Canada to Mexico

On October 25, 2012 · 8 Comments

The Twelve Mile Circle continues to generate all sorts of interesting search engine queries, an endless stream of potential article topics. I remember back in the early days of the blog I had to come up with everything myself. That’s rarely an issue anymore. Case in point, someone wanted to know the shortest way to drive from Canada to Mexico.

I don’t know why someone would necessarily want or need this knowledge. One would have to cross through the United States any which way one slices it. This led me to conclude that perhaps my unknown visitor had an issue with the United States. He didn’t like it for some reason. Maybe he was a wanted criminal or an aging Vietnam War draft-dodger? Are the U.S. military authorities still looking for those guys? Never mind. Let’s just say they are for the sake of this exercise.

Maybe he’s a smuggler concealing something of particular value to people in Mexico but not to people in the United States? The query didn’t provide specifics so I’ll make them up. Let’s help our draft-dodging smuggler of Chinese counterfeit soccer balls make it through the United States as quickly as possible. He’ll have to obey speed limits to avoid police attention and he’ll have to use default routes generated by Google Maps as a proxy because he’s unfamiliar with the dangerous U.S. territory he will cover.

At first I wanted to set up a matrix. I intended to calculate both the distance and time between every U.S. border crossing with Canada and Mexico. I abandoned that when I counted 117 Canadian and 47 Mexican possibilities (117 X 47 = 5,499 combinations, both for time and distance). As much as I enjoy and respect the 12MC audience, it’s not productive for me to calculate 10,998 different numbers simply to determine the absolutely minimal times and distances. I took some educated guesses instead. It’s possible that others may improve upon these marginally, and perhaps even meaninfgully.



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Residents of Vancouver, British Columbia probably have it the best. Traveling via the Douglas, BC crossing to the Tijuana (West) crossing in Baja California would take 22 hours and 43 minutes over a distance of 2,223 kilometres (1,381 miles). That’s less than a day! Also, now that we realize Google Maps overestimates travel times, one could probably shave another hour or two from that figure with continuous driving and make it to the safety of the Mexican border posthaste.



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I wondered if I could discover a shorter Pacific Coastal route. The original one swings out to the west albeit it takes complete advantage of an efficient and swiftly-moving Interstate 5. Would a shorter route, one more closely aligned with a line of longitude make a difference? Actually, no. I replicated the exercise starting from the Paterson, BC border crossing instead. Oddly, it was both longer and less timely. Examining the map (above) it seemed to unfold this way because of the wobbly nature of obscure roads selected for the trip. Notice several jogs east and west that increased the total distance (2,305 km / 1,432 mi) and time (25 hours).



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There was another route. It surprised me how closely it challenged the Pacific Coastal route, although it wouldn’t benefit many Canadians. Maybe residents of Regina, Saskatchewan could use it. Otherwise it’s fairly remote from population centers. This one ran from the Oungre, SK border crossing to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, on the Bridge of the Americas crossing. Google maps predicts that the U.S. transit would cover 2,220 km (1,379 mi), over 23 hours 18 minutes. See what I mean? Three kilometers shorter although 45 minutes longer.



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Finally I attempted a diagonal route, taking advantage of the southern boundary dip following the contours of the Great Lakes. It’s a little longer (2,596 km / 1,402 mi) and couldn’t be done in a single day (27 hours). However, potentially, many more Canadians could take advantage of it due to its relative proximity to Toronto and Montréal. This one goes from Windsor, Ontario to Piedras Negras, Coahuila.

The worst option? It’s probably Campobello Island, NB to Tijuana (West). That’s 5,438 km (3,379 mi) over 55 hours (map).

Hopefully this will offer plenty of options for my Canadian draft-dodging soccer ball smuggler.

On October 25, 2012 · 8 Comments

8 Responses to “Canada to Mexico”

  1. Philip Sites says:

    If you want to include the Victoria, B.C. ferry ride, Google Maps spits out a 23 hour, 12 minute estimate (from the Ferry Boat ramp to Port Angeles, WA to Tijuana). It’s also the “shortest” route at 2,175 km. I can’t get Google to get me time and distance on taking the Victoria Clipper to Seattle instead (a more common route for most people), but that’s probably because it is passenger-only (you’d then need a car upon arrival in Seattle).

    Now, if we bend the rules and make the starting point the Port of Call in Port Angeles, then you get a 22 hour, 9 minute estimate clocking in at 1,326 miles on American soil. If you extend the “start” time from the maritime Canada/US border, then Google estimates a 2,151 km journey at 22 hours and 27 minutes. Still the shortest time…

    And no…doesn’t appear like you could pull this same trick with the Sandusky, OH port of call.

  2. Peter says:

    Travel time estimates on Google Maps do not take border crossing delays into account. If time is of the essence our hypothetical smuggler* might be better off taking a longer route if it involves a less-busy port of entry into the United States. Though that brings up the question of whether vehicle searches tend to be more cursory at the busy crossings.

    A bigger omission on Google Maps’ directions, something that came up yesterday in a different forum, is that they don’t have an option for showing low overpass clearances, which of course can be vitally important for truck drivers or even people with large RV’s.

    * = perhaps the smuggler has Cuban cigars, legal in both Canada and Mexico but not in the United States

  3. Fredrik says:

    I think there are some longer routes from Maine to Tijuana. I found one at 5,486 changing the starting point to somewhere near Florenceville-Bristol, NB. Or if you really badly want to break the 5,500 mark you could smash the old border station at Listerville, NB… :) This would be 5,501. From Edmundston the Canadian route through Toronto is the fastest, but adding a dot in northern Maine adds another 110 km.

  4. Brian Casey says:

    The preferred route for long-distance motorcyclists doing the Iron Butt Association’s Border-to-Border Insanity (B2Bi) ride, is from Los Algodones, just west of Yuma, Arizona, to Coutts, Alberta at the northern end of Interstate 15, near Sweet Grass, Montana. From Los Algodones, you go north on US-95 to Las Vegas, then head north on Interstate 15 the rest of the way.

    At 1408 miles, this route is slightly longer in distance than Tijuana->Douglas, but even Google Maps shows it with a shorter travel time, at 22 hours 23 minutes.

    The big advantage of this route for riders attempting a B2Bi is the quick border crossing times at both ends. Tijuana is a major crossing, subject to long delays, and Douglas, BC is also one of the busiest border crossings around. Both Los Algodones and Coutts see relatively little border crossing activity — important to an Iron Butt rider, since the 24-hour time period for the B2Bi ride starts before the border crossing into the U.S, and ends after the border crossing leaving the U.S.

    • Brian Casey says:

      The other advantage of Los Algodones->Coutts over Tijuana->Douglas is traffic — Interstate 5 includes areas of potentially heavy traffic like San Diego, Orange County, downtown Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland/Vancouver, and Seattle/Tacoma. Los Algodones->Coutts has only Las Vegas and Salt Lake City as potential traffic worries.

  5. Joe says:

    Not that this gives a direct answer, but I found a source online with the latitude and longitude of most of the crossings. Downloading them to excel and using a formula to calculate absolute distance (i.e. as the crow flies), the shortest distance it found was between the Andrade (MEX) and Trail Creek Stn (Summer)(CAN) crossings at a distance of 1,125.06 miles (Andrade to Roosville came in at 1,125.12 miles).

    I have numerous leads I still need to try in Google Maps, but the best I’ve found so far are 2,256 KM (1,401 Miles) between Tecate (MEX) and Lynden (CAN) and 22 hours, 37 minutes between Calexico (MEX) and Sweetgrass (CAN). I’m going to try many more combinations tomorrow and see how much I can improve both.

    • Joe says:

      Update: I’ve checked every crossing I found with an absolute distance under 1,200 km, and here are my winners:

      Shortest Distance (tie)
      Bridge of the Americas 31.764708 -106.451583
      Raymond 48.999728 -104.574337
      Good Neighbor Bridge 31.749316 -106.482418
      Raymond 48.999728 -104.574337
      Both of these come in at a distance of 2,204 km or 1,369 miles.

      Shortest time
      Otay Mesa 32.542324 -117.028112
      Sweetgrass 48.996464 -111.954818
      22 hours and 24 minutes

      For all of my checks, I used the exact latitude/longitude provided by my source withing trying to “cut corners”. As a result, some of the routes required U-turns and/or some driving in Mexico or Canada before crossing into the US. Therefore, one can probably refine the points slightly to shave a couple km or minutes. In particular, it looks like the Bridge of the Americas lat/long is in a very inefficient location for this exercise, and the route from it to Raymond could easily be reduced to 2,200 km even.

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