New Mexico- July 2015

Extraterrestrial vacation


We arrived in town late in the afternoon. Main Street was closed; lined with stands selling T-shirts and funnel cake, carnival rides and a stage at the end of the street, loud with country bands. It felt like a small town 4th of July celebration…



…With one big difference; the overlying alien theme: alien street lamps, alien beer, millions of alien T-shirts. We were at the twentieth annual UFO Festival in Roswell, New Mexico.

A strange town, a strange festival, in the middle of the desert.



It has been 62 years since a flying saucer crashed on a remote farm outside Rowell. Aliens were taken from the crash site to the local Air Force, or so they say. Regardless of the validity of this incident, the town embraced this supposed invasion and ran with it; hosting an annual alien festival where everyone is a legal alien.

Miss Roswell

Miss Roswell

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the usually sleepy town, transformed into an alien Disney land. We met Miss Roswell and her small dog.  We drank a glass of Galactic Cabernet wine. And my favorite, visited The Prepper Stop; a survivalist booth selling everything you need for the upcoming apocalypse. I love talking to these doomsday believers. We chatted about gravity water purification systems and gas masks, which he was already sold out of, his biggest seller.


Doomsday Supermarket.

We watched the alien parade that evening. It was short and sad, a few aliens on strange bikes, a few half dressed-up kids. I thought nothing could save this poor parade.

Until a small beat-up pick-up truck passed by. In the back were three people dressed as aliens, one with a mega-phone, the other two dancing about with their arms raised. As they passed, I realized he was reciting bible verses full volume. It became apparent that he was a reverend dressed up as an alien preaching the virtues of The Lord to confused onlookers. But of course.

Alien Preacher

The following day was the Fourth of July and our eleventh wedding anniversary. So we got up early to go to the Alien Pet Costume Contest. Isn’t that what everyone does on their wedding anniversary? I wasn’t that keen and was protesting hard, but to no avail. We were going.



It wasn’t even noon yet, but it was hot. Everyone was in shady spots; under umbrellas, under trees. Everyone but the poor animals dressed in ridiculous outfits. It was mostly little dogs, but there were also a few unhappy cats in costumes, on leashes. There were also a painted pair of goats dressed as flying saucers prancing across the blazing hot asphalt.

A little black mutt dressed as the Marvin the Martian from Loony Tunes got the gold. The whole thing was rigged! The goats should have won, obviously.

The winner

The winner!

We left Roswell with a million photos, multiple alien t-shirts and a new understanding of alien probes and abductions. I love a good conspiracy theory, especially one involving government cover-ups and aliens. I’m not sure about the Roswell incident. But I do look at the night sky a little differently now.




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I overhear a tall man in a cowboy hat; “I was ok when they were abducting me. But when they started taking my children and grandchildren, it was war!” And he said it with a straight face.

He and the other extra-terrestrial experts have set up tables at the UFO Museum.  All had books, photos and other alien paraphernalia; displaying the ‘real truth’ about aliens. We struck up a conversation with Darrel Sims, with his big mustache and southern charm.

Apparently he has been abducted many times since childhood and is a Texan; larger than life, cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans, ex-special forces and a bona-fide alien expert.

Darrel has published two books; one on the history of alien implants, and the other, his life-long battle with extra-terrestrial abductions.  He also has a DVD showing a sonogram of a pregnant women that ‘proved’ she was carrying an alien fetus. Tempting. But we went with  ‘Alien Hunter’, the definitive guide on alien abduction and how to fight back.  He signed the book for us and was more than willing to take a photo with me.


Darrel Sims – Alien Hunter

We had wanted to see one speaker at the festival and I think we just found him. We were in luck, later that day Darrel had an hour-long lecture about UFO symbolism in the drawings of children who have been abducted by UFOs.

We were in.

We sat on folded chairs as Darrel projected kid’s drawings of their family and homes onto the wall. He had a red laser pointer to highlight the details, while explaining their hidden meaning and the UFO symbolism.  For example, if the family was looking right, if the window was open on the house, these were clues of possible alien intervention in this child ‘s life.

It was all making sense to me now…

Actually it didn’t make any sense at all.

Speaking the truth.

Darrel speaking the truth

And then he started talking about owls.

A red dot from his pointer highlighted a stick figure owl with big eyes.  He paused dramatically, and then, in a hushed tone; “look here in the tree….an owl ….I could go on for hours about owls and aliens, I actually teach university level classes on owl UFO symbolism.” And then he did go on forever about the fantastical correlation between drawing an owl and being abducted by aliens.

I snorted. He was losing me, or he was losing it.


I believe.

But Darrel did have a cult of personality, memorizing, with his southern Texas drawl and laser pointer and if you focused hard enough, it might just be possible.  I looked around the room of about two dozen attendees, most were rolling their eyes, but there were some true believers intently listening, focused on Darrel and his owls.

I do believe somewhere out there in this vast universe there must be other life forms. And I too was getting hypnotized as he rambled on; I started to see the light.

I snapped to; the light? It was coming from the open door;  so we left.


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Camping on the Moon.


We hiked up and over the gypsum sand dunes that stretched for as far as you could see. It looked like the moon with little vegetation, and pure white lizards skittering about.

But while it may have looked like the moon, it felt like the face of the sun. It was only 10 am as we were hiking with all our gear to a backcountry campsite and the temperature was already above 100 degrees; the sweat was pouring from my brow. We were in White Sands National Park, New Mexico, camping in the dunes under a full moon. If we didn’t succumb to heat stroke first.



Finally after a few, very hot, long miles, we found the campsite.  Withering under the relentless sun, I was chugged down water as fast as I was sweating it out. We put up the tent in record time and retreated back to the air-conditioned car.

On summer full moon nights, The National Park puts on open air concerts. Tonight was a cello quartet playing as the sun set and the moon rose; huge and golden over the pure white sand. Parents laid down blankets as kids ran up and tumbled down the dunes.

Moon rise

Moon rise

The musicians weren’t your traditional string quartet, they played rock covers; Beatles, Nirvana and Black Keys rather than Beethoven. An unusual band in a unusual setting.

As the moon rose high in the sky it lit up the white landscape like daylight; The desert landscape looked like a faded black and white picture.

chelo quartet

Cello quartet

Finally the show ended and we hiked back to camp; There was no trail over the dunes, just a post every so often to show the way. Even with the strong moonlight, It was hard to route- find; All dunes look the same at night. We zig-zagged our way back to the campsite.

Before we crawled in the tent to sleep, we shared the final beer laying on our backs in the sand, staring at a sky filled with stars.

All too soon, we reluctantly rolled out of our tent to catch sunrise; but at least it was cooler pre-dawn; the coolest we had been since arriving in New Mexico. It was eerily quiet, no wind, no movement on the desolate landscape.

As the sun rose orange through the wispy clouds in the east, the moon set in the west; they were identical, a mirror image.



Later that day we had to try the popular White Sands sport of sand-sledding: sliding down the gypsum dunes on a plastic saucer. It’s fun, although the hike up steep dunes in the heat can kill you!

I wouldn’t call the ride down fast; it’s slow motion sledding. We waxed the bottom of the sled for more speed. It didn’t help; I even managed to fall off in slow motion.

Dune sledding

Dune sledding

We broke camp and left driving through the lunar landscape, sand blowing across the road. Every living thing was ducking for cover in the extreme heat. An inhospitable world.  It is easy to see why NASA used White Sands to train Astronauts for Apollo missions, it is a different planet.


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