Just west of Yuma, Arizona, right across the border crossing at Andrade, is the little Mexican town of Los Algodones. Driving down the two-lane road south of Interstate 8, following the exit sign that says “Mexico” with an arrow pointed the same direction you are headed, you pass the local Quechan Casino on your right and also the All-American Canal, sending water for irrigation to the nearby agriculture fields.
And then, seemingly all of a sudden, there it is. The border. You park in the six-dollar parking lot on your right, lock your car, and follow someone else who looks like they know where they’re going… which is what my “normal” plan would have been except the day I was there, nobody else was around so I just kind of pointed myself towards what I thought might be the walkway to Mexico and acted like I knew what I was doing since there are no big signs saying “go that-a way.” (If you do like I did the first time and miss the parking lot driveway as you’re driving in, you can make a u-turn just a few feet from the actual border, and go back to the driveway.)
There’s no big Mexican border control building to walk through or by, no Mexican border agents (that I could see anyway) – it’s almost like passing through someone’s backyard as you walk along the sidewalk, aiming yourself south. I mean, Mexico has to be somewhere there, right?
It’s a quiet little town, seemingly still asleep on a quiet Sunday morning, with very few people on the streets and almost nobody in the shops. As I walk down the sidewalk, past the vendors representing their wares, I’m impressed by how clean everything looks and how polite the vendors are – I guess I’m used to the more insistent hawkers in other border towns I’ve been through, who act as if you are their very last hope if they’re going to be eating dinner tonight! As for the cleanliness, the streets and sidewalks looked as if they’d been swept up just minutes before I arrived. As I walk down the (clean) street, looking at the signs of the businesses, it appears that, for all intents and purposes, this little town is here just for all the old people, I mean seniors, who come south in the winter looking for some warmer weather… and some cheap eyeglasses, dental work and prescriptions. Everyone I encountered along the way spoke English and all the stores take US dollars. How much easier can they make it to shop here? I didn’t buy anything from a street vendor but I imagine the same would hold true there, as well.
I took my list of medications to a farmacia to stock up on some meds – yes, they are the same as the ones we pay the big bucks for here on this side of the border and yes, they are very cheap compared to what we pay here, even if it’s Wal-Mart’s four-bucks for a month’s generics. I paid about $14 for 100 days worth of medications that would normally cost me $40 for 90 days on the generic plan at any US pharmacy. I also went next door and grabbed a half-liter bottle of my favorite tequila and I headed for the border. Again. Only this time, I’m wanting back into the US. All goes well – I don’t try to take more drugs across than I’m supposed to, I stick to the ones that are not controlled substances, and I don’t try to take a case of booze back with me. There are even bougainvillea in bloom along the fence!
I’m back at my little trailer in no time, ready to do it again another day. Only next time, I’m staying for lunch – I saw some great little places to grab a taco or two. Who wants to come with me?