Call me a sucker, or a glutton for punishment even, but when my good friend, YouTuber Davey Wavey invited me to join him on a new roadtrip, I didn’t hesitate even an instant before saying yes – despite the obvious foreboding that should naturally have accompanied such a decision given our most recent escapades in Texas.
This time around our destination was to be the great American Southwest and, as per the usual, there were to be more than a few surprises along the way – some of which organic, others of which were manufactured – but what would a roadtrip be without at least a hint of the unknown, no?
The trip got off to an inauspicious start on a rainy Monday in Los Angeles, when I arrived, as per instruction, at Escape Campervans in Inglewood, California to pick up our transportation for the trip. From the moment, I saw the brilliantly hued van emblazoned with images of ice cream cones and cartoonish characters, I knew this would be no ordinary roadtrip. Game on!
Admittedly hazardous to the safety of those around me, given that I am unaccustomed to driving a vehicle of that size, I made my way through traffic to Palm Springs to meet up with Davey, often occupying more than the one lane allotted to me en route and constantly praying the whole way that I might arrive unscathed (which I did). On that first night, Davey had booked us in at the clothing optional INNdulge resort in the popular Warm Sands neighborhood of Palm Springs. This was to be the first salvo in the onslaught of terrors he had prepared for me.
Not that the room was anything but comfortable, right down to the ample bed, full kitchen and other amenities. It was the clothing optional thing that made me wary which Davey knew. Unlike him, I wear as many clothes as possible and never consider the opportunity to wear less, a bonus of any sort. Needless to say, however, as I arrived late and checked out early, my choice of apparel or lack thereof ultimately posed no issue at all.
Our next stop was at one of my personal favorite spots in Palm Springs, The Parker Hotel. We were booked elsewhere for the night but we still nipped into the Parker to enjoy breakfast at Norma’s, the property’s popular diner where creations like Banana Macadamia Nut Flap Jacks, Lobster Frittatas and Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash are the menu’s stars. Bright and casual, and bordering the lush grounds of the hotel, dining al fresco at Norma’s is the perfect place to herald one’s arrival in the desert.
Breakfast complete, we checked in at Arrive, a sleek, contemporary boutique hotel just off Palm Canyon Drive. With just 32 rooms surrounding a pool, a casual chic restaurant (Reservoir), a cozy bar, a lively atmosphere and all sorts of fun amenities (like, for instance, the fire pit that adorned the deck attached to my room) Arrive turned out to be an unexpected treat. From the complimentary drink at check-in (which is at the bar) to the attached ice cream shoppe cum gift shop to the property’s first-rate coffee house. As an added bonus, the hotel is ideally located near the hubbub of downtown Palm Springs so no driving required post check-in unless you so choose or the weather dictates otherwise.
For dinner, we mixed things up a bit and headed up the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of Mount San Jacinto to take in the sunset views and enjoy dinner at the more upscale Peaks restaurant. Never let it be said that Palm Springs is only about pools and sunshine, because from the vantage point of the summit of Mount San Jacinto (elevation 10.834 feet), the city and its neighbors sprawl out in a blanket of lights revealing the rough balance between desert and urban life. It is one of those picture-perfect moments that capture that unexplainable desert magic everyone is always raving about.
On the next day, as we properly set off on our journey, things got interesting. First there was the stop at Fort McDowell Adventures for a little horseback riding and unfortunately a few cowboy chores as well. Why the chores, other than to torment me I’m sure I will never know, but chores we did against the stunning landscape of picturesque Southwest, which somehow mitigated (to some degree) the discomfiture of the activity itself.
Now Davey wouldn’t tell me where we were ultimately going, but I did know that after his cowboy excursion, we were stopping at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale for the night. Now for those unfamiliar with the Hotel Valley Ho, the property is well known retro-luxe, Mid-Century Modern urban resort that is every bit as cool and hip today as it was when it opened its doors more than 60 years ago. Not to put too fine a point on it but It’s a bit like stepping back in time in the best possible way because while the vibe may be retro, the spacious accommodations and amenities are very au courant. So much so in fact, it is the kind of hotel that one wants to linger in, lazing about and taking full advantage of every well-appointed nook and cranny.
That being the case, of course we had no desire to part from the hotel, its myriad pools and general comforts during our limited stay, so we dined on property at Zuzu, the equally retro eatery known for its menu showcasing local ingredients, memorable burgers and craft cocktails. It was a perfectly civilized and relaxing stay that lulled me into false sense of security about the day ahead.
Back on the road the next morning, all I could determine was that we seemed to be headed somewhere remote. Towns appeared only sporadically and wide open plains interrupted only by the road we traveled and the occasional truck or SUV that rolled up behind us was all there was to be seen for hours.
But then it appeared.
Just off the famed Route 66, nestled next to the railroad tracks in the town of Holbrook, Arizona, we turned into the parking lot for the WigWam Motel – the very same one that Oprah Winfrey and her gal pal Gayle had stayed in (or rather reserved) for their now legendary road trip across America. And just as in Texas, Davey had snookered me again. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide in this town with a population of just over 5,000. In fact, I couldn’t even remember how far away the last town was so clearly this was just one of those moments in life that had to be borne. Much to my chagrin I learned that there were four remaining teepee motels in America and after this evening I would have the dubious honor of having stayed in half of them. Thanks Davey.
Key in hand, I retreated to my teepee to make my peace with the situation but the terror was not complete.
After settling in as much as I could, I heard a knock on the door of my teepee. I answered and found a curious (and somewhat alarming sight). Standing in the doorway was a man wearing what appeared to be a flak jacket and dragging behind him a dead coyote. Not computing what was happening, I was dumbstruck when the man said to me in a completely serious tone that he was told to deliver the animal carcass that he was so casually handling to me.
For the record, not even once did I consider that I was part of an elaborate prank that Davey had orchestrated. Instead, after shooing the man and his carcass away from my door, I began to gather my things, sure I could not spend the night in this town, because my life was obviously in danger. Just then, my phone trilled indicating that I had a text message. I picked up the phone and saw a text from Davey which read, “Do you hate me?”. I breathed the breath of life.
Hate? I was relieved! Somehow Davey had gathered a bunch of Holbrook locals including the wonderful hotel manager (who really was wonderful) along with the gentleman in the flak jacket, who I now knew to be named Connor, and together they had concocted this little plan to terrorize me. In retrospect, it really was quite funny as we all sat in the reception area of the WigWam motel on a cold January night having a good laugh about it all. In fact, it was almost surreal as for just a few hours it felt like we were honorary citizens of Holbrook and all that was incumbent upon that designation.
But let’s not get crazy, I still woke up bright and early the next morning with but one thing on my mind, “Get me to Vegas!”.
Watch Davey’s latest video recapping our adventures while traveling the great American Southwest below:
601 S Grenfall Rd
Palm Springs, CA 92264
A comfortably appointed, clothing optional resort in the popular Warm Sands neighborhood of Palm Springs which counts a 24-hour 12-man jacuzzi and heated pool among its many unique offerings.
1551 N Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA 92262
A very hip, boutique hotel in the heart of Palm Springs, comprised of 32 rooms furnished with a king-sized bed, rain shower and wet room, Lola headphones by Blue, DirecTV, Apple TV, a sensibly priced minibar, and Malin & Goetz bath products.
Hotel Valley Ho
6850 East Main Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
An iconic 60 year-old Mid-Century Modern hotel in downtown Scottsdale that offers all the charm of a bygone era without sacrificing one ounce of modern luxury.
811 W Hopi Dr
Holbrook, AZ 86025
Get your kicks at this Route 66 motel which was built in 1937 and is as famed for its 28-foot red-and-white concrete-and-steel freestanding teepees as it is for the vintage cars that dot the property.
Fort McDowell Adventures
14803 N. Hiawatha Hood Rd
Fort McDowell, AZ 85264
Go horseback riding, grab a gang and do a cattle drive or take a Segway tour at the Stables of Fort McDowell Adventures in the Sonoran Desert.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
1 Tram Way
Palm Springs, CA 92262
On the north edge of Palm Springs, soar10,834 feet to the peak of Mount San Jacinto on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Once at the top enjoy the view, take a hike or grab a bite and enjoy the cooler climbs.
Parker Palm Springs
4200 E Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92264
A five-star diner, serving indulgent comfort food and breakfast all day at one of the chicest addresses in Palm Springs.
1 Tram Way
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Fine dining restaurant offering spectacular views of the Coachella Valley at the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
6850 East Main St
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
A retro fave specializing in American fare, noted for its burgers and craft cocktails.
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