RoadTrip America

Routes, Planning, & Inspiration for Your North American Road Trip

The Extraterrestrial Highway, page 2

by Megan Edwards

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Groom Lake Park 'n' Ride
Bus Route Classified: The Groom Lake
Park 'n' Ride

The ET Highway sign has attracted graffiti, but contributors have limited their messages and stickers to the edges. Their offerings seemed more like tributes than vandalism, although we're not sure the Nevada Department of Transportation would agree. Near the sign, several cars were parked in the shade of the huge cottonwood. This is the "Groom Lake Park 'n' Ride," the spot where workers catch a shuttle bus to the high-security installation at Groom Lake inside Area 51.

Now we were in officially designated alien country, and we kept our eyes peeled as we headed uphill to Hancock Summit. At 5,592 feet, the altitude change was perceptible, and the air was cooler. We had also managed to choose a day when the weather was putting on a show. Enormous, anvil-shaped thunderheads were dropping torrential downpours on distant hills. Lightning zig-zagged to the ground, and the delayed thunderclaps reminded us just how far you can see in the desert.

On the other side of Hancock Summit, a long, straight dirt road cuts across Tikaboo Valley to the southwest. This is the road to Groom Lake, but we opted not to take it. For one thing, it's a dirt road, best avoided when there's a danger of flash flooding. For another, we'd been scared off by such dire warnings as, "If you drive too far down the Groom Lake Road, the cammo dudes will arrest you, fine you $600, shoot you, and take away your cameras."

Location, location, capitalization: The Little A'Le'Inn

If that sort of thing really happens, it's no wonder a lot of people suspect live ETs are being held captive at Groom Lake, and that engineers are reassembling a crashed alien spaceship. Rationalists, on the other hand, say "cammo dudes" are necessary to thwart terrorists and protect Air Force secrets. We don't know. We just watched silently while another huge black cloud zapped lightning on Groom Lake, and then we drove on.

The only outpost of civilization on the ET Highway is the town of Rachel, a cluster of trailers and mobile homes including a senior center, a Baptist church, and the world famous Little A'Le'Inn. We stopped for photos and lunch.

After we finished our Alien Burgers, we checked out all the UFO books, ET merchandise, and walls covered with photographs and Area 51 memorabilia. The pool table in the back of the room was stacked with sheets and towels, which led to the discovery that the Little A'Le'Inn actually does have rooms to rent, if you don't mind sharing a bathroom with a stranger in a two-bedroom mobile home.

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