Written by Vanilla Sugar on 10 Feb, 2009
When you think of pyramids, do you think of the great pharaohs’ tombs in the Egyptian deserts? I do. Did you ever associate a pyramid with a camel driver and the Arizona desert? Never. Surprisingly, there is actually a pyramid in the desert…Read More
When you think of pyramids, do you think of the great pharaohs’ tombs in the Egyptian deserts? I do. Did you ever associate a pyramid with a camel driver and the Arizona desert? Never. Surprisingly, there is actually a pyramid in the desert town of Quartzsite. It is constructed from the stones found in the area and topped with a copper camel which seems to be peering out into the far reaches of the Arizona desert. This landmark is the grave of Gadhu Ali, an Arab camel driver. He was known as "Hi Jolly" because that is how his foreign name sounded to Arizona desert people. According to the Quartzsite Chamber of Commerce, the pyramid is one of the most visited spots in the southwest and the centerpiece of the town cemetery.Hi Jolly came from his native land of Syria as a camel driver hired by the US Army during the mid- 1850’s. He brought with him 100 or more North African camels. The U.S. Army ordered the creatures as beasts of burden for a desert experiment, a failed experiment. As it turned out, the camels and Army’s mules were incompatible so the plan was abandoned in 1864. The Army auctioned off most of the camels and Hi Jolly kept a few to start his own enterprise. For awhile, he ran a freighting business between the Colorado River port cities and mining camps. In 1868, he too abandoned the use of camels. He turned his last camel loose near Gila Bend, Arizona and then went to work as a prospector and scout.Hi Jolly died in 1902. And, in 1935, the Governor of Arizona dedicated the pyramid which marks Hi Jolly’s gravesite in Quartzsite. This landmark, though small compared to the Egyptian pyramids, is a grand tribute to Hi Jolly, a man who holds a unique and little known place in U.S. history. One mile west of Business Loop 10 (Main Street, Quartzsite) From the intersection of SR 95 and B-10 Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 26 Jan, 2009
They come everywhere – Utah, Colorado, New York, Mexico, Afghanistan, Japan, Pakistan, Australia, and Morocco. They live in RVs, van conversions, truck campers, and tents. Some have connections to import the rocks, gems, fossils, and beads; others have rights to mine on private land…Read More
They come everywhere – Utah, Colorado, New York, Mexico, Afghanistan, Japan, Pakistan, Australia, and Morocco. They live in RVs, van conversions, truck campers, and tents. Some have connections to import the rocks, gems, fossils, and beads; others have rights to mine on private land or gather unearthed pieces in commercial quarries. They sell to whole sellers, artisans, collectors, and people struck by something they just want to have as their own. All have gathered in Quartzsite, Arizona – a desert town of buyers and sellers."What’s a dinosaur coprolite?" Herb and Earline Aguayo gave me a moment to think about this. "It’s not fossilized dinosaur poop, is it?" I asked hesitantly. He flashed me a big grin. Disbelieving, I stared at the matching book ends cut from one big lump of rock then polished to show beautiful marbling and color patterns. These bookends were a remnant of a dinosaur’s feeding preferences when it lived millions of years ago in Utah. Surprising! The coprolite was my most startling discovery at the Desert Gardens 9th Annual International Gem, Mineral & Jewelry . The lapis – a semi-precious stone of intense blue color - was the most beautiful discovery. Lapis has been mined in Afghanistan for 6,500 years. Jewelry made from lapis traces back to ancient Egypt and remains popular today. Habib from Global Gems indulged me with a small unpolished piece of lapis; and after some coaxing, he stood in the sunlight with one of the larger polished stones. I was also taken by the specimens of stalagmites and stalagmites. Accustomed to seeing them in caves, I inquired about these formations protected by law in the US and Mexico. I learned from Roberto that his collection came from China where the laws are not stringent. He explained that many of his pieces will come to decorate hotel lobbies and homes of millionaires. Although I’d love to have such a remarkable natural sculpture, I settled for a photo keepsake instead.This particular show lasts two months. In 2009, the dates are January 1 – February 28. Bring a hat and some bottled water. Then go and enjoy the show! Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 25 Jan, 2009
Did I walk into a living television commercial? You know, the commercial aired during late night shows. The commercial promising you a miracle gadget for $19.99 that you can have "by calling 1-800…now; and if you order now, we’ll send you free…" another…Read More
Did I walk into a living television commercial? You know, the commercial aired during late night shows. The commercial promising you a miracle gadget for $19.99 that you can have "by calling 1-800…now; and if you order now, we’ll send you free…" another gadget! As I walked the rows of vendors under the Big White Tent of the 26th Annual Quartzsite Sports, Vacation, and & RV Show, the "barkers" offered miracle remedies for all that’s imaginable, some "as seen on TV." Sore feet…try the fluid filled massaging insoles. "We can even cut them to wear in your flip-flops," the man offered when I pointed out that I do not were orthopedics. Balding…buy a sun visor with fuzzy material sewn on top. Select gray for seniors, yellow or orange for those who dare. Tired of slicing off your knuckles when grading cheese…buy a colorful dish that looks like a saucer with built-in grader and toss away your kitchen band-aids for good. Suffer from stress…"Let my wife spray a natural substance – an adaptogen - remedy in your mouth for relief." No thanks. RVers concerned with economizing space can buy a boat that folds flat to four-inches. Great, but where do you store the ores, the motor, removable seats, and life vests? Want a campfire without the hassle of buying wood all the time? Buy a propane fueled campfire sure to be the perfect fire every night. You can even buy some colorful decorations to hang from your awning. Just be sure you remember to take them down before you retract the awning. Ready for more? A premium aloe healing cream promises you will never have dry skin again. There was a show special for the "World’s Finest Massagers." Wear lipstick that never fades. Use this exfoliating rub to remove leg hair. Reduce your cooking time with this American made cookware. Oh, my goodness! People really do buy all this stuff!So was there merit to attending the Show? Yes, because amid all the gadgets and miracle solutions to what ails you, there were serious RV vendors with helpful information. For example, Honda Generators offered numerous model selections for portable power. Roadmaster displayed towing and suspension products. Escapees and FMCA offered membership information for RVers. KOA provided a map marked for easy reference with all their campgrounds. Several caravan tours announced their 2009 and 2010 trips. Tourism representatives presented the benefits of seeing Alaska, traveling to Inuvik, visiting Alberta or British Columbia. There were filters to purify drinking water and chemicals to treat the waste. Technicians were available to repair your windshield, add an awning, or install a satellite. These were the elements that added credibility to the show. These were the reasons we came to Quartzsite. All the rest was just entertainment! Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 23 Jan, 2009
Just like the Flying J and Pilot Travel Centers serve over-the-road travelers passing through Quartzsite in 2009, the Tyson’s Well Stage Station met the needs of travelers beginning back in 1866. While today, travelers get premium bottled spring water and unleaded gas or diesel,…Read More
Just like the Flying J and Pilot Travel Centers serve over-the-road travelers passing through Quartzsite in 2009, the Tyson’s Well Stage Station met the needs of travelers beginning back in 1866. While today, travelers get premium bottled spring water and unleaded gas or diesel, back then, the adobe stage station did much the same. It became the town center with a grocery store, lodging, food and nearby saloons. It offered water and grass for the horses. Both the modern Travel Centers and the historic Stage Station can be called way-stations on the route of California through Arizona.Much time has passed since Tyson’s Well Stage Stop served travelers. History notes that the Stage Stop was converted to a hotel – the Oasis Hotel - as an adaption to the introduction of railroad transportation. In time, the Oasis Hotel fell into disrepair. Then in 1972, the property owners donated the stage station/hotel for yet another transformation into a museum. The Quartzsite Historical Society took responsibility for the restoration and opened the Tyson’s Well Stage Stop Museum in February, 1980. Visitors to the Tyson’s Wells Stage Station Museum can still see some of the original adobe walls of this way station. These walls were retained and a shell of stabilized adobe brick was built around the original walls to protect them. Others, beyond salvation, were rebuilt. Inside the museum, displays offer an eclectic mix of photographs and personal possessions from folks who called Quartzsite home. Most of the displays seemed a bit dusty with yellowed labels. The display of an old school house seemed tired. And, the mannequin with overlong lashes looked tacky in her frontier woman dress and bonnet standing next to the only modern item in the museum. A digital photo frame hung on the wall beside her. Half-a-dozen or so photos of desert fauna faded into one another in a continuous loop. This seemed out of place with the historical nature of the museum.Laminated newspaper articles, too much to read, talk about Quartzsite characters. One article was about Hadji Ali. Known as Hi Jolly, this cameleer came to the US with a shipment of camels in 1857. The plan to use camels in the Arizona desert failed but Hi Jolly stayed in Quartzsite. Two model camels set on the front porch of the museum as tribute to this historic icon. Real camels, I was told descendants of Hi Jolly’s camels -actually live on a ranch in nearby Yuma.There’s a fine museum display of equipment from the time when mining for gold, lead, and mercury played an important part in the Quartzsite economy. In fact, the Assay Office from the Marquita Mine shows just what a mining office might have been like years ago. The mining equipment and the authentic adobe walls were to me the best value found in the museum. Still people will be drawn here when they tire of visiting the tent vendors who make Quartzsite a renowned place for winter snow birds and rock hounds. Like them and travelers before me, I was just passing through Quartzsite and decided to stop. Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 15 Jan, 2009
"Sky-blue, pink" describes the color of the early morning sky, a two-colored rainbow, over the desert. With each passing moment, the sunlight grew brighter. Shadows on the distant mountain peaks disappeared, and the pink layer across the flat desert horizon faded leaving a bright…Read More
"Sky-blue, pink" describes the color of the early morning sky, a two-colored rainbow, over the desert. With each passing moment, the sunlight grew brighter. Shadows on the distant mountain peaks disappeared, and the pink layer across the flat desert horizon faded leaving a bright blue sky. Our 13-foot high coach created an elongated shadow - a mirage of three-story skyscraper stretched across the desert rocks. No other RVs fell under this shadow. We had a rare three acres or more around us. This is desert camping.We pulled into the Scaddan Wash on January 10th. From Interstate- 10 east of Quartzsite, Arizona, we could see the white rectangles of RVs. These shapes protruded unnaturally from the expanse of flat, brown desert. This was the Bureau of Land and Management (BLM) terrain, land open for dry camping. There’s no fee to camp here and you can remain here for up to 14-days. A volunteer BLM host gave us yellow registration papers as permits for the RV and car. He marked 1/23/09 in big black numbers as our check-out date. "Park anywhere you want."Tire tracks in the dust gave us a faint indication of navigable roads across the terrain. Yellow hats hung on tree branches and perched on top of cacti are the closest clues to frequently traveled routes. There are no numbered sites. Only the left-behind stone campfire rings give some indication of prime campsites. We simply found a flat spot away from other RVs and far enough back from the parallel I-10 to minimize the highway buzz and stopped. This is our fifth day here. Scaddan Wash offers no hook-ups so we are cautiously conserving our water resources. The generator runs for a couple of hours each day to chill the refrigerator and power our batteries. My Verizon internet service draws the maximum five bars. The daytime temperatures reach a non-humid 70° and fall to a comfortably cool 40° by night. This is a new dimension to our camping experience in our RV "Dolly’s Pride". It’s a place where I’d be tempted to stay beyond the 14-day limit if we could. Close
Written by Vanilla Sugar on 14 Jan, 2009
Ed and I arrived in Quartzsite, Arizona on the evening of January 10th just as a full moon ascended over the desert peaks and stars illuminated the sky. For over 10 years, we considered the idea of attending the world famous shows under the…Read More
Ed and I arrived in Quartzsite, Arizona on the evening of January 10th just as a full moon ascended over the desert peaks and stars illuminated the sky. For over 10 years, we considered the idea of attending the world famous shows under the "Big Tent" – especially the RV Show. We finally made it. The moon and stars finally aligned!Quartzsite is called "the gathering place" according to the Quartzsite EZ-Guide, a book given to us when we registered with the camp host at one of the Bureau of Land and Mines Campgrounds. Snowbirds come here in RVs to escape the winter weather. Persons traveling Interstate – 10 linking Arizona and California find this place to be a hub of activity. Indoor and outdoor swap meets attract dealers, vendors, sellers and buyers worldwide.Quartzsite is a commercial extravaganza first introduced to us by Mario Vizcarra, President of El Paso Rock Shop, Inc. Pallets and boxes of rocks – agates, amazonite, tiger eye, malachite, amethyst, and quartz – fill his dealer space. Some are still in the natural state, others are polished and tumbled. The vibrant blues, pastel greens, muted caution yellows, and frosty white colors of the rocks attract the eye. The irregular shapes and textures – some smooth others jagged - invite the touch. The beauty and uniqueness of each rock represents nature at its finest. Ed suggested that I select a rock as a memento, I did. The little green rock is the color of an antique Coke bottle and fits in the palm of my hand. In addition to this keepsake, our host Mario wanted me to have a piece of quartz because we had now become "friends." He selected one, slender and long like a woman’s finger. He told me that holding the quartz in my hand would boost my energy as would the generous cup of tequila he poured for me to drink. I held the quartz and sipped the Jose Cuervo. A warm feeling did pass over me sustained only until the tequila buzz wore off by walking around the other spaces comprising the Tyson Wells Market Center. We would have passed by the next booth had I not noticed a wooded box. What I saw was a larger version of a chess and backgammon board I had bought in Jerusalem in 1977. The inlaid stone and wood were exactly like the pattern of mine now wrapped and stored to preserve the beauty and associated memory of my first international trip. After admiring the game board, Ed and I came to admire an antique wooded instrument lying on a mound of handmade rugs. Then our attention turned to the rugs. They were bright red with woven patterns of animals and geometric shapes. We learned that the rugs were made of wool and had been woven over 30 years ago in Afghanistan. Age had not taken a toll. They looked bright and durable. I resisted the temptation to buy a rug for the coach, but there were two things that I found later which I could not resist…the Wasabi Peas and some small opals.I sampled Wasabi Peas - dried peas coated with horseradish flavor – at a tent run by Root’s Nut & Dried Fruit Farm. Each crunch of the pea sent a warm sensation into my nostrils and gave a slight sting to my tongue. I liked the biting taste so much that I bought a 12 ounce bag for $4. Unlike my new found taste for the tangy Wasabi Peas, I have always had a passion for opals. Alain Bloom of Love Harmony, Inc. saw me eyeing the small opals on his table of gems. The sunlight caught the colors of blue, green and tinges of red on the gems clustered in round plastic containers. "I have a bag of over 75,000 opals," he said. "Are you interested?" Would any opal lover say "no"? Ed stood back as Alain spilled some opal out on a board covered by black velvet. As I turned them over one-by-one, Ed and Alain struck a deal. I studied each one. When I finished looking at the opals, I made a choice of 10, Alain added one as a gift, and Ed paid cash…11 opals, my new treasure! I found more opal vendors as we continued exploring the Rock &Gem Show. Tony Thurber makes opal inlay pendants; his wife makes wire ants with opal bodies from his discarded gems. Donald Rankin of Opal Art Australia had gems as big as a Texas belt buckle. By 5 PM, the show closing time, Ed put his hands up alongside my head like horse blinders to steer me away from the Ethiopian and Mexican opals. I didn’t mind. We finally made it to Quartzsite with no limit to how long we might stay. I’d have my chance to look around some more because it’s all a Quartzsite. If it’s not here, it simply doesn’t exist and the RV Show is yet to come, our real reason for being in Quartzsite. Close
Written by btwood2 on 13 Feb, 2004
In 1856, a man named Charles Tyson settled on a piece of land about 9 miles west of present-day Quartzsite. He built a fort-like structure, and after establishing a reliable source of water, his outpost was named Tyson Wells. It became a stagecoach…Read More
In 1856, a man named Charles Tyson settled on a piece of land about 9 miles west of present-day Quartzsite. He built a fort-like structure, and after establishing a reliable source of water, his outpost was named Tyson Wells. It became a stagecoach stop until the mid-1890s and the advent of the train.
A few years later in 1897, a mining boomlet (the discovery of gold and silver nearby) resurrected the town. Soon, Tyson Wells had a hotel, a post office, a general store, a barbershop, a restaurant, and, of course, at least a couple of saloons. But the quality of the ore was low, and soon the mining boom fizzled out. Stores and the post office closed down. By 1900, fewer than 20 people lived in the town.
Some years later, there was again more interest in mining, bringing more people to the area. Again, there was a need for a post office, but regulations prevented renaming a post office that had been closed down by its old name. Because there was quartzite rock in the area, this was suggested as the name for the town and post office. But the clerk who filled out the application misspelled Quartzite as Quartzsite, and hence, the new (misspelled and somewhat erroneous) name of the town. No one ever bothered to fix this error.
Of note as well is the memory of the colorful figure Hadji Ali, a Syrian camel driver hired by the army in 1856 to manage camels who were being used for transporting military supplies across the desert. The locals renamed him Hi-Jolly. When the camels were no longer needed by the army due to more modern transportation methods, Hadji Ali kept some of his camels to haul freight and let the rest loose in the desert. He later moved to Yuma, but was buried in Quartzsite and a stone monument was built in 1934 to replace the simple wooden marker at his grave. The grave and monument are just east of the Main Event.
For historic photographs of turn-of-the-century Quartzsite, check out this website: History of Quartzsite