Quartzsite is located in southwestern Arizona, just 20 miles east of the Colorado River on I-10. It’s been a rock hound’s paradise since the 1960s. These days, it’s also a mecca to well over a million visitors each year, most of whom converge on this small town in a wave of RVs during the months of January and February.
At this time of the year, 2,000 vendors of rocks, gems, minerals, fossils and everything else imaginable create one of the world’s largest open-air flea markets in Quartzsite. Eight major gem and mineral shows, as well as vendors of raw and handcrafted merchandise, peddle their wares to snowbirds, collectors, and enthusiasts, making Quartzsite is the place to be the first two months of each year.
During 10 days in mid-January, Quartzsite is the host to the RV Sports and Vacation Show. Many of the bus conversion groups hold an annual rallies and gatherings during the “BIG TENT” days.
This year was our first Bus Conversion International Rally, although it started out being just a group of six of us that were going to get together at a place that offered electric. The majority of visitors to Quartzsite dry camp. We are an all-electric coach and are more comfortable to be plugged in, especially if we are going to be there more than a couple days.
In mid-October, Tony contacted Rice Ranch, where we had parked in the past, only to be told they were already sold out. While talking to the manager of the park, he said they had just taken over Rice Ranch North and he could offer us six spaces with electric only. During numerous conversations the 6 turned into 12 electric hookups.
So we now had a small rally in the works. Having never seen the layout, Tony asked for any BCI member in the area to please take a look and let us know what the park looked like. Thanks to Art and Cindy Wales, and Butch Williams for stopping by and taking photos on their way through the area.
We soon found out that rally hosting in that area takes a little effort for planning. There are no reasonable caterers available, the closest Walmart is 45 miles away in Parker AZ, fresh donuts are $9 a dozen, and ice is $4 a bag if you are able to find it. Thus a lot of the preparation had to be taken care of before we arrived there.
Our departure day arrived. Meals were planned and partially prepped, the bus was loaded with clothes, food, tables, and all of our other rally paraphernalia. We pull out our drive, heading toward the road to Ve-gas. I am just getting settled into the co-pilot seat and Tony pulls up to a stop sign before making a left turn.
The bus bucks twice, I say “what the heck was that?” Tony says, “I am not sure” and attempts to move forward again….nothing…. hmmm. He puts the bus in reverse and it moves backward a few feet, still will not go forward. After calling a few people to bounce off ideas, we decide to unhook the car and see if we can back the bus the two miles back to the house.
The biggest challenge with the bus only going in reverse was knowing he had ONE shot to get it into the gate at the front entrance to the house…no wiggle room if you can’t pull forward to line it up. If only we had a video… we chuckle about it now, but it was a long two miles with me as pilot car and Tony crossing three four-way intersections with 40 feet of bus behind him.
Fortunately we were planning on being in Quartzsite a few days before the start of the rally, so once back at the house we had time to figure out how we were going to pull off the rally. Quartzsite hotels were totally booked. Huge thank you to our friends that offered their RV’s and casitas, but logistically they did not work out.
Stepping up to the plate, our adopted brother, Gary Hatt, offered that we could bunk in his bus. The next day we unloaded the bus, packed suitcases, loaded ice chests and stuffed the SUV with as much as we could. We felt like the Beverly Hillbillies heading down the road.
Gary met us in Quartzsite a day ahead of the rally. This gave us time to unload the car and get settled into our living arrangement before the rally began.
One of the first to arrive at the rally was Russ Long and Patricia Cox in their new to them Prevost. Patricia volunteered to take the trek to Walmart to get all the odds and ends for the meals as well as the salads and eight feet of sub sandwich that we would serve for the rally opening evening meal.
We ended up with a total of 18 coaches over the course of six days. Three of which just stopped as they were driving past our location and asked if they could join us. The Alreds and Ramos were both from Alaska.
Jose and Carmen Ramos arrived in an MCI-6 of which only 100 were produced. We had TWO of them at our gathering. Nick Doty also has an MCI-6. It was fun to see them side by side and compare the conversions.
Every morning we had coffee and each evening we had a fire pit gathering. We were fortunate enough to be there for the January total lunar eclipse also called the blood moon. Another evening we had fireworks show courtesy of Nick Doty and Darryl St. Marie.
What a great group we had gathered. Everyone pitched in to help. On the second evening, we had burgers, brats, and salads. Tom Christman, JC Alacoque, Nick Doty, and Jim Marin all manned the BBQ grills.
Saturday was an opening day for “The Tent”. We left that day and evening as an “on your own”. Of course, during the rally, there were the usual mechanical tweaks that required assistance and opinions from all in attendance.
Sunday was a GREAT day. We had posted an open invitation to a pot luck dinner on our Facebook page, inviting all of our Bus Conversions International members that were camped in the area. We weren’t sure how many would show up and we were pleasantly surprised with the turnout. We had close to 60 people in attendance.
Tony and I were thrilled to be able to meet in person so many that we only knew via our Facebook page. Needless to say, there was enough food to feed an army!
Monday during the day, most attendees took off to explore the tent and the area flea market vendors. I did some monetary damage when Nina O’Rourke offered to take me to see metal sculpture yard art. Living in the desert of southern Nevada I don’t grow flowers, so colorful metal objects give me my pops of color.
The Monday dinner meal was my famous chicken vegetable soup with cornbread. That was a bit of a challenge getting it together with not being in my own bus. Thank you to the O’Rourke’s, the Chavez’s, and Harant’s for the use of the freezer space and stove.
Monday evening by the fire pit Judy and Ron King provided Bailey’s Irish Cream hot cocoa. A pleasant way to end another day of friendships.
We planned to have pot luck on Tuesday evening but due to the weather (WIND), we decided to cancel. Once we decided to cancel Mike O’rourke and Gary Hatt started gathering everyone around. They had a presentation to make to Tony. They handed him a box that he fumbled getting open. Inside, was of all things, an electronic megaphone. Those of you that know Tony, he likes to talk…so now all in attendance will be able to hear him.
Wednesday morning we all said our “goodbyes and safe travels”. We gathered all of our belongings and headed on our separate ways.
As of this writing, I am happy to report that we have a new transmission installed in our bus. Thanks to Paul and Tammy Harant and Gary Hatt for all your assistance and moral support.
Bus Conversions International was started as a Facebook page in 2014. We welcome anyone that has an interest in bus conversions of any type. We are continually growing and are fast approaching our 6500th membership. If you are not currently a member, please check us out at:
The plans for our Quartzsite Rally for 2020 are already in the works. We will again be at Rice Ranch North. The dates are January 21st thru 25th, 2020. We have room for 35 coaches… that includes spots with full hookups, some with electric only, and some dry camping. The spots are booking quickly. If you are interested in joining us, please contact Tony Saraceni at the cell phone number (307) 250-6966.
BCI Quartzite Rally 2019 Buses
Pam Noonan and Tony Saraceni currently live in Pahrump, NV. Before retiring they both worked in the promotions and marketing field. Their business TSP Productions included a mobile disc jockey service, a bridal publication and producing wedding expos. One of their more colorful stints was the couple years they worked with the Professional Bull Riders. (NO Tony did not ride!) They have traveled extensively, including numerous cross country trips in their 1974 Eagle that they sold in 2016. They are currently are spending their summer in their recently completed 1972 Silver Eagle with a modified 3406B Cat engine AKA TopCat.
They are also the co-founders of the popular Facebook page Bus Conversion International