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On Walkabout At: Area 51 in Nevada

After arriving in the town of Rachel, Nevada which is in the absolute middle of no where and the nearest community to Area 51 my wife and I along with our two friends from Australia decided to stop at the only facility open for business this cold winter day, the local bar to ask for directions:

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I walk into the bar and asked the bar tender if she could give me directions to Area 51.  She rolled her eyes and gave me a look of “Great another one of those guys”.  Fortunately after I explained to her that my Australian friends just wanted to see the gate for Area 51 she became a whole lot friendlier and gave me a map to the two gate locations.

One of the gates known as the back gate is just a short drive down a dirt road from Rachel:

rachel nevada

As you can see in the above Google Earth image, there is not a whole lot in Rachel.  The town is situated at 4,970 feet above sea level and has less then 100 people who live in it.  Here is a brief history of Rachel from its website:

Rachel was founded in May of 1973 by D.C.Day, who owned an alfalfa farm in the valley. The town was first called Tempiute Village, then Sand Springs. Later, when the population grew thanks to the reopening of the nearby tungsten mine in Tempiute Mountain, it was named Rachel after Rachel Jones, the first baby born in the valley. This is remembered each May on Rachel Day with a parade.

In its heyday Rachel had over 500 residents, mostly working for Union Carbide in the Tempiute tungsten mine. When the mine closed in 1988 the workers moved on, and today the population is down to less than 100. Most of the people living in Rachel are retired, work at the alfalfa farms or in one of the three local businesses. A few people work at the Tonopah Test Range (TTR) or in Area 51, but of course those who really do can not talk about it.

The only remaining local businesses in Rachel is the Little A’Le’Inn Restaurant and Bar. The Quik Pik Mini Mart and gas station closed in the winter of 2006/2007, after briefly being operated by a new owner. The Area 51 Research Center, a small UFO souvenir shop, was closed in fall of 2001. There is a public phone outside the Little A’Le’Inn, but you need a calling card to use it.

In August 2002 Rachel got its own Fire Truck, as the result of an initiative by some of the residents.

Ever since the late 1980’s Rachel has been a popular destination among UFO fans, attracted by the nearby Area 51, and by hundreds of UFO sightings in the area. Rachel has been dubbed the “UFO Capital of the World”, and people from all around the world come to visit Rachel and the Little A’Le’Inn, and to get information to plan their personal expedition to that mysterious base in the desert.

Besides being known for aliens the town is a bit of a Google Earth oddity as well because of the Kentucky Fried Chicken logo you see in the image above.  KFC constructed the logo back in 2006 as part of its global rebranding effort.

Anyway we proceeded down the dirt road from Rachel and after about 9 miles we came upon the back gate:

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If you can believe it, there wasn’t even anyone manning this gate.  In fact if someone wanted to they could just drive around the gate all together because there was no fence either.  We found that surprising considering how sensitive of a military area this is supposed to be.

Then again it isn’t like this gate is even close to Area 51 considering that vehicles still have to travel about 25 miles further down this road to reach the base:

area 51 backgate

Eventually after looking around the gate for a little while a four wheel drive blazer eventually pulled up at the gate with a couple of guys watching us, so we figured that was our cue to leave.

For those that don’t know Area 51 lies within the Nevada Test & Training Range and was once a highly secret base where testing of some of America’s most clandestine weapons programs was conducted to include the U2 spy plane, SR-71 Blackbird, and the stealth bomber and fighter to name just a few of the important programs that were tested there.

area 51

The base is now well known in American pop culture more for stories about aliens rather then weapons testing due to the popularity of movies such as Will Smith’s blockbuster Independence Day that featured this base.

The base lies beside the dry lake bed of Groom Lake and serves as the workplace for hundreds of employees that are either bussed or flown in from the Las Vegas area.

The next gate we went to check out was on Groom Lake Road that served as the route that the bus from Las Vegas takes to reach the facility:

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Groom Lake Road is a dirt road that branches off of Highway 375 about 30 miles before reaching Rachel.  The bar tender warned us that this road would be pretty rough because of all the snow, but it ended up not being too bad despite the snow.  It was actually a pretty scenic ride with the high mountains and surrounding desert coated in snow:

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For civilians the road ends after about 15 miles where these warning signs forbid you from traveling any further down the road:

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These signs are actually tamer then ones posted in years past where deadly force was authorized against anyone trespassing in the area.  From here Area 51 is only about 10 more miles down the road and much closer then from the back gate near Rachel:

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Once again while outside walking around and taking pictures a four wheel drive Blazer pulled up.  In the below picture you can see a picture of the truck parked on the hill looking down on us:

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So the base definitely has some kind of camera system in place at these locations to warn security of people driving up to the entrances.  Once again we took this as our cue to leave and headed back up Groom Lake Road and back to Las Vegas.

The drive back to Las Vegas actually became quite an adventure as we drove through the high desert wilderness because of a snow storm that began to drop snow in near white out conditions.  Our Australian friends loved it and thought it was great while my nerves were being rattled by the poor visibility and idiots passing me at speeds not safe for the conditions.  Anyway we made it back to Las Vegas just in time to see the snow fall there as well.

Next Posting: Snow in Las Vegas

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