Paranormal Wobble on Groom Lake Rd., 08 Oct 2014
by KLRwobbler

Click to enlargeMy final day of a 3200-mile solo motorcycle trip on backroads from Northern Canada to Las Vegas took me through ET country with stops at the Lunar Crater, Rachel, and Mailbox Road, ending in a motorcycle crash on GLR with subsequent non-encounters with both the white bus and cammo dudes. This is my trip diary from that day:

After a fitful sleep in Eureka, NV, interrupted by an upset stomach, a neighbour's alarm clock, and the realization that my fuel range was marginal for my day's plan, I got up at 7:00 am. I had not anticipated the absence of gas stops between Eureka and Rachel, realizing now that I would have to make Ash Springs all the way on Highway 93 which, with the 16-mile detour into Lunar Crater, added up to 250 miles (405 km) according to Google Maps. 4:00 am toilet math told me that'd need 22.3 L of fuel at my trip-to-date average of 5.5 L/100km, versus the KLR's listed fuel capacity of 22.1 L, so I'd need to do something if I wanted to see all the sights before culminating this trip leg at the sign for a final photo.

I checked out from the former Best Western at 8:15 for morning main street errands. I found a 2-gallon jerry can at True Value (which was already open, earlier than advertised), face sunscreen and cash at Raine's Market, and gas and water at the Chevron. I strapped down the jerry can in the parking lot, topped up my motor oil, and had breakfast at the (Amish) Pony Express Deli, where I had a nice chat with a retired policeman and his wife (former Goldwing tourers, now retired locals) and was sent on my way with a thermos full of coffee and a boxed turkey sandwich for lunch.

Leaving Eureka, I backtracked briefly on US-50 then turned south on the 379, an empty-feeling, partially paved, partially gravel, 58-mile diagonal shortcut down through Duckwater I.R. to Currant. Sure enough, I only encountered one vehicle all the way to Currant, and the emptiness afforded opportunity for several stopped-on-road landscape bike photos. The Eurekans had warned me to keep my head up for the Duckwater school bus, but I didn't encounter it; it would in fact turn out to be a different school bus with which I'd have a non-encounter later in the day.

At Currant, there appeared to be an active hay-farming operation, and I did see a lady hurrying into her trailer just as I reached the junction with US-6, but it appeared that this place was never more than a roadside stop, and the service station, restaurant, and motel were full ghost status. Some broken restaurant windows had been boarded up; the cash register tray was removed and displayed in plain view, empty, and there was ankle-deep vegetation growing in the floor.

On US-6 to Warm Springs, I saw 13 vehicles in 67 miles, including two petroleum tankers and a DOT truck hauling a loader. To my astonishment, there was an establishment selling gas just before Black Rock Summit on the south side of the highway. I believe that the business name was Black Rock Services, although I didn't stop, carrying plenty spare and having already decided that one of the purposes of the day was to once-and-for-all establish my true fuel range to empty. I was travelling in full trip mode, had a full jerry can, and was on roads with minimal traffic and broad, empty ditches: Conditions were ideal to run to sputter.

After the oil processing plant, still WB on US-6, there was a huge, foldable, bright pink sign reading EMERGENCY SCENE AHEAD. I thought, "This should be interesting," slowed, and sure enough, saw some wreckage ahead in the opposite shoulder. It turned out to be a wrecked 53-foot semi-trailer of beehives, and the passengers had survived. The air was filled with a long cloud of bees! When I realized this, I ducked behind my windscreen, had one of those brief moments of disbelief, and then accelerated away with my mouth closed and my head down. Obviously, photoless. On a day filled with the surreal and the spooky, this scene was nonetheless one of the eeriest and most disturbing.

As planned, I diverted into the Lunar Crater, a marked national attraction, following the ~10 mile dirt track in from the northeast entrance on US-6 (briefly second-guessing if Lunar Lake was it, working from an 8-mile access description), and looping out to the northwest entrance to save a few miles courtesy of Garmin. This was a very worthwhile and rewarding diversion. I had read that the Apollo program had used the area and the volcanic crater (a "maar" for you geologists out there) for astronaut training, and it was obvious to imagine why. I ate my Amish sandwich in solitude on the bench, then continued SW on US-6. Riding, digesting, afterwards, I concluded that this side trip filled the same space as when K and I had Salmon Glacier all to ourselves one year ago, and I figured that, so long as I kept wearing my helmet, it'd be a lifelong memory. I passed an installation marked vaguely as "Base Camp," which had further US Air Force signage off-highway, then turned back south and east on 375, a.k.a. The Extraterrestrial Highway.

From Warm Springs to Rachel, I saw 9 more vehicles. I stopped for the odd picture, noticed that I had again failed to switch SPOT into tracking mode, but generally just rode, keeping an eye to my right with unfulfilled hopes of a free air show. I stopped in Rachel for the requisite photo op and sticker shopping, and stretched my legs perusing the UFO photos and articles which wallpaper the inside of the Lil Al'E'Inn as I drank a cold Pepsi.

I continued eastbound on the ET Highway for one last sightseeing stop at The Black Mailbox on my way into Las Vegas. I had to switch to reserve fuel climbing Coyote Summit at 344 km. Between mile markers 29 and 30, I pulled over at the turnout, read some inscriptions left on the rocks by visiting believers, then sat and watched dust plumes miles away on the gravel roads to the south. I knew Area 51 and the still-active test site were to this direction as, although UFO country wasn't my destination, I had read the legend of the mailbox. Not finding the mailbox, but instead a good gravel road called "Mailbox Road" in its place, I figured that it must be down that gravel road where it intersects with a road labelled as "51 Road" in my Garmin maps. As I watched the relatively regular traffic dust plumes on 51 Road, two other motorcycles came up the highway and confidently turned down Mailbox Road. After watching their dust for a couple of minutes, seeing that they weren't immediately U-turned, and having noted that I could exit straight eastward off the gravel back to the ET so as to not to be spending fuel and daylight on a full out-and-return, I decided to follow.

So, ten to five on a Wednesday afternoon, and I set out southbound from the highway on Mailbox Rd., still in search of my photo of the bloody Black Mailbox. I reached the confusing cattle pen intersection and, surprised again to not find the mailbox, successfully navigated the westerly turn according to the unofficial green "51" alien marker, onto what Garmin calls "51 Rd" and what I would come to learn is more commonly known as Groom Lake Road -- the main access road into and out of the top-secret Air Force research facility that doesn't exist over the mountain ridge at Groom Lake. I would be told later that the Black Mailbox had been entirely removed just this past August -- in a final act of frustration by its rancher owner -- so this entire diversion was in fact a wild goose chase. I didn't have any interest in approaching the Area 51 border or guards; I'm actually too paranoid to do that as a solo foreigner.

Groom Lake Road (GLR) was pretty good gravel and as typically I was riding in the right hand wheeltrack. When it got real washboardy, I'd track just slightly towards centre, along the inner edge of the right wheeltrack, which remained pretty smooth. Standard strategy. Not far along GLR, I lost control in the loose centre gravel, and crashed at 37.37675 N, -115.52318 W. It started as a small wiggle in the rear, totally normal on gravel, to which I weighted up the pegs and applied a bit of throttle to stabilize. I was travelling at about 60 km/h (35 mph) (mid-3rd-gear) at the time -- slower than I likely would have been riding this road had I not been keeping an eye out for that #*%@ing mailbox (and subconsciously paranoid about crossing a boundary). The initial fishtail didn't dampen out, but instead continued, building in amplitude, to such an extreme that before I went down, I recall having a thought, "I can't believe I'm still upright." After probably the fourth oscillation, I rolled off the throttle, pumped rear brake, and downshifted, dumping the clutch, trying to skid my rear wheel to break the cycle. I don't know whether I succeeded at the skid, but I failed to recover the bike from the amplifying swerving and, after what I would later count as the seventh full oscillation, I went down.

The bike went low side to my left, with me ejecting over the right handlebar and impacting the road primarily on my right shoulder. I tumbled after impact, and as I rolled, I saw the bike mid-air above me. I went fetal, and it went over me. I came to rest behind the bike, roughly in the middle of the road, as was it, further along and on its right side. I instinctively got up, walked over to it, and shut off the fuel petcock. I felt OK, head was fine, walking was fine, shoulder was a bit sore, but without any contemplation I moved straight into 'scene cleanup.' I reached down, deployed the kickstand by hand, and righted the bike, to prevent fuel spillage or flooding. It now standing in the middle of the road, I began picking up the pieces of the yard sale. This seemed important in the moment, as I believed there to be a fair amount of traffic on GLR, and like a good Canadian I didn't want my wreck to be a hazard to the next vehicle.

In his tumble, I believe K landed on his nose, as the front headlight/cowling/windscreen assembly had completely detached from the frame, with all instrument cluster and throttle wiring torn out, and the right-hand Barkbuster having pulled its mounting screw right out of the bar end. The damage seemed incongruous to how fast I was travelling, but I believe that with the tumble, most of the energy was absorbed into the plastic front end. Furthermore, one of my aluminum pannier lids had popped open -- the one holding my loose laundry, naturally -- so the roadway was literally strewn with my dirty socks and underwear. As I collected plastic shrapnel, and re-stuffed socks, I saw a plume of dust coming towards me from A51: "Yes," I thought, "Help already."

As the plume drew nearer, I saw the shape of a bus. Like a white school bus. I figured this was either a tour group or a load of public servants. I stood in front of my bike (still in the middle of the road), waving a downward motion with my good arm in the universal sign for 'slow down.' But that bus did not care. It squeezed right and hauled right past me and my wreckage. Not even brake lights. I would later learn that this was the Area 51 staff shuttle bus for ground-commuting staff from Alamo, which reportedly by protocol stops for no one. At the time, I of course didn't know that, and rationalized it away in the adrenalin-soaked moment as the driver just not having realized I'd wrecked.

I pushed my bike towards the side of the road. This took a fair bit of effort, because the front brake was locked on, and I felt a bit woozy afterwards -- likely from using my busted shoulder without feeling it. I gathered my survival gear, drank a liter of water, unsheathed my knife and bear spray, and, still optimistic that I would soon be rescued by road traffic, sat on a rock.

Sitting, I checked myself out quickly, testing limbs and poking for sore spots. My right shoulder hurt and, after noticing that it had two bumps compared to just one on my left, I thought that it might be dislocated. I had a burning sensation on the right side of my neck, but I couldn't find blood and assumed that it was just a bit of rash. Otherwise, I was good. Mentally, I felt clear and rational. I snapped my first pictures (above; note the front tire's skid track from my push).

About 15 minutes later, at 17:18 and exactly one hour before sundown, there had been no road traffic, and for the first time I pushed the 'Help' button on my SPOT satellite messenger. This would send my coordinates and a 'non-emergency' message instantly to my support at home. I kept the '911' button, which messages directly to search-and-rescue, in my back pocket, not believing that I was in imminent danger.

I pre-emptively took an Advil. Sipped some more water. Kept waiting.

Nothing.

Then, some dust, again from the west. I again expected some type of official government vehicle who would at least have a radio to use. But to my surprise, it turned out to be two motorcycles. The two R1200GS's which had cruised by me at the non-Mailbox corner. They turned out to be a father-and-son duo, fellow Canadians, from Edmonton (small world!), and they had been up at the secure perimeter when I crashed. They slowed as they approached. I hollered, "I need help. Can you help me?" He responded, "Yes." In consideration of their anonymity in this part of the world, I will refer to them only as F (father) and S (son).

We collectively assessed damage to both bike and rider, with S concurring that it was neither rideable nor towable out. We brainstormed options, and loosely agreed on Plan A being that a government vehicle would come across us, and give me and my gear a ride eastward towards Highway 93 -- their likely destination, and the direction I would need to go for both medical attention and to organize bike retrieval. Plan B would be transferring as much of my gear as possible onto the two BMWs, and me riding 2-up with S back into Rachel, where they were motelling, for a phone line and further assistance.

With the sun dropping, we started loading and strapping for Plan B, hoping to be interrupted by Plan A. Sure enough, another dust plume appeared from A51, and we momentarily paused. The dust disappeared. We waited. Odd. Concerned for daylight, we resumed strapping. Now, a vehicle was in sight, distant and stopped on the side of the road, facing us. F and S said that it looked like a security vehicle they'd seen at the fence line. We kept packing. The vehicle crept up on us slowly, twice getting slightly larger on the horizon, sans dust. At one point, we paused and attempted to distress signal it: Jumping, waving arms, waving bright yellow jacket, flashing flashlight S-O-S, and finally the guys parking the two good bikes in the middle of the road, 4-way flashers on, and flashing high beams. No response. We briefly discussed riding up to them with a good bike to explain the situation, but F and S weren't interested after their experience at the border, and I wasn't in a position to argue. The fact was, as I think F said, they were undoubtedly watching us with excellent binoculars, could see exactly what was going on (maybe they had even x-rayed me already...), and if they had any interest in being approached, they would have done so themselves. In subsequent reading, I learned that these were the so-called "cammo dudes," an enigmatic force of private security contractors whose mandate appears to be securing the Area 51 outer perimeter with the loose motto of 'defend, deter, but do not engage.'

No other help arrived, so we left my KLR for the night, supported my arm in a makeshift luggage strap sling, and headed towards Rachel in the waning light.

Now, you'll recall that I didn't suffer a head injury. Riding out, back northbound on Mailbox Road, we saw lights in the sky. I saw a pattern of 5 lights appear in the dusky sky, all white, just above a small cloud. This would have been northerly, above Highway 375 or beyond. There were 3 bright lights, tightly spaced in a linear pattern, with a fourth bright light slightly further left, out of pattern. These bright lights reminded me of landing approach lights under a jet airliner's wing, although the asymmetric pattern seemed odd. The fifth light was dimmer, and trailing to the right. I thought it looked like a marker light (in brightness, though it too was white); S, who was riding the bike I was on, saw this all too, and said he thought the fifth light was like a flare. The lights all appeared simultaneously, stayed on for approximately three or four seconds, then all vanished simultaneously. I held my gaze in the sky, using that little cloud as a landmark, and just stared for the source of the light. I saw nothing: No aircraft, no contrails, no smoke, no more light; there was no noise. Gone.

Now, you'll still recall that I didn't suffer a head injury. I can't explain these momentary lights. Was it a UAV, dispatched to surveil us? I wouldn't say that's impossible. More likely, though, I would guess it was a scheduled "Janet Airlines" staff commuter Boeing 737, flashing its landing lights on a southerly approach into Groom Lake, although I can't explain why the plane itself was subsequently invisible to us all. I did find a picture of a Janet with four frontal landing lights.

Back at Rachel, an officer from the Lincoln County Sheriff's office arrived, having driven out from Alamo after a call from Area 51 security that there appeared to have been some type of motorcycle incident on GLR. He helped organize ambulance and tow truck services, amidst the chaotic scene and an interruption from an Italian tourist who pulled in off the (only) highway and frantically asserted that he was lost. An ambulance arrived as I was trying to get inside to phone home to my SPOT responders. They sat me down, checked me out, advised that my shoulder needed attention, and that the nearest hospital to help was in Las Vegas. A phone from behind the bar at the Lil Al'E'Inn was put in my face, and my brother was on the line, having tracked me down by the SPOT signal that was still pinging from my jacket pocket. The ambulance transported me and my belongings to Vegas, with a nature break at the county line where I was handed over to a Vegas-based ambulance. At hospital, I was diagnosed with a severely 'displaced' collarbone fracture (meaning the ends of the bone are exceptionally far apart), for which I am now at home awaiting surgery to repair, with a journey of physio ahead. My bike was retrieved from GLR later that night on an AMA/AAA tow call, and delivered the following afternoon to a self-storage facility in Vegas, where I retrieved the rest of my belongings (including clothes; I'd spent the 24 hours post-crash in my riding pants, a t-shirt, and flip-flops), and where K now rests awaiting insurance assessment.

I owe a great many thanks to all who helped me come out of this in better shape than I otherwise may have. To F&S, for being there, for being Canadian, for helping and hauling me, I'm in your debt. To my home support, for knowing what to do and doing it, for your love. To deputy sheriff Tyrel, for responding to Rachel, for helping with the logistical chaos, for not finding a need to cite me. To the three volunteer EMTs who responded from Alamo/Caliente, you ladies are awesome, for coming in the first place, for the intrusion into your Wednesday evening, for keeping me occupied with stories on the ride in. To the Little Al'E'Inn, for the phone calls. To Dreamland Resort, a website that has since provided much context for my experience, and its trip report authors (example). And lastly, to the Cammo Dudes, for apparently making a distress call, though in the moment I wasn't so enamoured with you guys and your observation tactics (but your road sensors and microphones probably got all that, huh).


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Lonely road, southbound on 379 after Duckwater
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I believe that is Easy Chair crater to my right,
looping back to the highway
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The abandoned service station / restaurant
at the intersection with US-6 at Currant
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Suddenly, an alien humanoid form appears in the reflection
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The northeast access from US-6. I saw a couple in an SUV
with California plates, but beat them handsomely down the
dirt trail and never saw them again
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Solitude at the Lunar Crater
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The sign just east of Rachel
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None seen while traversing the 375
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Stopped for a cold Pepsi and a sticker for my luggage
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What I saw
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How K was left for the night -- complete with nose
parts, jerry can, and all my clothes -- uncertain if he'd
escape abduction
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My amateur accident reconstruction.
On the scene, I counted 7 complete left-right
oscillations of increasing amplitude
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Damage to the front of the bike, which also faceplanted
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Damage to rider, after the swelling went down
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It could have been worse

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