Life is good at the Little A'Le' Inn. Same over at Bernardine Day's Quik-Pik Market and Gas Station.
A couple of years ago, the state of Nevada designated its state route 375 the Extraterrestrial Highway. It makes sense they would do such a thing because in Nevada the unofficial motto is: "Give a Highway A Strange Name And They (the tourists) Will Come." It worked for U.S. 50, which the state proclaimed America's Loneliest Road even though it isn't.
The Extraterrestrial Highway leads from nowhere to nowhere with a tiny splat of civilization called Rachel in between. It's so lonely it makes sense that an alien spacecraft might feel comfortable sneaking in, which some believers say they do quite often.
The highway also passes by Area 51, a top secret military area where all sorts of things happen - real and probably imaginary. The super-secret Stealth fighter flew here long before the Air Force fessed up to its existence.
So, maybe it's not so strange that things show up in the night sky, which is so clean and clear that you can see your shadow from the light of the Milky Way.
Opinion is divided about the origin of the UFOs. Some say they come from deep space. Others say they aren't from space at all, but are operated by the government. Others think they are from here, but, well, not really.
Rachel resident and astronomer Chuck Clark, author of Area 51 & S-4 Handbook, thinks beneath all the speculation, there's a simple answer. He says these spacecraft could be "other dimensional" or "inner dimensional." In others words, they are either time travelers or of our own time but a different dimension.
But it doesn't matter, much. What matters a lot to some folks in Rachel is that traffic is picking up on the highway, and those who pass through looking for extra-terrestrials usually end up pausing for a spell in the booming metropolis of Rachel, population 98, where they have a close encounter of the tacky merchandise kind - a smattering of stuff at Bernadine's Quik-Pik and a gaggle of gifts at the Little A'Le' Inn.
"The highway gave us a boost that we really needed," said Day, who sells the only gas for 45 miles one direction and 110 the other.
Joe and Pat Travis operate the Little A'Le' Inn, where visitors can eat an Alien Burger, play some pool, or, for $5, purchase an "Alien Abduction Authorization Card."
The bar and motel is a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists who are ripe for UFO talk. "No matter if they are believers or not, when you start talking about UFOs and aliens, they listen," said Joe, who says there's both a fun and serious side of the subject.
And a political side, too: "Impeach Clinton" petitions lay on the bar of the Little A'Le' Inn, and a nearby sign reads, "Due to the last Presidential election the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off."
Some folks think there's a conspiracy about what's going on in Area 51. The fun side of the subjet is evident in the UFO- and Area 51-related products for sale, not to mention the beer labels Joe is considering for a house brand. On Alien Light, the label reads: "Warning: Over consumption of this ale can cause your space vehicle to crash." The label on Alien Pale Ale says, "If you drink it, they will come."
Chuck Clark is so serious about aliens he raced over to the Little A'Le' Inn to show us a video of alien activity. We waited anxiously as he popped the cassette into the VCR. Then, in the next few minutes we witnessed a bunch of Joshua trees, and then a scene where the video camera was in a guy's hand in the blackness of night, and he and another guy whispered things like "There it is!" and "Don't move!"
And then, as the mysterious craft flew away, they pointed their camcorder at it, revealing an out-of-focus, flying glazed donut. Then one of the guys complained, "Darn, the battery is going dead!" And then it did.
"Powerful images," I thought.
I apologize for making fun of this, but it's easy to do here, where there's more tack per square foot than in a dozen Route 66 trading posts.
Nevertheless, there's a lot of alien evidence plastered on the walls of the Little A'Le' Inn. Most of it is in the form of fuzzy and/or distant photos of flying saucers, each slightly different from another. It appears to me that back on Planet X there must be dozens of Flying Saucer manufacturers selling various models of crafts -- Toyota Saucers and Ford Saucers -- like that.
There are some people out here, however, who are convinced that this all is very serious, and maybe it is. If you believe that pictures don't lie, then perhaps you'll be impressed after visiting the Little A'Le' Inn.
But even if you aren't, you'll likely enjoy Joe and Pat Travis, friendly folks who dispense good grub and booze seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., alongside the Extraterrestrial Highway.
"We're here because of the people," said Pat.
Chuck Woodbury is the editor and publisher of Out West, "America's on-the-road" newspaper. Woodbury travels the West by motor home writing about the people and places he encounters along the way.