How was YOUR weekend?? Mine was awesome!
Not that the term “weekend” has any real significance to a freewheeling Bohemian like me — in my world, every day is a weekend! I shed the oppressive yoke of 8-5 M-F back in Oct. 2000 when I moved here to Vegas…and then I shed the oppressive yoke of ANY schedule at all when I quit my last “job”-job in Dec. 2012. Now that I’m self-employed and set my own schedule, it can sometimes be kinda hard to even remember what day of the week it is at all!
But I usually party xtra hard on the “weekends,” since that’s when the rest of the world is off…and that’s when all the best parties are
This past weekend started on a bum note: on Friday night, one of my all-time favorite bands, WAR, was performing at the Hard Rock Hotel with none other than Cheech & Chong!! I really wanted to go see the show (I ***LOVE*** WAR) but alas….none of my 2,568 Facebook friends wanted to come with, so I didn’t buy a ticket. But as it happened, I ended up being a guest on a radio show that same night at the Double Down Saloon, right across the street…so I figured I’d cruise over to the Hard Rock afterward, and try to sneak or bullshit my way into the show. Alas again, I failed miserably…and ended up just listening to “Cisco Kid” from the foyer, just out of sight of the stage…before slinking home to eat a pint of Almond Dream and watch Mad Men. Booooo!!!
The following day (Saturday) was much better: I spent the afternoon kayaking on the Colorado River with a friend (well OK, we really just paddled about 100 feet into a cove, then got high and sat around bullshitting for 5 hours). And then when the sun set, we cruised back up the highway to the nearest dry lake bed for this bad-ass monthly full-moon drum circle!
I haven’t been to a drum circle in ages, and I was stoked. I looooove me some drumming — especially on a warm summer’s night, around a bonfire in the middle of the desert with a bunch of likeminded hippies and freaks. Goooood times! There were about 100 people hanging out drumming, dancing, drinking and just being mellow under the canopy of stars. It wasn’t just drums, either — I had my trusty maracas, plus there was a guy with a guitar, and a guy playing a flute, and a fabulous Earth Mother-Goddess named B.B. playing this magical steel-drum-type instrument made out of a recycled propane tank. I recognized her from back in 2009 when I bought my first pop-up camper from her and her boyfriend, so I went over to chat. Come to find out, her boyfriend makes the drums and tunes each one to a different weird, ethereal octave — one of them was tuned to an Egyptian tonal scale, another to an Oriental one. And they all sounded amazingly haunting, like the music from “Close Encounters” that they use to communicate with the aliens. Check them out here: www.facebook.com/auroratankdrums. SO AMAZING!
Speaking of aliens, I couldn’t stay at the drum circle all night because I had to be up at 7am for this day trip I had planned up to Area 51. I had originally planned to camp out at the drum circle and just sleep in my truck bed, under the stars, and then head to Area 51 from there….but I guess I’m too high maintenance to be that much of a gypsy, because the lure of a hot shower and my comfy bed was too much to resist, so I left around 1am and headed home.
Then the next morning, it was on! My friend D.C. came over at 8am (!!!) to pick me up, and we headed on up the road in his truck to see what we could see.
For the non-tinfoil-hat-wearing among you who might not know, “Area 51″ is this secret government air base in western Nevada where they test all the latest military aircraft. Because the security up there is tighter than a nun’s pussy, all kinds of rumors have circulated over the years about what exactly is going on in there: some say the flying saucer from the Roswell, NM crash is stored there…some say there are alien bodies cryogenically frozen there…and some even say the gov’t is conducting all kinda weird research out there, including but not limited to their having attached a baby’s head to a penguin’s body (I’m not kidding, someone told me that back in 2000, when I first visited the area).
Basically, the base is located on a huge dry lake bed (not unlike the drum circle) called Groom Lake, surrounded by formidable mountains on all sides. The few entry gates are heavily secured, and in fact there are security patrols all around the entire perimeter…our tax dollars at work. You can drive or even hike right up to the perimeter line, but there are signs at the edge stating that trespassers will be shot, basically….so proceed at your own risk!
Since you can’t get into the base ( though I’m working on a plan…bwahaha), the next best thing you can do is climb to the top of one of the nearby mountains and spy into it with a high-powered telescope. There used to be two really good vantage points on the mountains directly surrounding Groom Lake, but the gov’ment got wise to people spying on them, and extended the boundaries of the base to include those peaks. Fuckers!
Fortunately, some savvy tinfoil-hat-wearer figured out there was another mountain a bit farther away, that also offers a relatively clear view of the goings-on at the base: Tikaboo Peak, near Badger Mountain off U.S. 93 just south of Alamo. It’s about 26 air miles from the base, but it’s the closest/best view you can get. And if you arrive early in the day, and pack a telescope/binocs/sniper rifle with scope…you too can sneak a peek at the shenanigans afoot at Area 51! Peek-a-boo, Tikaboo!
I’ve been wanting to hike this mountain forever, and I tried to set up an overnight trip where some friends and I would camp out at the base of the mountain, then hike up first thing in the morning and check it out. Unfortunately, every single Facebook “friend” who said they wanted to come (I’m starting to doubt that I even have any real friends on FB) bailed or pussed out….so it ended up being just me and D.C., and we decided to do it as a day trip. But a campout would be optimal….so hit me up if you REALLY want to go, and are sincere about it!
Anyhoo, D.C. and I cruised up the 93 north of Vegas for about an hour and a half, through miles and miles of remote, barren desert…until we reached the unexpectedly lush oasis of the Pahranagat Wildlife Refuge — two lakes surrounded by green, marshy waterfowl blinds. Just before the Upper Lake, there’s a little dirt road on the left-hand side which takes you up to Badger Mountain and Tikaboo Peak. (Incidentally, I used these directions to find the trailhead: www.birdandhike.com/Hike/Other_Areas/Tikaboo/_Tikaboo.htm).
Basically, you drive up a fairly decent dirt road for about 45 minutes until you reach a campsite with this creepy sort of scarecrow monument…and then you pretty much hike straight up the side of the mountain for another 45 minutes til you reach the top. It’s a pretty hardcore hike — I did it in flip-flops, carrying my CamelBak and D.C.’s telescope, but I was totally winded and had to change into my tennies for the hike back down…so be advised! This hike is not for heavy smokers or the out-of-shape.
The trail can be kind of hard to keep track of at times, but thankfully some helpful tinfoil-hatter wrapped rocks in extra tinfoil along the way…so just follow the silver rocks, and you’ll be there in no time What an ingenious way to mark a trail, huh?! Much better than those dumbass hippie cairns you usually see, which any passing deer could knock over with a single fart!
Anyhoo, when you finally reach the peak, there’s a clearing big enough for a few tents to camp out on, but not much room for anything else. A U.S. Gov’t “Climate Monitoring” tower hogs much of the space, with a big ole camera watching over you in the name of “climate monitoring” (a likely story!!). And the rest of the space is taken up by this rock bunker some nutters built, facing Area 51, with a handy ledge to rest your sniper rifle’s scope on. Also provided in the bunker are a couple tarps, a couple knives and one of those little trail register notebooks in a plastic jar. Of course, the trail register is filled cover-to-cover with conspiracy gobbledy-gook…and shitty penis drawings :/
At the top, D.C. set up his telescope and we took turns peering through it, squinting at the distant shapes of buildings, airplane hangars and baby-headed penguins. There were a bunch of wildfires burning in San Diego at the time, so the sky was really hazy and visibility was worse than normal. Plus, it was already afternoon…and the best light for spying on Area 51 is early morning. So we kinda fucked that up….but it was still fun to look!
After a few minutes, however, we got tired of squinting…so after signing the trail register and packing the telescope back up, we headed back down the mountain to the truck, and continued on our journey to the next stop: Rachel, NV…home of the world-famous Little A’Le’Inn!
Rachel is the closest “town” to Area 51, and they capitalize on that fact as much as possible. The only real thing going on in Rachel (population: less than the Moody Blues) is the Little A’Le’Inn, a collection of double-wide trailers fashioned into a bar & grill, gift shoppe and motel for the intrepid UFO enthusiast. I’d been there four or five times in the past, but my last visit was in 2007…so I figured I was long overdue for another visit. It’s always an interesting time…and this time was certainly no exception!
To get to Rachel from Tikaboo Peak, we continued north on U.S. 93 past Upper Pahranagat Lake, through the little farm town of Alamo, and then left on highway 375…which was long ago renamed “The Extraterrestrial Highway” in the interest of tourism. Another hour or so down the road, you hit Rachel. It’s not much more than a few trailers, so don’t blink or you’ll miss it.
Just before getting to Rachel, you also pass this one poor local rancher’s mailbox which, because it is the only thing for miles around, has become a sort of unofficial stopping place for UFO tourists, and everyone writes their names and shit on it. Astonishingly, when I visited back in 2000, I etched the entire long-ass lame-ass URL to my old blog on it (www.geocities.com/sarrrahjane)…and some poor fool actually took note and posted in my guestbook!!!! (Incidentally, here’s a link to my old blog…inexplicably preserved in the internet archives.)
After passing Steve Medlin’s beleaguered mailbox, Rachel is just a few more miles ahead. We pulled in at the Little A’Le’Inn, starving for some of their world-famous delicious Alien Burgers…and the bar atmosphere did not disappoint. Aside from D.C. and I, there was a drunken farmhand from a farm 59.7 miles away (this was the closest bar to where he lived and worked) (!!), the cute gypsy bartender he was besotted with (she lives in a camper, and travels from place to place when she gets bored) (!!!!), and the owner, Connie, a fantastic, salt-of the-Earth woman who filled us in on all the local gossip:
It seems that folks in the area look down on the denizens of Rachel (all ten of them) – especially those hoity-toity Mormon fuckers down in Alamo, who think Rachel is worse than Sodom & Gomorrah because it has a bar!!! (Alamo itself is basically a dry town…the only place you can buy booze is at the Shell station in nearby Ash Springs, or at this one janky motel south of town.)
Moreover, Connie got in a real jam with the Alamo morality police because her kids were distributing condoms to their high school classmates!! Connie, being a sensible fucking person, keeps a cookie jar of condoms by the door of her trailer, so that none of her kids knock anybody up/get knocked up. Well, not only do the stores in Alamo not sell booze, they don’t sell condoms either…so the other high school kids were relying on Connnie’s brood to supply them with the contraband. Apparently they had a code, and would send a text message reading: “I need a brown bag…”
Well, one day the principal of Alamo high school caught wind of this, and called Connie in for a stern talking-to! And guess what happened? Miss Connie don’t brook no sass: she flipped open her son’s cell phone and waved it in that hypocrite principal’s face, because guess what? None other than the principal’s very own thirteen-year-old-daughter had just texted, asking for a brown bag!!! BAM!!!! “This is just a little Peyton Place, and you’re all Harper Valley hypocrites!!” BOO-YA!!!!
I found all this smalltown gossip infinitely more interesting than all the bullshit Area 51 gov’ment conspiracy conjecture…but either way, Rachel is a fantastic place to visit and the whole Area 51 experience is really a must-do for any serious fan of desert weirdness. If you really want to make a trip of it, I have two recommended itineraries:
1. Drive up from Vegas one afternoon and set up camp at the base of Badger Mountain. Spend all night boozing and/or shrooming around a campfire, then get up at dawn to hike up to the summit and spy on the base with a telescope. After a few hours, hike down and head to Rachel for lunch, by way of Steve Medlin’s mailbox. Bonus: stop off at the market in Alamo and ask if they sell condoms!!!
2. Drive up from Vegas, with an optional pit stop at Badger Mtn. to hike up Tikaboo Peak. Continue on to Rachel, stopping in Alamo to inquire about condoms…then book a room at the Little A’Le’Inn and stay the night! I did this once, back in 2000, and it was fantastic — they have these double-wides out back with shared bathrooms, and there’s a lending library in the bar, full of VHS tapes about real-life alien abductions and whatnot that you can take back to your room and watch until you’re blue in the face.
Either way…call me! I’d be happy to be your guide. Why would anyone want to spend their Vegas vacay at Hakkasan or Cirque du Soleil, when this fabulousness is right up the road? You tell me!
Anyhoo…we left Rachel around 5:30, arriving back in Vegas around sunset. And that was my weekend! I’d say it was a doozy, but….next weekend’s looking pretty great, too; it’s the annual local Burning Man campout in Boulder City, and I’ve got a few surprises up my sleeve. Stay tuned!
P.S. For more photos of my trip, see my FB album!