North America, Story, Thoughts, Travel

Nothing like a bit of Border Patrol to start your RTW

Border PatrolMy original plan for today’s post was going to be summing up our preparation and last minute details of our current round the world trip (currently 20 hours in!).

So you guys know that Shaun and I have issues with being harassed by American law enforcement. During our Burning Man road trip we were harassed multiple times, once where I was almost asked for my papers because the border patrol agent refused to believe our road trip story and that I was an American citizen. If I was asked for my papers, I probably would have flipped my shit.

I digress…

I hate feelingΒ  like I’m in a police state. The fact that I am asked what I am doing in my own country really bothers me.

I was feeling abnormally nervous about the Border Patrol stop today for some reason. I just wanted to finish our 15 hour drive from San Antonio to Phoenix. We were asked the dreaded question:

Where are you going and where are you coming from?

We are from Austin and we are going to Phoenix. This is something we had rehearsed before – not because we were lying but because we wanted to avoid any sort of suspicion that any differences in our answers would create. Much to our dismay, while our story was perfect, apparently the drug dog decided to hang out on our window.

Border Patrol Agent (BPA): Can you pull off to the side up there. We need to search your car.

Fan-freaking-tastic. We have absolutely nothing to hide but this was the icing on the cake of my Border Patrol experiences.

BPA: Turn off your car. Step out of the car and please stand far away so our K-9 does not attack you.

This is the part where I tell you that El Paso is about 30 degrees colder than Austin/San Antonio is and we were standing outside in sandals and next to nothing shivering. Shaun reaches into his pockets to warm his hands…

BPA (in a gruff voice): DO NOT PUT YOUR HANDS IN YOUR POCKETS.

Shaun and I stood there in silence. We were flabbergasted. While we may enjoy beer, we are probably some of the most annoyingly straight laced and boring people on the planet.

BPA: Do you guys smoke pot?

Shaun: No sir.

BPA: Because our dog is currently smelling something. Are you carrying a personal stash? If you tell us that you have as small amount we will just confiscate it and you can be on your way.

Shaun: No sir. We do not have anything.

I sat there fuming. Shaun is always the good guy to talk about. I’m sure I’m going to land us in jail one day.

BPA: If you don’t tell me and we find a joint, you guys are going to be in some serious trouble.

The dog continued to wag his tail happily in the back of our car, sniffing one of our backpacks. He was accompanied by another agent that looked annoyed that she was going through this much trouble to find the narcotics her dog was looking for. She looked at us looking at her (we were shaking our heads) and snarkily said,

Woman BPA: You know that our dog isn’t there to sniff out cake. He has obviously found narcotics. You should just tell us where they are.

Shaun: We don’t smoke pot and there isn’t anything in the backpack.

The other BPA was sitting there in front of us blocking us from running to our car (or from running away).

After another 5 minutes of shivering in the cold and all our perfect packing for our RTW thrown in disarray, in frustrated defeat they asked,

Woman BPA: Does anyone else use this backpack?

Shaun: No ma’am.

They shook their heads, looked at the dog, looked at us, and excused us to continue on our trip.

I was shaking I was so pissed off driving away. I am yet to make it through a border check without being harassed. We sat in the car over the next few hours trying to figure out how any trace landed on our pack.

We decided that the dog just liked cake.

76 thoughts on “Nothing like a bit of Border Patrol to start your RTW”

  1. Yikes! This may sound dumb but you had to pass through checkpoints within the US? I like how they told you if you had a small amount they’d just confiscate it… you know what they’re doing while they sit their bored waiting to check another passerby. Haha. I’m so excited that your trip has officially started!!!!

    1. @Laura: There are multiple checkpoints in every state on every major highway that touches the Mexican border so that they can catch people before they make it to mainland US. They have drug dogs smell for narcotics and hidden people and make every person stop, roll down their windows, and claim their nationality. Depending on the border check you also have to explain where you are from and where you are going and they send you through a small interrogation. All my friends and family live in the Southwest so I have to go through it often.

      1. Wow guys…like Laura I had no idea we had these checkpoints in place.

        I felt frustrated and upset reading about the way you were treated. For you two to know you’re going to be targeted based on prior experiences and have to remain calm and pleasant because responding any other way won’t aid the conversation…I have to applaud you.

        I know you expect more of the same in the future — love and hugs from all of us!

  2. Ridiculous. I still don’t understand why there was some sort of border patrol going from one state to another, that in itself is crazy. I hope that’s the only border crossing issue you have on the whole trip!

    1. @Ali: It has been like that for years. There are many from every major highway. I think we get harassed more by American law enforcement than foreign!

    1. @Aaron: I wish it was the first time but we are constantly harassed by them. I guess I wished that this time around it would be different.

  3. Yeah, I wasn’t aware either that there are border controls between US states…. wth? I’m an Indonesian passport holder and have had my shares of being questioned at the airport, but compared to how you guys were treated, the federal immigration officers I’ve had to deal with were old-fashioned gentlemen. ‘So our K9 doesn’t attack you”?!! Wth? Grah, can’t imagine how upset you must’ve been.

    1. @Jill: The border patrols are less concerned about the states and more about drugs and people from Mexico – but still, it drives me insane. They are never nice.

  4. I had no idea there was border control between US states! That’s so bizarre. Reading it, I was thinking you must be crossing the Canadian border… but then your story of moving from Austin to Phoenix just wasn’t making any sense. Haha. What’s the reasoning behind state border control? These officers sound like total dicks! Hope it’s nothing but smooth sailing from now on! πŸ™‚

    1. @Kristina: They are related to the national border patrol but are there to keep people from making it to inland US. Since we were coming from an area where you could have made a border crossing (El Paso, TX) they check every car.

  5. What douches. I also would’ve been so pissed. This type of shit has happened to me before and it’s just profiling and it pisses me off. The good news is that your olive skin is going to help you out heaps in Central & South America!!!

    Almost out of the U.S. – just a couple more days…. So I have to ask – were you in Arizona at this time? I love the state but man for whatever reason so many cops and authority figures there just suck balls.

  6. Oh yes too, they even have some in California and they have one between Nevada and CA too for fruits & veggies (but it’s not up all the time). I am so sick of the freaking immigration bullshit. We are all immigrants! I totally understand you because for some reason I hate border patrol more than any of the other government idiots and have dealt w/ them so many times between San Diego & Mexico. Ohhh…yes, I actually know someone too that got pulled over at the checkpoint in AZ and got busted for pot. All she got was a fine but had to get a lawyer, yadda, yadda….

  7. Maybe it was scent of the ferrets? We adopted a retired shepherd a long time ago that would trigger on people who had cats.. which was half the people we knew. Seemed kind of ineffective. πŸ™‚ Glad you made it through, I don’t miss the checkpoints AT ALL. The guys are always jerks.

  8. That sounds absolutely ridiculous.. What jerks!! Still, at least you managed to get through ok eventually, and now you have a story to tell πŸ™‚

  9. WOW. Whenever I travel with my (Mexican) father, they always treat him poorly. It’s so ridiculous–he’s been living legally in the States, longer than he’s even lived in his home country! I understand Border Patrol is there for our protection, but the profiling takes it way too far. Hope you’re feeling better and are looking forward to much more exciting things, like your trip!! πŸ™‚

  10. Sounds to me that this might be the worst border crossing you will have on your whole trip! We crossed into 14 countries and only had good experiences. Good luck…and Congrat-u-freaking-lations for being on the road!!! Cheers!

    1. @Gillian: I can only hope it won’t be as bad. I’ve never had this bad of an experience abroad. My countrymen don’t like me!

  11. Wow! That’s frustrating. I guess the dogs are trained to search, but really, to go through all that in the first place without probable cause is horrible.

    I made the mistake of flying in from Colombia to Florida last year, travelling on my own, having only spent a few days in Colombia after Ecuador, as I was meeting friends in Orlando. Apparently young male backpackers travelling on their own who don’t know anyone in Colombia and are only there for three days tick just about every box on the ‘profile-o-meter’, as I was the very last person from our plane to finally get through customs. πŸ™‚

    To be fair, he was very polite about it and did ask if I realised why he was asking these questions, but I still dislike the profiling action πŸ˜‰

    Keep on trucking, may your experiences only get better from there on in!!

    1. @Mark: LOL! Oh Mark wow. Yeah, it was like you were a walking target at that point. It is just funny because somehow tattoos are associated with smoking pot. I worked in the industry for years. I can say with confidence that most of the artists and clientele do not!

  12. “I’m sure I’m going to land us in jail one day.”

    -this is me and why I let Keith do all of the talking when it comes to anything official. My smart ass attitude won’t help matters. πŸ˜‰

    Hope the rest of the trip is not nearly as…eventful!

  13. That really sucks! As a brown man (Indian), i can feel your pain. Happens with alarming frequency every time I am going through airports and border patrols, though not usually for drugs!

    Hopefully, you got the bad stuff taken care of right at the start and it’s just smooth sailing now!

    1. @Shutterfeet: No dark chocolate in my bag. I have bad experiences with forgetting about it and leaving bags in the sun. I’m so glad we had nothing to hide. I can imagine how people feel if they are carrying something.

  14. Oh man I am sorry you had to go through that at the start of this big trip. Its like you already have a million things to worry about & now you went through this. I hate border control… that shit happens to me & my fam all the time when heading south in Texas. Sometimes its just profiling & that is just wrong. Just brush this off & continue on to the amazing new life y’all are starting!

  15. Yuck! What a sucky story — so sorry you had to deal with this in the start of your trip. I hope the rest of your drive down goes okay.

    1. @Akila: I’m hoping this doesn’t set the tone for the rest of our trip but honestly, it can only go up from here right? πŸ˜‰

  16. Brutal – what a very unfortunate way to start your adventure – super sorry to hear that….hopefully this is the worst border crossing you have to deal with…It’s all downhill from this point forward!

  17. So, I just remembered my dog’s trainer telling me a story where an airport k-9 security dog was found pulling people over if they had dark chocolate with them πŸ˜›

    Were you carrying any Erica?

  18. So it is definitely inconvenient having to go through these checks but the attitude makes it doubly worse. I don’t understand the attitude!

    Last December we drove to San Felipe from the Palm Springs area. On the way back from Mexicali we had to stop at a border check (after we were in the US). They had theses cameras a ways in front of the actual check. They were taking pictures of the license plates and checking them by the time you got to the check point. At least his way, they knew who to stop, I guess.

    Onwards and upwards from here!

    1. @Debbie: The attitude is what gets me as well. You’re talked to like you’re guilty of killing kittens! I wouldn’t have minded as much if they were nice about it.

  19. Try not to be discouraged, guys. Some people are just stupid ar*eholes with little to do with their lives than be pig-headed, judgemental ignoramuses. This is their failing, not yours. Hope the rest of your travels are happy and incident-free! =)

  20. oh for EFF’s sake. so sorry that happened to you guys when you should actually be on your MERRY way. that just has to be boring as all fuck and this is how they make it “exciting”
    so glad you’re past it and hopefully it’s smooth sailing from here on out. you deserve it sweeties! πŸ™‚ <3

    1. @Lorna: I think I was more upset that I was treated like a criminal more than anything. First of all, even if I DID smoke I sure as hell wouldn’t try to take it across a border check. Secondly, we didn’t do anything remotely suspicious besides looking like we do. I’m hoping this is all over (until we drive back lol!)

  21. This is RIDICULOUS. I can’t believe the nerve of these people! And it totally sounds like a real live episode of Breaking Bad to me (which if you haven’t seen it, is based in New Mexico and deals with moving meth around the Southwest!).

    1. @Kristin: So bad. They are like this all the time. Honestly, it didn’t surprise me that they did end up searching us. They wanted to do it before. I wonder if we had been tagged because we had been through the border so many time as well.

        1. @Nick: Yeah, it has been there for a better part of 20 years now. I remember yelling “AMERICAN!” at the top of my lungs when we would pass through the checkpoints.

  22. Wow, pretty ridiculous. “Don’t put your hands in your pocket”?! I haven’t had such experiences anywhere, but I feel Europe is slowly getting there.. I hope I’m wrong, it’s just humiliating and makes unpleasant any travel experience.
    Congrats on the start of your trip, looking forward to your next adventures!

    1. @Angela: Humiliating is a good way to put it. I’ve had my fair share of experiences like this but this one in particular takes the cake.

    1. @Alisha: It was in New Mexico too! The one coming back from El Paso to Austin is god awful too though. Lets make the meet up happen!

  23. Don’t they need probable cause to search your vehicle? Or is a cake loving dog wagging its flea ridden tail probable cause enough these days?

    sorry you had to be subject to that garbage!

    1. @Joshy: That appears to be probable cause now. I think if I would have blinked at them funny they would have called it probable cause.

  24. Ugh. I don’t even know what else to say. It’s one thing if they’re just doing their job cuz the dog smells something (or they think it does), but there’s just no freaking reason for them to be so damn snarky about it.

    1. @Christy: If they were more respectful about it, I don’t think I would have been nearly as pissed off. I’m just annoyed it keeps happening.

  25. Thats annoying I think that they just wanted something to smoke themselves. Maybe the dog was just tired of being there with them and heard you two were going on a RTW trip and wanted to join.

  26. That’s so annoying. But in the brighter side, it’s great that you already have a travel story to tell πŸ™‚ Bon Voyage, guys! I’m so excited for you!! 2 years ago at the 15th of April, we left Canada for the backpacking around the world. I loved the sensation of leaving. You guys coming to Central America, right? Too bad we are leaving Central America soon.

  27. OMG!!! I seriously can’t believe how awfully they treated you and Shaun! That is SO uncalled for. I actually didn’t realize there were checkpoints like that within the US–I guess the only times I’ve gone that far in that direction, I have flown. I have dealt with the insanity of the Mexican border stops, but I am shocked that they put you guys through that much grief just in the US, and when you were doing nothing wrong! Awful. I’m so sorry about that πŸ™ I hope you don’t encounter much other trouble like that, and that you have a fantastic journey!!! xoxo

    1. @Emily: It happens so often now that I’m not surprised when it happens, more annoyed than anything. As for getting into Mexico, I had the quickest immigration pass ever!

  28. oh I remember those border check up. Me and my fiance were driving up to Montreal. They ask him if he was in any gang, and ask me who is he and show them my enegment ring too. Sometime it just odd.

  29. Congrats on your trip~!!!!!!!!! I’m so excited to start following your blog as we prepare for our RTW in the far future (as we save up). Best of luck!

    1. @Tracey: Thank you so much! If you have ANY questions, please feel free to ask. We have loads of information! πŸ˜€ Good luck on your savings!

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