Unlike camping in an RV park or campground, out in the desert, there are no numbered spaces with set boundaries. It’s nice to have the freedom to put our house where we want, but it also means a lot of variables and choices. And, with our double-trailer rig, an old dog, and a woman who loves a view, you’ll see it can be quite a process to select a space.
Nollind gets first say on whether or not a spot works. Can we get in? And, the more important, can we get out? Even out here in the open desert, there are obstacles to manoeuvre around like trees, cactus, other campers, sudden elevation changes (aka washes and hills), and rocks. It’s not like one big parking lot out here. Well … in some places it’s actually quite a lot like a big parking lot.
Once that’s settled, is the area level enough? The trailer can be easily adjusted front to back but side to side requires blocks on one side or digging on the other. Up at Wickenburg where the ground is softer, we dug down on the high side. Here at Quartzsite where everything is rock, we added our fancy red levellers. But, if a spot is too far off level, it just doesn’t work.
Next … Is there cell service? Because Teresa and Nollind still run a business, do contract work, and spend time volunteering for things back home, they do need to be available by phone and internet. And, of course, we dogs need to be able to post our blog every week. Wickenburg was borderline, but we made do for the two and half weeks.
Then we start getting into aesthetics. Noise. Is the space far enough from a road and further yet from a highway? Is the space far enough from other campers and do the neighbours have solar power or generators? Hondas and Yamahas are tolerable. Champion generators are to be avoided at all cost.
Dust. Is the camping spot upwind of where other campers will be travelling? Being on the south side of a dusty road around here is pretty much guaranteed to have you breathing dirt.
Surface. Is the ground friendly enough to build a patio on or is it filled with large or sharp rocks?
View. Is there a view to the sunset and, preferably, the sunrise? Are there hills or mountains nearby? I don’t care much about this stuff but it’s important to Teresa.
Vegetation. Are there saguaro, ocotillo, or palo verde trees? These are the good ones. Are there cholla cactus? These are the not-so-good ones that are known to attack the feet and legs of unfortunate dogs (and people sometimes too … Sue).
And this year there’s a whole other level of site choosing. Me! They’ve always considered us dogs but, this year, with my ramp and my bum leg and my enjoyment of lying around outside, I’ve moved way up the priority list. This spot we’re in right now at Dome Rock? Chosen largely because of me.
It’s tough to find a spot around Quartzsite that isn’t rocky, and it’s tough for me to walk on rocks this year, so quite a lot of effort and driving of dusty roads went into finding a good spot. In the end, we came back to Dome Rock, but in a different location. This time we set up next to a big, wide, sandy wash with multiple roads and trails through it. Perfect.
The times it’s easiest to select a spot is when someone else does it for you, but this is a rare occurrence. It happened once last year and once again this trip and both times were orchestrated by the same people — Sue and Leon. Last year it was this terrific spot at Ogilby Road down near Yuma, and this year they invited us to camp next to them at Scaddan Wash by Quartzsite. All we had to do was roll in, manoeuvre until we were mostly level, throw down the anchor, and join in the festivities. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I can’t believe I just said that. I’ve been spending too much time with Chico.
We’re here at Dome Rock for at least a few more days, maybe a week, maybe closer to two. Once we dig ourselves into a spot, it can be hard to get us out.