Canada to Mexico

On October 25, 2012 · 9 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.

One Flew Over the Void

On April 26, 2011 · Comments Off on One Flew Over the Void

International borders serve as fodder for frequently recurring topics on the Twelve Mile Circle. I’ve written about borders in tunnels, borders across islands, borders creating odd exclaves and even a border that I crossed of dubious legality. However none of those approach the epic heights of one particularly noteworthy border crossing that took place in 2005. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it at the time. I just learned of it while researching another completely different topic that I will reveal to you in a few days (with special recognition for anyone who can figure it out).

David Smith Sr. is the patriarch of a notable family of human cannonballs. That’s right, I said human cannonballs, those people who shoot themselves from cannons at circuses, county fairs and various other public specticals. He’s traveled the world as he’s practiced his unusual art. At one time he even held the world record for the longest human cannonball flight until his son David Smith Jr. improved upon the distance.

The life of a professional human cannonballer might seem a bit odd, but that doesn’t make him a living embodiment of geo-oddities. No, David Smith Sr. crossed that threshold when he shot himself over the international boundary between Mexico and the United States as documented on YouTube.

The Independent reported,

Smith climbed into the barrel of the cannon on a beach in Tijuana on Saturday and flashed his US passport. About 600 people applauded as he soared about 150ft before landing uninjured in a net in Border Field State Park in San Diego. US border patrol agents and an ambulance were waiting near by.

He’d made arrangements with border officials ahead of time to make sure this was a legal crossing, so no worries there. I like the part where someone asks him why he did it and he says, "for money… I get paid!"

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There was an interesting premise behind this stunt. It’s included as part of a public art partnership between San Diego and Tijuana, a symbolic bit of performance art in this instance. A Venezuelan artist specializing in video installations, Javier Tellez, conceived of and organized the project along with psychiatric patients from Mexicali as a form of therapy.

He titled this artwork, "One Flew Over the Void" I’m going to guess with fair certainty that the title drew its inspiration from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I’m not sure if that’s a little tasteless, a stroke of genius or a bit of both.

That same year, a month earlier than the launch, the MythBusters television show aired an episode about the possibility of illegal aliens crossing the border using giant slingshots. It included clips of human cannonballs to craft a theory. The hosts concluded that a slingshot was not feasible. The device wouldn’t work as portrayed in the myth, and if it did then it would likely kill the person flung. That leads me to wonder if Javier Tellez received inspiration from MythBusters or whether it was merely a strange coincidence.

A giant slingshot apparently wouldn’t do the trick but Javier Tellez and David Smith Sr. provided indisputable proof that a giant cannon would work just fine. There haven’t been any reports of border crossings via cannon since 2005 as far as I can determine so apparently that’s not feasible in any practical sense. I’m sure border control agents would be able to spot a humongous cannon as it rolled up to the fence.

A user comment I spotted on one of the websites covering the event summed it up best: "When will we see a man of his caliber again?"

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