On Area 51’s edge, Rachel walks line between tourists, deadly-serious military

Area 51

Rachel, Nevada, is a tiny speck of a desert town with 56 residents. It’s about a two-hour drive north of Las Vegas and a place most people never heard of until the once secret military base, Area 51, became known. The two are neighbors. Aired on Aug. 27, 2002, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas.

It’s hard to believe there was a time that Area 51 wasn’t a term known worldwide, but prior to 1989 few people outside of Nevada had ever heard of the top secret base.

That changed in 1989, when allegations arose about so-called flying saucers being tested at the Groom Lake facility. Our report set off a UFO stampede that has yet to diminish. Tens of thousands of people have tracked into the desert hoping to see a UFO, inspiring the Extraterrestrial Highway and creating a new industry for tiny Rachel, which has become a UFO merchandise center and a hub for saucer watchers.

Joe Travis, owner of the Little A’Le’Inn, said, “It probably peaked in ’97, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Roswell, because we had media out here every day.”

The hype has been good to Rachel, but it’s given the military fits.

Their secret base was no longer secret, and security officers have had numerous run-ins over the years with over-exuberant alien hunters who crossed the line or came close to it. Base security resorted to high-tech spy gear — even low-flying choppers — to keep the saucer nuts out.

The so-called “camo dudes” have assumed legendary status.

Oddly, despite all the security headaches, the alien lore has seemingly been embraced by the military. Base personnel are regular customers at The A’Le’Inn.

Pat Travis
Pat Travis, owner of the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, Nevada. (KLAS-TV)

“I let them come here and have a quiet time,” said Pat Travis, who operates the Little A’Le’Inn with her husband. “I don’t try and get into their own personal stuff. I don’t want that because if we started to pry, they’d back away.”

“A lot of the patches and caps and things, you know, probably half the guys on the base out there have them,” Joe Travis said. “We know guys work there that have come in and bought things to take out there because they don’t have any official things.”

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