The truth is out there, or so it is said, but the desert can keep a lot of secrets. We had planned a trip to Ely, Nevada, which is pronounced Elee, as if it were named after Robert E. Lee, but its not named after him. The plan was to look at some potential investment properties, but we threw that plan out the window after a quick drive past one of the properties and decided that after four hours on the road, we should find a room and rest up for the drive back to Henderson, Nevada. After we checked in, we did a quick yelping session for a good dinner spot and found a place called Racks. The place was clean, had good food and the staff were accommodating enough to put the US Open on a television that was showing football. Robin had buffalo wings, and somehow, I let the little heat devil in my head convince me into getting the extra hot wings. Those little buggers really did a number on me so I got very little sleep. I spent the night and early hours of the next morning whispering “come on ice-cream” while on the toilet. After dinner, we wandered down the street. Ely is a quiet town. You can stand in the middle of the road with no worry of getting hit. We found our way to Mr. G’s and had one of our signature Specter Martini (recipe below). We learned a little bit about the real estate investment properties we were considering and so our first impressions were bolstered by local knowledge. We had a late checkout and took full advantage of it, and then set out for home feeling more or less fully rested.
The Specter Martini is the anti James Bond. It consists of one-half gin, preferably Sapphire and one-half vodka, preferably Grey Goose. Shake with ice, add a twist or an olive and sip. No vermouth or any other bar mixers are to be added. What are you crazy?
We were about half-way back to Henderson when we came to a fork in the road. We had passed this fork on our way up to Ely, but did not notice the signs or the fifty foot tall aluminum alien indicating the route towards the infamous Area 51. On a whim, we banged a right and decided to take a side trip to see if we can’t figure out just what the hell is going on out there in Area 51. We turned around when we passed a sign that said there is no gas for over 150 miles, stopped at the nearest gas station and topped off since we were well below half a tank. We technically could have made it to the next gas station, but we would have been rolling in on fumes.
The first stop featured a fifty foot tall aluminum alien. We went inside and encountered a gift shop of the third kind. There was everything from Star Trek paraphernalia to space alien themed tequila. We wandered around a bit and listened in as the shopkeeper gave advice on how best to approach the infamous Area 51 facility. It involved a lot of finding small wooden things on the side of the road and taking a dirt path nearby. Based on the size of the local mountain ranges, I suspect finding the secret base may well involve some free climbing and/or hot-air ballooning as well. Never mind that this is a top-secret US Government military base and you are continuously warned that you will be shot on site if you attempt to enter it, you came all this way, its time to rush the fences and find those dang spaceships. I’ll be right behind you guys, just finishing up my coffee, mkay.
We continued on deeper into Area 51. Look, Area 51 itself is not the military base, Area 51 is a large piece of desert in the middle of Nevada. It is a map designation created by the US Government in the 1950s when they were busy blowing up nuclear weapons in the desert and nothing more. I haven’t checked, but my guess is that Area 51 is sandwiched between areas 50 and 52, assuming the folks who drew these maps had any sort of common sense, or perhaps there is no such pattern so as to keep curious Soviet spies from finding anything interesting. The military base that has military patrols authorized to use lethal force regardless of how certain you are about the presence of alien technology thereupon is located somewhere within this massive area. More specifically, it is located in a dry lakebed called Groom Lake. All you need to do is bang a left somewhere in the middle of this unforgivingly massive desert and there you are, five feet away from getting shot by a professional military marksman. Best of luck on your journey. Robin’s theory as to how this whole Area 51 phenomenon started goes like this: One day, back in the 50s some board military types went into a local bar and wanted to impress some pretty ladies so they told a tall tale about seeing an alien spaceship or something along those lines and the story went what we would consider the 1950s version of viral. Did those soldiers get laid? Probably yup. Did the locals get an opportunity to open gift ships? Uh-huh. Were their superiors happy? Probably not. For a few beers, a roll in the hay with a few nice ladies and accidentally letting everybody on the planet know the location of their top secret base, they probably got KP duty for the remainder of their service. It beats doing alien autopsies and mutilating cattle.
After about an hour of driving, we came upon the little Aleinn, which is basically an aluminum shack with a bar/giftshop inside. This place is in the middle of nowhere, or as the State of Nevada calls it, Rachel Nevada. If you are still having trouble finding Area 51, I suggest you find your way to the Extraterrestrial Highway, and um… bang a left somewhere. The proprietors of the Little Aleinn (a word that seems to confound spellcheck), do not want you to take pictures inside of the building. I don’t know why, its a diner with a bar and tiny gift shop in the corner. Hanging from the ceiling above the bar is about five billion dollars in various currencies, but mostly US Dollars. Each dollar has something written on it from a visitor, all of which are certainly human visitors as I sincerely doubt space aliens are buying coffee and tequila shots with Earthly currencies when they can probably trade in exotic dark matter or whatever it is they use to make their ships travel faster than light across the galaxy. Then again, their space ships had to get towed out of a ditch by local towing services, so they are probably out of cobalt thorium – G or whatever. They obviously missed the sign that said, “no dark matter facilities for 155 million light years.” They make me feel smart for having turned around for gas.
The bartender/gift-shop sales consultant was terribly busy helping the dozens of patrons lining up to buy alien themed things and so she was slow to take our order. We got one cup of coffee and two waters. I stared at a thick binder labeled “Sightings Log” on the spine. It was stuffed like your aunt’s photo album with what I can only assume were UFO sightings, though presumably someone sitting at the bar had a bartender sighting of his own and managed to squeeze in a cheeseburger order. The bartender was understanding and gave us our coffee for free. We left hungry and decided to head to Tonopah Nevada.
We made our way through various military weapons testing sites and found Tonopah atop a high hill nestled in between the peaks of mountains. It felt exactly like we were driving into the old west, because, well, we were. Tonopah is an old mining camp that evolved into a small town. We checked into the Mizpah Hotel before finding out it is haunted. The place has a pretty creepy vibe, but in a good touristy way, not that oh god, we’re all going to die sort of way. The hotel was recently restored so it was clean, comfortable and had plenty of amenities. We had a few drinks at the bar and a light lunch and then we returned to our room to rest. Our room was on the 5th floor, about thirty feet away from the room where the Lady in Red was murdered. Jack Dempsy used to be a bouncer at the Mizpah and as a result has a dining room named after him. Before Dempsy was bouncing ruffians from the Mizpah, the Earps were there doing whatever it is Earps do. Before They left, they financed the Northern Saloon. We didn’t visit the Northern Saloon, but we did find a nice Mexican restaurant.
The El Marques restaurant boasts cocktails and a ten foot TV, and they lived up to both boasts nicely. The smaller TVs above the bar had NASCAR racing and the ten-footer had Formula-1 on. We ordered our signature margaritas and the nice little old Mexican lady behind the bar made us some homemade habanero salsa when we asked for something spicier than the house salsa. That little heat devil always gets his way. We had a wonderful dinner and basically had the bar to ourselves the whole night so we chatted up the workers. After about four margaritas each, we found out that one of the waitresses had her 21st birthday about four months ago so we decided to buy her a shot in celebration of her birthday. Of course you can’t let her celebrate alone, so we ordered shots for ourselves. Top shelf, not well. Its a birthday celebration, not some half-cocked frat party.
We slept nicely at the Mizpah and had a decent breakfast. We happened to have perfect timing checking into the hotel, because Burning Man had just let out and its temporary citizens were just starting to arrive. I could practically smell the dread as we passed the janitor in the hall the next morning. He knows his vacuum can’t handle that volume of sand. Its going to be coming out of every single thing the Burners bring in, including their own flesh folds.
During the trip, we managed to test out our recently purchased EVO Pro iPhone (and other types as well) camera gimbal. The desert highways of Nevada, though relatively well maintained are bumpy and our Jeep’s huge tires and off-road suspension only serve to accentuate the bumps. If you were to film the road while going nearly 90 MPH in a 70 MPH zone (seriously there isn’t a cop for hundreds of miles) with your hands, the resulting video would put Blair Witch videography to shame. It would look like you left your camera running as you attempted to escape a zombie apocalypse. The EVO Pro worked nicely regardless of the bumps. Initially, I did not have the motors calibrated perfectly so some of my videos leaned to the right a bit. It took me about five minutes to calibrate this thing on-the-go and then things straightened out. The batteries in the gimbal were quite reliable considering how often it needed to engage the motors and the ever-on bluetooth connection to my phone. The stability of image was excellent even when fully zoomed in on the horizon. The dead bugs on the windshield however were an ever-present filming hazard so we blew through an entire tank of washer fluid and had to refill in Tonopah. The only time I had an issue with the EVO Pro was when I stepped out of the car to film a shot of the desert near Area 51. The gimbal’s motors went completely haywire and caused it to gyrate. It felt like I was holding an angry snake by the middle. I think they used alien technology to cause my EVO Pro to whig out like that, because it hasn’t done it again since.
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The stability of image was excellent even when fully zoomed in on the horizon.
We never saw any aliens, however, there were a few hours of time lost during the trip that are not explainable. No, wait, I figured it out, Ely is in a different time zone, so it is one hour ahead of Henderson. Never mind. If there are secrets out there in Area 51, the desert is not letting them out and the US Government is definitely not letting you in.
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