Monday, January 10, 2011
Day 158: RV City
Vicksburg Junction to Quartzsite. 21.8 miles/3043.4 total
Monday, January 10, 2011
It is 9:26 a.m. and I’ve just parked the car on the side of U.S. 60 near McKay Road west of Vicksburg Junction. I’ll go down 60 through Brenda until it ends, then follow I-10 into Quartzsite, 21.8 miles.
Before I begin the walk today I want to wish Furnace Man a happy birthday, wherever he is. As he always said, "Janiary tenf. Big Man's birfday." (At least two of my readers will understand this reference.)
It’s chilly this morning, in the high 40s again. The sky is mostly clear and it’s going to be another average January day in the desert.
Since I’ve already been to Quartzsite this morning to park the motor home, I can report to you that the entire city, especially its outlying areas, is like the mother of all Walmart parking lots, without the Walmart. Hundreds of motor homes and RVs are parked randomly on large open areas off I-10 in the two or three miles east of the first Quartzsite exit, on gravel flats and amid bushes and trees. The whole thing is like a huge peaceable kingdom of inexpensive living. To be sure there are many RV parks, too, where you can pay for hookups.
All along the way I pass little clutches of motor homes gathered around dilapidated houses. Not official RV parks, but places that look like they might offer space for a fee. Or maybe they are just the houses of people who own lots of motor homes.
Throughout the first six miles I’ve been on the Ranegras Plain, but now I begin to climb gradually uphill. The hills are dark brown to black with sparse vegetation, saguaros throwing their arms up in supplication or perhaps exasperation.
At 7.5 miles I enter Brenda, which seems to exist for the sole purpose of catering to RV owners. There is a small motel for those who are so unfortunate as to not have an RV. Many of them are the spiffy tour bus-looking ones, complete with satellite dishes and fancy sliders to extend the living space. These behemoths often cost as much as houses.
Some of the RV parks bill themselves as “resorts,” and come with miniature golf and resort newspapers and lots of coordinated activities like bingo and church and music and movies. That seems to really appeal to the old people, who come down every winter to hang out with their RV friends. Desert Gold resort is one of those that’s got it all going on.
I pass a street called Twin Buttes leading into one of the RV villages, which causes me to look around and sure enough, off to the southwest is a pair of buttes as well as lots of other little funny shaped peaks. And as I’m looking at them I notice what has to be the most interesting and complicated-looking saguaro cactus I’ve ever seen. Actually it’s a double, one of which is tall and thin and has only one arm. But the other must have at least twenty arms, some long and hanging down, some stubby. They cling together like conjoined twins. From what I understand a saguaro with this much going on could well be over 150 years old. I imagine it when it was a little shaver, watching the Union and Confederate troops marching down this road, which probably existed as a wagon trail back then.
After the Brenda RV Park and the Country Store there follows, surrounded by chain link fence topped by barbed wire, what could be considered a ghost village. There’s a store and two wooden buildings empty and abandoned and a few newer houses, all empty. A yellow Mercury from the 1960s, rusted and boatlike, sits under a carport. Next to all this is a tiny 50s era motel with only four rooms. I think this is that lonely motel in the desert that my friend Greg was asking about. I look around for the house on the hill where Norman Bates lives.
At 11.4 miles I reach Interstate 10, and I will be getting on it at least until I can find a place to walk down off the shoulder. I-10 will take me the last ten miles into the outskirts of Quartzsite.
From up on the overpass I have a 360 degree panoramic view of mountains, green and brown, and the gently rising interstate as it heads west toward the border. I see a flicker of a tail that I think is the first roadrunner I’ve observed so far. I barely see it running across a dry creek bed, but I do hear a distinct “beep beep.”
After about two miles on I-10 I manage to find an old paved road running about a quarter mile south of the expressway, up along the edges of the Plomosa Mountains. I have to climb a fence and go down a ravine to get there, and while negotiating the fence I pick up quite a few burrs from nearby teddy bear chollas, some of the needles of which stick far into the soles of my shoes and prick the bottoms of my feet. So after I gingerly make it over the barbed wire I sit on a rock and take off both shoes and spend a little time pulling out the thorns.
All along this chipped and decomposing two-lane road, high above the interstate now, grow palo verde trees that have taken root at the sheer edge where it drops off. I follow it far up over the hills, wondering if I've made a mistake, and whether it will continue to run with the freeway or curve away from it. But at 16 miles the road has wound back down to the interstate and I reach the Gold Nugget Road exit. Then I see another dirt road, this one a rocky one-lane path, barely navigable, and head for it, hoping to find the side road that leads into Quartzsite.
I continue to inch my way along this rough road and in the distance I see the buildings of Quartzsite spread out and gleaming in the sun. At about 19 miles I see the first couple of motor homes at the far eastern edge of the long expanse of gravel lots and bits of cleared desert that constitutes one large unenclosed RV lot for those who don’t need the amenities of water, sewer, and electric hookups. The road widens into two lanes and continues to improve as I head west.
It never quite warmed up today, and I think the temperature is still in the mid-50s, with some low clouds beginning to roll in from the west. Tomorrow may well be even chillier.
The Quartzsite exit was about 24 miles from the start of the walk today, so I arrived at the ending point of today’s walk by getting off at that exit and doubling back eastward a couple of miles down this long dead end road.
At about 21 miles I come to the Quartzsite town limits. In another half mile I spot the motor home sitting comfortably in a large section of lot that presently contains only three other RVs, grouped around each other like wagons in a circle. This will be the place to which I return after picking up the car, and where I’ll spend the next two or three nights.