I keep forgetting – for some reason – that Kristie can’t sleep on planes. I need to do a better job of remembering this as I plan trips. We ended up sleeping in a bit and then heading to the Circus Circus breakfast buffet while we waited for the “engineer” to fix our clogged tub. Once that was cleared up we were able to shower and get going. Vegas was still hot but I had a much friendlier view of the city when I woke up rested. As we made our way to the Hoover Dam, the temperature was 111.
The dam has stupid security protocols designed to make red America feel secure. Really they do absolutely nothing. As you go through the check point, the two inspectors merely look in your windows at you and then say “come on through.” You also had to pay for parking here. It is $7 which is about as crazy as $10 to park at Rushmore. But anyway, it was pretty interesting to see the dam. Kristie rubbed the feet of the two statues commemorating its completion for good luck. We also viewed some of the memorials and plaques. One of the cooler one was a map of the stars on the night that the dam was completed. This was installed so that future life forms could ascertain the date that the dam was completed. When we walked out onto the dam, you walk across time zones. Half way through there is a sign marking the boundary between Arizona and Nevada. There are also clocks on each of the respective intakes for the dam. The water level is strikingly low. At least 100 feet are missing. This is demonstrative of the huge drought afflicting the area. If current patterns continue the dam will hold back almost no water in 2050 and Las Vegas will run out of drinking water. We took a bunch of pictures and then headed back to the comfort of our air conditioned car.
Then it was off to Area 51. Well actually, it was off to Target, then to the gas station. We did not get out of Vegas again until about 12:30 and then made it to Rachel, NV around 3. The ride was pretty cool. The car struggled with the mountain passes again thanks to the battery problems. But, we made it! Rachel is the only town on the Extraterrestrial Highway, but it is quite a cool town. It’s actually not a town anymore. They closed the mine in the 1980’s as cheaper materials were available from China. Since then the population decreased from 200 to 74 people. At 100 people a town is absorbed into the neighboring community. Now, only one child lives in Rachel. Our stop was the Little AlieInn. It is a gift shop and bar centered around Area 51 and extraterrestrials. We got the Alien Burgers –which were surprisingly on a French Bread bun and explored the shop. There were all kinds of things and Kristie got a ton of them. It was fun talking to the bar tender as well as checking out all of the different photos on the walls and photo opportunities outside. There is a time capsule there from 20th Century Fox which was installed when Independence Day came out. It is slated to be opened in 2010 when aliens will have visited the earth.
We then drove down an 8 mile dirt road to the gate of Area 51. Kristie recorded the gate as we approached and then we turned around and headed out. Before doing so, Kristie collected some dirt from the area in our Goldfish bag and took a couple of rocks. One was for Ashley and one was for her.
Then we headed towards Great Basin National Park. It was about a 4 hour drive which we made easily and arrived at 9pm. We were low on gas so we had to get some before trying to find a place to camp. We ended up finding an unmanned Sinclair station that lets you pump 24 hours a day. It was in the town of Baker, NV and that place is like a frightening ghost town. Kristie later told me she was afraid that I’d get attacked by an alien out there while pumping the gas. It sure had the setting of a sci-fi or horror movie.
Great Basin is the worst run park I have been to. It is one of those “second-two” parks that only has a visitors center that is open during business hours. As such, it’s terribly difficult to arrive in the evening. To make m atters worse, they do not post their campground status at the gate. You also can’t make reservations. So what you have to do is get the map, go drive to each of the campsites, and then look at each of the spots to see if there are any available. This involves an 18 mile drive up a 10,000 foot mountain as well. All in all, it took us from 9pm to midnight to survey all of the campsites. We went to Strawberry Creek – a dirt road – where the overflow camping was supposed to be. After a 3 mile drive in the dark on this dirt road, we came to a sign that said road closed. So there were NO campsites available and we’d wasted 3 hours determining this. In the end we decided to ignore the prohibited signs and just sleep in our car at the visitor center. It was a terrible night’s sleep. I got about an hour. It was 82 degrees out and felt so hot to be sleeping. Kristie slept well because she was so tired from her flight and jet lag.