My First Week as a Snowbird
My Ehrenberg, Arizona camp in January 2016
I spent more than a few years saying that I was moving south before the next winter. As the time approached, however, the grandkids influenced my options and I compromised on snowbirding. Now, as of this morning, I have officially been a snowbird for one week.
I have to say, so far I am enjoying myself. I have been soaking up beautiful weather (okay, so it is rainy today, but every other day has been amazing), traveling to spectacular places, and meeting interesting people from all across the country. Yes, even nomads like to visit and socialize on occasion - the key being the “on occasion” part of the equation. (One of my sons was teasing me a few days ago because I attended a chips and dip social with some fellow desert-dwelling nomads.)
This weekend presented me with a little adventure as I punctured a tire driving on a BLM track (to call it a road would be an overstatement). Fortunately, I was able to make it to a solid parking area before the tire went completely flat. The adventure part comes from it happening on a Sunday (everything was closed) and my car having a less-than-common tire size. So, I am waylaid in Parker, Arizona for a second night while I wait for a pair of new tires to arrive at the tire shop. All of this because I have been watching for used tires to replace the long-past-worn-out tires on the rear of the car. Still, there are much worse places to be stopped for a few days than Parker.
On my first day in the desert (day two as a snowbird) I actually passed through Parker on my way south. Parker happens to be the town with the area Walmart so I stopped here on my way through and stocked up on supplies. I then worked my way down to Slab City in California, before working back east and camping for the night near Quartzsite, Arizona.
Quartzsite is an interesting experience, and one that will likely have a post of its own soon. The summary for now is that Quartzsite is a little town of less than 4,000 people that swells to a population as high as one million during January and February each year as snowbirds converge to enjoy the weather, an RV show, and the many exhibits. This population expansion is possible due to the massive amount of BLM-managed land with dispersed camping that surrounds Quartzsite. The best comparison that I can make is to Sturgis, South Dakota during the bike rally each August. The towns are similar in size, and experience a similar population increase, with the only difference being Quartzsite has more RVs and fewer motorcycles (though both are seen in abundance in both locations). It is interesting, but really too much for me.
I spent most of my first week camped out in the desert near Ehrenberg, Arizona. Ehrenberg is a tiny little town that sits on the California border. Actually, to be precise, Ehrenberg is a Census Designated Place with a population around 1,300. There are many times that number of snowbirds around Ehrenberg, but it is still nowhere near as crowded as near Quartzsite. Ehrenberg is also only a few miles from Blythe, California which is a small city with decent options for groceries and shopping. Besides, as someone who always wanted to go to California, I can now say I have been to southern California three times!
I tend to not worry too much about plans. I would rather keep it flexible and just go with the flow.
The tentative plan has been to return to Quartzsite for Tuesday and spend most of two weeks there attending the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. That may still happen, or I may do something different for the next week and attend the RTR for the second week.
One of the challenges of being on the road for many people is work. Among those who are not retired or disabled, many nomads still work as they travel. Some nomads work at seasonal jobs, others have a portable business of some sort that they conduct as they travel, and others are digital nomads. Digital nomads, including writers like me, are able to work just about anywhere thanks to modern technology.
As a digital nomad, I can pretty much work from anywhere so long as I have a decent wireless signal and adequate power for mobile electronics. The good news is that I can literally work in the middle of the desert (and did for the past week), so long as I am not too far from a cell tower. As a practical matter, that usually requires being not too many miles from an Interstate highway or town. The challenge in my case is that I am still setting up my technology arsenal. The data access has so far not been a problem, but powering electronics for extended periods without needing to run the engine (and waste gas) has proven to be an issue. So far I am relying on backup battery rechargers. These work to recharge the iPhone that I use as a wifi hotspot, but once they are depleted they take several hours to recharge. My laptop runs 12 hours or more on a single charge so that can get me through at least two days of work.
What does all of this have to do with plans? Sometimes I need to stop traveling for a bit to focus on work in a setting with stable wifi and electricity. The past week has been a somewhat light week for work which was expected. Now I have to decide whether to plan two more light weeks of work in Quartzsite, or one week of focused work sitting still somewhere followed by one week of light work in Quartzsite.