January 8, 2012 12 Comments
This one’s for Lisa M, Chris W and Jamie C, because you all specifically mentioned you were looking forward to this blog. I would be skeptical if I didn’t know you’re actually serious!
This past Christmas, I went to visit my Dad who lives in Northwest Las Vegas. Besides the obligatory gambling, we decided, at my suggestion, to go on a road-trip to Area 51. I wonder now in hindsight if…, no I’m pretty sure that…, actually, I’m fairly positive I was subliminally influenced ever since seeing the movie, Paul on a recent Virgin Atlantic flight to London. If so, then Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have a lot to answer for!
So first, let’s set the mood, shall we?
Paul (2011) – Official Trailer
So as one does, I Googled for tours to Area 51. Well, I quickly ditched any thoughts of a tour from Las Vegas because the going rate is about $195.00. Per PERSON. Haha! No way were my Dad and I going to spend nearly $400.00 unless it was an Actual Tour OF Area 51!
A do-it-yourself road-trip was the answer and this is where the fabulous website, Area 51 – Dreamland Resort was hands down perfect for a “crash course” (Haha a little UFO humor) on the topic. Anyone and Everyone, planning their own trip to Area 51 should first check out the Dreamland Resort: Area 51 FAQ links. I found these web pages most helpful:
- Map and Driving Directions from Las Vegas
- Rachel, NV and Tikaboo Valley Map
- Map of Rachel, Nevada
- Correction to USGS maps of the North Gate Area
Another great resource was this blog, “Without Baggage“, from which I specifically printed the inset section,”How to Visit Area 51”.
And you can’t go wrong with Area 51 Sightseeing tips from USA Today, right? Right. Another one printed!
After a final review of all the maps, directions and cautions, Dad and I hit the road.
We gassed up and drove north on Interstate 15. As soon as you exit Interstate 15 onto Hwy 93 you immediately realize a feeling of solitude on the 2-lane highway. This stretch of road introduces you to the concept of remote in a hurry. For the next 85…long…miles, there are not too many vehicles playing passing games on this road. Why? Because there’s no one on this road to pass. But you may get lucky and find yourself behind a slow truck (slower than 80 mph? not bloody likely). Well, then it’s a slam dunk…make your passing move whenever you darn well fancy, cuz there’s no one coming in the opposite direction to worry about.
But hey! what’s this? A couple little towns near the end of the 85 mile stretch? Yep, Alamo and Ash Springs! Don’t Blink, Don’t even Blink. (Haha a little Doctor Who humor for Lisa M). These two towns are tiny but you will be so relieved to see them. Get ready, cuz here comes our first spectacular road-trip point of interest, the Alamo Truck Stop.
Alamo Truck Stop is perfect for picking up a bag of chips and a toilet break. I highly recommend it. Plus, any place that exactly matches the color of my car, is a definite WIN in my book!
Soon after Alamo, is where this trip really begins to “take off” (Haha more UFO humor). We arrive shortly at the junction of State Hwy 375.
In April 1996, Nevada State Highway 375 was officially named the “Extraterrestrial Highway” for the many UFO sightings along this lonely stretch of road. You can see how visitors from around the world have left their “mark” on the sign. This sign is at least one replacement (of how many?) that the state has had to install since the original.
Funnily enough there were some folks taking a break at a picnic table. One guy, came over to have a look at what Dad and I where taking a picture of. Was it possible that this guy just stopped to have a road-side lunch and seriously had NO IDEA that this was the ET highway??? The mind boggles!
We were barely back on the road when, in less than 5 minutes, we reached our next stop. The Alien Research Center with its 30 foot aluminum Alien. Naturally.
The Alien Research Center is a roadside attraction-style museum run by self-professed Area 51 expert Glenn Campbell. There weren’t any cars in the ample parking lot and we soon saw why. The center was closed on Mondays. Damn it all to hell. I could see through the glass front door the plethora of alien souvenirs and whatnot on display. Disappointed!
Back out on the ET highway and time to find our next point of interest, the “Black Mailbox” about 20 miles up. This is where a good set of printed directions is critical to have on hand because you can’t expect to rely on your phone or its GPS. Mine had already gone out shortly after we left the Alien Research Center.
Twenty minutes later between mile marker 29 and 30, we saw the mailbox and pulled into the wide open area surrounding it. There, Dad and I burst into laughter as we beheld the glory of the graffiti-laden mailbox on a pole that we had just driven roughly 2 hours to see. We weren’t entirely sure why this mailbox was so notorious, but knew it was a “Must-See”. And so we saw. And took many pictures. From Every Angle.
(click pic for mailbox detail)
Turns out, that the mailbox is a popular spot for enthusiasts to watch for UFOs. Although originally black as its name implies, the “Black Mailbox”, is now quite obviously white, having since been replaced by its owner (due to wear and tear… from ordinary humans, most likely). The mailbox, reportedly made of quarter-inch-thick bulletproof metal and which I can confirm is also clamped shut with a Master Lock, belongs to a local rancher (you can still see in black letters “STEVE MEDLIN, HC 61, BOX 80”).
I wonder what color the next replacement will be, as you can see this one has become quite festive and I learned later that the green Alien face is apparently a very recent addition.
The “Black Mailbox” is also conveniently located on the corner of Mailbox road, a wide dirt road that leads west deep into the desert, towards Area 51.
Speaking of dirt roads, deep desert and zero mobile phone service without any GPS network, it’s also Open Range country. This means that cattle wander across the highway and there are no fences. So be alert and on the lookout for them. You don’t want to hit one. We passed a dead one on the side of the highway and saw car parts strewn about as well. Not good for the Cow, Car or Cattle Rancher (who will be looking for reimbursement).
We travel along Mailbox road and it’s about 8 miles with a few forks and turns before we arrive neatly at the Area 51 Boundary. What’s interesting to note here, is that there is no actual barrier, but there are warning signs on both sides of the road, security cameras amongst the surrounding cacti and a manned white sentry truck parked on a nearby hill.
And don’t think you will catch the sentry unawares. It’s parked just high enough to have clearly seen our massive dust cloud we trailed behind us since leaving ET highway through the 8 miles of dirt road in the barren desert. My dad also cracked a joke that they surely would’ve also seen us coming in my bright yellow car! No, there’s NO subterfuge here on our part at all!
(click pic below for detail of white sentry truck on the hill)
I will admit that my Dad (and doesn’t he look totally great for 82? Yep, he rocks!) and I were both disappointed to see that the boundary sign no longer portends “Use of deadly force authorized” against trespassers. What a shame. Now the errant wanderer only gets to look forward to simply being detained or arrested and most certainly fined. I’ve tried to research roughly when the language was wussed-down by comparing other dated pics on the internet, but can’t determine yet when it was changed. Below is a pic of how the right-hand side sign would’ve looked in 2003. Compare the latest one above showing a pasted piece that obscures the 2003 version here:
But first we need to backtrack along the dirt road to the ET highway. Remember the Open Range warning? We drove up upon a handful of Cattle near the road. So I shot one…with my camera. Isn’t he a beauty? And note the amazing scenery and Joshua Trees. You should click on the pic for a bigger view.
We reach the ET Highway again and after another 20 miles we arrived at Rachel, NV with our appetites ready.
Did you see the Self Parking sign for Spaceships on the roof?
Here’s a few more pics just outside the Inn:
Whoa! Check out the snow! I get such a kick seeing snow in the desert. I found more snow in the shade near some creative artwork:
Our waitress at the Little A’Le’Inn was very friendly and exactly full of the character one expects at an Alien joint in the remote desert. She handed us our menus and hurried off to ring up some folks buying souvenirs.
Of course, we had our minds set on an Alien Burger, but we still looked at the menu to see what else they had to satisfy both Human and Alien appetites:
Our waitress came back to take our order and invited us to take all the pictures we wanted, but cautioned us not to take any pics of patrons because they might be workers at the Area 51 site. Hmmm, I began to try and sort out the tourists from the locals. In the meantime, here’s some more pics from inside the famous Little A’Le’Inn:
By this time lunch had arrived. Alien Burger to order! What, you expected it to be round… just like Earthlings’ burgers?
Round or not, it was a fabulous burger! We quickly devoured lunch and picked up a few souvenirs before setting back out on the road.
Uh-oh, I think I accidentally took a picture of some Patrons while at the Little A’Le’Inn. I hope they were mere tourists like Dad and I… and not Area 51 workers…
Heading back to Las Vegas about 1.5 miles southeast of Rachel, there’s another dirt road that leads to the Area 51 North Gate. It goes 10 miles deep into the remote desert. My dad and I debated whether to check it out and I reasoned, “Well we came all this way didn’t we?” So we went.
With our ever present dust cloud plumage announcing our intentions, we soon arrived at the North Gate. This entrance is also serious about no trespassers and not only has warning signs but also two barriers and a row of guard shacks. However, we didn’t see any guards manning the Gate in the setting sun.
It seems the warning signs here too, lack any notice about “Use of deadly force authorized“. Well burst my bubble…what is there left to do then, but to simply head back to Las Vegas?
So aside from having our expectations dashed from the promise of Authorized Deadly Force apparently no longer in force or enforced, it was still a fun road-trip. The scenery by far is absolutely marvelous even while keeping an eye out for UFOs. But please be sure you do your homework before traveling Highway 93 and 375 as they really are very remote areas. Heading back as darkness fell there was one stretch with no cars ahead or behind us, nor did one pass in the opposite direction for at least 15 minutes. It was comforting then, when Las Vegas finally came into view, with its spectacular show of lights spread out like a twinkling sea surrounding the brilliantly sparkling Hotel and Casino skyline of The Strip.
I wonder if aliens like to gamble…? Maybe they’d like a tour bus to Vegas? Wonder if they think $195.00 per alien is reasonable.