You never can have too many cable channels or too much insurance. That’s my policy anyway. So before I headed out to Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway, I gave Mike St. Lawrence a call. His Altamonte Springs agency sells alien abduction insurance.
“We offer a $10 million policy,” Lawrence explained. “We charge a single lifetime premium of $19.95.” Not bad, I thought, especially, since you can’t be turned down on the basis of your age or frequent flyer status.
The complete package includes double indemnity coverage for conjugal visits and partial ingestion. All Lawrence requires is a signature of an authorized on-board alien. The only catch is that he pays his claims in equal installments of $1 a year.
“Well I guess depending on what sort of time warp you’re in, you could still collect all your money,” I said.
“Yeah, if you find a wormhole or whatever they call it. Besides, it’s more about peace of mind than it is about money.”
I left my hotel in Las Vegas on a dreary January morning, packing plenty of flu medicine to combat the alien life form that had recently invaded my body. I was headed for the town of Rachel, Nevada, which is located about 2 « hours to the north on a lonely stretch of Highway 375 that skirts the edge of the Nellis Air Force Bombing & Gunnery Range and its mysterious Area 51. A year ago, the state dubbed this 98-mile ribbon of pavement the “Extraterrestrial Highway.”
On this winter day, it sure looked other-worldly. By the time I reached the high desert near Rachel the road had vanished under a thick blanket of snow. I sought shelter and a hot mug of Joe inside the Little A’ Le’ Inn, a place that has gained a national reputation for its Alien Burgers and exhaustive line of E.T. paraphernalia. Looking for an alien guitar pick earring?
Pat Travis, 53, set aside her mop to share a few stories with me. She and her husband Joe have run the Inn for nine years. The Nevada Department of Transportation did them a big favor by naming the highway, she said, but the E.T.s are real.
She described her own alien encounter on a frosty night in late 1988 or 1989, a night so cold “that even our die-hard drunks weren’t out.” Suddenly a bright light illuminated the back door, and a beam of light filled the room. It lasted only a moment, she said, and by the time she and Joe opened the door the light was gone.
They sensed a personal presence, and she welcomed it to stay.
“Because it was near Christmas, I said maybe we should put milk and cookies out for it, like Santa Claus. But then I said, Oh hell, if you can come through a steel-clad door, you can certainly open a beer can or get into one of my refrigerators. So just go ahead and help yourself.'”
The experience has since received certification by six psychics, who have told the couple that “entities” have made themselves at home at the Little A’ Le’ Inn. “Ever since then, we’ve had good things happen to us,” Travis told me. “Ten people owned this place before we did. We’ve succeeded for nine years. Question mark?”
I was beginning to feel feverish. I took a slug of steaming Joe and rose to the bait, “So, it’s like the aliens have given you their stamp of approval?”
“That’s it,” she replied. “We don’t even know why we were brought here to start with, because from the day I met my husband he insisted we would never again live where it got cold or snowed.”
But what about the Air Force, I asked. Couldn’t these alien sightings be explained as simply the Air Force playing with their secret, high-tech gadgets? “I think we’re working with conjunction with one another,” Travis said. “I don’t think it’s one-sided. I don’t think we have them in captivity or that they have us in captivity. And I don’t think they’re here to harm us. I feel that very strongly.”
“That would be bad for business,” I suggested. “No, it’s a personal feeling. We don’t have to tell a lie to promote our business. We have UFO memorabilia and don’t get me wrong — I do make money off it. But I don’t work 14 hours a day 9 days a week not to make some money.”
About this time Chuck Clark entered the bar. He’s a 51-year-old amateur astronomer who spends most of his nights camped out in the desert photographing the heavens. His hobby has also crossed over into snooping on the goings-on at Area 51. He’s turned his observations into a handbook of the area.
Clark offered to take me for a ride in his Jeep Cherokee out to the perimeter of Area 51. Aliens aside, there’s some pretty interesting stuff going on out there.
Although it doesn’t officially exist as an airbase, Area 51’s Groom Lake Facility is home to a 30,000-foot runway, the longest paved runway in the world. The space shuttle requires only about half that distance to land safely.
By Clark’s count, about a dozen 737-200s land at Area 51 each day, ferrying up to 2,000 workers back and forth from Las Vegas and locations in California. And on many nights, the place hosts a regular Fourth of July spectacular, with strange lights in the sky doing all manner of odd things.
“This is the world’s longest lasting, and most consistent mirage,” Clark said, as we fishtailed down Groom Lake road in the snow. “It’s even lit at night. It’s the only mirage I know of that has 737s landing regularly.”
Freedom Ridge on White Sides Mountain once offered an unobstructed view of the base, but these days it’s off limits. The best we can do for today is to harass the guards at the perimeter, which was marked by several remote sensors, a couple of signs (one of which authorizes the use of deadly force to trespassers), and a pair of guards in an unmarked white Cherokee. They backed
up 50 yards the moment we approached.
“They weren’t expecting us today,” Clark said with glee. He waved at them but they didn’t wave back. I snapped a few photos of the signs, staying well away from the perimeter. It wasn’t exactly space aliens, but it appeared to be as close as I was going to get.
“The main part of the base is strictly R&D of new technologies,” Clark explained, as we made our way back to Rachel. “By definition, they need to be secret and I have no problem with that. But I resent the fact that they’ll vehemently deny that there’s actually a base there.”
As for extra-terrestrial involvement, Clark is skeptical. As an astronomer, he’s familiar with the great distances that would be involved. “There are rumors that there are E.T.s at the base, living or dead or both, but I’ve never met anyone I trust who has seen one with his own eyes.”
Back on the highway, however, he tells of an Area 51 employee who saw and touched a 200-foot saucer-shaped craft at the nearby Tonopah Test Range, along with several other employees. They were ordered to touch the craft, and then back off. The saucer vanished in front of their eyes. Then they were ordered to walk into the area that the craft had occupied. No explanation was given to them.
“Are you willing to share the name of this person?” I asked.
“Oh, no. No, no, no! That’s the unfortunate thing. I can share the information he gave me,
but no way can I even give you a clue to who this person was, because his life might literally depend on it.”
The unnamed source offered no explanation about what he had seen. Clark’s theory is that the government is experimenting with “inter-dimensional” travel, perhaps in cooperation with inter-dimensional beings. “They could literally live in the same space we occupy,” he explained. “This dashboard seems solid, but cosmic rays pass right through it, through the earth even, without striking a single atom.”
Based on the increased sightings, Clark believes the government is about to go public with this technology, perhaps even revealing our interdimensional counterparts. The “Alien Autopsy” film was probably a trial balloon. Films such as Close Encounters and Independence Day all figure into the campaign to prepare the public for the startling truth.
But this was more than I had planned for. The fine print in my insurance policy made it clear that I was covered only for extra-terrestrials, not inter-dimensionals. I bid farewell to Clark, popped a few Tylenol, and headed back before the snow turned to ice. As I approached Las Vegas in the darkness, I found myself strangely comforted by its earthly glow.