San Diego to Arizona. Day 11 of 16 - The Epic Journey, 3000 miles, the Pacific Coast :)

4 years ago
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We got up in the morning ready to take our epic drive across the desert, worried about how the car would cope we drove first to a jiffy lube for a coolant flush. It took about an hour so Carlos and I walked around La Mesa, the town we were staying in outside San Diego.

After it was done we made our way to the freeway and drove towards the desert. We'd previously driven through sand dunes and we'd driven through dustbowls in Oregon and California but T'Rex told us after we passed through the mountains east of San Diego we would find ourselves in crazy heat, surrounded by sand and lots of cactus. 

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The temperature just kept rising and rising, the mountains were pretty baron and the inside of the car was beginning to get hot. Whilst Carlos was driving I changed into shorts because it got so hot! As we came over the mountains we suddenly were in the desert - for about eight hours of driving. 
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We were surrounded by sand dunes, the hot desert-y ones you can see the heat coming from. Vegetation was primarily non-existent other than the occasional cactus or the plants that were on their last legs before life as a tumbleweed. I’d visited desert areas before; Eastern Washington, the desert like sand dunes in Oregon and the scorched, dry landscapes in California but this landscape was new and exciting. 

We’d been driving along for an hour or two when I noticed a great wall in the middle of the desert – and this is going to sound stupid but I thought ‘what the hell is that?’ Carlos looked over and said – ‘it’s the border – duh’ and my bottom lip dropped to the floor and remained there for a number of minutes. ‘What do you mean it’s the damn border?’ I asked him, still in shock ‘it’s an actual wall – wtf?’ 

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I haven’t driven over a border before (don’t think England to Wales counts!) but the idea of a physical wall is so – World War II to me. What I couldn’t understand is why Mexican’s needed to be kept out, whilst Canada and America’s borders aren’t even as significant and a line drawn on the ground (well maybe, but only that). 

It made me pretty mad and let’s just say my respect for the American government is in a much worse place than it already was… I don’t understand why America would build a wall to keep out Mexicans but draw a line for Canadians?! – can they not also be illegals? 

Anyway, it’s a bit unnecessary and very ‘Nazi Germany’ but I’ll get over it (just hope the Mexican’s get over it too – the border than is). Anyway this huge wall spanned for as far as I could see and it established an unnecessary fear inside me – fences are used to keep people out (or in) and I was going to have to pass that fence to get home – albeit legally. 

We continued to drive along the border, it was on our right for a couple of hours and it didn’t stop making me feel uncomfortable. I don’t know if it was the huge armed police presence, knowing we were driving along one of the world’s most dangerous borders or just the fact that this huge wall was between us and where we needed to be to get home. 

Soon the border disappeared out of sight – the freeway doesn’t quite hug the border after all – and we started to drive out of the dunes and into more vegetation.

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Seeing a cactus, a real, big one (not just one in a pot from Ikea) was pretty cool. They look exactly like the movies and in a weird way reminded me of the Redwoods, in that half of it appeared dead whilst more 'branches'(?) were sprouting out the top and sides. There were fields and fields of them, I don't feel my drive by photo shoot does them justice - I always expected to find them lone in the desert but there were millions, up on millions. 

As we were driving another thing struck me. I had, of course, heard of many people crossing the border into the States from the South. I knew some jumped the border, some crossed a river and other were smuggled out of Mexico - however feeling the heat and seeing how endless the near impossible terrain was I was shocked that so many people attempted it. Your options are miles and miles of desert and sand dunes or cactus filled fields - and all under the watch of the US border patrol who will watch you dying in the desert as you try to reach the border and arrest and send you back as soon as you cross it. 

Whilst we were driving we noticed a huge border patrol base on our right. It had hundreds, yes HUNDREDS of vehicles; tanks, cars, quad bikes - it was INSANE. And sure enough a few miles up ahead we were stopped by border patrol in a mandatory check for Illegals in our car. They had a sniffer dog and asked for our citizenship - I told them I was British and the guy asked for my passport and esta visa, I handed it over and he told us to pull over up ahead. He still had my passport and I figured it was just to check my visa and everything. He came over and told us he needed to search our car and began quizzing us about why we were driving through Arizona. 

We told him we were moving to Mexico and that made him all the more suspicious of us - for no reason whatsoever. He told us he was searching the car for weapons, explosives, drugs and people. So he went and got the dog and began letting him sniff through our stuff, not opening anything or taking anything out the car but letting that beast of a dog in the damn car (not a huge dog fan...). In the end, of course, there was nothing in our car, they wished us a good day and we continued on our way. As I walked round the car that stupid, stupid dog was locked in the border patrol vehicle right next to my door and it started barking like crazy - shaking me up more than I already was! 

We were both pretty shaken up and pretty pissed off, the guy had had no reason at all to stop us - when they'd asked Carlos' name the guy was like 'oh, so you're Hispanic'. No word of a lie these two border patrol agents were called Jose and Eduardo, these guys who were obviously Hispanic themselves were trying to catch Mexicans and stop them being in the States like them?! - it's a weird world. 

We were both really mad, we hadn't even tried to cross the border yet and we were already on the wrong side of border patrol... We pulled over at a rest point, stretched our legs and had some (nasty, warm) whilst rested in the sun for a bit and cheered up. 

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We got back in the car and on the road - our next stop was Dateland for some food... 

Dateland was like a service station on the side of the highway with a tiny shop/museum, a milkshake store and a quiznos sub. It was tiny and literally just next to the road. We had been told to visit Dateland for the best milkshakes in the world - I don't like Milkshake but Carlos got one and said it was delicious. I had a sub from quiznos (like a better subway) and we were super grateful for the AC as a break from the heat. After a quick stop we hit the road, hoping to make it to Nogales before dark. 

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The scenery really didn't change the whole way to Nogales, we saw a lot more cactus and began to see a couple of small mountains again. It was a long arsed drive - about 10 hours including all our stops - we were exhausted and couldn't wait to reach the hotel - it was still over 100F/30C...

We turned south on 10 and headed towards Nogales as the sun was setting, we arrived at the motel 6 just as it got dark and checked in. We saw the motel had a pool but it was closed for maintenance when we arrived - luckily we were staying two nights and it was due to reopen in the morning. We could see the fence at the border from the hotel, it was only a couple of blocks away.

Reaching Nogales kind of felt like coming home it was great to be in the heavy evening heat and to hear the crickets for the first time since we had left Mexico, two months previously. We drove to a McDonalds for dinner and went back to the hotel to eat, stuck on the AC, took advantage of an internet connection and watched a movie on the TV. 

We had another long day ahead - trying to import the car into Mexico.... 

Click the link to read more :) http://batmanswritehand.weebly.com/the-epic-journey.html

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