The drive alone would have made the trip worth it. The whole route was on two-way highways that cut through nothing but desert and mountains. Desolation can be gorgeous. Most of the time the weather was overcast and drizzly, and up in some of the mountain peaks we could see hazy black storms replete with lightning webs. The other day in our gothic fiction class we discussed the sublime, and how the terrifying is often beautiful. Sublime is the perfect descriptor for our surroundings--impossibly vast, impossibly empty.
Rachel itself can hardly be called a town. It consists of a handful of trailers, and maybe one or two actual buildings. And, of course, The Little A'Le'Inn, which is on the outskirts of town and yet seemed to be the only place with human activity. It's a little dingy place with a hodgepodge of tables and chairs. Photos of UFO evidence hang on most of the walls, and in one corner were shelves lined with tacky souvenirs. As we arrived, a little old woman was setting up a buffet that she had home-cooked. Two different kinds of potato salad, mac & cheese, hot dogs, applesauce, barbecue chicken, cookies. We ordered that, of course. Health codes be damned.
We sat down at the bar, and Shaun asked our waitress whether she knew anyone who had been abducted. She told us that she had seen two UFOs when she was eleven years old, bigger than the mountains. She didn't even blink. Later, she informed us that she had a phobia of people and was working in a restaurant to overcome it. When Shaun mentioned that he forgot to grab a knife, she pulled a nice sharp one off her person and offered it to him.
The first thing that The Little A'Le'Inn ran out of during our meal was water. The next thing was power. We paid for our meals in the dark, another waitress adding up our totals on a calculator. We were going to stretch our legs and wander around the center of town for a little while, but we didn't quite make it there; the place screams that something is wrong--a single bulletin board that hasn't been updated since December, snakeholes dotting the ground.
About ten miles out of town on our way back, Olivia swerved the car slightly--a sinkhole had yawned open on the other side of the road. It wasn't there when we drove in, but it was definitely there now. She and I both saw it. The bizarre part is that it was perfectly rectangular, maybe about half the size of a car, and only on one side of the road. We wanted to call the cops, but we had no cell phone service. We told the attendant at the nearest gas station--fifty miles away.
We ended our evening back in Vegas at the Freakin' Frog, enjoying what is supposedly the largest beer selection in the United States. I think it was the perfect trip to Area 51--delightfully eerie. If you want to see photos, Michael took several fantastic ones and posted them on his blog. Here's one picture of the four of us in front of the Little A'Le'Inn sign: