Quartzsite: Frozen Eggs and Giant Freezers

It has now been a year since moving to the snowbird nesting home of Quartzsite, Arizona. Also known as the final resting place of Hi Jolly, the man who immigrated to help Uncle Sam’s Camel Corps work on a daily basis, this desert “oasis” for the elderly is interesting to say the least.

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It has now been a year since moving to the snowbird nesting home of Quartzsite, Arizona. Also known as the final resting place of Hi Jolly, the man who immigrated to help Uncle Sam’s Camel Corps work on a daily basis, this desert “oasis” for the elderly is interesting to say the least.  In many ways the phrase second childhood could apply to most of the temporary denizens of this RV wonderland.

In retrospect, the area is much colder in January 2016 than last year’s winter chill. A head start in the latter days of December 2015 with temperatures that dipped below freezing on a regular basis in the night,  cold has taken on new meaning. Not only that but it has also changed the purpose of certain items.

Most notable, the humble refrigerator was transformed into  giant freezer. Every single liquid item, including eggs, became solid examples of their natural state.  Green tea, bottled water, a “bag” of vegetable soup, milk, an energy drink and 10 eggs all were transformed into rock hard immoveable objects.

The eggs did have web-like cracks over the ice cold shells.  After hoping on the Internet to double-check, it was found that one could cook once frozen eggs without fear of contracting botulism or salmonella.  At least according to numerous websites, unless the raw eggs were stored in an device crawling with harmful bacteria, the icy yolks and whites could be thawed and cooked.

After moving the carton of ice-eggs to another fridge, one that was not altered by the constant lower temperature of under 32 degrees Fahrenheit, they became somewhat less frozen, and more “slushy-like” and able to be cooked.  These frozen eggs fried up nicely, in a bit of oil, and tasted “normal” on bits of toast.

It has been discovered that the main fridge is still operating as a giant freezer…All liquid denizens are still icy and hard as a rock, with the exception of a partially filled plastic jug of apple juice. Just why the juice has not become one with the cold and, at the very least, turned into a sort of icy sludge, is not known.

If one Googles the answer, it appears that apple juice contains more sugar and this keeps the freezing rate pretty well contained. As fascinating as all this is, the one thing that the intense, and unusual, cold has not changed, is the amount of Snowbirds flocking into Quartzsite in the New Year.

2016 has seen a massive influx of these geriatric teenagers and  octogenarian young oldsters.  The vendors have doubled and tripled in sized and scope in the last few weeks and the legion of RVs, ATVs and motorbikes have quadrupled. Outside the tents, where one can buy anything from cool sunglasses to various kitchen utensils, a plethora of vehicles now rest, temporarily, while their aged drivers waddle, limp and trot throughout the vendors wares on offer.

There is also an increase in the desert rat brigade, the hippies and love children, not, apparently the same thing, and beggars line the entrances, when the sun shines, of fast-food eateries along the main drag as well as outside the General and Dollar Store.

As a point of interest, these grubby and lost individuals have been forced to move on from a  facility that contains an ATM. This does not stop buskers (musicians) from playing their instruments for change until being moved on by the shop or restaurant owners.

There are those who seem to beg on a professional basis, one woman sports a new car and a sign which proclaims her need. This professional pan-handler wants money for petrol (gasoline) so she can visit her dying daughter, who suffers from a different ailment each week. She is moved on regularly, even the major personally called the 5-Oh to push her along. .

Of course with the new year just being days old and it still being the weekend, this snowbird paradise is chock-a-block (full to the brim) with both the returning population and those who are passing through. California license plates fill the car parks (parking lots) and each fast food eatery is filled to heaving with the hungry, loud, obnoxious and ill mannered.

Children who will, no doubt, all grow up to be as annoying as the 20 something’s who all appear to suffer from ADD, or ADHD and are incapable of sitting quietly, or still.  They are in good company, as most of the elderly enter the dining areas with hearing aides either turned off or down and seem incapable of carrying on a conversation in decent decibel levels.

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While writing about the indigenous population of Quartzsite, Arizona could become a full-time occupation, the setting sun and dipping temperature mandate an early finish to the working day. Riding a bicycle along roads populated by drivers who have little business being behind the wheel of a peddle tricycle, let alone a huge motorized death machine, is hazardous at best and nerve-wracking to the extreme. All the more so after dark.

In order to arrive alive at home,  do not be deceived this writer has been forced off the road and clipped by an elderly driver before and has almost been hit several times by the same type of vehicle operator, it is prudent to depart while there is enough light for both the driver and the bicyclist to see by.

As the cold weather continues, and the stream of snowbirds, and new vendors, keep pouring in, it will be interesting to see what happens next.

 

Life in the Real Desert: Where Did All the Hippies Go?

Church Sign...After promising to write about all the Navajo-horse-blanket-jacket-wearing hippies who were frequenting Quartzsite in my Life in the Real Desert “series” they all seem to have disappeared. This leaves the question of just where did all these hippies go? There are still a number of Desert Rats hanging around, but that number has dwindled as well.

The hippies were pretty easy to spot. Horse blanket jackets, dreadlocks – regardless of skin color or nationality – a lot of body surface dirt, a tendency to avoid sunblock, no shoes, some pretty “crusty” looking clothes  and they moved in clumps. (The hippies, not their clothing.) Like most members of any particular branch of society, some were friendly and others only wanted a hand out.

One bearded young man, with his wife(?) and two small children drove a station wagon, or an estate if you live across the pond, that had a sign painted on its side asking to be funded in order to allow for a vehicle upgrade. Many locals were/are not too enamored with these throwbacks to the 1960s and 70s “love children.”

This attitude is a little ironic considering that a lot of the vendors who sell their wares in the small burg seem to be remnants of the real deal from back in the day. Tie-dye t-shirts, raggedy trousers or long skirts, again dyed, along with any number of ribbons. Of course just as many of these sellers look like escapees from Cool Hand Luke territory complete with reddened neck and southern drawl.

Like any small community, even one made up of nomadic snowbirds who flock in and out, the “regulars” soon spot a new addition who has stumbled into something resembling citizenship of the town. Example: I sound a bit different when I speak. After years of listening every day to the Queen’s English, both at home and at work, I struggled to maintain my American accent, on my old agent’s advice.

Now that I’m not in that market any longer, my accent has changed to reflect my 32 year background. A young lady at the local Burger King, home of excellent free WiFi, asked about my background and another female worker quickly explained that “he comes in most every day.”

Without missing a beat she turned to me and said, “I just love your accent!” To which I replied, “Why thank you, it took me 32 years to learn.” The point is, that even frequenting a local fast food establishment, recognition comes quickly. As this is a small town, one can expect this familiarity to become a regular occurrence as time goes by.

Quartzsite, three camel sign.
Town sign outside of Burger King

 

Now that I’ve noticed that the hippy contingent has disappeared, the time has come to ask the locals if this is normal. Considering the amount of cold weather, for the desert that is, perhaps they all moved to warmer climates like Mexico for example.

For those who were positioned along the intersections near the highway,cardboard signs grasped and thumbs pointed, the numbers have dwindled until only the odd “rat” is hitching a ride. When I first arrived, one “hippy” had a sign with the destination “Anywhere but here” written on it. Another’s said, “Out of Quartzsite.”

I had talked to one young lady who told me point blank that the town was not friendly and that she’d almost gotten in a fight at the local food bank. Not for her, she said, she was sticking up for an elderly lady. As a result, she lost the vittles collected for her and a friend. The twenty-something woman stressed that Quartzsite would not be on their list of places to visit next year.

This information has already been passed along in an earlier article but bears repeating considering the lack of “flower children” in the town. It seems a shame that they’ve disappeared. There was a group who hung out in the shade of a local “hardware” store. They interacted with an old soul, who had a broken leg, that had staked out the shade of a solitary tree on the same lot.

The young people sat in the dirt and sand, eating what they had scrounged and chatted amiably amongst themselves. Speaking, if spoken to and not behaving in a threatening manner at all. Quite unlike the Desert Rats who can be, at first glance, a bit intimidating to the older snowbirds in town.

One Desert Rat dresses like a modern day Robinson Crusoe. On his head is a sort of crumpled tri-corner hat, obviously self-made. He wears a khaki jacket,  what looks like either a skirt or jeans with the legs split open and combat boots. He has black hair and a black beard shaped into a long point, it actually looks like something the devil would sport.

He has some sort of bag, or wrap, around his middle that he keeps covered from the sun. His skin is the color of old teak and mahogany and only the lightness of this legs give clue to his being caucasian in origin. A fascinating chap to look at and one that many people moved away from as he approached. Being on the opposite side the main street, I could not tell if it was appearance or odor which made him an object to be shunned.

Highway running past Quartzsite
On the road again?

 

The Hippies, or travelers as I prefer to think of them, may have disappeared for now and while I have no idea where they have gone, I do miss them. They were all young and seemed to be pretty much carefree. The young wives or girlfriends were pretty and friendly and did not disturb anyone that I could see. Perhaps they will be back.

Until then, once I put together my replacement bike, which could take some time since there is a wheel nut that does not want to loosen, I’ll continue my explorations of the local area and write more about the interesting little burg that is Quartzsite. I have my cousin Kenny and his delightful wife Carla to thank for reminding me that the area here is full of history and deserves to be written about.

Thanks!

25 February 2015

Dogs in the Desert: Not Just for Retired Folks

dog and three kids statue at Quartzsite

I used to think that the English cornered the market on pets and total devotion to animals. Since living back in the USA and specifically in the desert, it seems that the pet of choice is canine in nature. Man’s best friend is not just for the multitudes of retired folks who live here either. The modern wild west may still have a lot of wildlife, coyotes, mountain lions, et al, but dogs are overflowing in this huge open world litter tray. Australian comedian and actor Paul Hogan used to have a bit in his act where he poked fun at the average Brit for their love of all four legged creatures.

“You have more wildlife preservation societies than any other country, but you’ve got no wildlife!” – Paul Hogan circa 1982.

While the British are barmy about animals in general, they are almost obsessive about training their pets. Dogs in the UK are, for the most part, well behaved. Owners, apart from the odd cretin who refuses to subject his neighbor to the stench, clean up after their pooch.

There are exceptions to this, there were at least one or two areas in Kesgrave, Suffolk, where I lived that reeked of dog poop to the extent that it was unwise to walk down that particular stretch of the pavement (sidewalk) in summer. Certainly this little desert community of older folks share the English people’s love of animals. Walking around town there may just be more four legged mutts roaming the sidewalks than people.

Crossing through the desert, and by the side of the road later the same day, I was accosted by two different types of dogs, both well-known for their savagery. A group of pit bulls, whose owner assured me were harmless although one multicolored one’s teeth could be heard clicking on empty air each time he leapt for my arm, and an Alsatian aka German Shepherd who came bounding up to me so fast I only had time to grab my pepper spray.

The latter incident did feature an animal who seemed glad to see me, the owner was beside himself with annoyance at his dog’s decision to visit me and the chap told me repeatedly that his pet only wanted to play. This was in complete contrast to the pack of pit bulls who appeared to be intent on taking a good sized chomp out of my arm or leg. In that instance, the owner had no effect on their behaviour and had they chosen to attack I’d have become a large portion of Kibbles and Bits.

Pit Bulls

Doggy snacks aside, even the homeless desert rats have pets. These animals all range in size but most are mid to large in size and cannot be cheap to feed. These folks must have a desperate need for company, no matter how smelly or hungry. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals, dogs and cats usually like me as well.

But animals smell when they are not bathed regularly. I’ve heard claims that the desert rats are also a bit on the “rank” side, as well as possibly dangerous, but I’ve yet to meet one whose odor registered with my senses and most seem friendly enough. Granted, I’ve not met one on the desert away from civilization but if they did decide to be aggressive, they might be in for a surprise.

Since moving out here, I’ve been caught out after dark several times on the journey back from town. Each time I walk the streets of the tiny community outside the town limits, dogs can be heard barking or at least growling as I pass each house.

Last night, and a couple a nights before, coyotes were yipping in the street. They travel in packs around the area, although most locals reckon “not as much as they used to.” There is nothing quite like being woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of every pooch in the neighborhood howling in sympathy to the chorus of coyotes serenading the night.

The wild animals sound as though they are right outside the RV and are loud enough that they can be heard over their domestic cousins. At this point in my stay here in the Arizona desert, it seems the barren yet beautiful wasteland is full of dogs. Man’s best friends, barring the pit bulls, are not limited to the plethora of retired folk who gravitate to this location. I believe that there are enough of these four legged creatures, wild and domestic, that I have no business in increasing the population.

On a brief side note before signing off, I have not forgotten about the hippie population in Quartzsite and will be adding them to my short catalogue of desert life.

3 February 2015