Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Turn and run

As we rolled in to Rachel so did the thunder. We’d driven 200 miles in to the middle of the Nevada desert searching for the super-secret Nellis Air force Base (aka Area 51, Groom Lake, etc): the place where they test the next generation flying machines and according to rumor, keep the captured UFOs. The plan was to visit the only town nearby, camp there and spend the night watching the stars for suspicious activity.

Rachel is a tiny trailer park on the side of the highway. Its only claim to fame is the Little A’Le’Inn, a friendly little bar littered with pictures of UFOs and tall stories. There are 3 things to do in Rachel: 1) look at the Black Mail box. The mailbox supposedly belongs to both the Air Force Base and also to a local farmer. It is the most photographed mailbox in the world. The idea is to let those who believe in UFO's write notes to aliens and place them in the alien drop box attached to the mailbox. 2) Try and see Area 51 without being arrested. 3) As mentioned, stay up all night and watch the sky.

The nice barmaid explained to us that someone had taken a shotgun to the mailbox a few years ago, so that was no longer on the list. The thunder was rumbling outside, so that shortened the list of star gazing and canceled our camping plans. “Drive over the hills, make a right at the unmarked blacktop, then drive 20 miles. When they point their guns at you, take a picture, turn and run.” How could we not?

Actually the guard was a nice chap. He explained that he was authorized to use deadly force if I came a step closer. He also said he was a bit bored because nothing much was going on at the moment. So I took my picture. He refused to point the gun at me (I ask politely too!), and we drove off.

The trouble with Nevada is that its rubbish. There’s nothing to see, nothing to do, and hundreds of miles to do it in. With the camping plans canceled we drove. And we drove, and we drove. The only things we saw were military bases. Lot and lots of underground bases, with odd names like Navel Under Sea Warfare Experimental Testing Ground. (Now remember we’re a 1000 miles from water here). A dozen or so failed towns (America really is a 3rd world county outside of the major cities). We also saw this, a hooker ranch in the middle of nowhere. This country is odd.

Finally we rolled in to a scary looking place called Hawthorn. Everything about it said we were going to be in trouble if we stayed. We crawled through town at 15 miles per hour peering in to bars and hotels. Finally the buildings faded in to the background and we’d decided not to stop. Accelerating away, we heard, for the second time, the dreaded sirens. Nice cop. Name of Mark, He advised us not to stay and to drive the “short hour and a half” to the next town, “its safer for people like you”. Oh and he also fined me for speeding. Git.