A Motel Grows in Joshua Tree

by Fiorella Valdesolo (Brooklyn)

I know only a little about the desert. I grew up in the suburbs of New England, so there were no desert-bound weekend escapes on the agenda. That means the only visual references I had to those wide, sandy expanses came from old issues of National Geographic and, well, music videos. (I pictured Christine McVie walking a white stallion through the dunes in Fleetwood Mac’s “Hold Me” or brawny, shirtless men cartwheeling around Janet Jackson in “Love Will Never Do Without You.”) The desert looked, in a word, awesome.

So on my last trip to L.A., I factored in a jaunt to Joshua Tree. And thanks to Texas-born sculptor/photographer Blake Simpson, there was a new place to stay in the high desert: Mojave Sands Motel. Having bought the shuttered property on a whim nine years ago, Simpson knew the moment he saw the “For Sale” sign that he had to revive it. Now a five-room oasis on Joshua Tree’s main drag, the former flophouse is a vision of artful, eco-minded design (note the solar paneling, reclaimed wood, native flora and fauna and recycled denim insulation).

Each of the thoughtfully designed rooms has its own private patio, plus a record player and a stack of vinyl for your perusal. And there is more goodness in the works, Simpson tells me: “The communal kitchen/dining space behind the motel is almost finished and I’ve got some good chef friends who are going to be coming out to make food. There’ll also be a garden, greenhouse, chicken coop and a couple of cool vintage trailers on-site for people to stay in.”

P.S. When you do tear yourself away from this relaxing enclave, there’s an entrance to the Joshua Tree National Park just a few blocks away.

Mojave Sands Motel, 62121 29 Palms Hwy. 760-799-1603