Aliens in Nevada and New Mexico

I recently went for a roadtrip through the presumably alien-infested territory of the American Southwest. First quest of the day: Area 51.

Little A’Le’Inn

In order to get to Area 51 you will have to drive through the Nevada desert along Route 375, also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway!

In the middle of nowhere you will pass the small town of Rachel. It would probably not exist if it weren’t for the legions of alien hunters who has roamed through the area for several decades.

It is the only town in the proximity of Area 51 and practically consists of a small building called Little A’Le’Inn. They certainly know how to catch the eye of by-passers with UFO signs and a small flying saucer towed by a truck.

Extraterrestrial Highway sign Extraterrestrial Highway.
Rachel sign Arriving at Rachel.
Truck with flying saucer Don’t fly and drive.
Little A'Le'Inn Little A’Le’Inn. Earthlings welcome.

Notice the sign on the roof, saying “self parking” for saucers. Their “Alien Burger” is supposedly famous, but I wasn’t that impressed by it. However, the place was featured in the X-Files season six episode “Dreamland II”, which makes it a compulsory stop for any alien hunter!

Black Mailbox

One of the silliest items in the area is the so called Black Mailbox, located on Route 375 where the dirt road intersection starts towards Area 51. According to UFO lore it was supposed to be the actual mailbox of Area 51, which makes it a place of interest for weird people who expects to find classified documents in there.

But it actually belongs to a local farmer who got quite irritated at lunatic tourists going through his mail all the time. This made him replace the black mailbox with a white one, equipped with a sturdy padlock, and the original one was sold on eBay in 1996.

 Black mailbox “Hmm, what’s this?”
 Black mailbox “Mulder, I found it!”

Area 51

As we left the beloved concrete for an unmarked dirt road, it was almost impossible not to start humming on the X-Files theme.

Area 51 road The road to Area 51.

After some time we arrived at the Back Gate of Area 51, where the road was blocked. It felt like arriving at the Black Gate of Mordor, so close but still a dead end.

Warning signs Back Gate of Area 51. Ironically it’s one of the most photographed signs on the web.

We turned around and went down another dirt road, past countless Joshua trees until our car was covered in dirt and we finally arrived at the Front Gate of Area 51.

One hill featured a patrol car, where we most certainly had a pair of binoculars aimed in our general direction. Two official trucks were passing in high speed as we stood by the gate, perhaps not carrying alien remains but it still tickled the mind.

Anybody past these signs will be arrested, no questions asked, and they will probably receive an alien probe somewhere as well.

Area 51 front gate Finally arriving at the Front Gate of Area 51.

For the oblivious few, Area 51 is the non-official designation of the desert area including Nellis Test Range and Groom Lake in Nevada. The name originated from the 1950s when different areas were given numbers for nuclear testing, while the US government denied the existence of the area until 1995. It has also been used for development of aircrafts such as Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

Blackbird Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (photo taken later in Tucson).

Roswell, New Mexico

Ah yes, Roswell. We just had to visit the grand daddy of all UFO stories.

According to legend, a UFO crashed near Roswell in 1947. This was a “once in a lifetime”-opportunity for the local townsfolk, who turned the sleepy town into an urban Christmas tree decorated with all things alien. As we walked down Main Street, little green men and flying saucers could be seen everywhere. I just missed one thing: Mulder’s poster with “I want to believe”.

Alien street light in Roswell Alien street light in Roswell.
Roswell library Searching for clues at the UFO library in Roswell.
Roswell crash site soil There is no end to the obsession.

VLA, New Mexico

This site is not exactly on the alien map, but it has been featured in several science fiction movies. Most notable is the scene in “Contact” where Jodie Foster parks her butt on the hood of a car and listens to radio wave transmissions through her headphones.

Unfortunately that iconic scene is quite bogus. Radio astronomers don’t really listen to cosmic signals with audio headphones, the antennas were specifically pointed to get a better shot and the number of dishes were increased by CGI effects.

The scenes at VLA were shot during five days in September 1996, with the “listening” scene actually filmed during heavy rain. But the control room, even though shot on a set, is a near perfect replica of the actual VLA Control Room.

The site can also be seen in Carl Sagan’s 1980 documentary “Cosmos” and movies such as “2010”, “The Arrival”, “Independence Day” and “Terminator Salvation”.

VLA antennas NRAO Very Large Array.

Remember, the truth is out there. But gas stations are not, so I would recommend careful planning before undertaking any serious alien hunting.

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