A motorhome metropolis blooms each year in the Arizona desert.
For most of the way between Palm Springs and Phoenix, Interstate 10 cuts a straight line through the desert; a brick on the accelerator could drive it. Most people don't find too many reasons to stop, except maybe to fill the gas tank or the stomach. The landscape is relentlessly rocky and beige, except for the green valley at Blythe, where the last remnants of the Colorado River are siphoned off to irrigate alfalfa, cotton and other crops that should not grow in a place this dry and harsh.
It's already disappearing. The temporary city that forms during the annual Burning Man event is fading away, as the tens of thousands of people who traveled out to live in the desert of northwestern Nevada for the past week have filed out of the void and returned back to the rest of the world.
The event's organizers and volunteers are still erasing the traces of the event, from demolishing structures to removing fencing to picking up trash. Within another week or so, the entire city will have disappeared.
A couple weeks back I went out to visit one of the strangest places I've ever been. It's a pocket of the Southwest that's become notorious in the world of recreational vehicle drivers. A million or more of them visit every year, creating a temporary metropolis of RVs out in the desert. They park in RV lots, on streets, and -- in vast quantities -- out in the desert on open land provided by the Bureau of Land Management. It's not just numbers that makes this place unique. It's the community that forms.
I've written a profile of this place, Quartzsite, Arizona, for the latest issue of High Country News. You can read the piece and view a related photo gallery (with infographics).