Retreat From No Man’s Land

Normally, a road trip ends up back where you started. However, for the purpose of our Route 66 trip, we went one way along Route 66, which left us in Chicago. There was no set plan on how to get back. Well, the “how” was obvious (by car), but the route was anything but set. But there was one destination that had always gnawed at our curiosity: Area 51 in Nevada – perhaps you’ve heard of it. Despite the government’s best efforts, Area 51 has become famous thanks to movies such as Independence Day and TV shows like the X-Files. If you haven’t heard about this place, it’s considered the world’s most top-secret military base. Known officially as Nellis Air Force Base, it was here that the stealth bomber was created and tested. Along with numerous top-secret military aviation projects, it’s also rumored to be where they keep recovered alien spacecraft. Whether or not you believe this, your opinions could be drastically changed by conversations with the locals in the town of Rachel.

The town is desperately small, comprised of the base’s employees or those who earn their living by supplying the needs of base’s employees. Rachel is located on Highway 375, now dubbed the “extraterrestrial highway” because of the large number of people who believe it to be an alien hot spot. We pulled in for lunch at a place called the Ali-inn, partly because of the name and partly because it was the only place to eat for hours in any direction. The restaurant, made out of two portable offices (the kind you see on construction sites), was somewhat of a homemade museum dedicated to the strange events that tend to unfold in this isolated part of the Nevada desert.

We began to question the locals about the base. We were told of a back entrance to the base a few miles down the highway. After declaring we were going to check it out, the locals emphasized their warnings. This is one of the most top-secret places on Earth and the protection and defense of the base is extraordinary. First of all, the entire desert surrounding the base is littered with video cameras, motion sensors, and something called ammonia sensors that detect the ammonia in your urine and can differentiate between humans and wildlife. And to top this off, there’s continuous aerial surveillance by Apache helicopters.

The locals gave us the route to take through the dirt backroads toward the gate. Once again, we were given stern warnings about how far we should go. About two miles from the actual perimeter fence there’re large signs posting the end of public land. It is here that we were told that under no circumstances should we attempt to go any farther. When we turned the final corner, we realized that the warnings were not fiction. There were numerous cameras, tracking devices, antennas, and large silver spheres on ten-foot poles. Joining these technological devices were good old-fashioned menacing armed men. They stood alongside an unmarked white Jeep Cherokee in unmarked uniforms watching our every move through binoculars. Then you see the sign, which no matter how confident you’ve felt up to this point will knock you down to size. In plain English it says, “The use of deadly force will be used if you pass this point.” Try to enter and they’re allowed to kill you. Kind of enough to make you want to get as far away from those unmarked soldiers as possible. The Jeep was sitting there waiting for us, even though we’d just gone about ten miles down unmarked dirt back roads in the middle of nowhere. Have you ever felt nervous, like you were being watched? We had the feeling they knew we were there as soon as we’d left the main road.

Skaters are by nature rather unafraid people; authority figures mean less to skaters than to the average Joe. Yet standing in front of that sign miles from civilization with no one knowing our whereabouts under the scrutinizing eyes of the soldiers, any feeling of safety in the law that you might normally feel was gone. It felt as though we could’ve easily disappeared without a trace. The strange thing is all we really saw were the soldiers, the sign, and the tracking devices. Yet it felt as though that was enough, the desire to see anything else vanished. We were ready to go, filled with enough adrenaline to last for days. James Bond was not among us, and running the fence to see if little green men actually lived here was not worth the risk stated so blatantly on the sign.

If you want to go there, do not think about trying to enter the base; you can’t. Judging from the fact that no one has ever published a story about how they got in, it’d be safe to assume that the warning on the sign carries some weight. Go play in traffic, it’s probably safer. – Jody Morris