You could say I've been into the "UFO scene" since my fourth grade teacher. Madugle read to us kids on a daily basis from Truman Bethurum's "Aboard a Flying Saucer," a cult classic in the "contacte" literature of the 1950s. It left one of those indelible impressions spinning in my head.
Now here I was, years later, riding my motorcycle from LA to Roswell, New Mexico, a vortex of interest for UFO buffets, the place where in early July 1947 a flying saucer allegedly crashed and its occupants recovered, as the story goes. Of mythic proportions, the enigma of Roswell is still a hotbed of controversy half a century later thanks to official obfuscation, as in "cover-up" and the Freedom of Information Act by which researchers have unearthed incriminating documentation.
You could say Roswell is the Plymouth Rock for UFO researchers though most of us Saucerheads are not UFO-nuts. We're your average motorcycle riding, freelance article writing, advanced degree holding traveler who'd rather spend timing delving into paranormal mysteries than the souvenir shops in Disneyland. We've got our own Tomorrowland to explore where the stakes are cosmic and oftimes comic. But that's the nature of the universe, a balance of the wild and wacky, the weak and the strong forces that glue all the quanta together.
As I zipped up my armor-enhanced riding jacket and donned my full-face helmet, I was actually more concerned that the forces holding together my 20-year old German motorcycle would wish. First gear was popping out and puffs of gray smoke from the left cylinder exhaust mean ring job, but the trusty old BMW R100 / 7 had gone150,000 miles so what was a couple thousand thousands more in the face of light years of adventure lurking around the next hairpin curve.
To cut to the chase, let's just chalk up the intervening space between LA and my intermediate stop in Santa Fe as a missing time experience, a lot of boring freeway pavement during which one could meld the mindset for the project at hand. Since I had only a short timeframe for this adventure, I took the semi-direct route from LA first to Santa Fe, about 860 miles from LA, then on to Roswell, about 200 miles south. If you want to skip Santa Fe altitude and do the straight 970 miles from LA, you just get onto the 1-10 East and keep going for 674.90 miles, connect to the US-70E which becomes the US-285 S. A left on the NM-2, another left on NM-2 and you're there. Of course you might want to stop and smell the cactus now and then.
Without any mechanical mishaps or speeding tickets, I and my trusty Beemer arrived in Santa Fe aka the "City of the Holy Faith." Founded in 1607 and boasts 200 art galleries and five museums the town is a sandstone, pinion tree and cactus clad nexus co-constructed by three cultures: Native Americans who got there first, the Spanish who came later and lastly the Anglos who ended up owning the place. My first impression was that Santa Fe was designed by Barney Rubble thanks to the ground hugging homes with their round asymmetrical handmolded look. Everything is rendered in the hues of the surrounding desert … breccia browns, gecko grays, tumbleweed tans … a whole city mute to eco-friendly, zero-scape invisibility. What keeps it on the map are supernovae of intense color peaking through the adobe cloaking device. They can be seen in the historic plaza district, specifically the shopping stalls located under the portico of the Palace of the Governors where the local Indians gather to sell their brilliantly polished silver jewelry and rainbow woven tapestries and clothing. In addition, huge strands of dried red chilies like mummified kelp forests hang everywhere. Santa Fe's shamanistic talismans, they we spicy spell since everything you order to eat seems to come with chili salsa.
I felt a grumbling and it was not coming from any secret underground US Air Force / Alien installation although one is qualified to exist in the area. I was hungry and something brought me to the massive hand carved wooden doors of the Inn of the Anasazi (113 Washington Ave., 505-988-3030). The Inn's 59 rooms feature gaslit fireplaces, four-poster beds, Indian artwork, even organic toilets created locally with native cedar extract. Artists, historians and archaeologists host fireside chats in the Inn's living room. Call it a microcosm of the best Sante Fe has to offer under one vigas and latillas constructed roof. The Inn was named after the Native American people who had built a flourishing culture on the nearby cliffs of Chaco Canyon then suddenly disappeared without a trace six hundred years ago. Yes, petroglyphs and cave drawings in the area do depict strange creatures with helmet-like headgear. Alien UFOnauts or bikers? Science had no answers, but the hotel's excellent restaurant did … their specialty lamb prepared by Chef Randall Warder and augmented by a stellar wine list.
To burn off some of the calories I signed up for a little excursion I learned about from the plethora of brochures found at the hotel. (Brochures and checking out the local phone book Yellow Pages is often my first reconnaissance mission when entering uncharted territory.) No tours to UFO landing sites but I did find something called "Aspook About Ghosts" Close enough since some researchers see a link between etheric and inter-dimensional warps and UFOs. What the heck, after a big dinner I needed a walk.
For a few bucks the tour organizers promised "a haunting experience into Sante Fe's misty past … life (and death) among the coyotes, witches, ghosts, and the not quite dead." Conduced by Santa Fe ghost guide Peter Sinclaire (505-988-2774), I and my fellow spook seekers met at the palatial Eldorado Hotel at the intersection of San Francisco and Sandoval for a two hour bipedal exploration of Santa Fe's haunted places. It's a great way to see Sante Fe, kind of Ghost Busters Meets the Travel Channel.
Santa Fe is also into digging up the bones of the past, and so am I. But I like to look in fossil and mineral stores for UFO related items. You never know when a piece of the Roswell crash will show up, right? No saucer debris, but there was a great deal on dinosaur egg shells at the Charlie "Have Rocks Will Travel" Snell shop located at 1110 Calle La Resolana.
Before I spent all my money on eggs I could not eat, I threw my pack back on my bike, and pointed its headlight towards Roswell about 175 miles south of Sante Fe. State Road 285 is a perfect place to get abducted. It's actually devoid of traffic with nothing but scrub brush and wide-open nothingness for hundreds of miles in all directions. Better to ride it at night if you want a close encounter of the fourth kind, but better to do it in the daylight if you'd rather not run into the pronghorn antelope you see everywhere. Antelope and motorcycles do not blend well.
I nailed the throttle and blasted back down 285, and lo 'and soon soon found myself entering the city limits of Roswell. It came in the form of a giant trampoline painted with the face of an Alien Gray … big head, bigger eyes … plastered on the front of a godawful big Wal-Mart department store. Inside my head, something whispered that UFO's had been commercialized. It was no big secret that Roswell was on the international map because of the 1947 incident and the town's consequent total embrace of the whole idea. If there is such a place that reads the title "UFOville" then it's Roswell. From Wal-Mart to the Arby's sandwich drive-through to the International UFO Museum and Research Institute, Roswell was 100% Flying Saucer Central. I loved the place at first sight.
I checked into the "cost-effective" Crane Motel, one of those bring-your-own-ice-bucket "places. , an old ploy to convince people the place has guests. Or maybe the guests never left One Plymouth had a faded "Vote Nixon" bumper sticker on it. In any case, I spent most of the next two days living in Roswell's International UFO You could easily spend a month if you're into the subject. Exhibits cover the Roswell crash or crashes since other witnesses have come forward with another crash site about 58 miles from Roswell. a few days before his death. He relates the details of his encounter with a crashed disc that careened over his pickup truck in which he and his girlfriend were "buck naked" at the time. Judge for yourself, but pretty darn convincing.
Dozens of other UFO related books and videos are available, a few of the over 1000 items stocked by the museum's gift shop, a day's exploration in itself. I bought an Alien New Mexico driver's license that I think will get me into most bars in town. I also bought a commemorative Roswell rug and a membership in the museum. I spoke with the charming Ms. Phyllis Blackard, one of the museum volunteers (admission is free!) Who as a young girl was present in Roswell when it all came down from the sky. "I was here when the military swarmed in, and I know Glenn Dennis the mortician who saw the little alien bodies.
Located at 114 N. Main, the museum has had over 1,000,000 visitors. The exhibits follow the time line of the July 1947 incident and its aftermath, display purported alien craft fragments, and also spotlights the crop circle mystery and other associated subjects. Documents and photos line the walls as various artists renderings of UFO scenes. There's even a section with UFO humor, cartoons, and such as well as two video screening rooms where you can watch documentaries. You can also have your photo taken in front of an "alien autopsy" scene that boasts props from the "Roswell" film starring Martin Sheen. Bulletin boards post the latest in reports from the around the world, and if you want to take a Roswell UFO crashsite tour you can call (505) 622-0628.
Although I wished I could I remain in Roswell through the annual July 4th celebration extravaganza, UFO-themed of course, I had to get back to LA and work. But I occasionally glanced forward, always responding to the UFOlogist's mantra … "Watch the Skies."