Weekend getaways. One of the best things about LA. Though as a kid, weekend getaways were not part of my vocabulary. My weekends were committed to one thing and one thing only: Saturday morning cartoons. Perhaps a bike ride or two. Heading out of town on a road trip? Our family had an entirely different name for that. It was called summer vacation.
We didn’t travel much outside the Great Lakes states, and when I say states, I mean Wisconsin. Oh sure, I’ve been to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan (including the UP – booyah!) all a handful of times. Lovely, lovely places they are. Yet Wisconsin has always held a special spot in our family’s heart. During my youth, it was our own Cheesehead Mecca. But instead of being required to go just once in a lifetime, we went there at least once a year. Sometimes it was to visit my great uncle’s farm – and this place was the real deal – overflowing with corn, cows and cats. By the way, have you ever felt the sensation of a calf sucking on your thumb? I have. It’s an experience. Yet most times my family would travel to the crown jewel of the Badger State – Wisconsin Dells. Unless my dad received a kickback from the local tourism board, I have no solid explanation as to why we went there so many times. Not much changes in the Dells from one summer to the next. Though the horseback riding and waterparks were always fun, the fake Native American souvenir shops and Holiday Inns are fond memories that I’m happy to keep in the past.
And that was it. Our yearly summer vacation. Now no disrespect to the Dells or the other Midwestern attractions I’ve visited, among them the Indiana Dunes and our capital city of Springfield, Illinois, but these exotic locales pale in comparison to those on the flipside of LA. Santa Barbara, Big Bear, Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, Catalina, San Diego – these are destinations so awesome that people outside SoCal do indeed plan their own family vacations around them. Not Los Angelenos, though. Staying in the same state doesn’t really count for us. Hell, we’re not going to waste our ten vacation days (if we’re lucky enough to get that many) on some place that has the same time zone. Hence the weekend getaway.
Cue Joshua Tree. A destination I have visited before, therefore one to which I was eager to return. This place rocks. Pun intended. Simply spectacular. The granite rock formations are amazing. You should go if only to experience the strange sensation of being in the Rockbiter scene from The NeverEnding Story. And without the light pollution of Los Angeles, you can actually see stars. Not the Botoxed and liposuctioned kind. The hydrogen and helium kind. (Though both contain a lot of hot gas! Zing!) Needless to say, I was totally pumped when a friend suggested that we – as in about two-dozen of us – hang there for a weekend. My mistake, though. I didn’t read her email closely enough. Another friend then enlightened me. We weren’t staying in Joshua Tree per se. We were staying in Hicksville.
That is the name of this resort. Technically in Joshua Tree, but really a world apart. And not so much a resort as a glorified trailer park – but I mean that in the best way. They even advertise themselves as a “trailer palace.” Kitsch at its finest. Upon entering the premises, you first notice a wagon circle of Airstreams, each with its own theme: alien, western, tiki. After taking a few steps forward, you then realize that the gorgeous green grass beneath your feet is completely fake. Can it get any better? Yes, it can. A mere hundred feet away are BB guns and bows and arrows just waiting to be drunkenly misused. A communal shower stall. Oh, and the best part! A public toilet with two handles appropriately labeled #1 and #2. It was love at first sight for all of us.
Because my friends have their priorities straight, we broke out the food and drink before most of the luggage had even been brought in. That’s pretty much the point of these gatherings, isn’t it? To gorge yourself without guilt. “It’s okay! You totally deserve it.” Though staying for less than one full day, we had enough grub to last three times that. So we ate and ate and ate some more. We barely made a dent. By midnight, I overheard a conversation of whether or not we should put the food away for fear that bears might try to take it. Bears. In the desert. Obviously we are city folk.
And because we are city folk, the shine that once gleamed bright from our silver trailers began to fade by day two. At least it did for me. I love my friends. I love food. I love Hicksville. Yet the charms of this rustic retreat were wearing away fast. I mean, fo’ reals… The temperature at 9am was already hovering at one hundred degrees. But it’s a dry heat, right? Doesn’t matter. At that point, I can be charmed by one thing and one thing only: air conditioning. Perhaps a Starbucks or two. And if I’m going to be covered in dust and sweat before noon, there better be a shower at the end of the tunnel. A private shower inside a private bathroom. Where you don’t need to wear flip-flops. Preferably with adjustable water pressure. Where’s a freaking Holiday Inn when you need one?