There are some long and boring roads in the world and I’ve driven many. Most of the names and locations are lost somewhere in the fog of memory because, quite frankly, they were boring. It takes a special level of tedium to actually be so boring as to be memorable. Route 285 leading into Roswell, New Mexico accomplishes this. Just when one thinks that it can’t possibly be any more monotonous, the last views of the distant mountains disappear into the haze. When I rode it, it was also 102° (39° C).
It is so long, so treeless, straight and seemingly endless that I stopped briefly on the shoulder to watch a bulldozer pushing rocks around an empty cow pasture for the sheer excitement of it. Since I didn’t see any cows, I presume they all perished from a combination of boredom and heat.
Somewhere along this road, about 30 miles north of Roswell, is the site of the famous “Roswell Incident,” an alleged alien spacecraft crash that occurred in 1947. There is no sign indicating where this might be. Around this point, I found myself wishing that the aliens would abduct me. It would it have provided a change of scenery. I also imagined that sentient beings from beyond the stars would have a climate controlled spaceship and that the climate on their home planet could not possibly be any worse than the sweltering desert heat of southern New Mexico.
When I stopped at a Chili’s on the way into town for a much-needed ice-cold margarita I met Stacey, a current Roswell resident, transplant from Alaska and avid motorcyclist himself (thanks again for the margarita, man). He told me that the sign directing visitors to the reported alien crash site has been removed, saying they’d removed the last exciting thing in town.
I decided to check into the nearby Days Inn and immediately after taking a cool shower, went to check out the International UFO Museum and Research Center, or UFOMRC. The museum is located smack-dab in the middle of Main Street (which also happens to be Route 380). The museum is housed in an old theater flanked by UFO and alien themed gift shops selling tee shirts, books, and every manner of extraterrestrial merchandise imaginable. The museum displays themselves consist primarily of enlargements of newspaper clippings, rubber alien models, pieces of tinfoil representing saucer parts, and reproductions of eyewitness drawings of spacecraft. I left not entirely convinced of the existence of aliens but decided that, since I am riding a perfectly off-road capable motorcycle, I’d set out to find the original crash site, sign or no sign.
A quick Google search changed my mind. The original route to the crash site has been closed and now the only way to reach the site is by a labyrinth of rocky Bureau of Land Management roads through the desert, well outside of any cell phone reception. I decided that attempting such a trek alone while risking getting lost or a flat tire in triple digit temperatures in a rattlesnake infested desert was not worth the potential payoff of seeing what is now an alien-free goat pasture.
I headed east the following morning in blessedly cool temperatures toward the Texas border. After crossing into Texas, the desert gave way to farmland and tracts of ranchland and mesquite trees. Along the way, I passed countless oilrigs, some still pumping and others idle, and towns of boarded up motels and service stations, eerily nostalgic remnants of a time before the Interstate Highway system.
I came upon a flagman holding a stop sign before a stretch of road construction.
“Might as well shut her off,” he said as he strode over. “It’s gonna be about five, ten minutes.”
We chatted while we waited; about my trip and my motorcycle and he showed me photos of his own ride, a silver Yamaha V-Star cruiser, on his phone. He asked if I’d like a Coke or some water. I gladly accepted a top-up on my water bottle from the cooler on his truck. As he returned with my water bottle he said, ”I can’t believe you come all that way on this machine.”
I thanked him and pulled away, following the pilot car through the construction zone and deeper into the heart of Texas.
“I’ve still got a long way to go,” I thought.