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California: 2nd First Impression

After getting well into California, we searched for a truck stop and found there to be one in El Centro. Unfortunately, we missed the exit and it seriously took us about 40 minutes to navigate through Mexico. I mean, the surface streets of El Centro. Or, at least it seemed that way. As we were navigating through town something caught my eye. A large, reflective, round US emblem on a building. After another second of inspection, I see the US Courthouse sign. Now… Seriously, when was the last time a colorful, shiny emblem at a courthouse caught your eye? I drag my family to as many courthouses as I can, and can firmly answer: none. A plaque, statue, flag, or intricate building details are the first thing(s) that stand out. Never a colorful emblem. Usually the American and state flags are the most colorful objects. It looked more like an embassy.

Interesting thought. It falls in line with the rest of our day.

So we get to the truck stop and it was beyond gross. Judging the by the number of trucks in the parking lot, one would be led to believe the inside was acceptable. No. The 900lb woman ordering greasy food did not help. If the smell didn’t deter you from ordering anything at either of the small taco truck looking places inside, then the wilted green onion proudly on display should have sealed the deal to walk away. I couldn’t even wrap my head around buying a bottle of water. Chris, however, purchased a bottle of Mountain Dew. He’s still alive, so that’s good.

*Insert beautiful countryside images here, if we didn’t have a big metal home behind us, and if we weren’t racing against daylight.*

So now we’re 50-ish miles from our destination. Let’s go through the second border patrol check point. The remaining miles contained skies of military aircraft non-stop. We found this to be somewhat entertaining. There weren’t many miles we were alone on the road, a green and white vehicle could quickly be found.

The sun starts setting. And, I will say – it’s a shame we were stuck in a vehicle. The sunset seemed to last forever. We kept trying to get a glimpse of the ocean, but never saw it. We drove through some amazing farming properties. It looks like a combination of England and Scotland. I kept waiting for someone wearing a kilt to walk in the street. So anxious to travel that road in the light of day.

One thing was interesting. We saw several signs that said “I love my internet.” Then I realized, indeed, we have not seen a cell tower in quite some time. My conspiracy theory is because of our location. Two reasons. #1: We have heard over and over from fellow campers from CA that “California doesn’t even like California people.” CA could care less if people have cell service?? #2: We are so close to the border and the federal government wishes to restrict communication.

Now it’s dark, but we are only a few miles from the park. We check-in and find our temporary spot for the night. Temporary? Yes. The campground is all out of spots with sewer hookups, but we should be able to get one by noon the next day. After all, San Diego is an expensive place to live, right? Many people flock to this campground for full-time residency.

We eat an award winning dinner of microwave corndogs (we would have loved to stop to eat on the way, but there was absolutely nothing – I don’t think there is a single gas station between El Centro and here). Now let’s go for a walk and stretch our legs for the first time since 9am. That’s when our first day’s experience was sealed.

About a half mile away (but really looks much closer because it’s a half mile up a mountain), you could see a helicopter with two spotlights. Oh, and you could hear it too! It was quite loud. We saw a few headlights headed up the mountain, which we assumed were ATV’s. 30 minutes later the search was still on. We have no idea how long it lasted.

Last night when we crawled into bed, we triple checked that the truck was locked. Never before have we done that. Never before have I gone to bed with the fear of our truck being a refuge for an illegal immigrant and never before has the crazy thought of us going to jail because we left our truck unlocked crossed my mind.

Y’all… It was like a mini war zone. Not awesome. Like, there is no way I would ever take a picture of what I saw or heard yesterday. It was that disturbing.

There is no doubt in my mind that when the sun rises we will be in awe of California’s beauty. And no doubt we will all be dying to find a beach to enjoy. And no doubt we will find a public gas station that doesn’t leave your stomach hurling.

Nonetheless, our first night sent us to our happy place, the Texas Hill Country, and left us dreaming about Bucee’s.

For the record, I now understand why no one outside of TX ever comments or likes any of my Bucee’s posts. It’s because all other gas stations in the southwest are a waste of building materials, time and money in comparison, even the nicest ones. So there is no way anyone can possibly relate to the excitement that comes from visiting an epic rest stop.

Yesterday we joked, as we drove south into Phoenix, that we should take a left instead of a right. We would have avoided this whole war zone experience. Words cannot relay the shock of seeing your country actively searching for people in the dark. Right or wrong… Necessary or unnecessary… It’s shocking. This isn’t just a reality TV show anymore.

Sunshine, warm food, coffee and a shower will hopefully be a good way to put yesterday behind us.

Comments 4

  1. LOL!! Thanks for sharing! I would have been scared to death! I agree with Grace… Buc-ees and Texas are waiting for you!!! Miss & love ya!!

  2. Wow, Dana!
    Love what you wrote. So many experiences and a side of reality that most people (in the U.S, anyway) don’t see. Appreciated your comments about Texas and your love for Buccee’s & the Hill Country! Also, felt the comfort and protection in your words of your last sentence about “sunshine, warm food, coffee & shower”……..especially after sharing your startling image of the mountainside lights. You’re right, it’s not a reality TV show. God help us ALL!

    Our love to you 4 precious people….

  3. The last time we were at that TT was aproxamently 22 years ago. The same things were happening then with Border Patrol. I’m sure it’s worse now. California has for so long been thought of as a place of beautiful beaches and sunny weather. Everyone is rich and lives in homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Oh, and everyone knows how to surf! There are places like that in Southern California. It’s just that it’s not all of California.
    You definitely wandered into the wrong neighborhood. There are more than a few due to being so close to Mexico.
    You have every right to feel uneasy while staying in a boarder town. Based on your observations, we will probably cross Pio Pico off our list of places to stay.
    In Northern California you won’t find Buc ee’s either. However, I am pretty sure you will feel better about California. Like going back to Arizona felt good, getting back to Lodi will feel like a homecoming, too.
    We are hoping to see beautiful pictures, and more positive feedback from you soon.

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