Borderland Overland : Part III

With the sun burning high above, we continued west from Douglas. Again, we met dirt and dust at Border Road in route to Naco and Coronado National Monument. Some in the group traveled with their windows up and AC blasting, while some kept the windows down the entire dust ridden 260+ miles. Although I enjoy both styles of off-road travel, the guys with the “left arm tan” seem to have more fun. For a brief and desolate stretch, Border Road hides in the shadow of the massive metal fence that separates the U.S. from Mexico. This “anti-ram” fence was designed to withstand a high-speed impact by a full-sized pickup truck. It was nice knowing that a drug runner wouldn’t be t-boning us from the Mexican side.

In the week prior to the Borderland Overland, 19-year-old Carlos La Madrid was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent outside Douglas. Apparently, La Madrid was fleeing authorities, when he abandoned his truck and then tried to climb a ladder over the fence into Mexico. Border Patrol agents later found 48 pounds of marijuana in La Madrid’s truck hinting as to why he fled.

We stopped along the border fence for a token photo op; for some it was sticking their arm through the fence into Mexico, for others it was climbing the fence into…I’m just kidding—seeing if I still had your attention. My hopes of being tracked down by the Border Patrol, to provide a “full border experience” to the group, were soon fulfilled as I noticed a dust cloud on the horizon. I could make out two white trucks racing towards us, drivers and passengers bouncing around like ragdolls. When they finally arrived at the scene, the agents seemed rather disappointed at the sight of us. Rather than throwing us face first into the dirt and drawing guns; they settled for conversation.

Photo by Kirk Isaacson
Above Photo by Kirk Isaacson

The Border Patrol agent behind the wheel spoke with a certain ease and a country draw. He told me how the cartels had scouts on the U.S. and Mexican sides of the border to monitor movement of law enforcement, illegals, ranchers and rival smugglers. “They watch us, we watch them. They gather intelligence, we gather intelligence. Everyone is trying to keep a step ahead and outsmart the other side. That’s how the game is played.” Midway through our conversation, the ground began to rumble. Within seconds a Border Patrol helicopter thundered overhead in a spectacular show. Rather than screaming with glee like little girls, we managed to keep our composure. We’d rehash the story in vivid detail around the campfire at least a half-dozen times before the trip was over—each time the tale would grow a bit longer. The agent gave me his cell number and a nod to report any suspicious activity we may see down the road and we parted ways. Were we now part of the game too? I’d like to think so…