Thursday, February 25, 2010

Doing the "Q"! 2010 Quartzite Trip Report

Photos via North Orange County Gem and Mineral Society

The Quartzsite Experience, the 2010 Show
by Steve Mulqueen and Kathryn Davis
Story via Rochound Ramblings Feb. 2010

Background - Kathryn Davis, Susan & Steve Mulqueen drove together to Quartzsite. As with any road trip, the adventure really begins as soon as the vehicle is in motion. The real excitement of the trip started as we entered the Banning area while heading east on Interstate 10. From the Banning area, there is a wonderful view of Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio. Beyond Banning, the highway descends into the Coachella Valley, the beginning of a beautiful trek through the Colorado Desert. As we continued east on Interstate 10, the overcast skies offered an interesting view of the countryside. The rough desert terrain often translates to a desert road that resembles a roller coaster. Dodging potholes along the way is a favorite past time for the driver.

During our adventure, we stayed in Blythe, CA and drove about 30 miles each day to Quartzsite. Following is a list of some of our observations and experiences while attending the mineral shows in town.

Stormy Weather - Each year, the weather at Quartzsite is often mild, warm and sunny. I can remember past experiences when the weather was hot enough in January for people to wear shorts and a T-shirt. This year we had some cold, stormy weather. On Thursday, January 21, we experienced some rain in the morning. By noon, the rain was getting so intense that we decided to return to the motel in Blythe. As we sat in our motel rooms, we observed the wind-driven rain to be blowing in all direction while the lights in the room flickered. At this point it was observed to be a tornado. The tornado blew rain on the window of the motel room. Cell phone coverage and some TV channels were knocked out of operation. That evening, we observed one overturned container rig on the west-bound Interstate 10 and found that the entire town of Ehrenberg, Arizona was closed due to a power-out. That same evening, the storm cell moved through Quartzsite, inflicting major damage to some of the dealer's booths. Damage at Quartzsite included; destroyed canopy tents, broken display cases and shelving. Some dealers had specimens and products that were broadcasted to the wind, allowing for major breakage and loss. Dealers with major damage appeared to be in shock while some dealers experienced no major incident from the storm. The day after the storm, Tyson Wash, a major drainage that flows north through Quartzsite, had a high-water mark that was four feet above the bottom river gravels. Smaller roads that cross Tyson Wash were closed temporarily during and after the storm.

Learn From the Experience - Part of the Quartzsite experience involved conversing with show participants and dealers about rocks, minerals, fossils, etc. At times, a dealer at a certain booth will leave the booth and have someone that is "not so knowledgeable" in charge of sales. At one booth, Steve asked a dealer about the age of a bell-shaped echinoderm fossil. The person in charge said "I think it is Crustaceous". A quick translation on my part brought up the word "Cretaceous". At times, one learns from the dealer while other times we teach the dealers. At another booth, Kathryn observed a sign that said "Wyoming Jade". Kathryn asked the dealer where it was found, as in, where in Wyoming it was found?

The dealer immediately said it was found in "Montana". Kathryn thought to herself "Wouldn't that make it Montana Jade?" and said to the dealer "Oh, it is from Montana". It was also interesting to listen-in on conversation between dealers and participants. Often time the concept of "rare" was emphasized even for the more common rock material.

The Great Lesson - The real lesson leaned at Quartzsite was the ability to train your eye on the identification and source of rocks, minerals and fossils from around the world. When sharing the experience with friends that also attended, it was clear that we all had slightly different
perspectives on this year's show and came home with wonderful memories. Overall, we determined that the "Quartzsite Experience" is a "Learning Experience", learning about people, especially what they know and what they have gathered over the years. The essence of all
mineral clubs and mineral shows is "Having fun learning about the hobby with good friends". This basic concept really has not changed over the years.