Border Crossing

So, I was a little anxious about crossing the Mexico/U.S. border. Not so much about entering Mexico (though I was a little nervous about my lack of Spanish), but about returning to the U.S. I’m not sure what I thought would happen. It’s not like I’m a terrorist or a drug mule. Nor would our van be loaded with illegal immigrants. Maybe I was afraid they’d be able to scan my thoughts and deem me too critical of the current administration to return to my country. I’m pretty sure, I wouldn’t have felt as nervous if it had been another country from which we were returning, or if we’d be crossing through customs in an airport as I have done in the past when traveling to Mexico. There’s just been so much drama around the physical border lately: threats of walls, threats of shutting it down, children ripped from their families, people being detained in cages. But we had our passports, we are bonafide U.S. citizens, what did we have to worry about? Still, it felt like we’d be entering into a mess, and messes are messy. Things happen. Which was all the more reason to do it: to neutralize this ridiculous fear. So, in Maude, our ’91 Chevy conversion van, which looks a little like a hippie van, or so we’ve been told, we headed down from our home in Coastal California to visit some friends who’ve retired in a little town called San Felipe.

San Felipe is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Calexico and located in Baja California on the Sea of Cortez. (Some call it the Gulf of California.) While there, we learned San Felipe boasts a pretty large part-time expat retirement population, mostly from the US and Canada. It also has one of the largest tidal bores in the world which makes for great beach combing! Oh, I could go on and on about things we learned about San Felipe; about the local economy being seriously threatened by a ban on fishing due to the gulf being over-fished; about a fish called the Totoaba whose swim bladders are so prized by the Chinese, and so lucrative to fish, that the lights from illegal fishing boats dot the gulf at night—despite the ban; about the vaquitas, smallest of all the dolphins, that’s on the verge of extinction due to getting caught up in the totoaba fishermen’s nets; about how the Totoaba’s bones wash up on the beach because fishermen just cut the bladder from the large fish and toss the rest back into the sea. I could tell you about about the crazy Harley Rally, the Diablo Run, that was happening while we were there; how hundreds of riders and their hogs filled the many seaside bars. I could tell you about our friend’s amazing efforts that created an amazing organization to spay and neuter the stray dogs that roam the surrounding desert and town. I could tell you about Tequilla, guacamole, and about how sweet the locals were, how kind. I could tell you about our friend’s beautiful artwork crafted from bones.

But I want to talk about the border. More specifically, our border crossings.

As expected, crossing the border into Mexico was cake. The nice border guards just waved us through into the big city of Mexicali. The only issue we had there is, upon entering Mexico, we were temporarily without phone service, which completely freaked me out because, not only was I relying on the GPS to get us where we were going, I was also relying on it to communicate with our friend. (We didn’t even know where, exactly, they lived in San Felipe!) But, after about fifteen minutes, my phone kicked in with a Welcome to Mexico! and we were good to go. (Oh, how quickly we’ve all become dependent on our phones!)

Getting back into the U.S. was another story. For starters, there was tons of razor wire! And it took us three hours of bumper-to-bumper sitting in our van to even reach the razor-wired border. We were in three lanes that merged into another three lanes. During this three-hour inching forward, locals roamed through the traffic trying to sell us everything from bottles of water to chips to jewelry to pottery. You name it, they had it! Some simply begged: one guy telling us he was trying to get home, another who followed along next to our car for a good ten minutes, begging us, Please! Please! There were even some Jamaican women carrying their wares on their heads! It was a scene, and our dollar bills went quickly, the many leathered-out Harley riders also returning, making for great people watching.

Finally, it was our turn to cross, and lucky us, we got Barney Fife. I’ll admit, we made the mistake of telling him it was our first time to drive across the border. This was all it took for him to puff up into Mr. Important Who Needs to Educate the Poor Stupid Women. He told us all about people who try to cross without passports, people who only have driver’s licenses, or just IDs. He told us about Sentri passes for low-risk travelers, something we might think about getting. (We knew about these and were told it doesn’t always get you in much faster.) But mostly, he told us all about the importance of his job, blah blah blah. Meanwhile, I’m thinking about the huge line behind us, wondering, Is this why it’s taking so long? Really?After his initial monologue he asked us a bunch of questions, then looked under the van with a mirror, then looked inside the van, and inside our ice chest where, as it turned out, we had—gasp!—too many beers. We had eight. We were only allowed six. (Three each.) We also had four hard-boiled eggs, which threw him into a swivet. “If these weren’t hard boiled you’d be in some trouble!” he told us. “And these extra beers!” he said shaking his head. Ultimately, he decided to let us through, as a favor to us, he said, because it was our first time.

And here I thought the border security checks were supposed to keep us safe from terrorists, drug lords, all those scary illegal immigrants. I had no idea we were also being protected from eggs and beer! Go figure.

So, that’s it for today. We’re home, safe and sound. Thanks for listening, and as always, would love to hear your thoughts.

And remember, live the love. It’s all we’ve got.

7 comments

  1. As always, you’ve written an interesting post, Clifford. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of life at a Mexico-U.S. border crossing. Considering the present reality, your anxiety was justified.

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  2. I haven’t crossed that direction since you’ve had to have a passport to do it. I have gone into Canada recently, passport in hand. It took forever to get in and we were practically waved through coming back. What a difference…that’s all I’ll say.

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  3. I’ve heard about you dangerous beer drinking hard boiled egg smugglers! Great column Cliff. Glad you had a good time.

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