Dom Joly: Bunkering down in New Mexico 

Dom Joly with aliens in New Mexico

Dom makes a couple of new friends in New Mexico - Credit: Dom Joly

The Cheltenham comedian with wanderlust reports from New Mexico

I’m on a conspiracy road trip through the United States in preparation for my next book. I’m driving from Denver to Austin and stopping at some seriously weird places along the way.  

Roswell, New Mexico was a must. Since the supposed UFO crash outside the town in 1947, this remote desert town has been a Mecca for ‘believers’.  

Dunkin’ Donuts sign in New Mexico

In New Mexico, the Dunkin’ Donuts sign is held up by a ten-foot green man - Credit: Dom Joly

They’ve certainly made the most of it. The Dunkin’ Donuts sign is held up by a ten-foot green man, while the local McDonalds is in the shape of a chrome spaceship. Even the street lights look like glowing alien heads. If you’re not interested in visitors from another planet, then Roswell is probably not for you.  

If I’m honest, it wasn’t massively for me either. It was hot as hell (43C) and pretty tacky. I visited the International UFO Museum and Research Centre. It was… fun... but ran out of ideas pretty quickly and resorted to a display of some of the most appalling alien-inspired art I’ve ever seen.  

Even the street lights look like glowing alien heads in New Mexico

Even the street lights look like glowing alien heads... - Credit: Dom Joly

‘Research’ done, I didn’t really fancy staying in any of the low-end chain motels that lined the north end of the town. Then, as so often when I’m travelling, my social media followers helped me out. A regular correspondent – Simon Wilshire, who lives in Arkansas – sent me a link that he thought I might be interested in. He was right. 

The link was to an Airbnb like no other. About 15 miles out of Roswell, in the middle of nowhere, I could stay the night in an old Sixties-era missile silo that once housed an intercontinental ballistic missile sporting a four-megaton warhead. That sounded right up my street.  

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I contacted the owner Gary and he gave me directions to a specific mile marker on the lonely desert road out of town. Once there, I turned off, unlocked a gate with the code he’d given me and trundled down a dirt track until I came to a flat stretch of concrete and a fenced off area with a door sticking up, seemingly out of nowhere.

Gary was there to meet me. An affable guy, he’d bought the silo for $55,000, 20 or so years ago, and had just rebuffed an offer to buy it for a million dollars. He pointed to the flat concrete. Upon closer inspection, I could see that it was two enormous doors on hinges. These would open and the missile would have been hydraulically lifted up out of the silo and fired off at the Soviet Union.  

‘Come on in,’ said Gary. 

Sixties-era missile silo in New Mexico

Not your usual Airbnb: Dom spends the night in a Sixties-era missile silo in New Mexico - Credit: Dom Joly

Sixties-era missile silo in New Mexico

Settling down for the night, New Mexico-style - Credit: Dom Joly

He pulled open an incredibly heavy blast door, and we descended into the bowels of the earth. It was wonderfully cool compared to the searing heat of the desert above. Gary took me into what was once the launch facility but that he had now turned into what looked like a New Mexican hipster’s apartment. It had everything I needed – a beer-stocked fridge, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and a vast selection of books on America’s nuclear history.  

The pièce de résistance, however, was the silo itself. Gary took me through another two thick blast doors and suddenly I was standing underneath the hinged doors, peering down about 200 feet into the abandoned silo. Bats flew around above us as Gary told me that he used to play in this silo as a kid after the US military abandoned it.   

Then he left. I heard the door slam far above me and I was left for the night in my Cold War desert tomb.  

Travel in America never fails to disappoint. 

Follow Dom on Twitter: @domjoly

Dom’s latest book Such Miserable Weather: An English Staycation is available to order from awaywithmedia.com/buy-books/dom-joly