In writing this report I understand that I am not going to impress anyone that has made a similar journey. I do wish to impress upon those that have not... yet yearn to do so. Without any uncertainty I know there are many that have watched the documentaries, referred to this website & spent a few days in Vegas. After doing this, to board the plane home, and think to one's self - "well ... maybe next time". After several trips to Vegas & the usual unfulfilled feeling upon my departure - I finally put an end to such & made the trip!
December 28, 2007 was a typical cold day in the desert, we picked up our "fast" rental car ( as I have seen recommended on this site ) headed out of town and into the expanse of the Nevada countryside. Taking I15 N 20 miles or so we came to the northbound turnoff for Hwy 93, which was pleasant & a little more scenic then I had imagined. The Pahranagat Valley & Wildlife Refuge area broke the ride up very well. The roads are easily navigable, well maintained & have very few twists or turns. Alamo is a fine place to make a pit stop before making the turn onto the ET Highway. There is a surprisingly nice grocery store, gas & a couple of restaurants. After a stretch of the legs & a topping of the tank it was time to make the approach.
By this time I was feeling "geeked" and knew what I wanted to do for some time was not so far off. After just a couple of miles we came to the turn! I quickly had a déjà vu sensation as I noticed - what I believe to be and later would recall being - the "park and ride" for A51 staff. This was right at the turn onto 375. It quickly became apparent we were in enchanted lands as we noticed a large metallic alien observing our every move. The photo op could not be ignored - we got out took a couple of shots & headed towards Hancock Summit. Near the peak we seen the next landmark, the "Horny's" rock - took a couple of shots & continued. Just as we began the descent into the valley I continually looked to the left knowing I was now in the "zone". I could see the different dirt roads through the area but was not exactly sure which was which or where exactly they led. We continued down to the valley floor.
The directions we were using had us making a stop at the Black Mail Box at right about mile marker 29. My fiancée ( now wife - married a few days later on New Years day ) was internally rolling her eyes as I was squirming and counting the mile markers. I slowed a bit, as so I would not miss it somehow:, until we reached it. In what I still get a laugh over, as we slowed down to pull up to the spot, another car that was there sped off. This happened both times that we came to the mail box. I will admit I had the cat swallowing the canary - school skipping feeling myself but did get a kick out of it. I cant laugh at the others getting spooked too much due to the fact I missed a couple of great photo ops by having jitters myself. There are some strange feelings that over come you as you reach the mail box & roll down the roads to the gate. Long before you realize that you are being watched... you get the feeling that you are.
After dropping in a donation ( for black paint I presume ) and admiring the wherewithal of the stop sign we started to the gate. After about a mile we noticed what appeared to be a dark blue or black bronco of sorts barreling out from the gate area. Our paths did not cross as he stayed on GLR & we were still on the mail box road. I commented that there was no need for so much high tech when the dust could be seen for miles. We turned after the holding pen & water tank & gently rolled down the road. About the only other item of note while heading towards the sign was that there was a younger couple pulled off to the side & walking in the field maybe 3 miles from the restricted signs. They did not appear to have any cameras or equipment of any sorts other then a step ladder. At about this time we knew we were near "the box". I could now see the cammo dudes who were probably wondering what the other couple was doing. I pointed them out to Lisa and she seemed a little less excited then I. What is a big deal about a truck parked on a hill anyways? Slowing down even further we rolled the rest of the way & stopped for a couple of pics about 30 yards shy of the signs. This is where I was spooked - the angle of the road had blocked our view of the fellas & I had no idea if they would be on their way down to chat or what. Regretfully that is as far as we went & I took a couple of pictures that wont impress anyone. After lingering a few minutes we turned & headed back to 375. On our way out we saw the other couple kind of standing a little further out in the field without their ladder. I really have no idea what they were doing.
Plain & simple there could be no trip complete to this part of the country without a stop at the Little A'le'Inn. We were starving & an alien burger with top secret sauce was sounding pretty good. For the forth time or so in a few hours I had one of those experiences akin to those visiting Jerusalem - I suppose - as we pulled up to the ET Highway sign & could see the Inn. We took a couple of shots and went over to the Inn. We decided, with only so much daylight left, to take a few more pictures around the lot before going inside. Upon entering there were a dozen or so people inside and most were listening to Laura(?) I believe, talk a little of A51 & a tour she took of the DOE facility. She mentioned an interesting instance when a couple crossed the line & the guy was taken in & his wife released - this due to the guards apparently having heard her insist on not driving across. I found myself thinking back to what Lisa & I spoke about while we were near the border. While I did not get the whole conversation due to us shaking off the cold & getting settled, I did hear mention of there really being no issue with taking photos by the "gate" or standing close to it. There is somewhat a protocol, especially with the facility becoming so famous & having its share of visitors. Don't be too intimated but use common sense & respect the guards would be a summary I guess. About this time I had wished we went to the Inn first - I found the discussions put me at ease & after looking through the Area 51 & S4 guide I had a much better understanding of the area. We scarffed down our truly out-of-this-world burgers, bought some goodies, said our good-byes & started back.
Our ride back was uneventful and easy until we neared The Strip. It was 6:30 or so & traffic was choked around Tropicana & The Strip. While I find much to enjoy in Vegas & go as often as time & money permit - I was already missing the peaceful ride & the friendly people we had met. From our room over the next few days I looked at the terminal & pointed out the Janets to Lisa. I never caught them coming or going & only seen them parked. I have made note of the planes before but it only caused me to wonder about where do they actually go & what do they do? I now know a bit more & have a little more knowledge of the area under my belt. I will return to see more. The only thing I really wonder about is - what took me so long?!