Snowbirding 2017: Fossil Shopping at Desert Gardens

Too beautiful to pass up.

I’m camped out in the desert south of Ehrenberg, AZ these days with friends. On Friday, I went into nearby Quartzsite with my friend Rebecca. She wanted to meet up with her friend John, a jewelry maker who sells raw rocks, gems, cabs, and jewelry at the Desert Gardens rock show in the southwest corner of town.

I’d only been to Desert Gardens a few times and every time there had been just a handful of scattered vendors on the dusty flat show grounds. Nothing to impress me. But Friday was different. The official show had begun and all vendors were present and accounted for. It was a rockhound’s paradise, with all kinds of rocks, gems, and minerals on display and for sale.

John’s booth had a nice mixture of things. His jewelry is exquisite. He has a real eye for design and there were more than a few pieces I would have bought if I had the money — they were not cheap — and someplace to wear them.

While he and Rebecca chatted, I wandered through the show with Penny, stopping here and there to look at things that interested me. While I do think a lot of the raw, unprocessed rocks are interesting, they don’t interest me nearly as much as pieces that have been cut and polished. There was plenty of that to see, too.

But what really interested me were the fossils. My wasband had collected two that we displayed in our old living room. I’d left them behind — after all, he’d bought them, not me — and I can’t say I really missed them. They were interesting, but not worth lugging up to Washington. One was a flat rock with the skeletal remains of a fossilized fish. Someone had “enhanced” the fossil, making it easier to see. The other was a large ammonite — a nautilus-shaped creature — that stood upright like a carved rock paperweight. I always worried that it would fall over and break the glass-topped coffee table.

I need to stress here that although I think fossils are interesting, I’d don’t have any overwhelming desires to own them. At least I didn’t. Until Friday.

That’s when I saw fossils presented in a new way in a shed turned into a fossil shop at Desert Gardens.

First was the ammonite. Each one had been cleanly cut in half vertically to show the inside, which had been polished. The colors and textures and patterns were amazing. And I found it incredibly appealing to have both halves of the fossil — not just one. There were dozens of them at the shop in a wide range of sizes and prices, ranging from $5 all the way up to more than $100. I wanted one that would fit inside my little curio cabinet at home. Here’s the one I wound up buying later in the day.

Ammonite-Inside
Here’s the inside of the ammonite fossil I bought.

Ammonite-Outside
And here’s the outside of the same fossil, which was also polished.

Next were the fossilized leaves. There were a handful that caught my eye and were within my price range for what was, effectively, a rock. As the guy who owned the booth told me, the rocks are nodules that they heat and then thrown in a freezer. The sudden change of temperature causes them to split, revealing any fossils inside. He saw the ones I was looking at and then said, “Did you see these over here?” I hadn’t. They were magnificent, but also a bit more money than I wanted to spend on a rock. Still one of them, an annularia, was just too beautiful to pass up. I asked him for his best price and he knocked $10 off. I bought it.

Annularia Fossil
The annularia fossil I bought. It’s about seven hinches long.

They wrapped everything up in paper and even put the annularia in a box. I took them out when I got back to my camper just to photograph them. Then I stowed them away in the wine box I’ve been using to store acquisitions during my travels. I’m looking forward to unpacking that box and putting my finds on display at home.

If you’re in Arizona or southern California, I highly recommend Desert Gardens from now until about mid-January as a place to find rocks, minerals, and fossils. Later in the month, half the vendors go south to Tucson, leaving the show in Quartzsite a bit sparse. They return in February for a while, but I really think the best time to shop for rocks in Quartzsite is now. Get on over there and see what treasures you can find.

Unlikely Tour Reservation Scam

How many times have I gotten these? Too many to count.

Got this in my email inbox for Flying M Air yesterday.

Reservation Email
This simple message has plenty of flags to indicate it’s a scam.

Looks good, huh? Three days worth of helicopter tours for four people. Cha-ching!

It’s fake, of course. Want to know how I can tell? Here are the flags:

  • “Vacation in your state.” Which state is that? Believe it or not, I’m still getting requests from people who think I still operate in Arizona. (I left the state in 2013.) The vagueness of this screams “boilerplate” or “template.” It also makes me wonder how many other tour operators got the exact same message yesterday.
  • “Reservation for 2 couples.” My aircraft only holds three passengers. Martin obviously hasn’t done his homework before dangling his credit card.
  • “Confirm availability and total cost.” How could I possibly calculate a “total cost” if I have no idea what he wants?
  • No phone number. The sender hasn’t provided any method other than an email address to contact him. Why not?
  • Sender Gmail account. Yes, I know that real people have Gmail accounts, too. But do they usually spell their last names wrong in the account address?

Yes, this is a scam. I actually played along with one of these years ago to see what he wanted. You can read the details here. How interesting to see that it’s still being played. I guess there are enough suckers out there to make trying it worthwhile.

Don’t get scammed. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Phishing Scam: Mailbox is Almost Full

Here’s a new twist on an old scam.

Got this email today:

Phishing Email

If you can’t read it, it says:

Your mailbox is almost full.

Dear [redacted]@marialanger.com,

3840MB 4096MB
Current size Maximum size

Please reduce your mailbox size. Delete any items you don’t need from your mailbox and empty your Deleted Items folder. Click here to do reduce size automatically.

Of course, the “click here” link takes you to a PHP page on a site that has nothing to do with my email server, my domain name, my ISP, the sender’s domain name, or even Google, which, for some reason appears in the footer with yet another link to the same page.

Come on, folks! Don’t be fooled into clicking links in email messages, especially if they’re from someone you don’t know. This is how hackers get into your email and social networking accounts or even your bank accounts. This is how they send email messages to your friends, trying to lure them into the same phishing scams.

Spread the word, educate the folks who don’t know better.