by Bonnie Neely
Our new year in the RV in Los Angeles began with our journey to see the human snowbirds who migrate to winter in the warm desert at Quartzsite, Arizona. It was a little town of about five hundred people, but somehow they coped with about two million visitors each winter, all arriving in different kinds of homes on wheels: from old beat-up vans, converted buses, to old RVs, and large luxury coaches. Quartzsite has fifty RV parks, but the most popular place is the free Bureau of Land Management, which offers miles of hot, dusty, flat, dry camping (which means no hookups, water, or electric). Sewer trucks, garbage trucks, and water trucks come through frequently to keep the place sanitary, with so many people living there. January is the perfect time of year to experience this place, now immortalized in the 2021 Academy Award winner film Nomadland.
The rule is you can stay for two weeks, then you must move at least twenty-five miles away for several weeks before returning. The camaraderie is inviting, no one is pretentious, and these are a collection of over two million individuals who love their freedom. It was winter, so we just had to see it for ourselves, since summer temperatures average 120 degrees there and they have no hookups for air-conditioning and almost no nomads then. We knew we would not want to experience that summer heat again in the desert, as we had the previous summer when we arrived at Joshua Tree and our RV engine died in the heat. Of course, we had had no air conditioning as we waited for hours before the AAA men arrived to our relief and rescues.
We only stayed that one January night in the mass of humanity but found everyone very welcoming, orderly, and law-abiding. The very hard rock quartzite is mined in this area. It has a grainy, sand- paper-like but glassy surface composed predominantly of an interlocking mosaic of quartz crystals. Rockhounds flock to this area, so I wanted to visit a rock shop, and we found many interesting stones that our grandson would love. The next day as we were leaving, we saw the sewage truck making its round to clean out RV waste tanks, not a job we would choose, but everyone here was glad someone was making a living that way.
Going through Arizona, we veered a little off our highway to go through the famous Petrified Forest National Park; however, we were very disappointed because the specimens were few and far between. The park ranger told us that through the years, souvenir seekers had stolen many of the petrified pieces before laws were established to protect this unusual place. The few pieces of petrified wood we saw there were beautiful rocks of several brilliant reds, greens, purple, and yellow, with diamond-like sparkles in the sunlight. The rocks are all granite crystal, composed of different minerals: iron, carbon, and manganese. These had once been trees, which over two hundred million years ago had sunk quickly and deeply into an ancient river system. They were so quickly buried by the sediment that oxygen was cut off and the decay process slowed. As minerals seeped into the porous wood, they had solidified into stone of many colors, and we could clearly see the trees’ cadmium rings in some of these beautiful slabs.
Farther along this Highway I-40 going toward Texas, we stopped near Winslow to see the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark, which is the best-preserved meteorite impact site on earth. The pieces that broke off from the meteor are known as the Canyon Diablo meteorite. The diameter of the big hole is about three-fourths of a mile, and the depth is 560 feet. The iron meteorite hit the earth at about twenty-nine thousand miles per hour here about fifty thousand years ago. Most of it was vaporized by the high impact, but some fragments remained, from which scientists have gleaned valuable information. At the visitor center, we learned a lot about meteors and saw one of the biggest meteor chunks on display. The crater is on privately owned land of the Barringer family and therefore cannot be protected as public land by the USA government laws.
We find travel in the desert lands of the USA to be fascinating; however, not everyone appreciates the barren landscape, dust, and hikes among many plants which endure drought but are mostly covered with very painful prickly spines. But big skies above the flat landscapes are vastly beautiful and inspiring. We have often been aware that whenever we travel long ways through a desert, we seem to bring rain, and we love to see the dark clouds building far in the distance and moving nearer. We can actually see rain falling from a huge cloud about twenty miles away! Several desert land-owners joked about our bringing rain with each visit and begged us to come more often, especially this year of the long drought in the West. The vast big skies at night offer such blessings of star canopy, which is far more sparkling than near a city’s light pollution. Trying to identify the various constellations became so intriguing that we could see why the shepherds and Wise Men of the Christmas story in the Bible could stay out under the stars night after night. But one night in NomadLand was enough for satisfying our curiosity!
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