The Caravel goes to Q

Quartzsite has historically been a major RV’er mecca in the winter.  It still is, but not so much this year.  The slowdown of the economy seems to have dinged this portion of the RV community more than others.  Quartzsite is traditionally visited for months by vast numbers of budget-conscious desert boondockers, who pay as little as $180 for six month in the BLM’s Long Term Visitor Area.  They pass the days browsing the flea markets and “shows” (essentially flea markets with themes), and contemplating the desert, I suppose.  Whatever they do, this year they’re coming here in considerably smaller numbers to do it.


Super Terry met me here to camp together for the weekend, and replace my broken front window.  That’s his 1974 Sovereign parked with my 1968 Caravel.  We’re in a private boondocking lot for $7 per night.  There are a lot of these types of places in Quartzsite.

Super Terry’s first night was a little rough, since he got caught in a serious traffic jam on I-10 near the AZ/CA border.  After two hours parked on the Interstate, and then some back-road wandering, he finally arrived far too late for anything but dinner. We tried Trader Joe’s “Thai for Two” and it was pretty decent for bachelor chow.

In bright morning sunshine of Quartzsite, we got to the task at hand.  Super Terry removed the broken glass and ruined frame of the front window, and went through the particular procedure required to rebuild a 1968 Airstream window.  He also very carefully removed one of the two curved side windows and replaced the original glass with a new piece that I bought from Airstream.  The new glass is considerably tougher than the original Corning stuff.  I decided to pre-emptively replace that glass just because I’ve experienced a side window failure in the past, and it’s a real pain to deal with on the road.

Each window needed to sit for two hours while the caulk set up in the hinge, so we took a break for lunch and were pleasantly surprised by a visit from Mike B.  Mike is one of several Airstreamers we know who are camped in one of the LTVAs for a few months.  We would have camped with them, but the LVTA isn’t set up for short visits (hence the name: LONG TERM Visitor Area).  The minimum permit is for two weeks, which costs $40. Later in the day we dropped in on the Airstream encampment and saw a few other folks we know from rallies and the Internet.

Sadly, the tape I used to hold the temporary Lexan window in place did not come off entirely.  I was warned about this by Colin Hyde.  After a few days in the sun, the adhesive won’t come off the aluminum.  I’ll have to get busy with some Goo-Gone stuff when I get back to Tucson.

dsc_3916.jpgLife in the Caravel as a single person has been very comfortable.  I could live in it for a while if I had to.  The tricks to living in a small space like this are to be extraordinarily organized (a place for everything and everything in its place)  and regularly cleaning up the detritus of each activity as it is completed.  You can’t leave the breakfast dishes out while you try to work on the computer.  The bed has to be made back into a sofa before you can gain access to some of the storage compartments.

With three of us, there’s an added trick: stay outside.  There’s really no room for the three of us to function in this tiny space all at once.  That’s actually not a disadvantage, since it encourages outdoor living.  When we want to travel with a rolling apartment, we’ll take the 30-foot Safari.  When we want to go “camping”, we’ll take the Caravel.  I would like to add an awning rail and a vintage-style awning later, to expand our outdoor space.  (I’m making a list of improvements and accessories for our first family trip.)

Although I know a few things to do around the Q, there isn’t enough here to hold me for long.  On previous trips I’ve hiked the popular hikes, visited all the shows, climbed “Q Mountain,” saw the historic and geographic landmarks, etc.  The really social action doesn’t kick in until January.  Right now it’s a bit quiet.  So on Sunday I’ll head back to Tucson with my list of improvements. With Christmas this week, I expect work to be very quiet, and combined with Tucson’s traditionally pleasant December weather it should be a good opportunity to get started on the Caravel projects.


  1. Jay and Cherie says

    We’ve boondocked off the Bouse road, just north of Q on BLM land for free. No one bothered us. As for Q, itself, we agree with you…not much we would enjoy doing. But on the river below Lake Havasu, plenty of hiking, biking and kayaking. We’re headed there again next month.

    Our kids have a Caravel similar to yours, in addition to their Bunkhouse, similar to yours. Small world!

  2. says

    This is a great time for us to do some projects — we’re at Debbie’s parents’ house. Her dad has a nice shop so I can work small stuff indoors with great benches, lighting, and tools I don’t carry. Neat!

    Winter 2010 we may have longer to stay “out west”, so hope to experience Quartzite for the first time. Thanks for sharing your insights,


  3. says

    BEAUTIFUL Caravel…enjoyed the visit and the consideration involved in that…made a really nice impact…BIG desert, small world…thanks…m