Last nights sunset was topped by walking along the rim at sunrise. The canyon was filled with a haze that slowly disappeared as the sun made the walls come alive. After exploring the rim we had breakfast at the El Tovar. The banana pancakes with caramelized bananas was the best breakfast I've ever eaten!
We had a long driving day ahead, through Nevada and into California, so it was back onto the open road. The next stop was La$ Vega$ for lunch at the In and Out Burger just off the main strip. The last time I was here was back in April 1997 for the opening night of U2's POP Mart World Tour. The great POP Mart Sarajevo Concert was blasting on the stereo as we cruised through town. After spending almost two weeks out in nature I was in no hurry to get back into civilization, so we were heading back down the road for the desert.
On the map, the land north of Highway 95 is labeled as Nellis Air Force Bombing and Gunnery Range Which contains the infamous Area 51. If you're not familiar with Area 51 you obviously haven't watched enough episodes of the X Files or the endless TV specials about UFO wreckage and alien autopsies. Area 51 is the place were all this stuff goes for research, and it attracts enough UFO enthusiasts for them to name Highway 375 Extraterrestrial Highway Unfortunately that road was too far north for our plans, but there was plenty of top secret government projects to entertain the imagination. We stopped for gas and spotted some low flying remote controlled aircraft patrolling the fence line. The next exit we came to was simply marked Mercury This was Mercury Test Site were the government once tested atomic bombs. It's proximity to such a populated area at La$ Vega$ was discomforting. I was hoping to drive up to the guard tower and ask Where do you keep all the UFO wreckage? but as we pulled onto the base there was a long list of signs, basically saying get out now if you value your life. The first unmarked Jeep Cherokee slowly drove by. The unmarked Jeep Cherokee is the vehicle of choice for security guards in these parts. A little further down the highway there was a complete unmarked exit onto a dirt road so, of course, I pulled off. The lack of security, and sun bleached signs made it obvious that this part of the base had long since served its purpose and all the UFO action was on the north side. While I kept the car running and looked for No Photography Allowed signs to photograph Steven keep a look out with the binoculars. Within a few minutes several unmarked white Jeep Cherokees were spotted coming in our direction. The car doors were barely shut when we peeled out leaving a huge cloud of dust to hide our escape. I was pushing 100 MPH down Highway 95 while Steven watched for the Jeeps. The power of the Pontiac engine was no match for our would-be captures.
We finally slowed down at the California border. We were finally in California! Home sweet home. By the time we reached the entrance to Death Valley National Park the sun was dipping below the mountains and we needed a place to hide for the night. The first hotel we found in Death Valley was the Furnace Creek Inn Resort at Sea Level. An old Spanish style ranch with some rooms available. At $245.00 a night I figured this would be the last place government agents in black helicopters would look for us. Floating in the natural hot spring fed pool under the stars made it all worthwhile. Later we met some tourist from England and Australia was we watched the stars once more.
Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.
-- Anatole France
Mileage Start: 4040.2 End: 4581.5 Day 12: 541.3 States Arizona, Nevada, California