Chapter 11 : Rachel, Nevada

The original version of this article was published in The Legend-News of 2000 August 21 and 2000 August 28 . Slight changes have been made, but nothing that affects the facts.

The One About the E.T.

Saturday, 2000 June 3

Bright and early and rested on Saturday morning, I quickly travelled the half-hour to Mesquite and hooked up with T A. We stopped at a local auto parts store for a few more quarts of oil, then a fuel station down the street for gasoline and Cokes, and then we were off, southbound on I-15 to NV 168, northwest to US 93, north to NV 375 and then west to Rachel, Nevada.

Nevada 375, the Extra-Terrestrial Highway
ET: The ExtraTerrestrial Highway. This sign is on the east end of the road, at its intersection with US 93. The picture that’s taped to the center of the sign is that of noted isolationist Pat Robertson and his wife. On Pat’s forehead is written “No More Aliens”.

Along the drive on NV 375, we made a really interesting observation. There’s a stretch of road that crosses a valley east of Coyote Summit, and that section of the road seems to go on forever in a fairly constant direction. Both of us being city boys, we’re not very good at estimating the extreme distances that can be encountered out here in the wide West. We both guessed the distance from where we were to the point where the road curved: I said 8 miles, T A guessed about 11. We were both wrong: the real figure was closer to 14. And there wasn’t any smog along the way.

Area 51 Research Center, Rachel Office business card If the picture on the right doesn’t give you an idea of where we’re headed, let me explain. Rachel, Nevada doesn’t have too many tourist features. There’s the local center of learning, the Rachel Office of the Area 51 Research Center [2010 February27: The Research Center closed several years ago. — Future Ed.]; and a restaurant / motel, the Little A’le’inn. Yes, Rachel is the nearest town to that alledged hotbed of secret government activity, Area 51, a.k.a. Groom Lake or “Dreamland”. There’s no post office, though; the nearest one is in Alamo, which is about 50 miles southeast of Rachel.

Since neither I nor T A had ever been to Rachel, we started our investigation in the Area 51 Research Center. Besides the mouse pad that I bought (“Authorized Personnel Only” among its warnings) we heard a bit about the area and the security that surrounds it. That’s when we found out about the observation tower on the mountain peak about seven miles east of Rachel; yes, we’d been observed as we drove west to Rachel, but what did it mean? After a few more informative queries, we departed the Research Center for the Little A’le’inn (yes, it really is spelled that way). T A decided that he wanted to visit the “back door” to Area 51, which was about 10 miles off to the southeast of NV 375 along a dirt road (“turn at the white mailbox”, they said). I, on the other hand, decided that wimping-out was preferable and elected to stay in town. T A told me that I should wait about twenty minutes then order a burger for him, because he should be on his way back by then. So while I stood in the parking lot and watched, T A set off back down the road and turned right at the white mailbox. I could see the cloud of dust that he raised as he travelled on the dirt road.

T A went off in search of adventure and I had lunch. I had an A’le’innburger, which was sort of a cheeseburger with Thousand Island salad dressing on a sesame seed roll. I nursed the burger, then perused the souvenir corner of the store and bought a coffee mug for Lisa. I ordered another A’le’innburger for T A and went outside to wait by my car.

The Little Áléinn, Rachel's fine dining establishment
Where to eat in Rachel, Nevada. Try the A’le’innburger; it's out of this world!
UFO in the parking lot of the Little A'le'inn
A tourist vehicle in the parking lot.
No valet service.
Sorry, no valet service. U-Park-It.

A half-hour had passed, but T A hadn’t yet returned. I took out my binoculars and looked in the direction of the dirt road to the “back door”, but I didn’t see any indication that T A was in motion. So I continued to wait.

So just what was happening to T A? Here’s his story:

I headed back up the highway in my car and took the dirt road, which I was told would be “ten miles from the gate.” It was a dusty drive down a typical dirt road. I didn’t see anything surprising.

I came around a bend at about the 10-mile point and the gate was about 100 yards away from me. No one was in sight but I could tell from all of the electronics on top of the guard shack that I was probably under observation. I pulled up to within 20 feet of the shack. I could see several cameras, one of which appeared to be of an infra-red model I had seen before; barbed wire, lots of signs, a couple of radar dishes, and a “port-a-potty”. No plumbing but plenty of communications gear. The signs said everything from “No Trespassing” to ”No photography permitted beyond this point. Violators will be detained and their equipment confiscated.” The guard station was off-white with no external markings. Through the semi-opaque glass which faced the roadway, I could see a man wearing glasses who did nothing but stare at me the entire time I was there. I couldn’t see what he was wearing as he was sitting and only his head showed above the bottom of the window. I yelled I had a question and had a pretty good feeling that, even if I wasn’t miked (although I’m pretty sure I was with all of the gear around,) he could hear me but was just ignoring me.

I walked around, never touching anything, and read all of the signs and postings. I felt that taking a picture standing right at the gate might have been pushing things if they were so security-happy they wouldn’t even talk to me. So, I got in my car, drove about 50 yards back down the dirt road, stopped right in the middle of it, and snapped a picture. Everything I did was deliberate and with absolutely no attempt at being secretive. I gave the cameras several good, long looks at my license plate and at me as I had the feeling these guys had no sense of humour at all. I got back in my car and headed back down the dirt road.

On my way back, I thought that there had been nothing at that gate that I hadn’t seen at military or government facilities all over the world. I decided that a lot of what I had heard about Area 51 was hype. Then I spotted the truck.

About 3 miles from the gate, I saw something metal about 50 yards from the road. I couldn’t really figure out what it was but it made me curious enough to stop and look. After staring at it for a few seconds, I realized that it was the cab of a dark brown pickup truck, with very dark windows, parked in a gully so that only the upper portion of the driving cab could be seen. I couldn’t see any markings on it at all. It had a perfect view of the road. Anyone sitting inside the truck would have to be facing the road; facing almost directly at me. I had a cold chill run up my spine as I realized I was being watched.

I got out my camera and took a picture as I was certain the truck’s occupant knew I had spotted him. However, I then did something that could only be described as crazy: I got back in my car, turned around, drove back to small rise where I could get the best possible picture of the truck, and snapped another picture. I turned around again and took off.

I’m sure they knew what I had done as, again, I had been very obvious about it. I thought that if I had sneaked around and snapped pictures on the sly, they would have considered me more dangerous than if I was completely open about it. That would just make me a tourist; a harmless one, hopefully. However, remembering that didn’t keep me from watching my rear view mirror for that truck all the way back to the main road. When I picked up Silversmith's voice on my CB radio on the way back, I felt nothing but relief.

— T A Chafin

About ten minutes later I noticed a dust cloud over by the dirt road, obviously from a vehicle which was outbound towards the highway. T A returned and related his tale. Well, if the watchers weren’t suspicious about us when we drove into Rachel, they were now.

I gave T A his lunch, and then we departed Rachel, heading east on NV 375 back towards US 93 and Las Vegas. But on our way out of the Rachel area we looked for the observation tower about which we’d been told. We spotted it easily enough, even though it was about three or four miles off to the side of the road. We got out of our cars and T A set up his camera and tripod and took a picture. I waved at the tower. And that was probably a really dumb thing to do.

As T A put the camera back in his car, I noticed another vehicle on the road far to our west. We didn’t consider this to be an important fact, as we were on a public road. But once we resumed driving, we realized that the car back there was following us. We were speeding along at 70 miles per hour, under the posted limit, but he was gaining on us. He had to be doing at least 100 mph. We considered his actions to be unusual, but we didn’t panic and continued our driving at 70.

The car soon arrived directly behind us. T A was leading, and I was in the rear, and that car — a late-model Chevrolet, I think — didn’t pass us. In fact, as it approached my tail it slowed down and maintained an interval behind me of only a few car lengths. This was definitely suspicious. He continued to follow us for about three miles, then he began to slow down. He fell back farther and farther, until we noticed that he wasn’t there any more. We couldn’t tell where he went, but we had one really good idea: he must have turned on a road that was now about a mile behind us. And that road only went to one place: Area 51. The conclusion was obvious: the Feds were onto us.

No other interesting events occurred that day. We drove south on US 93 and back onto I-15. By 5 P.M. we where in Las Vegas and looking for a hotel.

Next: Places That You Shouldn’t Walk In Las Vegas.