The UFO flew a few hundred feet off the ground, and slowly. Steady and flashing lights made it visible in the night sky, and it made a rumbling sound, almost like jet engines. It approached my car, swung around, and flew back the way it had come, in no particular hurry. Then it was gone.
The Extraterrestrial Highway lived up to its billing.
State Route 375 in Nevada is a lonely desert road with little traffic, miles from anywhere. Its claim to fame is that it’s the closest public highway to Area 51, the top-secret installation within Nellis Air Force Base where the assassination of Osama bin Laden was planned and where some believe the government hides evidence of alien visitation. The state has named this empty stretch of road “The Extraterrestrial Highway”, creating a bit of a tourist attraction, and many UFO sightings are reported here.
This place is the middle of nowhere. Fuel up in Alamo: the next gas station is more than a hundred and fifty miles across the desert. Bring water. This is one of the least-traveled highways in Nevada, and that’s saying something.
There’s a little parking area next to the famous Extraterrestrial Highway sign. Five miles from gasoline, solid 3G Verizon signal. Then it’s off into nothing.
The dirt road into Area 51 forks off to the left, but I wasn’t going there. The bastards will know you’re coming, and if you step an inch too far you’ll find yourself in the hoosegow. Maybe another day.
The famous “black mailbox” is gone. It had been painted white for a time, but the rancher finally got so tired of people vandalizing the thing and putting random stuff into it that he took it out completely. No word on how he gets his mail now.
Cellular service disappears for a while. The highway is on an open range, so cattle roam freely onto the road, which is going to be lovely at night.
What I was looking for was a little town called Rachel. Rachel used to be a mining town, but the mine closed up in 1988, and that was that. It’s the only sign of civilization you’re going to see on this drive. It’s got a few dozen residents—and the Little A’Le’Inn, a bar and restaurant with an extraterrestrial theme. Nearest gasoline: forty-five miles. Cell service: strong Verizon 3G.
There used to be a gas station in Rachel, but some California wanker bought it a few years back and promptly ran it into the ground, so that’s gone. Nice job, California.
The Little A’Le’Inn is the only restaurant in town, maybe the only business in town. What a great little place. It’s run by the nicest people you’ll ever meet, give or take. The food and drinks aren’t even tourist-priced. I had the “world famous Alien Burger”, which was quite decent.
They have rudimentary motel rooms, if you want, but I don’t see much need out here. Just pull off the road and go to sleep. Put up a tent if you want: it’s public land. No one will bother you, or likely even notice you—apart from the aliens, of course.
The ceiling over the bar area is decorated with thousands of signed dollar bills, hanging from the ceiling, each labeled with its donor’s home town. I asked if anyone knew how many were there. Apparently an autistic boy was in the place a couple years ago, and he sat there and counted them and came up with more than four thousand five hundred. More are added all the time.
The Inn needs to be tourist-themed. You roll into a town out in the desert with fewer than a hundred residents: do you go into the bar? Of course you bloody don’t. But if it’s touristy, then sure, you know you’re welcome.
I love a good ghost town, so my next stop was Cedar Pipe Ranch, which is abandoned. There is a little “oasis” that attracts cattle near the deteriorating buildings. Eight miles from the main highway, twenty-three from the nearest town. No cellular service. I’m not sure what killed the coyote lying in front of one of the buildings.
The Reveille ghost town isn’t quite as easy. The dirt road was very rough, and I chickened out after a quarter mile. I’ll come back when I have an SUV. Six miles off the main highway; forty-three miles from the nearest town. No cellular service.
Highway 375 comes to an end at Warm Springs, which has some abandoned buildings as well. When I pulled up, there was a white-painted, converted school bus parked within the fence, and a guy sitting in the bus watching me. Very strange. Fifty-nine miles from Rachel; no cellular service.
There’s a ranch nearby you can see from the highway. Apparently the owners of the ranch owned the Warm Springs business, but the mine closed and no one wanted a bath in the springs any more, so that was that. They’ve got a hell of a trip to the grocery store from here.
At this point the sun was going down, and I hadn’t encountered any aliens. They mostly come at night. Mostly.
I headed back the way I came, and when I pulled off the road to sleep, that’s when the UFO spotted me. It was probably an A-10 Warthog out of Nellis Air Force Base. But I’m not sure, which makes it unidentified, dammit.