When I think of summer vacation, I can’t help but think about the annual vacation I take with my friend, Eric. We’ve gone every summer for the past 12 years now—yes, even after I got married.
Largely because Opie has NO DESIRE to go any of the places we’ve gone. I tell him where we've decided to go, he stares at me for a long moment in horrified silence then says "Have a good time."
See, Eric and my goal is to go to the wackiest places possible, places no on in their right mind would visit. Which is why we’ve been to The Lizzie Borden Axe Murder House, The Waverly Hills Sanotarium, The Villisca Iowa Axe Murder House (sort of an axe murder theme there for awhile), The Superman Convention in Metropolis, Illinois, Psychic Boot Camp, and Snake World (which was basically a TRAILER in Arkansas that housed the largest private collection of venomous snakes in North America) and so on…
Let me tell you, it’s been HILARIOUS.
One of the best trips was to Roswell, NM for the annual national UFO convention. It was actually 3 conventions in one as there are 3 different groups who put on rival conventions all over town.
Roswell, for those of you who don’t know, is the place where a UFO supposedly crashed in 1947. The army first released a statement saying it was, in fact, a flying saucer. Later they retracted that statement and said it was a weather balloon. It is now the Mecca of UFO researchers.
We thought it would be fun to go someplace where we are the most normal people around. Most of the people, however, were deceptively ordinary--until, of course, they started discussing their abduction experiences, government conspiracies, and the malevolent alien plot of world domination.
In any case, we began our journey on Wednesday. We actually thought we were off to a good start because we began a mere 40 minutes late…this is over an hour better than our previous vacation record! Unfortunately this fabulous start time was slightly marred by our nearly immediate stop and 10 minute search for the trip journal to record the fabulous start time.
The euphoria was muted even more when, after driving several hours, I realized that Eric’s route was taking us 2-3 hours out of our way.
“This is better,” he assured me. “More scenic…more historic…it’s the actual Santa Fe Trail!”
My reply was so obscene that I don’t actually feel comfortable sharing it here.
But this is the reason why the rest of our conversations that day went a little something like this:
Me: Remember when we were young and wild and you didn’t care about open liquor laws? And I’d sit here in the passenger seat, sipping vodka and telling funny stories to pass the time? Those were the good old days…good for both of us…
Eric: That never happened. I always made you put the vodka in the trunk and take your turn driving.
A little later:
Me: Since you picked this horrible route you should at least let me drink in the car.
Eric: Remember last year when you got us lost looking for that weird animal sanctuary? And you refused to turn around because of those stupid dogs that ran out at the car when we first pulled off the highway? I didn’t hear you offering to let me drink.
And then an hour or so after that:
Me: Remember when we used to make the deal that whenever we put the top down I’d let you strip down to your Speedos and get some sun as long as you let me sit in the passenger seat and quietly partake in refreshing vodka beverages?
Eric: That never happened either. I wanted to wear Speedos in the car exactly ONE TIME—when I was twenty-six and in great shape. But you threw a fit, even though you rode the whole trip in a bikini top the size of a postage stamp and Daisy Duke shorts. And you still didn’t drink and you still took your turn driving.
Me: We could make that deal now.
Eric: I don’t own Speedos NOW. I haven’t had a pair in ten or fifteen years.
Me: You could wear your underwear. Unless you’ve got on some tiny little bikini briefs of a thong or something horrible like that. Then the deal’s off.
The deal’s off anyway because you aren’t drinking and you are taking your turn driving.
This just goes to show you that, as much as I love him, Eric can be a completely unreasonable traveling companion.
And he might wear creepy underwear.
Even when I was nearly incapacitated by injury—we got out of the car to take pictures at the exact midpoint of the United States and I stepped on a cocklebur with my bare foot—he refused to admit that two or three shots of vodka would have a medicinal effect.
“You’re driving now,” he insisted.
Which is when I silently vowed that if we ran into any real life aliens in Roswell, I was going to turn him over to them for any number of probes and experiments.
That should teach him.
In any case, we finally arrived in Roswell around 5:30 on Thursday. Unfortunately, the address that the online reservation service gave me was wrong so we went into the wrong hotel, went up to the wrong front desk and demanded imaginary reservations. Then—sure that I was right and assuming that our room had been given to some other conference attendee with fistfuls of cash—I engaged in a loud, heated discussion with the clerk, insisting that I had booked a room days earlier. I even triumphantly waved my confirmation email in his face.
Which is when the clerk snatched the paper from my hand, pointed at the name of the hotel emblazoned across the top and said “That’s not us.”
I’m not going to lie, that was a little embarrassing.
But the conference itself was great! My only suggestion for the organizers is that they should find some way to let participants know which presentations are best experienced under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs…for example, we went to one so called laser light show that seemed to impress most of the audience but I’m pretty sure I could have done with 2 flashlights and some colored cellophane.
But I was astounded to learn that the truth about aliens has not been discovered because of a conspiracy between both the government and organized religion. Apparently, the government doesn’t think we can handle the truth and organized religions don’t want to admit that aliens caused evolution by interfering with our genetic structure millions of years ago.
It is now clear that I will not only soon be interrogated by the FBI, the CIA and other nefarious secret government organizations but I will also, no doubt, be excommunicated.
But I’m getting ahead of myself again…
The first thing we did Friday morning was try to find the actual crash site. It is about 35 miles outside of town and the road is only marked by this raggedy old sign. We got out of the car, took a few pictures, and this other group of people told us that no one is allowed to go to the actual site anymore.
“All part of the government conspiracy,” I said.
Two of them nodded along with me but one woman shook her head and said, “No, I think it’s just private property now.”
“Allegedly,” I said.
And the other two nodded even more emphatically.
But you know what?
They were cowards.
They weren’t interested in what some people call “trespassing” but Eric and I call “exploring.” So we had to wait for them to leave before we could go ahead with our own search.
And, according to the different signs posted, it was actually private property…and yes, it was the middle of the desert where it was so hot I thought I might actually burst into flame…and admittedly we spent over an hour driving up and down unmarked gravel roads avoiding cows and sheep and various other livestock but we did find a gated off area and managed to wander around a bit until we were pretty sure we could identify the area in question (though, to be honest, we’re not exactly map-reading, navigational geniuses so it’s possible that we were wrong).
Then, when we got back to the UFO museum, we saw a sign that informed us one of the reasons that the crash site is off limits is because of the “excessive danger of TARANTULAS and RATTLESNAKES.”
“The question is,” I told Eric, “did the government MAKE UP the tarantulas and rattlesnakes or did they PLANT THEM THERE to further the cover up?”
“We’ll probably never know,” Eric said.
And we felt suitably paranoid and suspicious enough to spend the rest of the day getting freaked out by people giving convincing and somewhat alarming accounts of what really happened 60 years ago in Roswell…did you know that Jerry Marcel, the army guy who was instrumental in the alien cover up, came forward years later and basically said the government was lying, he believed that a UFO had crashed?
Later we went out to a presentation at the Roswell fair grounds and it is interesting to note that slamming vodka and Sprite in 105 degree heat can occasionally induce feelings of nausea…this feeling is not noticeably improved by a 20 minute viewing of wobbly home videos of a supposed UFO.
Was it a UFO? I have no clue, I thought it looked by a big black dot.
However, I turned my attention to the presenter and—since this was back in my younger, single days-- was mildly amused to feel a sort of “He’s a long-haired UFO chaser but what a great smile” type of attraction (it is possible that this was due to the vodka as well).
Then, sadly, he spoke.
“I saw me the UFO” he said. “So I went and got me muh videah camra.”
Then he revealed that this is what he does for a living; he sits around his house all day drinking beer, smoking dope (I’m speculating on this last bit) and pointing his “videah camra” at the sky for hours a at time.
I need this guy’s life.
After dinner things were a little disappointing. We went to a presentation called “The Great UFO Mystery” and the biggest mystery was “When are you actually going to stop talking about astronomy and talk about UFOs?”
Eric and I tried to lighten the mood with a few jokes and witty repartee during the presentation but considering the woman right next to us actually got up and MOVED TO ANOTHER SEAT, I think it’s possible that everyone did not appreciate our humor.
Next we drove out to fairgrounds for a fireworks display …which would have been a lot cooler if the fireworks display had actually been scheduled for the fairgrounds and not behind the planetarium on the other side of town.
In any case, the last day more than made up for any disappointment. We met “The Alien Hunter” who makes his living investigating claims of alien abduction and perused his collection of alien implants. Strange as this may sound, this guy was actually NOT a loon. He was articulate, educated, and explained to us the scientific methods he uses to investigate these claims.
Honestly, he freaked me out.
On the other hand, there were plenty of loons. For example the guy who said he got involved in UFO studies after a “strange being” entered his bedroom and touched him (like he‘s the only person in the world to be creeped out by some stranger in his bedroom!). Or the woman who was forced to run around her bedroom over and over again. Or the guy who was abducted continually for about 10 years until he found Christ and then he quit his job and moved to Roswell to start The Alien Resistance Organization in order to get the word out. He was even handing out stickers that had an alien head inside a circle with a line through it (like a no smoking sign).
You can’t buy fun like that, not in any store.
I had, of course, come up with an alien abduction story of our own but the only place where people were invited to share their stories was at the Biblical Studies of UFOs. Considering that one of their books blamed homosexuality on aliens and further considering I was already getting dirty looks for daring to wear a tank top to the presentation, I didn’t think we should tempt fate any further.
So we left, drove all night to get home and considered giving up our careers as teachers and becoming UFO researchers…just as soon as we get an appropriate videah camra.
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