Lunch with aliens

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    Spotlight Audio 14/2019
    Schild in der Wüste
    © David John Weber

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    The American West is all about freedom. So what better way to experience that than to take a road trip in an RV (recreational vehi­cle) (N. Am.)WohnmobilRV? In the current Travel feature, Spotlight deputy editorstellvertretende(r) Chefredakteur(in)Deputy Editor Claudine Weber-Hof travels along the Extraterrestrial Highway through the Nevada desert. Listen now to an extract from Claudine’s out-of-this-world story.

    10:20 a.m.
    Back on US 93, a road sign tells me to expect wild horses, so I do. All I see, though, are tall cactuses. The next sign says: “Las Vegas, 149 miles.” The big city is only two hours away. Instead of going to Vegas, we turn onto State Route 375. “cattle Xing (crossing)Vorsicht ViehtriebCattle Xing next 5 miles” is nothing compared with the next roadside announcement, a metal placardPlakat, Anschlagplacard covered in stickers of spaceships and slogans guaranteeing the existence of life beyond Earth. We can just about make out its name: the Extraterrestrial Highway. This is the famous, 100-mile section of the 375 that runs past the military installation known as Area 51.

    11:30 a.m.
    The Quonset hutWellblechhütteQuonset hut guarded by a huge metal spaceman at this end of the Extraterrestrial Highway is the alienFremdling, Außerirdische(r)Alien Research Center. Lovers of science fiction, of mysteries surrounding the 1947 UFO incident in Roswell, New Mexico, the X Files TV series, Star Trek, Star Wars, etc., would be justified in wanting more. But this is a gift shop selling cold drinks and Area 51 souvenirs, and that’s about it.
    Area 51, the focus of a high-profile Facebook “joke event” in September, is a secret US Air Force base within the three-million-acreMorgen (4.047 m2)acre Nevada Test and Training Range, which occupies much of southern Nevada. The goth (ifml.)Grufti-goth store clerkVerkäufer(in)store clerk at the center entertains us with anecdotes of visitors claiming to have been to abductentführenabducted, close to the test range, by aliens. One even offered to allow this clerk to “touch her transmitter,” the one the extraterrestrials had to embedeinpflanzenembedded in her side. The Travel Channel was due to come through, the clerk added, to record part of a show about her store.
    I buy socks showing an alien abduction — a person caught in a green tractor beamTraktorstrahltractor beam, being sucked up into a flying saucerUntertassesaucer — but pass on a T-shirt showing the original Star Trek crew: too retro. Salt-and-pepper shakerStreuershakers shaped like aliens call out to my wallet, as do Star Wars refrigerator magnets. The big fanhier: Ventilatorfans blowing streams of air around keep the hut’s interior cool.
    Outside, the sun is high and hot. Even if aliens aren’t getting any closer, lunchtime is. We steer the RV back onto the highway, where a sign warns of “low-flying aircraft.” It crosses my mind to let Fox Mulder and Dana Scully know, but flying objects out here are usually operated by the US military. We’re on our way to Rachel, the human settlement closest to Area 51, and its cafe, the Little A’Le’Inn.
    Along the way, a big rock proposes “Let’s get abducted” in old black graffiti. The RV rolls on. The sagebrushSalbeistrauchsagebrush-lined road leads our Winnebago spaceship into Nevada’s own weird desert dimension of space-time.

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