It's time to get some miles under our trusty Roadtrek and check out the Southwestern USA.
Our campervan travelling is a habit we picked up in Australia. It's an awesome way to see the countryside at ground level, wander along the route at a leisurely pace and meet everyday people along the way. With our loose itinerary, we find all sorts of great adventures.
There was a lot of beach time during this trip as I'm still trying to make up for the loss of beach time during the summer of 2015. We were just way too busy campaigning to take a day off and find some time. Last month in Mexico was nice, but Catherine can never seem to get enough of the waves and the sand.
California has some great campgrounds along the ocean but it is all about timing and sometimes they are filled to capacity. But we found some ideal spots to stay for the night. Not too close to the elephant seals! They seem to take up an awful lot of real estate.
We also headed inland, checking out such interesting places as Palm Springs, El Paso, the Grand Canyon (do you know how cold that place is in February! Not many tourists so you don't have to worry about any line ups), Death Valley (to warm up again after the Grand Canyon...Brrrr...) Las Vegas, Hollywood, San Diego....
We also saw a lot of desert....more cacti than I could possibly count.
We passed through El Paso the day the Pope was giving a large Mass across the border in Ciudad Juarez. We passed by Donald Trump's plane in Las Vegas and we caught the largest bloom in Death Valley in ten years. I'll just share the photos of the beautiful bloom because we didn't actually stop in and chat with the first two guys.
We covered a lot of ground and also ran into a few situations that cause one to stop and think about the differences between our two nations:
Border Security - Ten to twenty miles inside the USA, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has permanent stations set up on the interstate where they check every vehicle registration and passenger travelling on the highway. There is no need for any suspicion that a crime has been committed, every vehicle is stopped. The justification may have originally been the apprehension of illegal aliens, but the checkpoints now post signs advertising the number of criminals that they have apprehended, the quantity of drugs seized, the number of illegal weapons found and other criminal apprehensions. Unfortunately, it reminds me of the checkpoints set up by the warring factions in Yugoslavia at the height of their war.
Weapons Carrying - I barely notice the weapons carried by law enforcement personnel in any interaction that I may have with them. However, stopping in a MacDonald's in Arizona for an iced tea, the fellow beside me was dressed all in black, including a black ball cap and black boots with what appears to be a Glock in his holster. No markings on his outfit, wispy chin beard. Did he make me feel safe? Not in the least! My senses were on full alert wondering what his issue was and what my options were if he was to decide he was having a bad day and should share it with the rest of us. Not pretty. Let's not ever go there with our society.
The Wall - The wall is already there in places along the USA/Mexico border. It's a rather sad statement on the world that we live in that we need to erect these barriers to impose control along a border between two nations. My generation saw one wall come down between East and West Germany. There must be more that we can do to minimize the need for the false security that the wall provides. Is it to keep out economic refugees? Let's work towards creating a stable economy in their home country. Is it to stop the flow of illegal drugs? Let's treat drug addiction as a health issue and dry up the demand for smuggled in product. Is it to stop the illegal trafficking of weapons? Let's get to the root cause of why those weapons are manufactured and why they're needed. I doubt the wall works that well at preventing their movement.