The drive from The Grand Canyon to Las Vegas was just over four hours, not taking into consideration rest stops. Places to refuel, however, were pretty sparse though Dolan Springs, Arizona sure offered a colorful one.
Just before crossing the Nevada State Line was Uranus Gas; offering travelers air-brushed photo-ops, snacks, and southwest souvenirs. They also took full advantage of their moniker by posting subtle taglines such as, “Got Gas? Uranus is Always Open.” At $4.69 a gallon, however, their prices were decisively less amusing and I couldn’t help but wonder if the name wasn’t also a reference to where they planned on sticking it to us long-distance drivers.
Despite a really impressive room at the Hard Rock Hotel, we couldn’t get out of Vegas fast enough. Blinking lights and slot machines just weren’t our cup of tea and even checking 0ut a few of the more famous hotels left us uninspired. It probably didn’t help that we’d just seen The Grand Canyon that morning, proving that man made glitz had nothing on natural beauty. Then again the circumstances weren’t the best either. To say it’d been a long day even before we arrived would be a gross understatement and we barely had the energy to walk the strip let alone dodge the MTV crowd while doing so. Inevitably, tension began building between us; I’d catch him rolling his eyes at me and I’d flip him off behind his back. By the time the cab dropped us back off at the Hard Rock, I honestly wondered how we were going to survive another week.
As soon as we left Vegas the next morning (after a solid night’s sleep) it was like a huge weight was lifted. We grabbed some fast food and took off for our intended destination; Rachel, Nevada near Area 51. The drive wasn’t all that exciting though our spirits did get a jolt when we turned off of US Highway 93 onto Route 375 a.k.a. The Extraterrestrial Highway! We pulled over by the famous sign and snapped some photos.
We were only on the Highway a short while before we saw a giant alien figure standing next to an old airplane hangar. It looked like it was gift shop of some sort but, unfortunately for us, it wasn’t open.
The rest of the drive to the Little Ale’Inn was just plain, desert.
Despite the emptiness, we’d been warned to stay alert as the area was loaded with open range cattle though none stood in our way. We did, however, see plenty of signs regarding the possibility of it; most of which had been defaced with UFO connotations. Some looked intentional while others, showing a poor cow getting violated, obviously weren’t.
The Little Ale-Inn appeared on our left, literally out in the middle of nowhere yet visited by so many.
For over twenty-five years they’ve provided food and lodging for enthusiasts looking to be near Area 51 – the famous Air Force Base used to test experimental military aircraft such as the Stealth Bomber. UFO enthusiasts believe it’s also the location of “reverse engineering,” where the Government takes apart alien spacecraft retrieved from crash sites in an effort to mimic extraterrestrial technology along with a host of other sci-fi worthy secrets. Consequently, it attracts lots of unwanted visitors which its neighbors in Rachel, not unlike Roswell, have figured out how to make a living from. In our case it sure worked as we’d traveled further west than we’d have ever done otherwise.
We checked out a faux flying saucer hanging from a tow truck hook outside the restaurant which was actually the ID4 Time Capsule. This was set up by Twentieth Century Fox in 1996 to coincide with the release of Independence Day and is not supposed to be opened until 2050.
As we walked towards the restaurant, we saw people sitting outside on a bench whom we assumed, based on their casual attire (one in pajama pants), must have spent the night at the accompanying RV Park. We walked inside and immediately started taking pictures. In truth, I’ve seen this place so many times in movies and documentaries it almost felt like deja vu.
While we were snapping away, a friendly middle-aged woman with auburn hair came out from the back of the kitchen and asked if we needed anything. Even though it was a tad early for lunch, we requested menus. McDonald’s breakfast burritos, though tasty, sure don’t provide much in the way of endurance.
While waiting for our food we conversed with the nice lady (note to self: write down people’s names for blogging purposes) and asked if it was worth going near Area 51. She said what Judy had told us at the UFO Watchtower, that there really wasn’t much to see. She also mentioned that a lot of people have been arrested for testing the perimeter. I’m not sure what the other Dave’s goals were but personally I had no interest in going there anyway. If I’m going to stare down Federal agents than I’d best see E.T. waving to me in the background and just a sand dune.
We also asked about “The Black Mailbox.” This was put up by one of the local ranchers (Steve Medlin) who built a wooden mailbox labeled ALIEN under his own. Nice people began filling the box with letters to aliens while the not-so-nice ones shot it full of holes. The original was then auctioned off and replaced with one made of a sturdier metal. Unfortunately that one didn’t last long either as people broke into Medlin’s private mail. Now there’s nothing there at but rocks. Look folks, being weird is okay…in fact we encourage it. But being an IDIOT is not.
We ate our lunch, bought some souvenirs and then while David was using the facilities the nice, nameless lady pursed her finger to her lips and motioned for me to quickly follow her back into the kitchen. I felt my heart race…could it be the latest reverse engineered aircraft hovering in the Nevada sky? I rushed back while harboring dreams of the History Channel financing our next Terror Dave road trip in exchange for the earth-shattering photos I was about to take!
I walked through the kitchen to the back screen door and looked up. All I saw were beautiful billowy clouds; one that kind of resembled Godzilla but definitely no saucers. Then I gazed downward and saw what she was talking about. It was a wild pronghorn antelope grazing nearby. “They never come this close,” she beamed. It was all good…I merely replaced my Terror Dave cap for my zoo one and was just as excited to see it as she was.
We left, backtracking on Route 375 when David spotted the location of the former “Black Box.” We parked and checked it out but there wasn’t much to see. It still irks me how it takes just one jackass to ruin a fun thing for the rest of us.
Our trip this year had a definite UFO theme but this marked our final excursion so far as that went. We left Nevada and headed into Utah where we’d spend the remaining days of our vacation. Having enjoyed the world of aliens, it was now time to explore the land of Dinosaur.
Coming Up…Dinosaur Tracks in St. George!
2 thoughts on “Flying Down the Extra-Terrestrial Highway to the Little Ale’Inn!”
Dave(s)… many years ago, I’d say around 1994 or 1995, as the producer and co-host of the morning show on KEEZ-FM 99.1 in Mankato, MN., I slated an interview with a very nice lady at the Little AleInn. It came about because of a newspaper piece done on the cafe by our local paper, the Mankato Free Press. I got the area code and the number and it was one of the best interviews we ever did on the morning show. Great fun and a wonderful eperience! I know it’s a tiny hole in the desert ( I spent some time as a desert rat around the Superstition Mts. near Apache Jct. Az. so I know what these places are like.) Great to see the pics! Seems like not much has changed since then!
Also… I am looking forward to another year at one of Minnesota’s great haunted attractions… “ScreamTown”. If you’d like pics or a write up, let me know. I’d be happy to do it.
Are you getting that Halloween vibe yet? I am!
– Mark Spangler
Mark, thanks for sharing this great story! We definitely thought it was worth the side trip. I have to say I loved the Southwest and wouldn’t mind being a desert rat myself. We were in Phoenix for a day but didn’t stop by the Superstitious Mountains. I swear we could cover almost the same ground next year and do all different things.
Thanks again for taking time to comment and, YES, we’d love your pics and narrative from ScreamTown!