On September 20, 2002, my wife and I (Porter and Cindy Morgan) left Las Vegas for our trip to Area 51. Well, actually she was forced to go along but I have to give her credit for not kicking/screaming too badly considering we went to Vegas for our 10-year wedding anniversary! What a gal. We are from Orlando so a typical adventure for us is riding on some theme park ride or going to the beach. Driving down Groom Lake Road was a total departure from that since this was REAL! The mountains were not stucco-covered chicken wire and the Cammo-Dudes were not animatronic robots singing songs.
The drive from Vegas was beautiful. I had expected a flat, barren wasteland and was surprised to notice all the subtle landscape/vegetation changes along the way. We stopped by the obligatory photo-op spot near Ash Springs armed with the maps and info printouts from the dreamlandresort.com website. No sightings of the white employee buses were observed but the ratio of parked cars to picnic table occupants under the trees was about 7 to 0.
After coming down the beautiful mountain pass on 375 (ET Highway), I did notice the dirt road veering off to the left but did not recognize at the time that it was Groom Lake Road (the printout I had was not to scale). I realize that road doesn't officially exist but I guess I expected some sort of marker. If you work there, you already know, if you don't, then you don't need to know!
We continued north with the intent of grabbing some lunch at the Lil' A'Le' Inn. With the exception of a few DOT maintenance trucks, we were the only ones out there on the ET Highway that day. Out of nowhere, Steve Medlin's White Mailbox appeared - they weren't kidding when they said there is absolutely nothing around it. Most of the inscriptions had flaked off along with the peeling white paint, but from what was there people from all over the world had stood in that same spot in the middle of nowhere Nevada.
Lunch in Rachel, NV a few miles up the road was as we expected, pretty quiet for a Friday afternoon in the off-season. We chatted with Pat Travis (owner) for a while over our Alien Burgers (very good) and perused the wall photos and gift area. I mentioned that on our flight into Vegas, we got to see a night rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Great view from the plane. Pat said she unfortunately missed it that night.
I mainly wanted to see the southern Groom Lake Entrance and, regrettably, decided not to head down the Back Gate Entrance. We headed south on 375 and turned right onto Mailbox Road. All the landmarks noted on the printouts were dead-on, no GPS was required. We began down Groom Lake Road for the expected 10 miles. The radar domes and electronic gear atop Bald Mountain were visible to the right. For our rented Sebring Convertible, the road was in good shape with only 1 or 2 "bottom-out" dips. After about ten miles we never saw a the border sign and began to get very nervous about whether we had gone too far or had somehow sneezed when the warning signs went by. I have since read that others have had the same experience in their trip reports. The eerie felling others have described on this part of the road is very real. You are on PUBLIC land in a FREE country where you can pretty much say or do anything you want to, but somehow you immediately feel like you are doing something wrong - very strange. Maybe it was one of those "surveillance beams" that locked onto my car from atop Bald Mountain? We had tickets to my favorite band RUSH the next night in Vegas and I did NOT want to get arrested, debriefed, have our memories erased in a lab, pay the reported $1,000 fine, and miss the concert. We rounded the corner to the right and finally came upon the warning signs.
No fence, no flashing lights, no gate, just the sense that your every breath was being monitored. Cameras with antennas were on the hill to the left, and a greenish truck drove onto the nearby hill to the right kicking up some dust. Two Cammo-Dudes were present. I videotaped the approach to the signs (click here for small video clip) but turned into a scared little kid as the signs approached and put the camera in my lap. I knew they were watching me with their high-powered binocs. The "Photography Prohibited" signs apparently had paralyzed my arms into compliance. I wish I had read more on the web prior to our trip so I would not have been so chicken to take photos in this area. Apparently it's still a free country on my side of the border line. We did notice the orange stakes placed at 50-foot intervals marking the boundary. Sitting there with the car idling, you can't help but think of what kinds of things have passed through that same gate. Oh the stories those rocks could tell...
After about 5 minutes, we kicked up our own cloud of dust heading back to 375 along Groom Lake Road.
Along with the linings of our sinuses, our green Sebring was now "tan" for the remainder of our trip. I do not have any encounters, sightings, or extraordinary facts to report here, just my thoughts on a great experience that everyone should try at least once!