Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Goodbye Sweet Home Alabama

January 24th, 2012

Ken says goodbye to Sweet Home Alabama. Heading into Florida, the Sunshine State…

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Into Alabama

January 21st, 2012

Ken crosses into Alabama. Short visit. Roughly twenty four hours to cross into Florida… or at least, that’s the plan…

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Mississippi burning

January 19th, 2012

Ken crosses into Mississippi. Not expecting a welcoming party, but a sign would have been good…

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Welcome to Louisiana

January 14th, 2012

Ken leaves the Lone Star State – Texas – for Louisiana. And evidence our croissant munching friends may have beaten him to it…

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Border post

December 30th, 2011

Explained I’d a knife in my handlebar bag. Quickly adding I was reluctant to get it out lest my actions be misunderstood. Guns made me nervous I said. Smiling. I’d been obliged to pull over at a major Border Patrol checkpoint on the eastbound Interstate. Claiming my passport was buried in the panniers. It wasn’t. But it was firmly taped up in plastic. Efforts to avoid unwrapping it by proffering my Driving Licence fruitless. Instead invited to stop outside the elongated office building.

I was beginning to regret not taking the parallel frontage road that my map indicated to be the westbound route. Circumventing the checkpoint. Wondering about the legality of the insistence on inspecting my passport. Not aware of any actual requirement to carry it on me within the US. Especially as I doubted I’d ever be mistaken for an illegal Mexican immigrant.

Whatever your mode of transport – large truck, car or even a bicycle – a four man cadre would be summoned from the office. Friendly enough. I chatted quite a bit, but as always befalls these situations, low on information content. We settled on one of their number carefully cutting through my passport’s plastic wrapper with his own knife. Cursory inspection of my visa. New or just inexperienced I wasn’t sure, for they never checked the photo page to confirm the documents was actually mine.

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Angie’s cafe

December 29th, 2011

Angie’s cafe. Early morning in Fort Hancock, forty or so miles east of El Paso, Texas. Faded cutting on the wall suggested it had gotten a brief mention in National Geographic a couple of decades earlier. And it was a decent breakfast. Strong coffee. Initially the only customer, I found myself reflecting on the previous day. Doodling in my small pocket book.

Could I lend him two bucks? I’d smiled. Alas, I said, I had just the same problem. Never seemed to have any money on me. An obvious lie. Tornillo, little more than a gas station and convenience store. I’d been approached by a man in his early fifties, of Mexican descent, whilst stowing the few provisions I’d bought in the shop. Friendly enough on the face of it, but he was getting a little too close. And I disliked his mirror sunglasses.

A curious encounter. He reminded me a little of a chap I’d met back in Central Asia who’d made a living – of sorts – pilfering from passing travellers. Obliged to curtail his operations for a while. It was the offer to come and take a nap at his supposedly nearby home that had struck a chord of similarity. I’d politely declined, explaining I’d already arranged to stay with someone else. Fumbling in the panniers as I spoke, making quite sure he saw the canister of bear spray. Adding it was something I still carried. Just in case I ran into the odd miscreant. Grinning as I said it. Said he knew Tiquando. Doubted he could even spell it.

I’d left El Paso earlier that day. Pleasant northern suburbs soon replaced by industrial sprawl and tatty shops and cafes catering for the steady influx of Mexican day-trippers. The border crossing point resembling a maximum security prison. Tucked amongst the concrete fly-overs Border Patrol vehicles. Overhead the odd helicopter. I’d pressed on, eager to leave.

I’d eventually found a small cafe for lunch with a vacant window seat. Clientele all looked Mexican to me, a presumption reinforced by the Spanish news channel on the large TV screen. The Andre or Diego burger didn’t sound appealing, so I chose the chicken sandwich. The forlorn presumption that white meat would be the healthier option. Served in a bun rather more generous than the filling. Fortunately it was mostly downhill to Fort Hancock.

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Downtown El Paso

December 28th, 2011

Downtown El Paso. Major border crossing into Mexico…

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Crossing the Colorado

December 11th, 2011

Ken crosses the Colorado river, leaving California for Arizona. Go figure, as the locals would say…

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Bordering Mexico

December 7th, 2011

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Much of California, Arizona and New Mexico had, explained the storekeeper in Boulevard, once been part of Mexico proper. But, if the border had ever been on shifting sands, it was now firmly fixed. A stark, high fence. But not continuous. Gaps on some of the steep hillsides.

Heavy US Customs and Border Protection presence. Vehicles frequently parked up in the scrub. Part detection part deterrence. Accounting for close on half the traffic on the highway. Roadside checkpoints. Whether the focus was counter-narcotics or people-trafficking I wasn’t sure. Either way, it didn’t bear well for wild camping.

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Borderline sunset

December 7th, 2011

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Sunset over the Mexican border. Close to Jacumba, Southern California

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