Would you let alien-spotters look after your baby?
We did, and it was fine. Four or five of Rachel, Nevada’s 99 or so residents were gathered around a picnic bench at the town’s only business, the Little A-le-Inn, and asked whether they could play with Lulu.
The timing was ideal, since we were amidst the never-quick routine of packing up the Airstream for a day in the car. And if they tried to abduct her, there’d be nowhere to go, since Rachel is the only town within 50 miles in any direction.
So off she went in her stroller to the picnic table, in easy view of the trailer’s door. Twenty minutes later, she was contentedly asleep in the arms of the proprietress’ daughter, having been passed around and cooed over the whole time.
Sophia also came away happy, having been given an stretchy purple and orange alien bracelet resembling a double octopus, as well as three heart-shaped rings containing lipgloss.
We were staying in a $12 per night RV park owned by the A-le-Inn, which also runs a bar, restaurant, motel and alien memorabilia business.
Rachel is a hotspot for alien watching, most likely thanks to its proximity to the US government’s top-secret Nellis Air Force Range Complex. It is unclear whether the reported activity is a result of extraterrestrial visits or government weapons testing, or a combination of the two. Sitting atop a mesa and concealed by various mountain ranged, Nellis measures hundreds of square miles and is accessible only by dirt roads angling upwards at rather scary grades.
The high desert town itself is at an altitude of 5,000 feet, surrounded by mountain ranges in all directions. We were told it gets a couple inches per year of precipitation, staying doggedly sunny and warm even when the adjacent mountains are covered in snow.
Tiny – with at least half the population seeming to live in the RV park where we slept - the town has no groceries, drugstore, gas station, fire brigade, medical services (a local girl had gone to a hospital well over 100 miles away in Las Vegas to have a baby) or police force. Asked whether townfolk had to resort to vigilante law enforcement, the response was that EVERYONE had guns, lots of them.
“We all have guns - this place is full of large antelope and deer, carnivorous jackrabbits, tarantulas, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, wild horses…” we lost track there.
So don’t mess with the people of Rachel.
That said, they seem to be law-abiding people. The previous night, the bartender wouldn’t let me have a much-needed drink until I showed her an ID (the local customers looked me up and down and decided I didn’t look old enough). With both girls in my arms and Daniel busy setting up the trailer for a night’s sleep, she eventually took pity on me, handing me an icy – and potent – ‘Area 51’ (named for the most secret of the government’s rumored testing areas). Daniel had an even more lethal ‘Beam Me Up, Scotty’, which had bourbon, scotch and Seven-Up.
Claire – On maternity leave from career as editor of monthly finance trade magazines, and occasionally a freelance translator. Half-American/half-English, raised in the suburbs of New York, has lived in London for almost nine years.
Daniel – Furniture designer/maker based on London’s Columbia Road flower market, for ten years, also an aspiring painter and DIY supremo. On one-year career break to reconsider options. English by birth, but mother is half-American and spent part of her childhood in Bronxville, New York.
Sophia – 3.5-year old spitfire who loves school, singing, swimming and being a big sister
Lulu – Born May 8 of this year, a model baby who eats, sleeps and gurgles.
Special guests – American, British and international friends and family who drop in along our trip to see whatever part of the country they fancy. They’re welcome to travel in the car with us and sleep in an adjoining tent.