Saturday, September 11, 2010

Welcome to California!

It took us two days and two nights to get down to Oregon/California border. Still feeling excited about managing to snap a picture "Welcome to California" like real tourists that have never been here and are trying to document this historical moment, we pulled in front of a border patrol gates. Do you know there is border patrol gates entering California? Neither did we!

No, they didn't want to see our passports, or check our visas or immigration status, or count how much money we had with us. They wanted our fruits and vegetables!
"Hello, folks! I see this sticker in the corner of your windshield. It means you are coming from the East," a border patrol ranger was very friendly greeting our traveling crew.
"Yes, we are coming from Pennsylvania," we announced, hoping that would be OK.
"Oh, I need you to pull over to the side. I will have to inspect your trailer."
There was an obvious surprised look on our faces and she laughingly added: "...for the gypsy moth egg masses".
"Yes, Mam." There was nothing we could do and we'd better obey.

Curious, we had so many questions and since the ranger was so friendly we asked her permission to snap a few photos as well. We got a green light to photograph the facility and kept on interrogating HER, trying to grasp what it was all about.

"We have 16 border patrol stations across California on all major highways. Since we are an agricultural state and grow a lot of crops, we are trying to make sure the chances of new invasive pests getting in and making a new home here, in sunny California, are slim to none. If any egg masses are found, I'll have to scrape them off," the ranger explained.
She got her flashlight and rolled under the Airstream on her cart. I think she was excited to do it. It probably broke the routine of her day. How many cars does she have to check coming from PA, anyway? I don't think that many.

After the inspection of the world down under, she said she needed to see what was in our refrigerator. Oh, boy! We had just gone grocery shopping in Oregon, 15 minutes up the road and stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies for a few days. "If she had to confiscate all the fruits and veggies, we would have a royal picnic right here, by the border patrol," I quickly came up with a plan in my head.

We followed the request and opened the frig.
"Apples. OK. Red peppers, OK. Cucumbers and broccoli, good to go," the ranger was scrupulously going through the stuff on the shelves.
"Oh, let me see those avocados," she said with a tone in her voice, giving us a warning that could be a problem.
My thoughts started rushing in my head,"What?! Those avocados were most likely grown in California, and now we can't bring them back?"
The ranger pointed with a flashlight to the spot where the avocados had a stem and explained:
" A lot of times there is that tiny, insignificant pest that lives on the stem. And we don't want them. Yours look fine."
To my question about what kind of fruits and veggies she was looking for, the ranger gladly gave us an answer:
"Oh, all the citruses, like lemons, and oranges, and mandarins and clementines. Plus all the exotic ones , like mangoes, papayas, etc. Those are on the red list."

Then there were a few questions about on what kind of waters we had used our canoe. Since it was on a fresh water lake in Montana, there were no more questions asked.

We got our orange slip that would be valid on any other agricultural border patrol station to show that our vehicles had been inspected.
"So, now we have our bottoms all cleaned up!", Mirek was joking with the ranger.
I was glad we didn't have to devour our 3 days supplies of veggies and fruits and happily we continued south, choosing to go east on Rt. 299 and explore Salmon Trinity Alps wilderness and Shasta Pass.


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