Editor’s note: The following article was written by the late Bob Carter. He and RVtravel.com editor Chuck Woodbury were among members of a group of writers invited by the state of Nevada to drive its newly designated “Extraterrestrial Highway.” Chuck’s account of the trip is lost, but Bob’s still remains in the archives of the Internet’s Way Back Machine. Nothing has changed since Bob filed this original report. This remains a wonderful (and very lonely) road to travel with an RV with plenty of public lands for boondocking.
By Bob Carter
RACHEL, NEVADA, USA — We huddled together in anticipation. Was what we’d heard true? Might we be greeted by alien visitors? Writers, on the whole, are a fearless bunch. But as I joined several journalists as guests of the Nevada Commission on Tourism, we couldn’t help but wonder how our latest thrilling adventure might unfold.
It was probably destined to happen. The ingredients have been there for a long time. There’s Nevada, with its sparsely traveled highways, huge open spaces, and where the imagination can run wild. And, we were about to learn, right in the middle of the state there’s a remote super-secret military area designated off limits to all except a group of tight-lipped employees. That place and those circumstances were sure to breed rumors and stories. Today was our time to visit the location of legendary stories and myths.
That is how a very remote Nevada highway, State Route 375, came to be known as the Extraterrestrial Highway. There always have been strange things in the sky out there. During the 1950s, there were mushroom clouds from above-ground nuclear tests. Locals and visitors alike would plan parties around the scheduled explosions, called “shots.” And always, at night, there were strange things in the sky. Oddly shaped aircraft with no markings would roar across the deserted highway then disappear over the hill.
People talked to each other. News reporters talked to the military. The military talked to no one. It denied the existence of any secret bases, such as the infamous Area 51, also known as “Dreamland,” near the tiny town of Rachel, Nevada.
Yet all a person had to do was climb a hill, and look down and see that, yes, there was indeed a base, with aircraft coming and going. For some people, there could be only one explanation. The government must be hiding aliens, extraterrestrials, and UFOs out there in Nevada’s desolate desert.
The most noted UFO believer was a man named Bob Lazar, who drew national attention to the area in 1989 when he publicly claimed to have seen alien ships captured by the military. He supposedly saw them while he was employed as a physicist at the base. Neither Lazar’s employment nor his professional credentials have been verified, although some pieces of his story have been.
That is one end of the spectrum of opinion about this mysterious area. At the other are those who simply believe that the U.S. Air Force is secretive because the area is being used, as it has been for the past 30 or so years, to develop new military aircraft, such as the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes and the F117-A Stealth Fighter.
THE 98-MILE HIGHWAY was given its unique designation by the Nevada State Department of Transportation, which was responding to requests from tourism leaders in several south-central Nevada communities. The only one of those communities that is actually on the highway – and the only community of any kind on the highway – is Rachel, population 100.
The residents are alfalfa farmers, employees of the adjacent Nevada Test Site, and some retirees. The social center of town is the Little A ‘Le’ Inn, a cafe, bar and small motel, and also a UFO information center. The walls are covered with photos of flying objects, some from the surrounding area. The inn also contains a library of more than 150 volumes, exclusively on the subject of UFOlogy, and visitors are welcome to peruse it. Of course, there’s the souvenir shop filled with alien key chains, t-shirts with smiling alien faces, flying objects, and extraterrestrial refrigerator magnets.
Our fascinating journey ended with all of us safely tucked into our SUV tooling down Highway 395 back to Las Vegas. We’d survived the trip with wonderment in our minds at what we’d learned. Oh, yeah, I’ll match my alien magnet against your UFO t-shirt any day!