I‘m writing this e-postcard to you from my little Pioneer trailer with 1950s cowboy curtains and I’m having the time of my life. Wish you were here!
↑ That’s me doing my best impression of trailer trash chic.
Okay so I haven’t exactly traded in Paris for life in a trailer park, but we did book a
room trailer at the Hicksville Trailer Palace in a secret location in Joshua Tree, just two hours out of Los Angeles.
Hicksville has nine themed trailers, a swimming pool, communal BBQ area and endless kitschy amenities to make your American road trip stop a total blast…
The place runs entirely on solar power and was built by Los Angeles writer and director Morgan Higby Night in 2010. Morgan himself lived in a trailer park at the age of 17 when he moved out on his own and has had an affinity for them ever since. His nostalgic project was even further inspired by his favorite hotel, which you might recall as the kitschiest hotel in the world, The Madonna Inn.
The park’s newest addition is a restored Gypsy wagon which was used as a movie prop from a PeeWee Herman movie, Big Top in 1988. I actually found the listing for this exact vardo when it was on sale and added it to a volume of 13 Things I Found on the Internet back in January. So that was kinda funny.
But how do I say this? Well quite simply, Hicksville is the coolest place I’ve ever stayed. It’s a playground of cool. It makes me feel like I’ve just upped my position on the cool barometer.
Once the friendly young caretaker (a California dude in a trucker hat and neon sunglasses) has given you a tour of the property, showed you to your trailer and demonstrated how things work around the park, he scuttles off back to his RV over the fence and leaves you to your own devices.
To put it plainly, at the Hicksville Trailer Palace, excuse my French, but you’re pretty much left to do whatever the **** you want. And it’s awesome.
Who says hicks aren’t into literature?! Step inside the Hicksville library….
Drinking Pepsi from the vintage vending machine and shooting targets with a BB gun– the perfect way to work up to an evening BBQ.
Rest assured there will also be some interesting fellow guests at Hicksville to get to know around the pool with a beer in hand and the jukebox wailing the rad house radio tunes late into the night.
After firing up the BBQ and filling our tummies, we head for the roof deck to do some serious star-gazing. This little Skyview app was fun for identifying all the constellations.
In fact, we love Hicksville so much that we booked another night. Having come down with a case of the Goldilocks syndrome, we decided to try a different trailer for our second night. Choosing which trailer was tough, but we settled for the fabulously tacky little Fifi, designed by the owners of a wig store in New Orleans…
It’s a little bit like being inside a genie bottle but has a lot more space than our previous little Pioneer trailer.
Oh, that’s just a pug in a Hawaiian shirt. Pets are welcome too at Hicksville and they even built a Fort Dog complete with paddling pool.
So what else is there to do around Hicksville once you’ve kicked butt at all the games on the property? (And yes, there’s mini golf too).
The closest town is Yucca Valley, where I picked up some serious loot. Vintage and antique shopping on the 29 Palms Highway is the kind of American treasure hunting I’ve been searching for on this road trip and the best I’ve come across yet. Don’t miss Route 62 antiques.
But I suspect you might be more interested in this very eerie place we stumbled upon in the desert canyons of Joshua Tree…
A Forgotten Wild West Playtown….
We had heard about a place called Pioneertown near Hicksville which was built in the 1940s as an old Western motion picture where actors and crews could also live during filming. Movies haven’t been shot there for a while but today the fake frontier town welcomes visitors, reenacting gunfights while bikers and locals use the famous bar Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
It sounded like some good clean fun so we went along to check it out. We weren’t exactly prepared for what we found….
Creepy life-sized dolls– everywhere!
It turns out, we had missed the turning for Pioneertown’s Main Street and ended up in what I guess you could call “downtown”, arriving at a property called Big Horn Ranch.
We would later learn we were trespassing on private property (in our defence, the fence didn’t go all the way around).
Peeking into windows and through tipi holes, we would get a fright every time, finding more terrifying dummies placed around the replica town, which included a saloon, barber, a train caboose and even a gold mine.
Then there was also this inexplicable hot tub next to the playtown’s chapel, looted for parts.
The wind whistles eerily around this strange fake town making the wood creak as if the dolls might have come alive behind you.
We couldn’t understand what the heck this place was. An old museum? Part of Pioneertown’s old film set? Why the dummies then?
Following a good snoop on Google, we discover that we had stumbled upon one man’s private play village which he built in 1990 for his son. Joe Uddo of Fullerton spent two years of his life building an Old West town on his weekend ranch in Pioneertown. Every weekend, he and his son who suffered from disability, drove to the ranch near the Old West movie set known as Pioneertown.
I found a local news article from 2006 reporting that the playtown was destroyed in a fire, setting alight nearly everything he built and collected over the years. The article says Uddo spent $50,000 bringing his old western town to life. Despite the devastating loss, by the looks of things, it appears he rebuilt the entire town again after the fire. Today however, it seems to be forgotten and left to the desert.
According to this property listing, it has been sold recently for $395,000.
But for now, it looks like the dolls are the only ones running this town.
Leaving Big Horn Ranch behind us, a little weirded out to say the least, we finally find our way to Main Street, Pioneertown. And it’s just as deserted.
The old sound stage is boarded up…
Curtains are drawn and there’s no sign of life.
Despite flyers around Joshua Tree promising gun fight reenactments, it looks like Pioneertown is closed today…
And back into the desert we go…