It's not often that tourists get a close-up look at life inside a dictatorship.
But on a balmy day in Dayton, Nevada, the first tour group of the season sets foot on Molossian soil.
Their passports are examined at the border control desk, before being stamped and dated: 'REPUBLIC OF MOLOSSIA. PASSPORT CONTROL'.
They venture past a booth where a rather sallow, sickly looking creature sits in khaki uniform with white gloves under the legend: customs.
Molossia is no average country: it is a micronation of 33 citizens (including a few dogs). There's also a cat, but he hasn't been honored with citizenship – because, according to the president, he's a 'constant source of irritation' and is not to be trusted. The micronation is celebrating its 40th anniversary under the leadership of its irrepressible president, His Excellency Kevin Baugh – the man described by his wife as a 'benevolent dictator' who is escorting today's tour.
The roughly two-hour expedition takes them past The Tower of the Winds, a monument that includes decorative items and red lava gravel 'dedicated to the wind and the desert and as a symbol of our nation,' Molossia's extensive website explains. There's also Red Square – home to a post office, trading company and bar and grill – and Norton Park, a 'tranquil garden where Molossians can relax and enjoy life.'
Molossia has its own currency, rules and identity – despite its geographical location in Nevada in the US.
The micronation was the brainchild of Baugh and his high school friend James Spielman, who in 1977 created their own country called the Grand Republic of Vuldstein after they watched the classic film The Mouse That Roared.
Spielman was proclaimed King and Baugh the Prime Minister of a kingdom – then in Portland, Oregon – and the pair drafted land charters and gave themselves power to make laws in which to govern themselves.
As they got older, Spielman moved on with his life, but Baugh was hooked – renaming the nation the Republic of Molossia and declaring himself the President. Now, 40 years later in the new location of Dayton County, Nevada, his Excellency loves the power that comes with owning his own country.
'I love being dictator; it is fantastic but it is also intentional. When I remodelled Molossia, I chose to be a dictator,' says Baugh, 54.