Check in to Hicksville Trailer Palace and you may find yourself in an Old… (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Joshua Tree, Calif. — I had my doubts as I turned off the isolated highway onto the sandy open desert.
"Drive three miles, then make a left?" I wondered out loud while reading the directions, as my car bounced over mounds of sand, mimicking one of those souped-up cars in a rap video.
Something told me my Hyundai compact wasn't built for this.
After a 10-minute drive, a telephone pole appeared with a ragged poster attached to it. A hand-drawn arrow pointed me toward a cluster of tiny trailers surrounding a kidney-shaped pool. As I pulled up, a group of twentysomethings was playing Frisbee and rocking out to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" blasting from a stereo on their trailer's porch.
This trailer park-themed motel in Joshua Tree offers accommodations nearly as outlandish as Lady Gaga's attire. Choose from seven trailers, including the sci-fi-inspired Airstream, complete with an alien communication device and fog machine, or the stretched-out camper with a video-editing station so you can work on that indie film project you've been putting off.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
THE BEST WAY TO JOSHUA TREE, CALIF.
From Los Angeles, take Interstate 10 east to California 62 north.
WHERE TO STAY
HicksviIle Trailer Palace, Joshua Tree, Calif.; (310) 584-1086, http://www.hicksville.com. Seven themed trailers are available for $75 to $225 a night. All are air-conditioned except the Pony, which is housed in an open-air stall. All trailers share shower and bathroom facilities, except the New World, which has its own.
TO LEARN MORE
Joshua Tree National Park, http://www.nps.gov/jotr
The Integratron, http://www.integratron.com
Looking to relive those childhood camping memories? Bring a bag of marshmallows to roast over the campfire, or test your aim at the BB gun and archery range. After one night, you'll realize the only rules are to unwind and have fun. That and perhaps to not accidently shoot anyone.
Upon arriving, I was given a tour and a rundown by Derwood Andrews, the motel's part-time property manager and former guitar player for the seminal punk-rock band Generation X.
Everything about the place seemed like a rocker's paradise with its party-like vibe and slightly inebriated patrons. The grounds even include a music-recording studio where Sean Yseult of White Zombie fame recently recorded with her new group, Star & Dagger.
Hicksville, built by Los Angeles film writer and director Morgan Higby Night, opened in April as a retreat for artists to create and collaborate.
"I wanted to build something special, a place that would draw people from all kinds of backgrounds to come and relax and enjoy the magic in and around Joshua Tree," Night explained.
Night, now 40, moved, on his own, into a trailer park in central Oregon at age 17 and has had an affinity for trailers ever since. He was inspired by another themed-room motel, the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.
I followed Andrews through the large wooden gate to the main campground. Four trailers surrounded a green patch of Astroturf with a saltwater pool in the middle. Several bikini-clad women sipped mixed cocktails as they lazily floated on rafts just a few feet from the trailers.
"It's important to remember one rule," Andrews said, with a semi-serious look on his face.
There go my plans for skinny-dipping, I said, joking.
"Be sure to put on the cover at night," he continued. "You never know what kind of critters you'll need to fish out the next morning."
I'm guessing he was just kidding. Regardless, I don't do well with critters, so I decided to skip the pool. Andrews threw me a set of keys attached to a UFO keychain.
"These are for the Integratrailor — where you'll be staying tonight," he said while walking toward a silver Airstream trailer with an alien lawn ornament and miniature crashed spaceship out front.
The trailer was designed in homage to the mystical Integratron, an Epcot-like domed structure built in the 1950s about 15 miles away in Landers. It was intended to serve as a combination rejuvenation device and time machine, and its inventor claims that aliens from Venus taught him the secret for rejuvenating living cell tissues. Goodbye, Botox.
The trailer's muted gray interior was decorated with star-speckled curtains and a matching lunar duvet on the double bed. I immediately noticed a strange box on the counter with numerous dials and a spinning silver disk the size of a dinner plate.
"That's the alien communication device in case you feel like making some contact tonight," Derwood said with a smile as he watched me spin the knobs.
So does it actually work? Let's just say it takes a lot of wishful thinking. Or a few margaritas.