A journey into the American nowhere, looking for something alien – be it flying saucers or their stalkers.
They say Americans have always had the attraction to the vast unknown. The Wild West was the first frontier to be crossed, and outer space is the current mystery on their minds. This broad, unexplored space tickles the imagination. And there is another typically American phenomenon stemming from these same roots: the passion for the road trip. You, your car and the personified unknown on a straight road…I am on a journey to experience firsthand those two iconic aspects of America. Above me spans an endless sky, around me lies the arid landscape of the Great Basin desert. From Vegas into the wastelands. My road trip into this vast nothingness is also a mission to understand the fixation that many Americans have for… UFOs.
After hours of driving, I see a road sign marking the entrance to the “Extraterrestrial Highway.” Getting close. After a couple of miles of horizon-breaking straight roads I arrive in Rachel, the closest town to the Area 51 military base. A few houses here and there and a motel restaurant deliciously called the “Little Ale-Inn.” A sign for flying saucers self-parking tells me I’m in the right spot. I enter a small bar stuffed with all the alien memorabilia imaginable. Besides pictures of alien sightings, there’s also an “Occupy Rachel” alien doll, which shows some humor in light of the world’s current events. An old lady signing the motel guestbook tells me: “There’s definitely something out there and we came to one of the most important places to see it, Area 51.” Her husband adds: “The government doesn’t tell us everything about life on other planets. Look at Roswell, look at what’s going on beyond those hills.” He points in the direction of Area 51. I’m astonished by all this alien folklore and by the fact that people actually take it seriously. Maybe there are others out there, but I sincerely question myself if they are green. Also, they probably wouldn’t appreciate being portrayed on our mugs and ashtrays.
The people at the bar seem to have a different perspective. They’ve been working here for a long time… According to the chubby bartender “for too long.” When I ask the young waitress if she has seen any UFOs, she simply replies: “I’ve never seen any, but I’ve seen plenty of things I can’t explain.” The town of Rachel is right on the edge of the military base; which the waitress assumes simply hosts “secret military planes or something like that.” But look at where this girl is working. It’s a roadside motel in the middle of the desert called “Little Ale-Inn.” Of course they play along, it’s good for business. When I ask questions about this, they simply shrug their shoulders and smile.
“People see what they want to see,” a lady by the counter tells me. She is from Rachel, and sees “all kinds of freaks passing by.” I bet she does. That’s the beauty of being human, right? Any phenomenon can be translated into whatever interpretation suits you best. If you see a stealth airplane in the middle of the desert, of course it could be an alien spacecraft. She also adds that “the government wants to keep people distracted with all this, and people buy it!” With such an elucidating quote, I say goodbye. I drive out to Area 51, but all I see is a “Keep Out” sign and a government vehicle keeping watch. No UFOs, no fluorescent glare. Nothing strange, just the beauty of the desert as far as the eye can see.
Nevertheless, this trip has fulfilled its purpose: I definitely encountered some truly strange phenomena. In fact, the giant alien statue in front of a nearby warehouse, the “UFO tow truck” outside the motel and, above all, the people I found lingering around were among the most alien things I have ever come across.