To Baja and back again

Will south of the border remain the same in a post-Trump world?

A small mercado near K-38 serves up authentic Mexican breakfast along with groceries and beer.
  • A small mercado near K-38 serves up authentic Mexican breakfast along with groceries and beer.

After what appeared to be a never-ending campaign of presidential media blitzes, president-elect Donald Trump won the race. Lost the popular — but who’s counting? And now, a storm is coming, but the conditions are right for a small window of overhead waves with glassy faces.

In the midst of a thousand speculations on what would happen to the border under a Trump regime, my friends and I decided to pack the car and head down for another Baja surf trip.

Desayuno

Our first surf stop was at 38 km down, just below the giant Jesus statue who stands 50 feet tall, arms open at the top of the mountain. Needless to say the charts aligned, and several hours of amazing surfing took place.

Afterwards, we were looking to refuel with an authentic Mexican breakfast. My friends and I walk up the dirt road, past broken-down properties and a spray-painted fence. The colors are bright in contrast to the browning cement. A bright purple head of Jimi Hendrix surrounded by bulging lettering that seems to jump off the placards. At the top is a small mercado. Zach knows about this place from a previous journey and is pretty darn excited to be back.

“Best huevos rancheros around. Perfect for after a surf,” he winks, and we walk into the mini mart.

Walking into the small cement room, I can tell they've got what we need. One aisle for groceries, one cooler for ice cream, one fridge full of beers, and what looks like a mini-diner, eight stools long with a white countertop. The coffee is hot and the stove smoking.

“Buenos dias senoras, tres huevos rancheros y tres café con leche por favor.”

As we eat the perfect breakfast, the eldest women explains to us that she owns this market and has worked here for 40 years. The young girl beside her, helping in the kitchen and smiling brightly, is her granddaughter. The tortillas and beans continue to land on our plates until we can’t eat anymore. We express our gratitude, and she express her own.

There was the image: a tender woman with calloused hands proving hot food and a little simple truth. Money can’t buy happiness, but working hard for your beautiful family can.

Noticing some local artwork along the roadside in Rosarito.

Noticing some local artwork along the roadside in Rosarito.

The return crossing

The rest of the trip can be summarized as surfing several epic hours more and hooting at one another every time spray shot out the back. The day winds down, and it’s time to head back north before the work week. We hop back in the hatchback to scoot across the San Ysidro border.

Kevin explains his master plan:

“So I got the Sentri pass but only I can cross with it. What we can do is you guys get out near the border, and cross on foot. It should only take like 15 minutes.”

One gas station and five dollars later, a taxi directs us to the Sentri lane. The car comes to a stop, and Zach and I hop out. Nothing unusual about this, apparently, because no one looks twice. A sign indicates where the pedestrian crossing is, and of course, today it appears to be three hours long.

In our moment of despair, the words ring out “Six dollar shuttle saves you two hours.” Within minutes we fall in line and board what could either be our quick salvation or, based on appearances alone, a potential murder bus.

We laugh off the latter. The shuttle packs full, a few people standing, then drives into the line for charter buses. We end up back in the same area we started, but in a 20-minute line instead of two hours. Funny $6 loophole.

Once at the front of the line, we wait at the entrance to the embassy building. The man in the badge looks weary and alert at the same time. Quite a feat.

I ask, “Are you working the ten-hour shift or what? They got you stuck here all day?”

He makes a quick eye contact with Zach and me. A smile pops up where only sunken eyes were once scanning. “Nah man. I’m on the 16-hour shift. I’ll be doing the same thing tomorrow and the next day too.” It’s a hapless smile.

“Shoot. Hopefully you don’t have kids then or else you would be working the double-double.”

He chuckles again, livening up with the conversation. “No, no kids. If you see those guys in there with the big bags under their eyes… those are the guys with kids. But once the paycheck comes in, the overtime hours are worth it I tell you.”

The building opens up, and with little more than a nod and a smile we both enter the building and pass through, ushered in by our U.S. passports.

Back home

I look behind me at the 25-foot barricade and the bright lights of the San Ysidro border crossing. There's a small thought in the back of my mind that this simple trip down could prove impossible as new initiatives are set in place. The hardest hit would be those without U.S. passports. Regardless of allowing citizenship, it seems obvious that those looking to reunite with their families should be able to do so with dignity.

Each time I venture across the border, my hourglass fills up with new memories and experiences. Some edgier than others. My Spanish grows by four or five new words, and I'm left wanting to know more. The culture is far too rich and the oceans too wide open to stop me from making the journey down. If I were to place my bets on the next four years, they would be on Baja California remaining Baja California — with paradise in a plate of huevos rancheros and comfort in a Latina’s warm smile.

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