If you’re in North Dakota and looking for something fun to do (and chances are if you’re in North Dakota, you DEFINITELY will be), then make sure to stop by the Space Alien Grill and Bar! It was the tail end of our family road trip and we were joined by my eldest son, Alex, who is stationed in Minot. He’d spend the last two nights of our vacation with us in Bismarck as I planned that Saturday; our only full day together. North Dakota is the least visited state in the US and, since it’s 90% farmland, I can understand why. Another interesting tidbit – if North Dakota ever seceded from the United States, it would be the country with the third most nuclear weapons. Amid all the nukes and cows lies Bismarck, an oasis of sorts with a small zoo, museum, and all the usual stores and chains (including my favorite coffee place, Caribou, which is now extinct from the Midwest) most of us take for granted. Imagine my happiness when I not only discovered this novelty restaurant but that it was right down the street from our hotel!
I admit that my love of the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind inspired this year’s summer road trip. The Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming had played a pivotal role in the film and, after touring all the great UFO hot-spots in the Southwest last year with the other Dave, seemed like the next logical place to go. This amazing geologic feature is considered sacred to Native Americans and is also this country’s very first National Monument with no short thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt. Despite its history, I don’t think I’m alone when I site Close Encounters as my first introduction to it.
I was seven years old back when the film was released and, at that time, much more enthralled with another 1977 blockbuster, STAR WARS. My only connection to the film was via a “bendy” alien figure my Grandma bought me (Grandma always understood my interests better than my idiot parents did).
Last summer we Daves had the privilege of visiting the Southwestern United States and stopping at many of the hotspots of modern UFO lore. We checked out the UFO Watchtower in Hooper, Colorado, sought out the alleged crash site at Aztec, New Mexico, celebrated the other Dave’s birthday at the ET Diner in Sedona, stopped by the Little Ali’Inn in Rachel, Nevada (near Area 51), and spent a day in Roswell. I remember shortly after returning to Chicago going out for a drink with my friend, Marisa, who wanted to hear all about it. As soon as I started talking about those aforementioned locales, she suddenly arched her eyebrow and said, “Wait a minute…you don’t actually believe in any of that crap, do you?” Her question would be mirrored by many, if not most, of my other friends soon after.
“Seriously, Dave?” they’d say in one form or another. “How can anyone actually believe that UFO’s and aliens are routinely visiting the Earth while somehow evading any proof of their existence?”
“Well, maybe they haven’t,” I’d argue. “Have you even looked at any of the evidence that’s out there?”
The fact is, both of our arguments may likely be boiled down to a matter of faith; I can’t prove they exist and skeptics can’t prove they don’t. However, before you start walking away while shaking your heads, I ask that you first check out a few documentaries on the subject I’ve hand selected just for you. I feel their worthy of your time and, even if they don’t convince you of anything, at least you’ll have an easier time taking folks like me a little more seriously.
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.
My fellow Terror Dave, David Albaugh, celebrated his birthday just a week shy of our road trip. Since we’re rarely within nine hundred miles of each other during special occasions, I offered to treat him to dinner while we were on the road. My plan was to find something fun and unique; ideally in Roswell, New Mexico. Unfortunately, while the UFO capital of the world was chock full of gift shops they came up decisively short in terms of gimmicky food places. Not to worry because, as fate should have it, there was an alien themed restaurant right down the street from a hotel we were already booked at. And so, just two weeks after David’s special day, we’d celebrate at the E.T. Encounter Diner in Sedona!
The International UFO Museum and Research Center is appropriately nestled on Roswell, New Mexico’s Main Street. Back in 1947 when the famous “Incident” occurred, the building served as a movie theater while likely going on to show many of the science fiction films its city would one day inspire. The museum opened in 1991 and not only features information on the Roswell Incident but the history of UFO sightings and alleged encounters worldwide. After spending the earlier portion of the morning perusing the local gift shops while taking full advantage of any and all goofy photo-ops, we were now ready for a more serious approach.
It was our fifth day on the road when we arrived in Roswell, New Mexico; the cosmic G-spot for all UFO enthusiasts as well as the inspiration for this entire trip in the first place. The three hour journey from Albuquerque was actually kinda bland as we’d leave picturesque mountains in favor of dull flatland. Fortunately we had decent conversation to help carry us through. We knew we’d finally reached our destination when we spotted a gas station (the first one we’d seen in about 75 miles) featuring a flying saucer on it. There were a few other not so subtle hints as well.