They say that Europeans are like coconuts: a rough exterior that is hard to break, secretly hiding a sweet, milky center, and I have found this to be true with John. When we first started dating I wasn’t really aware of this analogy, and though I really liked him and thought he was very cute, I was worried that maybe he was a little too dry for me. “You mean you DON’T like singing along to oldies in the car?” “Wait, you DON’T think Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth?” “it’s THREE strikes and you’re out, HELLO!”
I am after all, like an American: a soft and fuzzy peach in which one little bump will produce a saccharine sweet juice that will leave everything an annoying, sticky mess. But I managed to cracked my coconut, and it’s due in large part to Area 51.
Yes, that Area 51. One day in the early stages of our relationship, I was looking through some of John’s photo albums and found out that he has done like 10 cross-USA trips, has been to every National Park, and has basically wreaked havoc from east to west coast with multiple coconutty friends. These trips seemed to always include Area 51 where the wreaking seemed to be the havoc-iest. These photos exposed me to a John that I hadn’t yet been formally introduced to and I was intrigued, not to mention hopeful, that something of the wild and crazy, wacky guy in the photos still existed. I won’t go into the details of the pictures or videos that were taken on his various trips (strict confidentiality agreement), but like the soft-headed peach that I am, I fell in love. Space is John’s passion, and so I knew that visiting this place during our trip would make him happy and would shed some light on this bizarre part of his life. No judgement.
We planned to arrive in Vegas on a Tuesday and drive out to Area 51 on Thursday, spending the night at the Little A’le’Inn and then heading out to Palm Springs for my family reunion on Friday. John warned me that the Inn isn’t much more than a trailer park, but I thought the experience would be cool and promised I could hack it out in the middle of nowhere Nevada. “Hmm, do you think this outfit makes me look white trash? Yes? Perfect!” So we rented a car and took off into the desert. It’s amazing how desolate the landscape becomes only minutes out of Vegas. Lanes became fewer and fewer, cars became fewer and fewer, and the bars on my phone and the radio quickly became non-existent. Wow. Was not expecting that in this century in this country.
Once we got on the Extraterrestrial Highway we were pretty much on our own (well, just counting Earthlings). Apparently this is just a little too desolate for most people to make the trek. Or they get lost because their iPhone GPS stopped working. Just saying.
John took us down the famous Groom Lake Road as we drove into Dreamland. The scenery was beautiful, full of Joshua trees, mountains, and roads that took us all the way to the horizon, and I couldn’t help but think of the John Mayer lyric, “today skies are painted colors of a cowboy cliché, and strange that clouds that look like mountains in the sky are next to mountains anyway”. We spent a lot of time taking pictures and finally drove all the way to the border of the base-that-does-not-exist where there was a white Jeep making sure we wouldn’t go any farther. This is actually punishable by death, clearly marked on the signs which we weren’t allowed to take pictures of, so we drove (I mean, I drove!) back in the opposite direction to head to the Little A’le’Inn. On the way back we came across another car, a rarity, and so we stopped for a minute to talk to them. We told them we were on our way to the Inn, and that we had plans to stay there the night. The woman in the passenger seat (who, mind you, looked something of a mix between Louie Anderson and Danny DeVito’s mother from Throw Momma From the Train) looked at us in horror. “You’re going to STAY there? Have you BEEN there?” If Momma couldn’t hack this place, could I?
The answer will sadly have to be revealed at some other time because we didn’t get to stay the night. The Inn was preparing for the E.T. Full Moon Midnight Marathon (and about 800 people) in the coming days and wasn’t taking any visitors, so we weren’t able to stay the night. We did, however, get to eat a world famous Alien Burger and check the place out and talk to some of the, what’s the word . . . colorful locals. The burger was very tasty, the beer was cold, and I regret not getting a piece of pie. The actual establishment was full of crazy crap of both the alien and the anti-Democrat variety, so take what you will from that connection. It was fun, though. We said our goodbyes and headed back on the Extraterrestrial Highway for some out of this world star-gazing.
The trip planning gods continued to be against us, however, as above us shone a huge, glowing full moon; pretty, but not the best conditions for checking out the night sky. Even though the moon was bright, we were still in relative pitch darkness. No street lights, no other cars, no buildings, nothing. Black silence. My immediate reaction was, “wow, this must be what it sounds like when you die”. I quickly realized how creepy and morbid that was and changed my process to, “wow, this must be what it sounds like when you transcend” – I’ve never experienced quiet like that ever in my life. Quiet so deafening that you feel as if your ears might cave in. Quiet so disorienting that, for a moment, you forget where you are or why you’re there. Since we had to make the drive back to Vegas (two and a half hours away and still the closest lodging) we weren’t able to stay all night and alien hunt, so I can’t say that we saw anything strange (well, in the sky anyway, but we’d get our fill of that at the Luxor where we ended up staying the night). But from what I hear, if you stay long enough you will see something. Maybe not a UFO in this sense, but new flight technology, weird lights, things like that. John has seen things, and I trust him, so one day we’ll have to do it up right, trailer and all.
Overall I’m so glad that we were able to have this quick adventure. The drive was beautiful and getting to see a small glimpse into what life is like in the middle of NO HORSE town, no PHONE, no RADIO, have to make a trip into town to stock up on groceries FOR THE MONTH nowhere was interesting to say the least. If you’ve got several days in Vegas, I say go for it!