In September of 2011, I made one of the ultimate sci-fi nerd pilgrimages — I rented a car in Las Vegas and drove to Dreamland. Or, really, I drove to just outside of Dreamland.
My pal Jeremy and I make semi-regular jaunts to Vegas, and we’re both huge Star Trek geeks (he was the first person I called at 2 in the morning after I met Avery Brooks) as well as being general sci-fi nerds. I’m not even sure which of us had the idea first; it just seemed to appear in both of our heads. This Vegas trip, we were going out to Area 51.
We started off a couple of hours before dusk and drove almost straight through from Las Vegas to Rachel, NV, mainly because there was very little to stop for on the way. I’ve driven all over the country, and I’d never seen a state as desolate, as empty as Nevada. Had our car broken down out there… well, that would have been it. Never seen or heard from again, just like the nearly hundreds of “MISSING” flyers we saw covering one wall at the only gas station between Las Vegas and Rachel.
As everyone who goes out to Area 51 does, we stopped at the Little A’le’Inn in Rachel and spent a few minutes looking at the walls covered in documentation and photographic (or photomanipulated) evidence, half-listened to a few background conversations about “this one time, what I saw was…” We picked up a few energy drinks and got back on the road.
We could tell when we were getting close to the installation, though not because of any signage to that effect. No, when the radio, that had been transmitting just fine a moment before, blasted static, that was our first clue. Both of our cell phones, which had full roaming signals, went dead, big, red X’s in place of the signal bars. We pulled over, killed the lights, and looked up into the sky.
That stretch of Nevada highway at close to midnight was the quietest place I’ve ever been in my life. When Jeremy finally spoke up, it sounded like he was shouting, though he was barely whispering.
“Right there,” he said, pointing one long, pale finger up over the mountains.
For the next hour or so, we watched lights dance in the sky, executing maneuvers that would liquify a human pilot. We saw flashes from mountaintops (we’re sure a picture of us staring slack-jawed has joined many thousands of others on a bored airman’s office wall). We saw things neither of us would try to explain.
Eventually, we got chased off by the white Jeep Cherokees of base security. Our story ends there, with us speeding out of the vicinity at 90 miles an hour, the headlights in the rearview keeping up with us until the radio sputtered back to life and our cell phones jumped back into roaming.
Even on the drive back, we never really made more than half-assed attempts to figure out what it was we saw. I floated the UAV theory, Jeremy said something about aircraft reverse-engineered from UFOs. In the end, it didn’t matter what it was that we saw — it mattered that we had the experience.
What’s the geekiest pilgrimage you’ve ever gone on, folks? What’s the one place you would just love to visit?
Shawn is the author of 47 Echo and Supercritical from Carina Press. He’s not insane, and has a very official-looking piece of paper to prove it.