Today, more driving. We have to relocate from Canyonlands towards Mammoth Lakes/Yosemite area. There are two ways to do this – head to Vegas, and then drive through Death Valley (in these temperatures, we’d have to be mad), or to head across miles of barren desert, and along the Extraterrestial Highway. So ET it was.
The entire journey was 450 miles, and for the most part it was just long straight roads across dry desert. Most of the time we could drive at 70+ mph, and just slow down every 30 minutes when the road bent! We stopped for a picnic at a reservoir, and kept going through village after village. In all, over 450 miles, we passed through TEN villages (they all looked like towns on the map, but most of them only had 50 houses or less). One, called Cedar City, really was big – about the size of Banbury. Can you imagine the drive – London to Aberdeen, on dead straight A-roads, passing through only 10 villages (and with only one toilet on the way!)
Anyway, the highlight of the trip was the Extraterrestrial Highway. This 98 mile long highway runs alongside Nellis Air Force base and the famous Area 51 Top Secret Area. Mainly its just more straight road through the desert, but the excitement is heightened by the fact that you’re driving along the boundary of America’s most secret (well not really) facility.
Quick history: Area 51, also known as Groom Lake, is a secret military facility about 90 miles north of Las Vegas. The number refers to a 6-by-10-mile block of land, at the centre of which is a large air base the government will not discuss. The site was selected in the mid-1950s for testing of the U-2 spyplane, due to its remoteness, proximity to existing facilities and presence of a dry lake bed for landings. Groom Lake is America’s traditional testing ground for “black budget” aircraft before they are publicly acknowledged. The facility and surrounding areas are also associated — with varying levels of credibility — with UFO and conspiracy stories. In 1989, Bob Lazar claimed on a Las Vegas television station that he had worked with alien spacecraft at Papoose Lake, south of Area 51. Since then, “Area 51” has become a popular symbol for the alleged U.S. Government UFO cover-up (the Rosswell Incident)
The ONLY THING on this 100 mile road is the ‘town’ of Rachel, which has loads of caravans and two permanent buildings. One of them is a petrol station (phew!) and the other is the A-LE INN. The girls loved it! Especially the fake aliens that they could sit with inside the coffee shop. They sold loads of different souvenirs – T-shirts, aliens, Alien driving licences, alien key rings, Area 51 posters etc etc. And books, lots of books telling stories about Area 51 and the various UFO encounters around the world. And on the walls, lots of photo’s of UFO’s. We’ve seen lots of tacky things in the states, but this really beats them all!
After tea at Rachel, we drove another 200 miles to Tonopah, where we crashed into a motel at 10pm, after 12 hours of travelling. Lots of people asked me “What do you do all day when you’re travelling”. Well, there’s a good example of a whole day used up!