Snowbirding 2018 Postcards: RTR from the Air

I’m still in Quartzsite — I’ll be here for two more weeks — and I kept hearing about something called RTR. I knew that it was a gathering of RVers out in the desert east of Quartzsite, and I had heard from one participant that there were 3,000 RVs parked out there. Yesterday afternoon, I decided to take my drone out there for a look.

Quartzsite is surrounded by BLM land. For the most part, you can camp there for up to 14 days at a time for free. (There are some areas closer to town that provide services such as garbage dumpsters and outhouses and require a fee.) One of these free areas can be accessed by a roughly paved freeway service road that ends suddenly with a right-hand turn to the south. From there, the road is narrow and unpaved and cuts into the desert. This is the path you follow to get to the 2018 RTR campsite.

I estimate that I drove about 8 miles from town to reach an area jam-packed with RVs. The types of RVs ranged from rickety vans to costly Class A motorhomes. They were parked alongside anything that could be remotely considered a road. There were vehicles driving around — very slowly, I should add, to keep the dust down — and the campsites had plenty of people milling around. I parked my truck at a road intersection near a sign that said “No Camping Beyond this Point” and set up my drone in the bed of the pickup for launching.

I did two flights from the pickup bed. The first was a high-level flight that circled the camping area, taking video and still shots of the entire site. I was about 400 feet up for these.

This first shot is from the southeast, looking back toward Quartzsite, which you can see at the base of the mountains in the top left:

RTR Quartzsite 2018

This shot is more from the south west. You can see the road I drove in on cutting diagonally across the top right of the photo, as well as semis on the freeway off in the distance:

RTR Quartzsite 2018

For the second flight, I flew at about 150 feet — low enough to get some detail without bothering the folks on the ground. (I should emphasize here that I never flew over people — I always flew around the perimeter of the event.) Again, I took several still images and a few short video clips.

This shot was from the west of the event looking back to the east. I’d love to explore that road that winds up into the mountains.

RTR Quartzsite 2018

This shot was from a bit lower. You can see my truck in the lower right corner.

RTR Quartzsite 2018

Keep in mind that this is only one of the many areas where people are camped out in the desert here. I’ll share more photos as the place continues to fill up.

Also, please remember that these photos are copyrighted and may not be shared without permission. You may link to this page but you may not reproduce these images elsewhere. I am a commercial drone pilot with a lot invested in my equipment and training. If you want to buy any of my images for reproduction as postcards or posters, contact me.

Snowbirding 2018 Postcards: More Aerial Views of Quartzsite

I know this is getting monotonous, but I’m kind of stuck here now.

Someone who lives here asked if I was going to sell posters or postcards of Quartzsite from the air. This was a very popular item in past years and I have been thinking about it. So this morning, while sitting at my booth, I sent my Mavic up to see (1) how high I needed to be to capture a good shot of the whole area and (2) how “filled in” the desert camping areas are. The answers: (1) very high and (2) not enough yet.

Of course, I took a few photos while I was up there. This first one is from the southwest corner of the area. The big RV tent went up the other day; the area beside it will soon be full of RVs for sale and vendors living in their RVs. In this shot, I’m set up in the show area near the freeway overpass.

Just for fun on the way back, I pointed the camera straight down and centered it over the Tyson Wells Rock and Gem Show. The resulting image looks like Google Earth on steroids.

More to come.

Snowbirding 2018: At Tyson Wells Rock and Gem Show

A quick aerial video and an explanation of what I’m doing here.

After about three weeks of off-the-grid camping out in the desert with and without friends, I’ve settled into a vendor campsite at the Tyson Wells Rock and Gem Show.

I’ve been having some trouble with the batteries in my RV or possibly the solar panels or maybe the charge controller. That’s the problem: we don’t really know where the problem lies. Or even if there’s a real problem. I could go into detail here, but it isn’t really worth it. Although my batteries are now fully charged and my solar setup seems to be working fine, I decided to take a break from being off-the-grid and spend some time with at least a partial hookup. And that’s the main reason why I’m here now.

You see, I was supposed to be here later in the month for the Tyson Wells Sell-A-Rama. My friend Janet, who is an artist, has been doing the show for years. I always wanted to try having a booth here. But what could I sell? My photos? My glass work? Honey from my bees? None of it was either interesting or likely to succeed. And then I thought of my Mavic Pro and all those folks camped out in the desert. Aerial photos of their sites? Why not? So I signed up for the Sell-A-Rama and got a site right next to Janet’s.

But that doesn’t start until January 17. It’s January 3.

Tyson wells has two other shows here. The first, which starts on January 5, is the Rock and Gem show. Quartzsite is famous for its rock and mineral shows — almost as famous as Tucson. (In fact, most of the rock vendors start here in January and go to the big show in Tucson and then come back.) Tyson Wells joins in the fun at the beginning of the month.

If you’ve never been to a rock and mineral show, you have no idea what it’s like. There are rocks every every type imaginable, many of them cut and polished into jewelry quality. And yes, people do buy rocks. If you saw these rocks, you’d know why. Heck, even I bought rocks last year.

Of course, it’s not just rocks. It’s the usual collection of tools and clothes and dog stuff and food and … well, anything goes.

When I went in to ask about a spot, I was told there were only a few left but was offered a double sized spot for the price of a single. Because I signed up late, however, I got stuck in a spot in the rock area. I’m at the end of a row, which is good because I can get in and out easily, but also bad because, well, I’m with the rock people. My neighbors are hippies of every age, some with dreadlocks and others with what look like painful facial piercings. They have countless dogs and live in an old motorhome. They cut and polish rocks and make jewelry. One of them polished a piece of what he called bacon agate for me. It’s about the size of the top joint on my pinky finger and very pretty. It actually sparkles. It might make a nice ring.

I spent most of the day putting together my booth. I have a tent-style shelter, standard 10×10 feet, that I bought years ago for helicopter rides events and I brought that along. Unfortunately, the side panels attach with velcro, which I think is a bit flimsy. So I spent most of the afternoon adding grommets. The finished tent looks good, although I still have work to do inside.

My camper and truck are parked in my booth space, which I’m pretty sure is 28×28 feet. There’s another 28×28 empty spot behind me (which might stay empty) and a 14×28 spot next to me (which should get a vendor). I have an electric and water hookup, which is nice. I dumped my holding tanks on the way over here so I shouldn’t need to dump. On January 15, I move to my other spot for Sell-A-Rama, which has a full hookup; I can dump again when I arrive there. In the meantime, I’m running my fridge on AC power (instead of propane) and don’t have to run my water pump.

When I got my booth buttoned up for the night, I had just enough light left to launch the Mavic for a quick tour of the area. I added some titles and a voiceover for the circuit around Tyson Wells. Just a quick thing thrown together in iMovie. I’ll try to make better videos later in the month.

I’m completely exhausted — perhaps because I’ve been up since 2 AM and have been working all day? — but might enjoy a movie on my RV’s little TV before I go to bed. Or, more likely, fall asleep with the TV on. If so, I probably won’t post this to my blog until the morning; I’m still waiting for the video to upload to YouTube.

Tyson Wells after Sunset
Here’s a photo from this evening’s flight. I circled my booth setup. If you look very hard, you can see the tent, my camper, and my truck parked perpendicular to the camper with the truck’s bed under the camper’s overhang. It looks weird, but it works.

More another day.