Deep in Nevada desert, runs a lonely stretch of highway from State Route 318 at Crystal Springs to U.S. Route 6 at Warm Springs. This is Nevada State Route 375, but since 1996, it’s popularly referred to as the “Extraterrestrial Highway” because of the countless UFO sightings people claim to have made along this route. Most of these reports, if not all, could be easily explained: the highway runs alongside the vast Nellis Air Force Base, which contains the Nevada Test Site, where many top secret missiles, aircraft and weaponry have been tested since the 1950s. Even today, as you drive along the highway, you can hear the sonic boom of F18s as they zoom overhead breaking the sound barrier, every now and then.
Route 375’s extra-terrestrial fame is due in particular to a mysterious part of the base known as Area 51. This small parcel of land of about 10 miles by 6 miles, located near the dry bed of Groom Lake, is shrouded in secrecy because of which it’s frequently the subject of conspiracy theories involving flying saucers, aliens landings, and alleged UFO cover-ups.
Prior to mid-1950s, military aircraft flew under 40,000 feet. Once the Lockheed U-2 began flying at above 60,000 feet, an unexpected side effect was an increasing number of UFO sighting reports. Sightings occurred most often during early evenings hours, when airline pilots flying west saw the U-2's silver wings reflect the setting sun, giving the aircraft a "fiery" appearance. Similarly, projects such as OXCART (a reconnaissance plane known as A-12) and NERVA (a nuclear thermal rocket engine) at Area 51 inadvertently prompted many of the UFO sightings and other rumors.
In 1989, an engineer named Bob Lazar added fuel to the UFO conspiracy by claiming to have worked on alien spaceships inside Area 51, on national television. As soon as his claims were publicized, a flurry of curious UFO seekers came traveling to the Tikaboo Valley to look for UFOs. Seeing an opportunity at tourism, the state officials declared SR 375 the Extraterrestrial Highway in February 1996.
The small town of Rachel, the only settlement en route, became the center of attraction. A public dedication ceremony for the Extraterrestrial Highway was held which was attended by studio executives of Twentieth Century Fox and the leading stars of the movie Independence Day. Humorous signs proclaiming "Extraterrestrial Highway 375" and "Speed Limit Warp 7" were unveiled along the highway. Businesses in Rachel grew around the extra-terrestrial and alien theme, with inns named such as “The Little A Le Inn” serving Alien burgers. Other quirky attractions include the “Alien Research Center”, the “Space Man Statue” and “the Black Mailbox”. The mailbox was reportedly stolen in January 2015.
The Extraterrestrial Highway, otherwise looks pretty normal. Photo credit
A sign outside the Little A'Le'Inn that acts as a bar, motel and gift shop, in Rachel. Photo credit
Graffiti on the outside wall of Little A'Le'Inn, Rachel. Photo credit
The Black Mailbox was put up by rancher Steve Medlin. As of January 2015, the mailbox is stolen. Photo credit
The Alien Research Center. There is nothing there except what you see here – a giant statue of an alien standing outside an empty building. Photo credit
One of the handful of businesses that run in Rachel, based on the alien theme. Photo credit
The Alien Cowpoke gas station and gift shop in Rachel. Photo credit
"Exterestrial Highway" sign is almost entirely covered with stickers, mementoes, and magnets. Photo credit
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