to Buy an RV

Regardless of where you live in the US or Canada, there are many options for purchasing a new or pre-owned RV.

Gulf Coast RV Resort, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. RV Shows

Each year, recreational vehicle associations and RV dealers put on RV shows throughout the United States and Canada. The largest consumer RV Shows take place in Tampa, Florida in January, Hershey, Pennsylvania in September, and Pomona, California in October. At these shows you will find hundreds of RVs for sale and booths packed with RV accessories.

With many RV dealers in one place, you can check out the hundreds of RV models of all different types and sizes. There is something for every budget.

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. RV dealers

If you missed the RV shows, weren’t ready to buy, or plan to special order a unit, dealers are a great option. They’ll have a selection of new and pre-owned RVs. Different dealerships carry different brands and models of RVs and they may offer different incentives. It’s a good idea to check a few different dealerships out, especially if you’re not certain on which RV you want.

Rain Spirit RV Park, Cottonwood, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Private Sales

If you’re looking for a pre-owned RV, check out what is available in private sales. Be aware, though, that you may be buying someone else’s problem. A vehicle inspection is recommended.

Distant Drums RV Resort, Camp Verde, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Advice on Buying an RV

Always do your research on the brand, model, and seller. Not all manufacturers and RV dealers are created equal.

Don’t be afraid to walk away if a seller makes you feel uncomfortable or is showing you units above your price range or not what you really want.

Best of luck with your buying journey and your next adventures!

Moving from the old to the new at Midtown RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the interests of full disclosure, we currently own a 2019 Dutch Star diesel pusher. This is our fifth Newmar motorhome and Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia, is our trusted dealer.

Worth Pondering…

Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.

—Gloria Steinem

Plan To Attend the 2020 Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show

Every January something happens that is hard to believe, unless you have seen it!

More than a million and half million visitors, mostly in recreational vehicles, converge on the sleepy little desert town of Quartzsite, located just 20 miles east of the California state line on Interstate 10, for the rock, gem, and mineral shows, plus numerous flea markets and the annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show. Wherever you look, you see RVs of every type, size, and vintage. It’s the Woodstock of the Snowbird set!

The 37th Sports, Vacation & RV show in Quartzsite, Arizona is scheduled for January 18-26, 2020.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Attendance for the 2019 show was estimated at well over 100,000 with over 350 exhibits inside and around the show’s 70,000-square-foot and fully carpeted “Big Tent.”

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Co-promoter Kenny King noted in a news release, “If you’re looking for anything related to RVs, camping, and travel, you can usually find it at the Sports, Vacation & RV show in Quartzsite.” King added that here will be hundreds of new and used RVs on display and for sale and over a dozen service bays will be offering immediate installation, repairs, and warranty service.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2019, there were numerous tourism related exhibits from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Europe as well as representatives from dozens of the nation’s finest RV resorts and campgrounds. In addition many “workamper” recruiters from businesses, resorts, and private campgrounds were in attendance. King related, “The number and diversity of exhibits that you’ll find at the Quartzsite RV Show will not be found at any other show of this type in the United States.”

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This phenomenon started over 35 years ago and is now billed as “The Largest Gathering Of RVers in the World”. The inaugural Quartzsite RV Show opened January 28, 1984 at the corner of Highway 95 (now Central) and Business 10 (now Main Street) in Quartzsite. With just 60 exhibitors and a small tent, the “new show in town” was still very popular since the majority of the people in Quartzsite were RVers.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1987 the show, now re-named the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, moved up the street to the Quartzsite Trailer Park which was situated directly across from the major attraction in town, the Quartzsite Pow Wow (the first Pow Wow was held in 1967).

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This new home for the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show lasted 10 years until the show grew to a point that the current 3.5-acre show site could barely hold the number of exhibitors that were now vying for exhibit space at this popular annual event.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1997 the “BIG TENT”, as the show had become known, moved across the Interstate to its present home, a new 20-acre facility, ½-mile south of I-10 on Highway 95 (now 700 South Central).

With the new Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show grounds, the popular event was able to provide over 15 acres of public FREE parking.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For 2020, several major players in the RV Industry have come aboard as sponsors for the event. Co-promoter Kimmy King noted that Progressive RV Insurance, who stepped up as the “Naming Sponsor” several years ago, would continue to have a major presence at the 2020 event. Cummins Diesel, which has participated as an exhibitor at the show since 2015, is a new “Platinum Sponsor” and will be introducing a new line of portable generators during the 2020 show.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, longtime exhibitor Dometic has added a Service Bay in the service and repair area of the show grounds and Dish Network is one the newest “Gold Sponsors” in support of its major trade show retailer CM Wireless. King also reported that FMCA had recently stepped up as one of the “Silver Sponsors” along with returning sponsors Redlands Truck & RV Service, Plasticover and the show’s exclusive RV dealer RV Country.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During our last visit to the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show, we reminisced about how Quartzsite has changed over the last 16 years since our first visit and what future years might bring.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we first attended the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show in ’99, the RV Pavilion was packed with big-ticket items like RV satellites, tow hitches, and companies offering to install a solar array on your vehicle.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking ahead to future years, the Quartzsite Sports, Vacation & RV Show will continue to grow and attract a more general crowd. Thanks to items like cheaper flat screen TVs, smart phones, and affordable solar arrays with charge controllers to power all your gizmos, it is easy to have all the comforts of home while you’re camping.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As Quartzsite continues to grow and evolve, it will still be a wonderful place for RVers of all types to gather and relax with near perfect temperatures during the day and clear starlit skies at night. Quartzsite is an experience not to be missed—and we think you’ll like it too!

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering… 

Nowhere on earth will you find such an assortment of “stuff” as you will at Quartzsite from mid-December to mid-February. As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it in Quartzsite, you won’t find it anywhere.”

RV Shows: One-Stop RV Shopping

RV shows are like the megamalls of the RV world

RV and camping shows are where multiple dealers gather to bring their latest models and offer deals. This provides a great opportunity for prospective buyers to wander between different brands, dealers, models, check out various floor plans, ask questions, meet other RVers, and find the RV that best suits their needs.

How to Prepare For an RV Show

Under the Big Tent – the Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With the height of RV show season in full swing, thousands of potential buyers will attend one of the many fun-filled events taking place across the US and Canada.

The biggest mistake attendees make when attending an RV show is not doing their homework to determine what it is that they really want in an RV. Many shoppers will walk into a 36-foot Class A motorhome and say, “Oh this is great, it’s exactly what we want.” They’ll then proceed to walk into a 45-foot motor coach and realize that more stuff will fit into a 45-footer than in a 36-footer. Being absolutely overwhelmed, they end up leaving the RV show frustrated and more undecided than when they arrived.

Viewing a toy hauler at the Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In preparation for an RV show, first determine the type of RV best suited for your current family situation and lifestyle, minimum and maximum length you could live with comfortably, and your budget. When setting a budget, consider insurance and license costs, maintenance and storage, in addition to total cost of RV including sales tax and fees. Keep in mind that you don’t want to purchase a 40-foot rig if 32 feet is the maximum length that will fit in your driveway.

Think about whether you want motorized or towable? If motorized, gas or diesel? If towable, what is the GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) of your tow vehicle? This will determine the weight of a trailer you can legally and safely tow.

In addition to new motorhomes and trailers RV shows offer parts and supplies of interest to RVers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Think about how many people your RV will need to sleep.

How easy is it to hook up and unhook?

All of this helps to narrow your focus so you’re not wasting your time examining RVs that don’t fit your needs or your budget.

FMCA rally in Indio, California offers seminars and workshops of interest to RVers in addition to displays of new coaches and RV-related services © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The four basic questions to ask yourself before purchasing an RV are:

  • Will it meet my needs?
  • Is it built to last?
  • What happens down the road?
  • Will the manufacturer and dealership stands behind the RV?
An RV show and rally sponsored by Freightliner Chassis held in Tucson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

With that being said, customers are always going to have questions, as they should. Part of the reason shoppers attend RV shows is to receive guidance from experienced product experts. It’s not always easy to decide on the right RV for you, and sales consultants and manufacturer’s representative are there to help.

If you want to measure a coach and see what it looks like with the slides in or any of that kind of thing, get to the show in the early morning. There won’t be as large a crowd and you can sit in different RVs and really get a feel for each one.

Entertainment is often a key component of RV shows and rallies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Don’t grab every brochure you come across. People often walk around grabbing this brochure and that brochure and at the end of the day they’re carrying around 10 pounds of product literature. If you know you’re in the market for a Class A motorhome, you’ll regret it later if you start loading up on travel trailer brochures.

And of course, dress comfortably. Bring a bottle of water, wear comfortable shoes, and be ready to do some walking. If you’re not dressed comfortably, you’re not going to enjoy yourself.

FMCA Show and Rally in Perry, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

An RV show can be a great opportunity for customers who know what they want to get a great deal. The more prepared you are going into a show, the more likely you are to be able to take advantage of show-based incentives and discounts.

Check out the new rigs for numerous manufacturers at an RV show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Consider this: A dealer requires considerable time and effort to setup and display their units for show. Afterward, the dealer had to break down all of the unsold units, transport them back to the lot, clean them up, and get them ready to display all over again.

One of the most important things to remember is if you don’t feel comfortable with a particular salesperson, move on. An RV is a major purchase, so make sure you find someone you’re comfortable with who has the knowledge and expertise to make your experience a great one.

And the sun sets on another RV Show and rally © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

I don’t think you can call yourself a true American until you’ve been behind the wheel of an RV … I love seeing parts of the country I wouldn’t otherwise.

—Jeff Daniels, actor