Walking across the sticky, 1970s-era shagged-upon carpet, Kiwi flipped on the "swamp cooler" air conditioner to receive a face full of insect carcasses, leaves, and lint. The bathroom would remain dark due to the absence of light bulbs. This may have been a mixed blessing, as Bart's bathroom floor was littered with upended cockroaches. Sweeping them to one end of the room was a start, but the floor remained tacky with insecticide and the carpet still housed assorted bug particulates. One room had a TV, but the cable had been yanked out, leaving only a frayed end.

With the luggage dropped off, we shot video to commemorate the experience and set up for some creative, late-night photography. Every other vehicle that drove by stopped to talk. Being off-road country, the questions from the friendly locals centered around the powertrain, four-wheel-drive system, and its desert-romping abilities. A couple guys were puzzled why were staying in Trona and not Ridgecrest. Excellent question, Trona is less than 20 miles from the trail we were targeting. Discussing the issue nearly caused a mutiny.

Later, while Brian and Kiwi settled down on their box-springless beds with light winking through the garter-belt supported blinds, Bart was flicking a live roach off his pillow (no exaggeration!) before cocooning himself in a protective sheet shroud. Over the whistling sounds from the windows, we could hear occasional trucks tearing through the night outside, while inside, the cacophony included wildly oscillating ceiling fans and continuously draining toilets. Above the mechanical din, it seemed that we could also hear the fidgeting mandibles of a six-legged army bearing down on us. Unsurprisingly, all three editors slept restlessly until the proprietor made an unsolicited wake-up door knock at 6:48 a.m., offering free coffee. Gee, thanks. When asked where we could secure breakfast, he suggested a burrito at the nearby liquor store.

Truly a "Tromatic" experience that would send AAA reviewers screaming into the void of dementia, our compromised stay marked the low point in an otherwise fun-filled, adventurous day in Death Valley.