Surreal. that would be the word I would use to describe the landscape on the drive from Southern California into Arizona. The landscape is barren, empty, with small rocky hills lining the sides of the road. It’s clear that you are in the desert. The rocky ochre hills are dotted with cacti, including my favorite kind that look fat and fuzzy (you know the ones I mean). As we went further East, huge swaths of green arose in the midst of the arid land. Some entrepreneurial farmers have created farmlands in the middle of the desert! The lush greenness seems out of place – I wonder where they get all the water for irrigation. There is also evidence of using the vast, flat terrain for something a bit more environmentally friendly. In one area, there were hundreds of wind turbines lining the ridges around the road. They were pretty amazing up close – huge, white blades contrasting with the cloudless blue sky.
The road parallels the US-Mexico border most of the way. All those stories about the difficulties immigrants face trying to cross the border come to life when you see just how brutal the landscape is. Everywhere there is little beyond the asphalt, rocky hills, brutal sun and heat and Border Patrol vans patrolling the area.
We took a small detour and passed over what looked to be a dry creek bed. Looking over the edge we saw a bridge off to our right. I was surprised to see 3-4 life sized scarecrows set up under the bridge. Their arms were made of branches outstretched into a V, and they were dressed in over-sized tattered clothes. I am not exactly what they are set up to scare away, but I would be afraid if I ran into them unexpectedly!
I’ve only ever approached Mexico from the air or sea, never by land. Crossing over into Mexico on this trip is out of the question – Nick doesn’t have a visa, and I actually left my passport at home (it was an odd feeling – I NEVER travel without it). However, I was really interested to see what the US/Mexico border crossings looked like. We drove South from the main freeway and approached the border in Calexico, California. Calexico might as well be Mexico – all of the signs are in Spanish, the attendant at the gas station didn’t seem at all comfortable in English, and there isn’t much that distinguishes the area geographically from Mexicali across the border. The border crossing looms up out of nowhere to bisect the straight road between the two cities. It is ‘monument grey’ – a big, ugly concrete building, with the US border fence erected nearby. We drove up as far as we could to check it out, but to be honest it was a bit scary and intimidating, so we took our out and exited when we saw a sign that read ‘Last U Turn in the United States’. I so wanted to take a picture, but with my bad experiences taking pictures in foreign countries I wasn’t about to take a photo near a US government installment, no matter how benign. Who knows if I would have made it home! It was fascinating to see this 60,000 person/day crossing. I of course had Calexico playing during the drive – always nice to have a little theme music!