Saturday, December 4, 2010

One Little Wrong Turn...

(actual speed of vehicles in typical Tijuana traffic circle)

It was a great time of celebrating the marriage of a young couple -- Sergio & Laurena Montes -- in Tijuana last night. They were DTS students here back in '08, and then staff ever since. It was a cool wedding and a privilege to be there.

Then came the long, multi-vehicle caravan through Zona Rio to the reception (ten vans/cars, I believe). Only the lead car knew where it was, and we ended up threading our precarious way through Friday evening rush hour traffic, being cut off and cutting others off in the traffic circles in a valiant effort to keep the vehicle each of us was following in sight. At last, we all arrived, with only one car missing due to a fender bender (they wandered lost for awhile but eventually found the rest of us).

Mission accomplished. And the reception was great.

(this map is an under-statement)
Then came the reverse journey. The traffic, if possible, was even worse. We were following the Australians who were following the Mexicans, and we got trapped in a merge lane, and by the time we got going, the cars we were following were long gone.

We tried to guess the route, but made one little wrong turn, and instantly groaned as we realized that we had accidentally joined the one-way funnel leading to the USA border.

Well, no biggie. We'll just wait in line here for the next hour or so, and then explain that we made a wrong turn, and they'll let us return to Mexico. Piece o' cake.

Oops. None of us has our passports. We weren't planning on crossing any international borders when we left for the wedding, after all. Still, they'll surely understand about an innocent little wrong turn.

No, it's worse. Only the driver (me) has any identification at all, and we have one of the Australian kids (my daughter's friend) with us, who also has no ID of any kind. And her Aussie accent clearly says she's not our kid. But hey, it's just a simple wrong turn, right?

(actual conversation not exactly as shown)
The guy at the border doesn't believe we made a wrong turn. No matter how many times we tell him that we just want to return to Mexico, he's convinced that we're trying to sneak into the USofA.

We are sent to the black hole known as "Secondary Inspection", where time has no meaning.

The second guy makes some rather salty comments about @#$%! Canadians, or people who claim to be Canadians but they suspect really aren't, and leaves us to ponder our sins for another 2.5 hours as we are ignored by the clone army.

Three different guards came and looked at the accusatory orange note tucked under my windshield wiper, which made much of us "claiming" to be Canadians -- with a BC license plate on the car, a BC driver's license, my Canadian birth certificate (which made them even more suspicious for some reason), and Canadian accents that were, like, beauty, eh?

Finally, after each of the three guards had heard our "wrong turn" story, and then wandered away muttering dark and dire predictions on the seriousness of it all, they came and took my wife, my daughter, and our daughter's Australian friend to another building for interrogation, and photographed Wendy (because she's really pretty, obviously) and finger-printed her (sort of like getting her nails done, but on the other side).

I sat in the car, listening to "Refugee" by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

And then, finally -- glory hallelujah -- we were escorted to that special gate for all those being kicked back into Mexico at the border. The other drivers in that line-up immediately waved us in. I guess there's some kind of sympathetic solidarity among people entering Mexico when they see someone being denied access to the USofA.

When we finally got back, there were quite of number of highly agitated and worried friends and family members (our son, the Australian family, numerous other YWAM staff) waiting for us. Being AWOL in Tijuana for over three hours, especially after midnight, has that effect on people.

All because of one little wrong turn...


  1. Great story. As I'm reading it I'm thinking... is this for real. Yikes.

    Our experience on those roads was our first time in a taxi with no seat belts for the kids. We've since been in Mexico enough to get over that. But that was our first stress. Then I was certain our driver was not driving us to the US border. I kept thinking it wasn't this long of a drive from the border. And we did so many loops I thought the driver was taking us south... so he could steal my $10 watch or something. He said it was a shortcut. But after looking at that map I understand. :)

  2. Ah...the adventurous life of a missionary... =) Great story man!

  3. Uncle Rob... I watched "Due Date" last week, and the exact same thing that happened to you happens in the movie! You should watch the movie just for the part that they too make a wrong turn and end up at the Mexico boarder!!