Vacation is a complicated word. The most important ingredient in a vacation is that it be a separation from your usual routine, that it is other than, strange, novel. The way novelty is sought after comes primarily in two flavors, that of the basker and the conqueror, and they are inherently at odds. Baskers want to escape the tensions of their life by situating themselves in an ideal setting, frequently with beverages and views of water or majestic landscapes, and not look at the clock. I’m a basker. Baskers are better people than conquerors, who are human monsters. Conquerors make lists, lists of “essential”, “must do” activities and “must see” attractions that absolutely must be gotten into, waited in line for, and checked off, because every conqueror is a Pac-Man, chased by the ghosts of their mortality into the illusion that if they just gobble fast enough, smart enough, they can “win” at their vacation. Fuck the conquerors. Fuck Pac-Man. Give Inky and Blinky a strawberry martini and let everyone munch pellets at their own pace, because as we all know, no matter how fast and efficient Pac-Man goes, the game just gets harder and faster until game over, man. Game over.
So, when I was looking for vacation options for a babefriend’s birthday weekend, I already had my sights set on this place called Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree, about two hours and change east of Los Angeles, for anyone not living in Candyland. Joshua Tree is kind of what you might describe as the redneck Palm Springs. I’d heard of the place years earlier through friends, and cross-promotion of an event that they do in Downtown LA called Devil’s Night, which is a kind of drive in on top of a parking garage.
Hicksville is like a fancy motel where each room is actually a stand alone trailer, ranging from the 40’s/50’s through the 70s, of very motley size, aesthetic, and amenities. Each of the trailers is profiled on their site, and going through I found one called “THE LUX”, as in Lux Interior, the wild and perverse front man for crass and kitsch Psychobilly band THE CRAMPS. The band being a personal favorite of mine and an absolute favorite of aforementioned babefriend, my mind was made up. The Lux was booked for our second night there, so I picked, nearly at random, an old Airstream trailer with a Space theme.
I’m usually a split-it-down-the-middle kind of guy when it comes to costs, but it was a birthday thing, and I wanted it to be a surprise, so I decided to book the thing and worry about my wallet later. It seemed too good, and this way I could torture her up until the actual event (over three weeks) with knowledge of the HUGE BIRTHDAY SURPRISE DESTINATION, which would prove incredibly satisfying.
Here’s where I could give you a hotel review. I’m not going to do that. If you dig through Yelp, you can find all sorts of opinions, up and down on this place. Personally, I think most of the negatives have to come from folks that can’t read. It’s not a hotel, it’s not camping, it’s an open format arrangement somewhere in between. If you want to stay at a fancy pants hotel and soak up a giant heated pool and white your ass with hundreds of newly bleached towels, watching reality tv and eating room service, don’t go to this fucking place. This place is different.
The first night we arrived we stayed in THE LUX, which was absolute perfection. Tiny in stature (ironically, Lux Interior himself would have had to severely crouch to even fit in the place), it made up for lack of space with vicious red and black vinyl style.
There was an MP3 jukebox with dozens of Cramps songs, a band signed poster, ridiculous band art everywhere, and my personal favorite, a tiny black and white tube tv from the 60s with one knob, hooked up to a vcr, and stocked with about 20 horror and scifi classics. I watched THEY LIVE, of course. Ok, I wouldn’t say watched it. It was playing in the room. We had other business to attend to than watch the Rodster bash Keith David in the face about a pair of shades.
Both days of our stay people that were leaving left us with beer/food/supplies that they couldn’t take with them. Some of which were, ahem, only available in California medicinally. It probably didn’t hurt that before I woke up, the bubbly redhead floated around the camp making friends without me, but still, everyone was friendly and courteous, and felt like we were all part of the same shindig.
Overall, it’s kind of like staying in a Pee-Wee Herman movie. It’s a playground for adult children. Wes Anderson probably loves it. There’s a bow and arrow set and BB guns you can shoot at tin cans. There’s a very well constructed mini-golf course, where each hole is themed after a trailer in the park, and the balls you get are thematic to your room. In our case, we got a silver ball and a green alien ball, because that day we were in the Integratrailer, which is vaguely alien-themed (and technically themed after the nearby Integratron, a historic hippie “sound bath” and a desert destination for aura-watching crystal-lickers from all over the Southwest, which was profiled on one of my favorite Podcasts, Oh No! Ross and Carrie.
Were there official meals and events? No. Were there activities? No! Was it the best vacation I’ve ever had? Yes.
The greatest thing about Hicksville was that it felt like a whole place. By which I mean, usually when you arrive at a destination you unload at your hotel, take an hour or two to re-combobulate, and then everyone goes, “OK, what are we going to get into?” And then the Conquerors get out their little Joseph Goebbels list, and diagram the vacation’s final solution. Yes, I just equated type-a vacation planning to the third reich, and no I don’t feel bad about it.
Instead, Hicksville filled both the role of the activity and the HQ. If we were the Ghostbusters, it was both the city of New York and the Fire Station. If we were the Fraggles, it was both the Giant’s yard of radishes, and the underground lair.
There’s a jacuzzi on two of of the second story building that houses the facilities/vending machines/ping pong table.
There’s a Tee-Pee with a firepit in it. We attempted desperately to start a fire with damp logs for far too long, while getting more than a little bit fuzzy-in-the-brain with some very lovely Mexican Hipsters in Indiana Jones hats.
There’s a pool. There’s complimentary postcards of the place that they will stamp and mail out for you for free.
The most fun was actually being social with the other guests, which, if you know me, is really not the mostly likely thing to get me to admit. Each of the trailers so is completely unique, people arrive at night in waves, and you can just walk up with a drink and ask them what their trailer is like, and without hesitation or oddity, they’ll offer to show you. There are fancy trailers, and basic trailers, cheesy trailers, and classy ones, tiny and huge. The kind of people that want to go to this kind of place, it seems, are self-selectingly more likable than the rest of the population. They all want to have a cool time at a place that is intentionally silly.
We made the perfect steak pepper and onion kabobs.
We watched the blood moon come over the mountains from the jacuzzi.
I have a new found appreciate for astroturf and walking outside in my bare feet to get to the bathroom. Maybe I’m really from West Virginia after all.