About 3 weeks ago, I dragged my wife down I-10 into Arizona for 4 days. Specifically, we went to Quartzsite, AZ on a buying safari for gemstones and other oddities of inlay for my flutes. During the months of January and February, that particular eastbound speed bump west of Phoenix balloons from a few thousand to over 3 million folks. The entire town becomes a sea of motor homes, little white tents, dirty shredded banners, and rocks, millions of rocks. If you have never been, you may want to kick it up a few notches on your list of things to do before you die. I did, and I’m truly glad I did, but probably for all the wrong reasons.
Sight unseen, I picked Ehrenberg, AZ as our base of operations. The attached photos are the views from our room. No joke. Blythe, CA demarks the state line, and I wanted to be well into AZ but about 10 miles AWAY from Quartzsite. Turns out, Ehrenberg pretty much IS Blythe, except it’s on the other side of the 2-foot painted line separating Arizona from California. I don’t like Blythe. During the summer, the streets literally melt in Blythe. Blythe competes with Thermal, California for hottest spot in the nation awards. Blythe usually wins. You can see Blythe from Ehrenberg. You can throw a rock and HIT Blythe from Ehrenberg. I found out that Ehrenberg is the ‘Flying J Truck Stop/Motel’, and that’s pretty much it, period. However … it is a SERIOUS truck stop. I grabbed a 20-ouncer of coffee in their “diner” for my wife to take along on the drive into Quartzsite. Two hours later, shuffling around in the dirt among the tables of rocks, she thought she was having either an out-of-body experience………..or a stroke. Truck stops KNOW coffee.
On our particular trip, Quartzsite was hosting four rock and mineral shows, running simultaneously, and set up wherever the dirt was level. Each included perhaps 100 vendors, their motor homes, tattered poly tarp awnings, and plywood table tops, boxes and bags… of nothing but rocks. Specimens included virtually everything in God’s inventory, from agate to zircon to meteorites, to anything that would hold still long enough to become petrified. Lapidary vendors were also out in force, as these folks also sold nicely cut and polished gems, as well as 200-lb. boulders, should you want to throw a few in the trunk of your car and look for the gems at home in the comfort of your own driveway….with a hammer. I opted for cut and polished. By the end of the day I had some Robinson Ranch plume dendrite, boulder opals, fire opals, abalone, agates, ammolite, ammonites, and some beautiful pieces of stuff I can’t spell. I also had dirt in my teeth, just from being there in the first place.
As we pulled out onto the interstate, and into the setting sun, I glanced back in the rearview at the sea of tarps and sagging, tired motor homes. These nomads who sell rocks were beginning to cluster in groups to form up plans and provisions for their dinner barbeques, and ward off the Arizona desert chill with what I suspected would be more than a few adult beverages. I romanticized about those folks for all of the 4 seconds it took to re-focus on the highway and blast through a giant dust devil crossing the interstate. I’ll be back.