When we first started planning our California and Las Vegas road trip we were keen to get a balance of number of things. Obviously we wanted to make sure that we all had an input and that we would be interested in what we saw but as I lived out there for a couple of years we wanted to do new things for me too. When the man first suggested that he would like, time allowing, to go out to Area 51 I thought that he was just being a geek but as I'd never been there was willing to give it a shot!
Edwards Air Force Base (the official name for Area 51) is about and hour and a half drive North from the bright lights of Las Vegas. The first half an hour of the drive is freeway and then you turn off to the Extraterrestrial Highway:
Which is where things start to get weird...... So from the start of the highway to Rachel is 70-something miles from memory and I think in that drive you only pass a couple of one horse towns and not too many other cars. There is also about a 90 mile gap between petrol stations! We stopped at one point to take photos in the middle of the road just because we could:
Now if you don't know much about Area 51 there are two supposed entrances. One being the front gate and one being the back gate, neither of them being anywhere near whatever they are actually hiding there!! As we were in a hire car (that had already broken down twice- but that's another story) we decided to take the least risky route and head to the back gate. On the route to the back gate however you pass the 'black mailbox' which indicates the start of the road to the front gate:
And at this point you start thinking that maybe people are crazy!!! The poor guy who lives here must get so fed up. I did hear that they have removed it several times because people keep stealing it. Funnily enough we took this photo on the way in to Rachel and when we left it had gone again! Assuming it had been stolen yet again!!
Everything that we had read, obviously there is no official guide, suggests that you start in Rachel. Now the man had told me that it was a small town but it was a teeny, tiny small town. Like, there is nothing there about from 30 houses and the road to the back gate. There is a motel the A'le'Inn which is made up of about 5 rooms but also has a gift shop, cafe and rest room. It is actually a really fun place, the food was good and the staff there are so friendly.
Lots of people leave a dollar with their names and location on it in the bar and when the ceiling is full they donate all of the cash to a local children's hospital. Here's ours:
From here it's only about a 20 minute drive along the dirt road to the back gate. Until this point the trip has been a lot of fun and then you start to head out to the dirt road and the signs start:
Now it starts to get a bit scary. I don't know if you just get caught up in the seriousness of the signs or if it was paranoia kicking in but the whole way along the road it felt like we were being watched. Obviously the scenery may not help because you are genuinely in the middle of nowhere and all you can see are plumes of dust from unseen vehicles and tumbleweed and unidentifiable objects in the distance. There is no missing the back gate as there's nothing else along the road and like I say we were beginning to feel a bit paranoid so we stopped further away than we probably needed to and walked as close as we dare:
I think we may have scared Chick with all of our talk of guards with guns etc as she was begging us not to get any closer at this point. I did get a pic of me though:
It is the strangest place. It is desolate, windswept and completely isolated and I would LOVE, love, love to know what goes on there. I'm not sure I buy the fact that it's only a weapons testing area. Apart from the couple of structures you can see behind me we saw nothing else. No guards, no aliens, no secret vans coming and going. Nothing apart from being unable to shake the feeling that we were being watched all the way too and from Rachel. We got back in to the car and then drove as close as we dared to the gate thinking that we could escape if they came out and told us off! We got a closer shot of the back gate:
The worse thing about it is that the man has now turned me into an alien geek conspiracy theorist. When we got home I had mahoosive jet lag for about a month and read everything that I could get my hands on. Pretty sure I'm now on a US government hit list ;) If we're ever back in the area again I think we'll be heading to the front gate to check that out. Apparently that's even more scary as they shoot you if you cross a certain boundary!!!!