Area 51. Ever heard of it? Several Hollywood science fiction movie plots have featured this apparently super-secret military installation where all sorts of, well, out-of-the-ordinary experiments are conducted. Because of the US government’s reluctance in providing any information about this facility, it has created numerous conspiracy theories, including some people believing that Area 51 is not just a military base, rather it is a research facility where aliens and extra terrestrial vehicles who happen to visit Earth are captured and researched. This belief further gathered steam with the release of the 1996 hit movie Independence Day. Since then thousands of curious visitors have traveled on the desolate road cutting across this region in the hopes of seeing something paranormal. That’s when the government of Nevada decided to play along and officially renamed the road as The Extraterrestrial Highway.
Background aside, coming to the point. I have a bucket list of unusual places I want to visit in life, and somewhere at the top of this list was The Extraterrestrial Highway. Recently I had to move from Dallas to San Francisco and decided to detour off the normal route to tick this off my list, and it was so totally worth the extra day. The rugged beauty of this middle-of-nowhere route cannot be expressed in words so I will let the photos do the talking.
To get on to the Extraterrestrial Highway, drive 125 miles north from Las Vegas on US Highway 93 where you will be greeted, in the middle of nowhere, by a badly graffitied signboard signaling the start of the mythical road.
The first sign of something unusual going on at Area 51 is seen here. Driving through the desert on US 93, there is barely any cellphone coverage, with basic 2G data access. I take out my phone at this point and guess what- the great AT&T shows full signal strength with surprise, surprise- 4G data coverage! Unable to believe my eyes, I run a speed test right there, and yes, it’s true!
The first few miles of the highway descend through small hills into the never-ending vastness of Tikaboo Valley. To the left are high mountains behind which lies the elusive Area 51, or as the US Government likes to officially call it- Groom Lake Air Force Base. A few miles into the valley lies a rather strange, but well-known landmark called the Black Mailbox (which, as you can see, is actually white!)
This mailbox lies in absolute remoteness at the intersection of the highway and a dirt road. This dirt road heads straight into Area 51 and is patrolled 24/7 by Special Service agents in pick up trucks. Anyone attempting to drive towards the secret base is detained and the minimum penalty for doing so is a fine of $650. Maximum penalty is indefinite confinement in prison.
The dirt road from ‘Black Mailbox’ point heads straight into Area 51. Proceed on this and you are sure to bump into, what are locally known as the “Cammo Dudes” who’d have a question or two for you. My advice. Don’t go that way. Just don’t.
The only sign of life along the highway are cows. Lots of cows. (Hmm, I wonder if this is where aliens abduct cows?!)
Well, not just cows. There is some human presence too. The sole settlement along the highway is the tiny village of Rachel which has fully milked to its advantage its location and manages to attract thousands of UFO searchers, conspiracy theorists and curious tourists.
Yes, that population figure.
The most prominent landmark in Rachel, and all along the highway is the Little AleInn, a small restaurant that doubles up as a UFO and alien conspiracy theory museum, gift shop and even a small motel for enthusiastic campers who want to scan the night skies for traces of extraterrestrial phenomenon. To complete the experience, there is also a tow truck carrying a salvaged UFO.
Sorry, no valet parking for our inter-planetary guests.
Aliens have a message for dumb earthlings.
Beyond Rachel, its once again vast open plains for as far as the eyes can see, punctuated only by cattle roaming the open ranches. Driving through this landscape can be extremely boring or absolutely fascinating depending on your state of mind.
So during the drive, did I see any paranormal activities or sight any UFOs? Well, not really. Unless you count this-
What is that? I don’t know. The region around Area 51 is restricted airspace, so this can’t be a commercial airliner. Most likely some military planes on a test mission, but as long as we don’t know what it is, it remains an Unidentified Flying Object aka UFO!
There are no fuel stations along the entire length of Extraterrestrial Highway and several miles before and after it, so make sure you fill up before hitting this road
Speed limit along this highway is 70 mph. Vast empty road may look too enticing but don’t overspeed. Remember this route is constantly patrolled by cops.