The Culling of Quartzsite

First of all, thank everyone so much for their wonderfully comforting and kind comments to my “trying to get the feeling again” post.  That started out as just a rambling journal entry, trying to figure out how I “lost that loving feeling.” I figured after almost three months of silence, I would be playing to an empty room. But after your thoughtful words of support and encouragement, I am feeling a bit “verklempt.” It meant so much to me to know there are so many other more “seasoned” bloggers who have bouts with the same self-doubt. For me, writing comes from the heart, not the head. If the feeling is there, the words need to come out one way or another. If not, well then the “well is dry.”

Bear with me through a few rambling reflections on Quartzsite:

This was my first Quartzsite.   The jury is still out as to whether it will be my last.   It reminded me a bit of living in Manhattan in my 40’s.   The city was made up of dozens of demographics, yet I couldn’t seem to find a group of people where I fit.   The city dwellers were all in their 20’s, trying to emulate the characters from Sex in the City, sipping Cosmos in slinky black dresses.  Those in their 30’s were busy pushing baby strollers up the East Side, shoving the rest of us off the sidewalk as if the chariots holding their little bundles of joy were bulldozers.   Older, more establishment types were doing the “bridge and tunnel” commute, bulging out of the PATH train at precisely 8:59am, then evacuating the city like a ghost town at the first stroke of a respectable end to the workday.   So where were the “people like me?”

Finally, one day I stumbled upon the True North Sailing Club, signed up for sailing lessons, and instantly found “my tribe.”   Membership was represented by all demographics, yet it didn’t matter.   We were there for the love of sailing.

I think that is what I expected to get from Quartzsite…almost a million attendees, all drawn together by the love of RVing.  But I didn’t feel it.  I completely get that it’s not feasible with a crowd this big, but I had a hard time pigeon-holing myself. I didn’t really feel like I fit into any of the “tribes.”  There were the Canadians, the dog owners, the ATVers, the Boomers, the Rubber Trampers, the Xcapers.  But where were the “Hikers with a Peter Pan Complex?”

Like so much of our society today, it feels like the special interest groups have segregated us.   With the advent of new groups like the Xcapers, tribes get more specialized, and as they define their demographic, it can feel more exclusionary than welcoming.   A “working age” group?  Yes, I am “working age,” but I no longer want to think about work.

Certainly, I enjoyed meeting fellow View/Navion Owners, but again, we seem to form into “sub groups.”  As I struggle to find my “tribe,” I see that is part of the problem.  People are people, yet in our struggle to “belong,” we isolate.   There were friends I wanted to see at Quartzsite, yet the segregation between Boomers, Xcapers, brands and badges was too difficult for me to transcend.   Instead, I withdrew.

I think back to that sense of belonging I felt in that Manhattan sailing club.  It changed my life completely.  Yes, there were still 20 somethings in the group, as well as retired sailors in their 70’s.  But we were brought together by our love of sailing.  It didn’t matter how old, where we worked, where we were from.  We hung together in kinship.

So it makes me wonder as I look across the desert at so many RVs out there, the ground scattered with fiberglass as white as a freak snowfall.  Where is my tribe?  Why do I not feel that same sense of belonging and camaraderie among those who have a love for RVing like I did among the sailing community?  The sport itself was engaging enough that there was not time to discuss whether you were a single-hander or sailed with a crew.  We didn’t drop the mainsheet to stand up and cheer when another boat flying the Canadian flag sailed by.  We didn’t anchor over by the Beneteaus, or raft up with the Catalinas.  We focused on harnessing nature to make the boat sail as skillfully as possible.  Sharing the thrill and skill of mind body coordination.  There was no segregation. We weren’t single, female, Native Texan, “working age” sailors.  We were just sailors…I miss that.

The "Skinnie Winnie" (View/Navion) Rally at Quartzsite.

The “Skinnie Winnie” (View/Navion) Rally at Quartzsite.

This may not exactly be "Burning Man"...

This may not exactly be “Burning Man”…

But we still had one heck of a "burn!"

But we still had one heck of a “burn!”

Wine Night at the View/Navion rally.  Note the label on the center bottle, "Happy Camper!"

Wine Night at the View/Navion rally. Note the label on the center bottle, “Happy Camper!”

We had a respectable finish!

We had a respectable finish!

Skinnie Winnie Rallys always have the best pot lucks!

Skinnie Winnie Rallys always have the best pot lucks!

...making it impossible to be "skinny!"

…making it impossible to be “skinny!”

IMG_7178

"State Fair" food was tempting, but at $8 for a hotdog, $7 for onion rings, and $10 for a double scoop of homemade ice cream, one could lose their appetite fast!

“State Fair” food was tempting, but at $8 for a hotdog, $7 for onion rings, and $10 for a double scoop of homemade ice cream, one could lose their appetite fast!

Note big kids in wagons -- one playing games on a tablet, the other trying to nap.  I think the rule in a crowded tent should be "One wagon per family."

Note big kids in wagons — one playing games on a tablet, the other trying to nap. I think the rule in a crowded tent like “Q” should be “One wagon per family.”

The Lazy Daze Camp

The Lazy Daze Camp

View from atop "Q Mountain."  Guess it goes without saying it was windy in the desert.

View from atop “Q Mountain.” Guess it goes without saying it was windy in the desert.

23 thoughts on “The Culling of Quartzsite

  1. Did you notice the Happy Camper wine has a screw top? There is a reason for that! If you have leftover wine (ok no-such-thing!) and only replace the cork, the remaining air will expand as the temperature or elevation change the next day. It’s really hard to clean up :)

    Great post on the experience at ‘The Q’
    Jeff

  2. Hi Suzanne. I’m happy to see your blog again. You have had an incredibly difficult year in 2015. It would be normal to feel you have no tribe. I know you’ve heard time will heal a million times. It doesn’t really heal, but the constant ache gets easier and fewer between events. Keep doing what you love. You’ll run into that tribe you seek. Hope you run into me at some point to reminisce and compare notes. I don’t have a tribe either. Just like high school, for the most part, Pat & I don’t really fit into the same tribes. Love for each their keeps us together, and narrows the opportunity that we will both fit into the same group of people. Double difficult.
    You are always an inspiration for me. I love that you just GO, and do whatever you feel like, yet you are grounded in family. I have a great admiration for your courage and determination.
    There’s nothing wrong in feeling like you do after the trauma you’ve been through this past year, and the possible guilt you feel in leaving to follow your dreams. Life is short. Go. Experience. Write.
    I love you! Reta

  3. I think big gatherings are hard in general. I personally like smaller groups where you can get to know each other better. They lead to more of a community (tribal?) experience for me.

    Nina

  4. We’ve never been to Quartzite, and probably never will now that we have to leave the country in January’s from now on. It’s interesting to hear the different stories and I would have liked to experience it once, I don’t think I’m missing out on too much.

  5. This is why I always love reading your posts…you are able to describe some weird sh*t I’ve noticed or felt in a totally engaging, thoughtful manner!

    I’ve not been to Q (and really have no desire to do so at this point) but I too have felt the exclusionary vibe of this lifestyle at times. Perhaps it’s my introverted personality, but I always feel more comfortable with folks who share my love of outdoor activities, rather than some group based on a “thing” such as RV type or “still working”. I prefer to go do an activity with my friends or talk about great hiking locations (for example) than just stand around over cocktails trying to find common interests. I guess my “tribe” would be outdoor enthusiasts…!

  6. Perhaps if you decide to return to Quartszite, you could start the Quartzsite Sailing Club – No Boats, No Badges 😉
    On a serious note – how was the Bloggerfest tribal gathering? I’ve been to Quartzsite once and within 15 mins determined it was not for me. But I might be enticed to attend a future Bloggerfest if I was in the area.

    • Hi, J. Dawg! I love the idea! We can meet up at the Quartzsite Yacht Club. haha!

      Actually, I think it was the bloggerfest that got me down. Aside from meeting a couple of people I have followed for years (Sue Malone, Bayfield Al, and Jerry the Egg Man) and with the exception of my own “posse.” I didn’t know of or follow most of them. My perception was that a lot of the “newer talent” was over at the Xcapers compound, which is what led me down the rabbit hole of this rambling rant. 😉

  7. I agree with Lisa…you have a wonderful way of saying it like it is and how we all feel but don’t say it:)

    We drove over to “experience” the Q one year and never got out of the car…haha! I just can’t do crowds and all those booths and tents started me shaking!! The bloggerfest would be overwhelming. I wouldn’t have known many of the bloggers either. I believe some people must just sit and read hundreds of blogs a day. I can barely keep up with the ones I follow.

    I guess I am not a group type person. I would much rather spend time with a couple people that I can enjoy. So I guess you won’t ever see us in Quartzsite:)

  8. I too don’t do well with crowds and usually find myself a non-participating spectator lurking over there in a corner wondering just where I fit in this world.

    I’ve never been to Quartzsite, well, not during the winter gathering anyway, so am not qualified, by any stretch of the imagination or twisting of the facts, to be making any comments about it, but what the heck, why should that stop me?!

    I suspect Quartzsite suffers from the same malady that affects all the ‘best of’ places. You know, best place to live, best place to retire, best place to spend the winter, and so-on.

    In my experience: 1) by the time a place makes one of those lists it’s already past its prime 2) getting on one of those lists is a sure way to hasten the decline 3) once you’re on a list you can’t get off again!

    Case in point, Austin just made number one capital city in the nation, its umpteenth list in the past 20 years, but none of the criteria for getting on that list addressed the the congestion, the ridiculously long commutes, the ‘heart of funk’ killing gentrification, the declining music scene or the record high number of deadly pedestrian/auto encounters last year.

    But, no matter how low my expectations, I find I’m still compelled to check things like that out at least once, just so I can say been there, done that. I guess it’s a relatively bloodless form of self-flagellation and post flagellation bliss is the best!

    greg

  9. Glad you are back. Funny thing, the other night I was saying I don’t want to be part of a certain demographic-what did Groucho say? I wouldn’t want to be part of a club that would have me as a member, paraphrasing of course.

    But then again, from a Tom Robbins novel-you’re never too old to have a happy childhood….I think it was the woodpecker that said it. I am always looking at groups from the perimeter, and happy about it. Fitting into a large group is simply too much work!
    Dick

  10. I agree with you – I don’t fit in anywhere, either. I guess I never have. And when I try, I’m just so happy to be back home again! But I still love Quartzsite. I like that I can meet up with my friends who also stop there most years. We can visit, then return to our own campsites, good for another week or so, or maybe good until we visit again next year. I get repairs done, get questions answered, and learn something new from almost every conversation I have. I try to look like I belong there, and I guess I do – as much as anyone else.

    I always buy the season pass, so I can pick any site I want and just park there until I feel like moving to another site, or another camping area that accepts my pass. I know where the dump site, water and trash are, as well as the propane places in town. I like walking the big tent and getting bargains from the smaller vendors. I never spend much, but if there’s something I need, it’s there.

    All in all, I don’t feel like I have to fit in anywhere – I’m just there. Doing my solo thing, with occasional social interactions, and I guess I love it all because I go back every year. Maybe I like that I don’t HAVE to fit in. You know? :)

  11. we were on the road for three years before we finally went to the Q – we were going to camp near the Boomers but the group seemed to large and we wanted to stay north of Q where is was said to be less dusty – we stumbled into a small group of Escapees that called themselves the Classless group (class meaning the year they started full timing) and we had a blast with this small unpretentious group and would go back to the Q again only because of that experience

  12. We’ve never been “joiners” and that hasn’t changed in our three years of full timing. Nonetheless, we’ve made a number of friends on the road — the common thread seems to be a love of nature and outdoor adventures, accompanied by interesting conversation, of course. Although we’ve passed through Quartzsite many times in our cross-country journeys over the years, neither of us has ever felt any desire whatsoever to stop. Except for a visit once or twice to the naked booksellers shop, of course.

  13. Terry and I have never been to the Q, nor have we had much of a desire to go. You described so succinctly how I imagined it would feel for me. After reading your post, I am pretty much convinced the Q is not in my future.

  14. I missed your posts!! In fact I had wondered if I was not getting them for some reason.
    I know what you mean about fitting in. That is me totally. I have a hard time fitting into a group. But, I am very friendly and meet people easily. I guess in most respects I am somewhat a loner. Like doing thinks alone and dont mind being alone. I went to Q in 1996 when I had my RV for a couple years. Don’t have one now but am looking. I found Q to be fun , but a bit to much . I only stayed one week and then went on to Tucson and found a small tribe of vendors to hang with at the outskirts of the Big gem show there. I was a vendor at the time as well. I really enjoyed that scene a bit more then the Q scene.

    I think I follow your posts, and Box Canyon Marks because I am an outdoor, hiking enthusiast, like both of you ! But, I dont allways post. Anyways, just wanted to say , Welcome back!!! I really love reading your posts !!!

  15. I loved this post. We joined Xscapers but realized after that we aren’t full-timers and when we make the switch from part-time to full-time, we won’t be workers. Met some interesting people though. We had this conversation recently about the irony of wanting to go off and be “alone” in nature, yet we are drawn to reading blogs and meeting bloggers for dinner or a hike. Yet, we are happiest on our own. Kind of contradictory of us. But, I can’t imagine not reading my favorite bloggers, like you, who make me feel and make me want to see beautiful, unique places.

  16. Judy said it perfectly, in her inimitable concise style. Yeah, me too. We have found some of our own out there, but they are few and far between. Tribe is a funny thing, and it gets even weirder when you get up to your 70’s.

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