Friday, May 31, 2013

A Little Day-Trip to AREA 51 (and Rachel, NV)

Here's the back-story:
Everybody's heard of it. It's been featured in numerous documentaries, articles and Hollywood movies. The supposedly innocent, but super-top-secret, air base out in the middle of nowhere in the Nevada desert where all kinds of weird goings-on and sightings in the night sky occur.  Is this where the aliens have been held since the 1947 crash in Roswell, NM? After years of conspiracy theories and denial by the government, not too long ago, they finally admitted Area 51 IS out there, but allegedly, that it is no longer being used. It's part of the Nellis AFB Bombing and Gunnery Range. There were military planes flying the day we were out there, but low cloud cover prevented us from seeing which ones (I have a small bit of knowledge of military planes going back quite a ways). Oh, and by the way, satellite images show there has been recent construction on new hangers and existing landing strips have been lengthened.

Ok, so here's what happened... A couple of weeks ago, mom and I took the "Two Traveling Train Wrecks" on a mini-road trip a couple of hours north of Las Vegas, to Rachel. Rachel is literally in the middle of nowhere, on the Extra-Terrestrial Highway. The E.T. Highway is what's known in the geocaching community as a "Mega-Trail", because there are over 1,500 geocaches hidden along Its entire length.  We were meeting other geocachers for several events that weekend.  Rachel consists of the Little A'Le'Inn Restaurant and Inn, and about 80 people living in the vicinity on small ranches or mobile homes. That's it.  Not even a gas station. 

(Gray Pride and "Live Long and Prosper" at the south end of the E.T. Highway)
Now, I've always been a conspiracy theorist and of course, Area 51 is one of the biggest ones out there. I have wanted to go there for YEARS. As I told mom, I can't explain why...just that I have an image in my head of what it looks like and had to see it for myself.  Being so close (it's sort of near Rachel), I wanted to go find it and take pictures of whatever I found. Every account of people going out there talked about the security guys in the white pick-up truck seen on the top of the ridge. If nothing else, maybe I could harass them a bit. So we headed up the long, dusty 13-mile Groom Lake Road off the E.T. Highway. (I suspect the dust trail helps the security guys to see you coming)

(The 13-mile stretch of Groom Lake Rd., but don't look for street signs...there aren't any)
I absolutely love traveling with my mom. She'll do almost any weird thing I want in the name of adventure! On this particular ride, she wasn't digging it so much. Fortunately, there were two caches hidden on the road as well, so we had an extra excuse to go. We only found one before we got to the end of the road. We must have missed a turn onto another nondescript dirt road, other than the one we were already on. Now, rumor has it, they have motion detectors, ammonia detectors (allegedly for urine), trip-wires, audio-listening devices, etc, etc., and they know everything about you before you get halfway there. Surprisingly, there were no fences. At one point, mom and I argued about the 26 mile out-of-the-way trip to get a picture of a picture I could find on Google. Totally not the point! 

(The first sign we came to was not the expected sign. Note, however, the white security vehicle on the ridge to the right of the sign)
At what was the end of the road (for us), we came upon 2 signs: this "Nellis Bombing and Gunnery Range Warning" and another saying, "Warning! Photography of this area prohibited" (that doesn't mean I can't take a picture of the sign that says no pictures, right? Otherwise there'd be another sign saying no pictures of the first sign...that was my logic, anyhow). 

Basically, if you literally cross the imaginary line between these two signs, you get arrested. Period. So, of course, I have to jump out and get a picture with the sign. I was disappointed because there was no gate, no "Area 51" sign and no "Restricted! Use of Deadly Force Authorized" sign. Apparently, if you get past the first set of signs where you can be arrested, and they don't catch you fast enough, you may actually make it to the gate, but again, is the 'Deadly Force' part worth it? I thought about it. I think mom was holding her breath to see what I was going to do.

 I was unprepared to be shot that day, so I got back in the car. We're just too damn honest and law-abiding! BUT, behind the sign I was taking a picture with was the infamous white pick-up on the ridge, right where everyone says it is. Now, I'm retired law enforcement and I'm telling mom it's probably an empty, dummy truck. Agencies sometimes use them with a mannequin inside and park them in a visible place of a problem area because it's cheaper than using officers, but it keeps people out of mischief.  Uh, I was mistaken.  Definitely not a dummy truck! 

About a mile down the road GOING BACK to the main road, here comes the military chopper from behind us. Mom's like, "Are they coming after us?" I'm like, "Nah!" But after it got in front of us and practically landed on the road forcing us to stop, I was getting a little concerned. The pilot circled around us once more to be sure we could see his really big gun. Mom's like, "What is he doing?" I said, "He's threatening us, mom! And he's probably trying to get a good shot of YOUR license plate!" She's panicking because they were probably running her through all the major databases and I'm having a blast! I think I probably pissed them off more because, being me, I just keep taking pictures of them, even as they flew directly over us. I knew that moon roof would come in handy someday! We were on a public road so there wasn't much they could do (in theory, although making us disappear out there would have been no problem at all!). 

(Note BIG gun barrel sticking off the side)
About the time the chopper flew off, the security truck had come up behind us but stayed about 200 feet back. We came to a branch-off road where we thought the other cache might be and sat for a minute deciding if we'd had enough excitement for the day or if we were going after it. Security was still behind us and watching every move, so we decided not to test them. It was another mile before they stopped following us, but we were out of sight before they turned back. We agreed that that made the drive worth it even if we didn't get to the gate! I was telling mom though, if they have the listening devices they're suppose to have, they would have heard us talking about geocaches and arguing about going down the road and known we were tourists. But, thinking back, it may have sounded like we were looking for "it" and maybe we should take another road to get to "it". We did have a geocaching sticker on the back of the car, so who knows if they figured it out. I then said, "They're probably just bored and giving the tourists a good show". Yeah, no. The folks at the Little A'Le'Inn said locals don't go down that road at all. I told the guy that had hidden the cache out there what happened and he said he's been going back in that area for years and never had a chopper chase him down! Ha, ha, ha! Mission accomplished!!  After that, even mom was proud to have the tale for her blog!  I do believe she's an adrenaline-junkie at heart. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

 After stopping briefly to visit the infamous "Black Mailbox" (it's white), and unfortunately not finding the cache hidden there, we happily went on down the road to Rachel, checked in to our "room", got a bite to eat and hung out with the locals. 

(The "black" mailbox. It WAS black at some point, but then painted white because so many people would go through this poor rancher's mail looking for classified stuff. He now has to padlock it and it's covered with graffiti. It's become kind of a "must see" for Ufologists and conspiracy theorists... also featured in "Paul".)
If you've seen the movie "Paul" (if you haven't, see's a personal favorite!), you know what the Little A'Le'Inn is. It was NOT filmed there, but after the movie's release, the whole cast went and spent a weekend there.  The lady that owns it is, in fact, named Pat (as in the movie), but resembles more of a grandmotherly type, as opposed to the blonde in the movie. We did leave reviews on Travelocity for our room (Someone that was there before us had written very harsh things and we almost didn't stay there because of it).  Most of the other cachers were camping across the street, but we're just too damn crippled for that. Plus mom's convinced every creepy-crawler in the desert is lurking about just waiting to attack her when she lets her guard down.  If you want to have some fun and enjoy the whole mystique of the area, it's a nice little place to stay. It's not a motel, it is an inn.  Basically, they have taken older and gently used mobile homes and converted them to rooms. They were clean and offered air conditioning (a must for the desert in May), DVD/VCR, satellite TV, coffee maker in-room and hot water with good pressure, in a bathroom that you must share with whomever is staying in the other room. In between rooms is a small common area with a shared microwave and fridge.  You'd be hard-pressed to find the same in other small motels.  On a side note for other Sci-Fi movie fans, the producers of the movie "Independence Day" placed a plaque and time-capsule at the Inn, as well.

We thought we would be bored out of our minds up there for a weekend but between Area 51, geocaching down the E.T. Highway, the annual "Rachel Day" parade (Ha, ha, ha!  That's just silly, but they know it and embrace it!) and accompanying events all day on Saturday, plus our four geocaching events, we never even turned the TV on and were exhausted by 9pm.  I never got the telescope out of the car and we didn't watch the skies for very long at the bonfire because we were back in our room before full dark. But, just so I wouldn't be sad about missing the aliens, they had a light-up UFO outside our trailer and this little guy on the trapdoor above my bed to keep me company at night:

A really fun and interesting weekend we look forward to doing again next year! UPDATE: As of January 2014, we are no longer living in Nevada, but back in my hometown of Ocala, FL. I am so glad mom and I got to go on this weekend before we left. It will truly be one of our favorite geocaching weekends ever. Oh and, if you find youself on the ET Highway, there are now 2,000 caches on the mega-trail, and two geo-art trails: One forms an alien head and the other a spaceship, of course!


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