RACHEL, Nev. – Trip Barrios is in Nevada to meet her people.
The 59-year-old North Las Vegas woman has an alien head tattooed on a pinky finger that lost mobility after she broke it in an accident. On her other hand, slipped above her wedding band, is an alien head ring. Dangling from an earlobe and her neck are two more aliens.
“I have collected alien stuff for years,” said Barrios, who traveled with her husband to the tiny Extraterrestrial Highway town of Rachel, where thousands of people from all over the country are expected to attend Alienstock.
Thursday, the infrastructure to support the music festival that spawned from the viral space oddity known as “Storm Area 51” – a Facebook event that started as a joke and soon generated millions of RSVPs, forced the military to issue warnings and led governments to declare emergencies – remained in the building phase.
Windswept dust blew across the wide-open desert landscape where crews slowly assembled a small stage where more than 20 bands are supposed to play over the next four days – but no one knows exactly when Alienstock is set to start.
An encounter outside Area 51 is imminent: This rural Nevada sheriff is ready.
Barrios and her RV neighbors don’t mind. They’re happy chatting alien lore over cold beers in the dirt between their mobile homes.
“People ask me if I’ve been abducted,” Barrios said. “How would I know? They zap your brain so you wouldn’t know.”
The truth is out there ... maybe
About 8 miles down the road, at a command center, law enforcement officers and emergency crews waited. A medic on scene described the atmosphere of Alienstock on Thursday morning as “mellow.”
Dave and Kari Tarver left the Colorado city of Fort Collins on Wednesday night for the 13-hour drive to Nevada. They pulled a rented, 28-foot RV into town Thursday morning and joined roughly two dozen other RVs scattered around town.
The couple are reluctant to use the word “belief” to describe their stance on extraterrestrial life – but they came here to meet like-minded people.
“There’s something else out there that the government is hiding from us,” Dave Tarver said.
“There’s a lot more out there,” Kari Tarver said.
Rachel, a town of about 50 people, is the closest habitation to Area 51 – a military facility inside a classified test and training range the size of Connecticut that for decades has fueled conspiracy theories and local lore about what exactly goes on there.
A mystery wrapped in an enigma
A new chapter in the Area 51 mystery opened this summer when a California college student named Matty Roberts created a joke Facebook event called “Storm Area 51 – They Can’t Stop All of Us.” The affair soon exploded into a viral phenomenon.
The unknown nature of the event has been a unifying theme in the Alienstock storyline. The unknown is the concept driving people to the desert – and causing a logistical nightmare for authorities and organizers.
Like many others gathered here, the Tarvers came prepared to survive in the desert with no help: 10 gallons of water, 15 gallons of gas, hamburgers and hot dogs.
“It’s camping to us,” Dave Tarver said.
A few campsites down, Margo Martinet petted her dogs, Dude and Max. She drove a 34-foot RV with her husband, Eugene, from Phelan, California.
She inherited the plot from her father – and she’s looking to turn a buck on Alienstock.
“With the proceeds," she said, "I’m planning to dig a well in case this happens again."
Kramer’s items for sale? Parking spots. Tents. Air mattresses. Shirts. Bumper stickers. Coolers. Toothbrush kits.
“I’m happy the people are here,” Kramer said. “When this happened, I thought, ‘What took so long to do this?’ ”
This article originally appeared on Reno Gazette Journal: Storm Area 51: Alienstock music festivalgoers head to Rachel, Nevada