Aliens and dinosaurs

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August 14th 2012
Published: August 21st 2012
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Thursday 09/08/12 – Last night was the hottest night of the trip so far. We slept in our underwear with the tent doors open exposed to the rest of the campground; we were both beyond caring though. We headed west traversing a complicated system of highways. We eventually made it onto the Extraterrestrial Highway (yes that is its official name) and headed out into the desert towards the UFO hotspot of Rachel, Nevada which is a town on the edge of the secret US air force base Area 51. As we neared Area 51 our communication systems started to behave strangely with our voices dropping in and out (aliens?). Then we could see a thick plume of smoke coming from Area 51 (alien spaceship crash landed?). We made it to Rachel and organised a room at the Little A’Le’Inn. They have all sorts of photos and other evidence of UFOs and aliens from the Roswell and other incidents. We sat down for lunch and I began reading a ‘serious and scientifically-backed’ book from the book shelf about a rebel group of Russian scientists who have developed Eco-terrorism technology and (for a hefty fee) can send a hurricane, earthquake or volcano eruption (?) to anywhere in the world. The second part of the book was a detailed explanation of how people from Atlantis and other people from a 4000 year old ancient Indian civilisation used incredibly advanced technology to create working aeroplanes and spacecraft. And yes the book was serious and just one of about 40 on the shelf. We ordered an ‘Alien Burger’ for lunch and when the lady was taking our order, I was trying to shoo away a fly in front of my face, she said “Well I have been cooking in the kitchen all day and its hot back there” and then walked off. It took me a few minutes to realise that she must have thought I was saying that she smelt bad, I felt like such an idiot.

For sunset we talked to the locals and found out where the back entrance to the secret military research base (and possible Alien research centre) Area 51 was. We jumped on the bikes and headed down a few small gravel roads out into the desert and suddenly came across an armed checkpoint and gate that was across the road. It had signs up saying that if you went past the gate you would get a $1000 fine and 6 months jail. We abruptly stopped and got off the bikes to take photos and read all the warning signs when two armed guys in camouflage gear jumped out of the checkpoint office and got in a massive SUV and came straight for us. I was bricking it as my bike was parked about half a metre from the stop sign and I thought they were coming to get us!! I don’t know what they were playing at but they went tearing past us at about 80 km/h spraying us with gravel; whatever their deal was they sure weren’t happy with us. Shakily we got back on the bikes and fled the scene before we got into trouble. As we left, a massive lightning storm settled over Area 51 and started lashing the hills with lightning bolts. It was freaky as the large cloud of smoke (from the possible crashed alien space ship) made the lightning look like huge glowing red flashing balls of light. I can see why so many people reckon they see aliens, UFOs and get probed out here; it’s definitely an unusual place.

On the way back into the small town of Rachel we stopped by the Extraterrestrial Highway sign to get some night shots. During one of the photos, an alien walked in front of the lens and blurred the shot!

Friday 10/08/12 – The wind was blowing really hard last night. I’m glad we were staying at an inn, although the wind still kept us awake as it was howling and whistling all night (or was it aliens howling and moaning?). Seeing as though we didn’t get arrested or abducted last night, we decided to go to the main gate of Area 51 this morning. After around 30kms of zigzagging between some unmarked gravel roads (we got a map of directions from a local), we came across the main gate which had surveillance gear and cameras watching us from the hills. There was another big SUV watching us from just inside the fence. When we got off the bikes to take some shots another car with guys in cammo gear came past us, I put on my friendliest “Hello – please don’t arrest or probe me” face and waved. They drove past and I even got a smile and wave from the passenger.

After standing around taking photos of the desert, security fences, surveillance gear, FBI-type guys watching us from SUVs, and warning signs, the novelty wore off and we headed back to the main highway. We started heading north east towards Salt Lake City. After about an hour of riding my bike ran out of fuel and I had to flick it over to the small reserve section of the tank – where did all the fuel go? Did aliens take it in the night? Probably not as I had done the usual 330 kms I get from a tank, but you never know, the aliens may have only taken a small amount so that I wouldn’t notice…

After 600kms of the usual desert and lightning riding, we got to the border town of West Wendover between Nevada and Utah. The town was overrun by bikers and car enthusiasts as it is Speedweek on the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats where they have many races and world land speed record attempts over the next week. Accommodation in the town is booked out for the next week starting tomorrow so we were lucky to get a tent site tonight.

Saturday 11/08/12 – We headed to the Bonneville Racetrack to see what all the fuss was about. The ride out was enjoyable as there were plenty of old style cars that had been converted into dragsters and other interesting vehicles. It’s not really something that I get stimulated by but it was kind of cool to see the old cars. But the people watching – now that was definitely worth the trip! It was like a meeting of the mullets! I probably shouldn’t rip on these people because they were all really friendly and wanted to talk about the bikes. After we got to the actual entrance to the raceway they officials wanted $30, we thought this was unreasonable as we were only going to spend an hour at most inside. So we decided to have a race of our own back out onto the highway, I won’t tell you who won cause Kenz is still a little grumpy about it.

We headed across the Salt Lake Desert which was flatter and saltier than anything I would have believed. The land was so flat in all directions you could almost see it curve around the crest of the earth. We rode for 65 kms in a straight line (there was one slight bend in the middle) with no deviation in elevation, it was remarkable. The terrain was all white, there were also chunks of salt on the sides of the road and any bodies of water that we passed contained many floating pieces of salt that looked like icebergs.

We passed through Salt Lake City and stopped to set up camp in Vernal. We went for a swim and decided to make some noodles for dinner until a really nice Taiwanese/American family offered us some of the soup that they were making. It was fantastic, definitely the best meal since the Italian restaurant in Vegas.

Sunday 12/08/12 – We split the campsite and headed to the Dinosaur National Monument. It is a National Park with an incredible amount of dinosaur fossils. About 100 years ago, a palaeontologist was walking through the mountains and stumbled across a dinosaur tailbone that was sticking out of the ground. Over the next 14 years, the Carnegie museum excavated hundreds of skeletons with the Museum curator stating that he would ‘do the right thing’ and ensure that every last bone would be removed from the region and displayed in the museum. Thankfully the money ran out and the palaeontologist was determined to keep some of the bones in the ground and on display for the public. They have since erected a building around a 50 metre slab of rock face that is on a 70 degree angle which contains hundreds of dinosaur bones in situ dating to 150 million years ago. They believe it was previously a river bed, which the tectonic plates moved onto an angle over the years. The wall includes two full skull fossils with teeth, and there is a small section of wall where you can touch some of the fossils; it is a really interesting and unique place. Most of the fossils are from large dinosaurs (typically the long-necked herbivores) that are believed to have weighed up to 30 tonnes.

After the dinosaur monument blew our minds, we jumped on the bikes and headed towards the Utah/Colorado border. In each state that we visit, I like to listen to some of the local talkback radio whilst I’m riding to get a sense of what is going on and a generalised sense of the values and beliefs of the local people. It has always been interesting (and sometimes depressing) tuning in. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the Mormon heartland of Utah, but I was definitely blown away. I have had people tell me that I am crazy for attempting a trip like this, but without a doubt these Mormons (or should that be morons?) are third degree, black belts in bat guano crazy!! I found out they believe that God is a living breathing human man who lives on a planet called Kolob that is in our solar system!! The more I listened to the Mormon propaganda, the more anxious I was to reach Colorado!

We eventually crossed the border into Colorado before any Mormons could chase me down and slap any of their “sacred underwear” on me. Feeling relieved that we had escaped with souls unscathed we pulled over in a town called Steamboat Springs for the night. There was a big black bear prowling around the camp 3 nights ago so I had to hold Kenz’s hand every time she wanted to leave the tent. She has an unexplained fear of bears; maybe she had a bad experience with a koala when she was younger. I don’t know, she won’t talk to me about it…

Monday 13/08/12 – We left Steamboat Springs and headed for the mountains. I have been a little nervous about the altitude of some of the passes we will be using, particularly in Bolivia. As a trial run, we decided to go through to Denver via the Rocky Mountain National Park that crosses the Colorado Rockies. It was a very scenic drive and a little dangerous as not only did we have to navigate many skinny corners and sections where the road dropped off to a 100 metre cliff; but also many tourists who although leaving their brains and road sense at home, did bring their giant “get out of my way” urban assault vehicles with them. The road wound up and up into the mountains until we hit the pass which peaked at around 12,190 feet (3700m). The bikes did drop in power slightly but as you could only safely drive at around 50km/h it wasn’t noticeable, and both Kenz and I felt fine despite the sudden change from 5,000 to almost 12,200 feet. I did have to adjust the idling screw on the carburettor to compensate for the altitude impacting the fuel/air mix; and I have been trying for 12 years to tighten that screw that Kenz has loose, but again I was unsuccessful.

After the long grind up to the top of the freezing cold mountain pass, we came flying down the other side. It was almost like a rollercoaster where you slowly grind up to the peak and then rush down the other side - on a motorcycle you can scream hysterically but it’s not advised to raise both your hands in the air screaming “Oh my god” like a lunatic. The landscape and forests were quite similar to British Columbia Canada, I guess this make sense as the Rocky Mountains do traverse both countries. We came down the mountain, through some sleepy green forest and then all of a sudden we were on the outskirts of Denver! Navigating the Denver interstate and freeway didn’t provide as much of a challenge as many of the coastal US cities we had visited, so within no time we were pulling up to our Denver destination: my Uncle Andrew and Auntie Lisa’s house. We were greeted by their children who welcomed us with a plate of fantastic fruit, cheese and snacks! We also met their three pets, two of which were pleased to see us. Of all the things that people ask me what I miss from home (besides family) it is probably pets that you can cuddle and snuggle up to; I guess we all need something that will unconditionally love us on our terms, and is only ever a whistle away…

We unpacked, showered and prepared for a relaxing late afternoon by reading on an incredible piece of technology that we had almost forgotten existed: a couch!! Shortly after, Andrew and Lisa came home the house became alive with people talking, pets wanting attention, and dinner being prepared. After some fantastic chicken satay, we sat around catching up and chatting about where our trip has taken us and where it will in the future.

Tuesday 14/08/12 – After booking flights to fly out to New York for tomorrow morning, we decided to spend the day working on the bikes, as this may be the last time we have an undercover workshop and a few days spare to prepare the bikes for their foray into the Americas south of California. After driving to a few places around Denver, ordering a few parts online, giving the bikes a good clean, and stripping the bikes of all panniers and obtrusive modifications and crash bars it was 6pm, and we were stressed and dirty. After consolidating the 10,000 things we had to do before our flight tomorrow down to a more manageable 2,000, we went about completing them. We only got about half of it done by bed time due to some impromptu but rewarding experiences such as comparing and contrasting politics in US and Australia, eating far too many chips with awesome salsa and guacamole, having a good laugh at Americans in general (both my uncle and aunt are ex-pat Aussies), some quick calls to family back home, and eating some fantastic lamb chops and avocado salad.

We managed to drift off the uncomfortable sleep that you can only experience the night before a really early flight. I think the only reason I was able to sleep was due to the fact that I had eaten an incredible amount of incredible food – the bolus in my stomach was (satisfyingly) pinning me to the bed!


22nd August 2012

area 51
when we drove through area 51, the car's GPS stopped working, sharon thought it was something alienesque, but it was probably the military.

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