John’s Journal January 11

It was a strange thing to see sticking out of the waters of the Rio Grande River.  The other kayakers said they found an SUV down the river a ways so I paddled that way to check it out.  I didn’t see it until I was just about on top of it since there was only an inch or so of the top of the car sticking out of the water and even that was covered in a layer of mud. 


Why would anyone drive an SUV into the water?  The answer I got was simple.  Mexicans and Americans can freely use the waters of the Rio Grande so long as they don’t actually come ashore on the opposite banks of the river.  The river is a no-mans land that belongs to both countries but neither country has jurisdiction over it.  That means the Border Patrol cannot arrest anyone in the river.  When a drug smuggler is found in the US and pursued, if they make it into the waters of the Rio Grande they cannot be arrested.  We figured the driver of the SUV was smuggling drugs and was afraid he was going to get caught by the Border Patrol so he drove the SUV into the Rio Grande and escaped into Mexico


We found out later when we talked to some officials that they weren’t even aware of the vehicle being there.  It makes sense since on the US side of the river there is a wildlife sanctuary where only officials are allowed and the river is off-limits to Americans.  Los Caminos del Rio, whom we were with, had special permission to be in the sanctuary and to kayak the river.  No Americans were on the river or in the wildlife sanctuary to find the SUV.  It was amazing to me how easy it is for anyone to illegally cross the border as there was virtually no security.  For the life of me I can’t understand why they would risk their lives crossing the scorching, rugged desert mountains of Arizona, New Mexico, and other parts of Mexico when it is so easy here. 

 We had a great day on the river and were in the heart of the area where Mexicans regularly cross the river.  Along the river bank we found lots of clothes and garbage bags.  The Mexicans swim across the river with dry clothes secured in a garbage bag.  When they reach the other side they throw away their wet clothes and put on the dry clothes they brought with them in the garbage bags.  On the Mexican side there were many people enjoying a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon in the park.  I talked with a friendly Mexican family fishing on the banks of the river.  I hope we find similar people when we finally cross the border and head south.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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One Response to John’s Journal January 11

  1. The Verhage Family January 15, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    Hello everybody.
    From Guatemala we would like to know how are you all and are you already cycling in Mexico?
    We got to Guatemala 3 days ago and what a difference with Mexico, they drive here like idiots, no respect for other(bikers) on the road.
    We had some narrow misses already which did not make it easy to ride.We wonder how the rest of Guatemala will be.Tomorrow we off to Xela and then onwards to Atitlan.We would like to go after this to the Carribean Coast we miss the warm weather.Maybe we will ride into Belize(still considering).
    I hope that when we in Atitlan we can make skype connection together and exchange our latest experiences.Stay in touch and safe cycling we are thinking of you a lot when there are dangerous situations on the road.
    Love Michael, Ciska, Jesse and Sammy from Huehuetenango, Guatemala

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