"That was a guy from Australia." The bartender/waitress/hotel receptionist hangs up the phone and sits beside me at the bar. Dollar bills flutter above us (they're for charity). "He said he has a photo of aliens in a tree."
"Aliens sitting in a tree?" I ask.
"No, they're in the wood somehow."
She looks at me askance. "I don't know about petrified, but he says he's got a picture and wants to send it to us."
"Us" is the Little A'le 'Inn Hotel in Rachel, Nevada. The closest town to Area 51, Rachel is a hot spot for UFO enthusiasts. It's in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada, on the Extraterrestrial Highway, otherwise known as the State Route 375. And calling Rachel a "town" is generous. It's more like a mobile home park. The inn is actually a cluster of trailers.
But the Little A'le 'Inn doesn't exist because of Area 51 or even because of the ET Highway (that came much later). It exists because of a typo.
Originally, it was the Little Ale 'Inn. When ordering new business cards, the typesetter accidentally added an extra apostrophe, and the owners realized they might have something going with the alien angle. They were right. The restaurant and bar were hopping when I arrived.
In fairness, the UFO angle does pre-date the hotel. Sightings began after the Roswell incident in 1947. And if you're thinking Roswell is in New Mexico and Rachel is in Nevada, you're right. But rumor has it that the crashed Roswell spaceship was brought to Area 51. That's when the lights in the sky began appearing.
I confess, I've wanted to visit the Little A'le 'Inn for a long time. (I've no desire to get chased away from Area 51). Finally, I got my chance on the way to Capitol Reef National Park. The Inn made the perfect weigh station, and though the rooms were spartan, they were clean, cheap, and there were giant photos of UFOs on the walls.
What more could you want? (Okay, bathrooms I didn't have to share with my neighbors, but aside from that...)
If you're driving the Extraterrestrial Highway, most of the fun signs are clustered around Rachel, though there's also an Area 51 museum at the southern end of the route. Sadly, it was closed when I blew through at eight AM on a Monday morning. But with this guy standing guard, how I wanted to step inside...
About the Author
Kirsten Weiss writes genre-blending mystery, urban fantasy, and steampunk suspense, mixing her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.