Monday, January 02, 2006

E.T. Drive Home:UFO Buffs Can Cruise Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway to Area 51

ET Highway Sign
By Robert Eng
The Bolton Common

     LAS VEGAS - For someone brought up on a steady diet of the “X-Files” and the occasional “government using UFO technology” conspiracy theory, the chance to drive a highway famous for spotting the strange and often unexplainable was a chance too good to pass up.

      Dedicated as the Extraterrestrial Highway on April 18, 1996, Nevada’s State Route 375 is a 100-mile stretch of two-lane asphalt that runs through Lincoln and Nye counties. Marked at either end with signage that uses images of F-117 stealth fighters as well as flying saucers, the road is actually one of the least traveled roads in America.

      Strange things have been reported in the Nevada skies north of Las Vegas since the 1950s, when Lockheed test pilot Tony Levier was sent out by his bosses to find someplace out of the way to test the company’s next generation spy plane, the U-2. Levier happened upon the perfect dry lake bed that later became known as Area 51.

      In the 1980s, alleged Area 51 engineer Bob Lazar shocked Las Vegas-area TV viewers with statements that he not only had seen a captured UFO at Area 51, but that he and others were reverse-engineering the craft’s propulsion system for military use. There were subsequent questions of whether he was who he said he was - he remains a poster child for what others claim was governmental character assasination. In any event, Lazar’s allegations whipped up both UFO and conspiracy buffs, bringing many to spend a night in the Nevada desert looking for that encounter with alien visitors.

      I started at the northwestern end of the ET and, with the sinking sun at my back, I cruised at the 70 mph speed limit enjoying the view of the desert’s hills and mountains interspersed with plains covered in Joshua trees, cholla and other low-flow plant life, and wondered what awaited me between here and my only scheduled stop, 59 miles away in the town of Rachel.

      I didn’t have long to find out.

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