Since then, I’ve had my own alien experiences. Like the Exeter UFO Festival. And getting private access to the Betty and Barney Hill archive. But finally, finally, I made it to Area 51—or as close as legally possible to that famous, top-secret military base that sits in the Nevada desert content with being an oxymoron and a plot point in every story about visitors from beyond the stars.
But to get there, I had to take the Extraterrestrial Highway. Cue disco music.
The Extraterrestrial Highway is a stretch of about 100 miles of road northwest of Las Vegas. Its maiden name is State Route 375, but it was renamed back in, well, the X-Files Decade. It connects US Route 6 to the north and US Route 93 to the south. It also skirts a section of secluded desert that is home to a group of Air Force facilities, including Area 51. You can turn the disco music off now.
But then we hit Rachel. Poor girl.
But of all the strangeness surrounding this humble little building covered with alien murals, the strangest has to be the Independence Day time capsule. And if the italics didn’t tip you off, I’m talking Independence Day in the Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum sense, not in the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson one
On the eighteenth day of April, A.D. 1996,
Twentieth Century Fox hereby dedicates this time capsule and beacon for visitors from distant stars, to the State of Nevada and the “Extraterrestrial Highway.”
This time capsule will serve as a beacon, to be opened in the year A.D. 2050, by which time interplanetary travelers shall be regular guests of our planet Earth.
Governor Bob Miller of the State of Nevada
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
The film makers and cast of INDEPENDENCE DAY
Now that’s a marketing stunt. I can’t find anywhere online exactly what the contents of the time capsule are, but I assume it’s full of Independence Day action figures. Also Will Smith’s cigar and Brent Spiner’s wig.
See? The Little A’Le’Inn is quite the sci-fi beacon for such an unassuming place out in the middle of nowhere. Even if the whole restaurant was an empty set, it would have been a worthwhile stop. But then we stepped inside. Hesitantly.
And it was covered in UFOeana and alien merchandise like the stuff just bred there.
The staff was very friendly, and a women named Pat, whom I would later discover was the owner, scuttled about, greeting people, scolding me for letting my infant shove a straw in her mouth, and graciously giving my five-year-old free reign of the place. I, of course, followed suit.
There was every type of alien-themed merchandise on its shelves, from wine to Christmas stockings to giant signs for rolling out on your roof that said, “Pick Me!” Just kidding on that last. Patent pending. But there were also general alien decorations, including topographical maps of the area, UFO photography, amateur paintings of aliens. That type of thing. Basically, it was decorated like my bedroom when I was 12. Perfectly, in other words.
Continue to Signs of Intelligent Life, Part II, where we play chicken with Area 51.