June 21 - Clovis, to Roswell - International UFO Museum and Research Center - Bottomless Lakes, S.P.

Well, Bart and his wife Sue, in the Eurovan left the campground just before I did this morning. I didn't have very far to drive today.

I have always been curious about Roswell, New Mexico. World famous for the disputed events that took place here in 1947. Witnesses, and now even grown children of witnesses and other believers say extraterrestrial spacecraft crashed on a ranch outside of Roswell that evening, the government has been saying it was nothing more than a weather balloon for years. I don't have a doubt in my mind that something out of the ordinary happened near Roswell in 1947, no doubt at all. I don't think it was a weather balloon, there are just too many inconsistencies and conflicting reports to take the official explanation. Did two spacecraft really crash? Were bodies autopsyed? Did one of the creatures actually survive the crash and undergo interrogation by Air Force personnel? I'm not sure, but there are plenty of folks in Roswell who'd like to talk to you about it. I knew when I pulled into the Wal-Mart for supplies that something about this place was a little different, and that they really revel in the fact that they are the "UFO Capitol of the World".

My first stop was the visitor center. Right down town and very convenient. I stopped in to ask directions to the UFO Museum and get some brochures about other places nearby.

I asked the girl at the counter.....18 or 19 years old...her name tag said "Peanut" on it, a nickname perhaps? I didn't ask.
"Hi, can you tell me how to get to the UFO museum?"
She could, and did.....she gave me a map and pointed me in the right direction. I thanked her and then kind of milled around for a while, looking at different pamphlets and what not. In just the three or four minutes I was there, three different people came in and asked for directions to the UFO museum...everybody who walked in the door....
"Uh, yeah, I'm not from around here. Can you tell me how to get to the UFO museum?"
"Hi, where's the UFO museum?"
"Is this the street with the UFO Museum?"
The girl behind the counter would treat each person like they were the first person to ever pose the question, she'd pull out a map and show them and then give them the map, as she had done with me.
So once the place emptied out again I asked her....
"How many times a day do people ask you where the museum is?"
"Oh, I don't know. A lot...a whole lot...pretty much everybody." she answered.
"Do you always give them a map?" I pried.
"Well, yeah, we've got a bunch of them. They usually want to know where the UFO Museum is" she answered (duh David!)
We chatted for a few minutes and I was on my way. It's always a good idea to stop at the visitor's center.

I hopped back in the van and rolled down a few blocks to "The International UFO Museum and Research Center". The building must have been an old movie theater, it has those kinds of windows out in front and a big marquee. I parked about a block down....a nice little downtown area, it reminded me of old Ohio farm towns, old downtown buildings, storefronts, Roswell was more crowded though, bustling rather. As I approached the entrance I saw a sign in one of the windows announcing "FREE ADMISSION!", and another sign flashing "Internet Connection! Check Email!".

As I looked in the different window displays I noticed a Mexican couple, in their mid 60's, New Mexicans, Mexican Americans, whatever.....born here of Mexican parents, first generation, but not recent immigrants. The woman was dressed well, the way Mexican women do, full dress, scarf, purse, shoes, shades. Her husband was carrying a clipboard and notebook, wearing khakis and a red polo shirt. He was somewhat hunched over, as if he hurt his back and must walk not quite doubled over. They looked to be waiting for someone, like someone was going to pull up in a car and pick them up. Their grand daughter waited with them....sitting down on the concrete in the shade of the UFO Museum marquee, not 14 years old, she looked bored out of her mind. Her grandfather was ranting, in very slightly accented English....
"I tell you what, you know? The Inquisition was a terrible time for Spain and the Church. They would accuse you of something, or find you a heretic just so they could take your land and lock you up, or burn you." He insisted to his grand daughter who would look up at him with a "Whatever." squinting grin and nod from time to time.
"Grandpa, is a heretic someone who doesn't believe in God?" She asked.
"No sweetie, not someone who doesn't believe in God, someone who doesn't believe in the church! During the Inquisition at least."

I figured this was a conversation I had to be a part of so I sidled over under guise of looking at the wrap around window displays of UFO stuff...close, closer....

The old man rambled on as his wife and grand daughter nodded......he'd look up the street for their ride every few seconds.

"¿La Inquisición Español? I announced in Spanish, just to see what kind of response I'd get.
The old man looked at me, I was in front of him at this point...."You know something about the Inquisition? The Spanish Inquisition?"
"Is that what you were telling your grand daughter about?" I asked.
"Yeah, she's doing a project on the Spanish Inquisition for school." he added, the granddaughter looked up and nodded, she didn't seem happy to be sitting around waiting for a ride while she got a first class lecture about the Spanish Inquisition from her grand father, school project or no school project.

God, I just can't help but think of Monty Python when I hear the words "Spanish Inquisition", those guys had it right, anyway......

"I know some things about the Spanish Inquisition." I announced.
"Oh yeah?" the old man retorted, "what do you know?"
"Well I know that it existed for almost 500 years, off and on, officially ending during Franco's 1950's. A lot of people were persecuted for...."
The old man interrupted..."Where'd you learn that?" he asked
"I was a student in Spain for a while and people used to talk about it, I mean it came up in conversation sometimes and we'd talk about it."
His wife chimed in now, and the bored teenager perked up...."So do you speak Spanish?" the woman asked me.
"Si señora." I replied.
"Aye, que bueno, donde aprendiste?" she asked..."oh, that's great, where did you learn?"
And we were off to the races in Spanish...
I spent time in Chile, some of the best times of my life.
She has a cousin in Chile, Valparaiso, and used to spend Summers in Chile, some of the best times of her life.
She was a Spanish teacher at a local high school, and still teaches.
I had experience teaching English in Chile one Summer during college.
The old man chimed in, back to the roots of it all.
"My family is from Mexico. Well, my family lived in Mexico until the United States government declared war on our country and took the land that is now new Mexico, and California. That was all Mexican land, Arizona too." he insisted to the three of us.
In an instant their son, the girls's father, pulled up in one of those huge, rural new Mexico pick up trucks. I said good bye to them, the woman waved....
"Buena suerte!" (good luck), We hadn't talked about the trip or what I was doing so it wasn't good luck for that, it was just a general "Good luck" in life.....for a few brief seconds on a hot Roswellian street we spoke briefly about things common to both of us, complete strangers sharing a common experience, jogging old memories of distant places. It makes you feel at home.

Through the doors of the museum I went to find that the sign outside announcing free admission was indeed accurate, no charge to get in, but the internet access thing was more like a reverse ATM with a timer and computer hooked up to it. You put bills in it, face up, and you get minutes...no thanks.

I went up to the counter where I was greeted by a man in his mid 50's.
"Hello, welcome to the International UFO Museum and Research Center." He smiled
He gave me a pamphlet and a bumper sticker...it has an alien on it and says "I went to the International UFO Museum and Research center in Roswell New Mexico and you should too..it's free!" I don't know when I'm going to get around to putting it on the Westy.
"If you'd please sign our guest registry you can begin exploring the museum right through here." the man added.
I signed their book and began to look around.

The museum is kind of set up all through this old theater. Exhibits on the sides and in the middle, but a clear stage where speakers can get up and address crowds. They have conventions and things. The first big exhibit is of course the Roswell crash story. Well done, full of newspaper clippings from the day the story broke from several places, in several time zones proving the cover up.....papers on the east coast got the news to the papers announcing the ufo crash, afternoon additions. In Texas the UFO story appeared with the balloon story next to it, thus discrediting the wild UFO claim. The same evening in L.A. the balloon story was the only story in the paper. There was a 40's vintage radio on display that repeats the first radio reports of the UFO crash when you press the red button. Mostly lots of letters and statements from people close to the events, or their children who remember the men in the dark suits and sunglasses that visited their homes and intimidated them into silence over the years. Lots of UFO related art work, some parts looked like a high school art show. See, if you make a UFO painting, or a model of a UFO, paper mache, maybe even a huge macaroni UFO, send it to this museum and they will display it. As a result of this policy you get a wide range of things. From school children's UFO drawings to sculptures and intricate dioramas...they come in from all over the world. They had a map of the world at the entrance where you can put a colored tack in the place where you're from. Asia and Europe were the two most represented areas, Western Europe was wall to wall tacks.

I was about half way around the museum when I began to overhear a woman asking one of the museum volunteers about the exhibit she was looking at, an exhibit dedicated to crop circles.

"Well, they've done tests on the plants after the crop circle designs have been made and apparently the physiology of the plants DOES change. Now scientists have looked into this and the only thing on earth that altered the plants in the same way was a microwave oven." he said with affirming nod.
Wow, huh." the woman replied with amazement.
I had a hard time listening to their conversation about crop circles and "how they are made".
I know how crop circles are made, they're made by people. Huge designs and patterns can be created under the cover of night in a corn field, or even better, in an English wheat field, if a few resourceful individuals work quickly and as a team. A map is drawn, the design. The "artists" go to the field, mark the center with a stake and take measurements out from the center with string in order to keep lies straight. Then they just begin tamping down the wheat or corn with a flat board, maybe 6 feet long with a hole at each end. Through the holes is a piece of rope they use like a big handle to wield the board, they pick it up, put it down, step on top of the board, thus flattening the vegetation underneath it.....so this microwave ray, physiological change stuff was a load of B.S.

The woman moved on through the museum, but I figured I just had to talk to this guy.

"Wow, amazing place you've got here. Really interesting." I said...and I was serious, they have a lot of interesting things there, enough of an argument anyway to make you really wonder.
"Yeah, we're proud of it" he answered.
"Are you originally from Roswell?" I asked.
"Oh yeah. Born in '45 right here."
"1945 huh? So you were probably too young to remember all the commotion from the crash in '47?" I assumed.
"Well, I didn't see it, but I sure did grow up hearing about it. There would be government guys who'd come trough town every once in a while, they'd harass people into keeping quite and stuff."
"Well, I wish I could see a UFO." I admitted
"Oh yeah, it's an experience....ooooh boy. I seen 11 of 'em." he announced.

I thought to myself...."eleven of 'em huh? eleven what....no, no, don't ask that question, you know what he's talking about."

"Eleven huh? Wow, I guess I'm looking in the wrong place then, I haven't seen any." I said.
"Well, Where do you live?" he asked.
"Chicago....but I grew up in Cincinnati." I answered.
"Yeah, not a whole lot of UFO activity in the Midwest, they prefer the open spaces, sparsely populated places." he informed me, "When I lived in California I wasn't far from Nevada and we'd go up near Area 51 and watch'em all the time, I seen 6 of 'em out there."
I opened my eyes real wide..."No way!"
"Oh sure," he replied, "they're up there. They come up from over the mountains, it just looks like a bright light then all of a sudden it'll shoot clear to the other end of the lake bed as fast as you can snap your fingers.....about 16 miles, as fast as you can snap your fingers. Now if you calculate that out..16 miles in less than one second, it comes out to between 62,000 and 64,000 miles per hour."
"Huh." I muttered.
"Do you know anything on this planet that can go that fast?" he asked me.
"Uh, no....can't think of anything." I replied.
"Well, I was out in the desert camping for a weekend one time, about 6 years ago and I got buzzed by one. It passed so close over top of me, about as high as two telephone poles, it passed over me so close it burnt me."
"No way." I insisted.
"Oh yeah, so close I had first degree burns over a lot of my body. That's when I marched right down here and told them I wanted to be a volunteer...everybody thought I was crazy, but the people here don't call me crazy. I know what I seen."

We continued talking...
"One time a guy came in the museum and went right into the library. He was in there all day, then he came back the next day and did the same thing, for about 4 days, just researching, reading, looking at everything. Have you been in the library yet?" he asked .
"Uh, no. No I haven't checked it out." I admitted.
"You gotta see the library....but anyway. After a few days this guy comes up to me and asks me what I know about area 51, his wife was with him, kind of nudging him with her elbow, telling him to be quiet. I told him that I'd been up there a bunch of times and I that I think they have UFO's there that they test fly. Turns out this guy worked at area 51. He was the chief electrical engineer for the Stealth fighter and worked there for like 25 years."
"Wow...." my eyes got wide, so did his.
"Yeah, and you know what. He was only allowed to go down the third floor, he didn't have clearance to go any lower...the chief electrical engineer for the Stealth fighter and he didn't have a high enough clearance to go down past the third floor!? Come on....what does that tell you about what's below that place?"
"Huh, how many floors are their?" I asked.
"Twenty two," he nodded, "and you know what else?" he asked.
"No, what?" I replied.
"The ceilings of the bottom two floors are only 5 feet high. They say they're for storage, but if you needed storage space wouldn't you make really high ceilings?" he asked me.
"Well, not if I were storing a colony of little green men." I replied.
He smiled, "You're right. Who knows how many they've got down there."

I asked if I could take a picture of him in front of one of the displays....this man's name was Jim Forrester by the way.
"Sure, let's take a picture. Where do you wanna do it? How about right here in front of this one." he pointed to a crashed UFO model, "I made this one...heck I made most of the UFO's in here." he smiled, I took the picture.

"Okay then," he began after I took the picture," let's get you into the library.
It seemed I didn't have much of a say in the whole thing, we walked into the library. Notice the painting on the far wall of the library depicting the 1947 crash.

"Now this is the largest collection of UFO information and research material in the world. We've got all the books, videos, micro film...everything. Let's get you some movies to start with. Doris? Doris? We need to set this gentlemen up with some videos." he bellowed behind the counter.

Doris appeared, "Oh okay. Let me get you the remote control for the VCR."

As Doris went about getting the remote Jim took me over to the movie shelf.
He started flipping them off of the shelf and handing them to me......"This one's good. This is good. That one. Oh! you gotta see this one."
"Great, thanks, cool," I said, "well, why don't I just pick one for now?" I pleaded.
"Take these three." Jim said.
"Uh, Okay....." I replied.

So before I knew it I was in a small, all white room with a chair and T.V. in it.....would a doctor with 3 green fingers be in to examine me soon? The whole thing happened quickly it was rather surreal. In my hand were several videos...UFO documentaries. I decided to watch "UFO's Are Real!" first. I had seen similar programs on The Learning Channel or Discovery. I watched the whole thing and decided I would return the other two films (unviewed) to Doris at the counter. Jim's shift was over so I wasn't able to say goodbye.....All in all it was an eye opening afternoon. And hear me now...before the end of this year I will have sent "International UFO Museum and Research Center" a UFO model to be displayed. I think it will be my first piece of anything in a museum.

I left the museum after buying a magnet in the gift shop advertising the "International UFO Museum and Research Center". I got the idea of buying magnets at all the places I stop first at the "World's Largest Totem Pole" back in Oklahoma, partly because I enjoyed talking to the little lady there so much and because I wanted to support the place. All they offered for sale were postcards and magnets. That was a very humble little place.....so I've started buying magnets at the different stops. They stick well to the shelf above the stove in the Westy.

I camped for the evening at Bottomless Lakes, S.P. not too far from Roswell, maybe 15 miles away. The landscape out here is vast and dry, the road often seems to never end. The "bottomless lakes" are actually pores in the rocks, kind of like "cenotes" in Mexico. Right in the middle of the desert there are a few of them. I ate dinner under a beautiful sunset then went to bed watching the stars through the pop top window....really wondering what else, who else is out there.

*** Just remembered a joke my dad used to tell.....
What does an agnostic, dyslexic, insomniac do?

Reminder: agnostic questions the existence of God, dyslexic confuses letters in words, insomniacs can't sleep.

PUNCHLINE: Lies in bed at night wondering if there's a Dog.

Wal-Mart entrance, Roswell, NM

UFO Museum & Research Center

Jim Forrester, witness to 11 UFOs.

Library area at the museum.

Headed out of town towards the campground.

Arrival at Bottomless Lakes, S.P.

The vehicle