We set out from Hurricane Utah, aiming for Yosemite National Park in California. We had the choice of either going southwest through Las Vegas, or Northwest through...the rest of Nevada. You see, there are only two ways to get around this giant military base/test site/air force bombing and gunnery range/area 51/who knows what else...place in the middle of the Nevada desert. It's big. We had taken the southern route through Las Vegas in our teardrop trailer in 2010 (and had a memorable night in Indian Springs), so with no particular desire to drive an RV through Las Vegas, we decided to take the northwestern route.
Pretty drive through some Joshua Tree forests "where the desert meets the hills"
Nevada is something like 85% BLM land, which means free camping! This was our first time camping on public lands...the road we pulled off of was called Rattlesnake Road (no idea how I agreed to stay here). It turned out to be one of our coolest campsites yet. Remote, beautiful, and complete with ancient petroglyphs! Judging from the old drawings and campfire circle, it's been home to many travelers throughout the years.
I composed this design over a photo I took with my back to the sunset. Later that night (after stomping around the RV to scare off any snakes) when we turned out the lights for bedtime, it was pitch black. Couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Then just a few minutes later, even with our eyes closed, we noticed it suddenly seemed brighter...the heck? The moon! We saw the prettiest moonrise over these hills. It lit up the whole valley.
Do you see Hodor peeking out?
Our trusty steed
In the morning, we hit the road. Highway 375 is officially called the Extraterrestrial Highway as it runs just north of area 51. The only thing for about 150 miles of lonely road, is the town of Rachel, Nevada. Rachel is home to a church, a hotel/bar, and less than 100 people. It's not even technically a town, but a census-designated-place.
Rachel is a very curious place. It's an old mining town (the mine failed) founded in the late 70's. It lies just north of Area 51, and is a huge destination for sky-watchers and UFO enthusiasts. There is surprisingly a lot to do out there in the desert! People come from all over the world to explore old mines, ghost towns, hunt for geocaches, and of course – watch the sky. There are a handful of key places to survey the sky, especially looking toward the air-force base. Sadly, it was partly cloudy the night that we were there, but the stars we could see were BRIGHT. We didn't notice anything strange (in the sky), but after dark, (we were welcomed to boondock in the lot next to the Little A'le'Inn) Our RV was buzzed by a very low flying zoom-y, fighter-jet-sounding aircraft. People see and hear strange things in the sky all the time out here, and it makes sense when you're located just north of a super-secretive airforce base! Check out this site for an idea of the kind war games you can regularly observe, also www.rachel-nevada.com has a lot of interesting info such as this:
"Rachel lies underneath a major military exercise area, the Nellis Range Complex. Visitors are startled by the many loud sonic booms in the area, but most residents have gotten so used to them they hardly notice. Some people, like Ralph Grover, a former Air Force mechanic who spent his last years here, have enjoyed living here because they could see jets flying around all the time, but most residents only notice what goes on overhead when the booms knock pictures off the wall or when jets crash in their backyard."
It's yard art, right?
This place is very much like a stop on rt. 66! Traffic is sparse but steady. You will hear a number of languages and accents out here in this middle of nowhere roadside attraction. It's a strange little oasis in the desert, but everyone is very enthusiastic about being here :) There is a time capsule out front, placed in 1996 by the producers of Independence Day! (To be opened in 2050)
Check out this groovy hangout - it says "Groom Lake air traffic and yacht club"
(Groom lake is a dry lake on the air force base)
We made lots of friends! We were lucky to roll into town just in time for the "Rachel Day" celebration. The Litte A'le'inn employees invited us over to the park for food, water balloons, and tug-o-war. After we took a walk around the town, we made our way to the park. We already knew half the people there because the work shift had just changed at the bar. Small town. I cannot stress that enough! We are now pretty clued into the gossip and who's who, and all that. I was roped into a game of tug-o-war, it was the ladies (5 of us, all quite small) versus a big guy who so boldly claimed he could beat us all. He had another gentleman (or two) jump in to help him and we still won, of course. High fives all around! (ask me to regale the whole story in person someday ;)
Fancy custom built bikes (LBD colors!)
Gorgeous sunset over Area 51
I would go back! I had heard about this hotel before, it's a known roadside attraction, but never ever thought I would find myself out there. It's a really fun place, and very interesting to see how people live waaay far out in a little settlement such as this. Puts your "small town" into perspective for sure.