Instant CIty, Just Add People

About two hours from Phoenix, the little desert boomtown of Quartzsite, Arizona, blossoms from 3,000 inhabitants in the summer to hundreds of thousands of inhabitants in the winter.  Rockhounds, flea market junkies, and snowbirds all flock here, and the desert landscape gets blanketed with RVs.  What’s the draw?  In January and February, Quartzsite becomes one of the largest swap meets in the world.  Big gem and mineral shows and flea markets of every kind.  It’s a mecca for bizarre subcultures.  Rockhounds.  RV lifestylers.  Hippies.  Off-the-gridders.  Gun nuts.  Nudists.  Even a woman who does paranormal real estate appraisals of ghost towns and abandoned mines.   Some live in tents.  Some live the upscale travel lifestyle in $300,000 RVs.  The Chief of Police finds his stress levels increasing rather dramatically as winter approaches, because he’s got ten officers in the summer for 3,000 residents, and he has those same ten officers in the winter when the population swells.
 

The adventure chronicle

Off the beaten path...

into the heart of things.

 

I tell American stories that sing the unsung, with a focus on the inspirational characters that might get left behind or forgotten by the mainstream.

 

In order to find them, I practice the lost art of Shunpiking — knowing when to “shun” the turnpike and get onto the back roads where the good stories are tucked away.  The ones that remind us of our best selves.

 

America is a patchwork quilt, and stories are its stitching.  In a divided age, we need unifying stories more than ever.