Monday, August 20, 2012

America's Most Wanted

So I've heard all of these stories about how serious the law enforcement is in the States, especially in Texas, but I never expected to actually come into contact with it... I have however come into very close contact with said enforcement twice since I've been here, both times within about 12 hours of each other. Go figure right? But not to worry, it turned out well both times because no, I was not doing anything crazy illegal or dumb. Just bad timing and luck on my part apparently!

Thursday Night:
So one thing about me when I travel, is that I'm terrified of loosing my passport. I never want to have to be that person stuck in a foreign country with a stolen passport going what the heck do I do know! So I try to always leave my passport tucked away safe somewhere, and I definitely don't carry it around on my on a daily basis because I know I'd leave it somewhere by accident. Apparently I should rethink this when driving around Southern Texas though... It all started with Stuart (crewing for the Australian team) and I decided to get out of town and away from the light pollution to check out the stars because they're pretty incredible down here. So we drove maybe 30 miles out of town (a little bit further then we thought we had), pulled up next to a ranch in the middle of no where and hopped out to do some star gazing. And wow were they ever beautiful! You could clearly see hundreds of them, and even a huge part of the milky way, absolutely incredible. It's easy to get lost in the sky when it looks like that and it got kind of late so we headed back, and it was about 10 miles out of Uvalde that we hit trouble. Because that area is fairly close to the border, they have these border patrol checkpoints set up aroud on main highways and roads that everyone has to stop through, usually it only take a minute or two. Actually we had gone through one on the way to retrieve Nick and had no problems! I had totally forgotten there was one on this side of the road back into town and it was a bit or a surprise to be turning off into it all of a sudden. It was past midnight at this point though and the checkpoint was completely empty, so all attention was on us. This is the wonderful start that the conversation took:
Boarder guard: Citizenship?
Us: Canadian and Australian
Guard: Passports please
Us: *pregnant pause* We don't have them on us, they're back in Uvalde. We just drove out of town to look at stars!
Guard: You need to have your passports on you. I'm going to need you to pull over off to the left please.
Oh good. So over we pull, he takes our ID's and heads inside with them. Meanwhile there was two other guards standing around while a third one and a dog sniffed around the car (thank goodness there was nothing interesting for the dog!). The two asked us what we were doing here (weird combination in Uvalde right?) so we started explaining about the World's and what our part there was. Turns out both of them had heard about what was going on an were really interested in it! We had a good chat with them about gliding and how it works, what the contest was all about and how long we had been there for. They were really friendly and relaxed which made it a little bit better, but then the third one came back out walking with quite a purpose. Turns out they don't enjoy having to look up ID and did a whole background check on us and where he had travelled...impressive how easily and quickly they have access to all of that. Then there was a whole bunch of talk about records being unclear and having to dig through stuff in files, which was followed by some sentence involving the word "deported". Bad bad word. I mean we both love our own countries but we'd like to go back out of free will thank you! He didn't really seem to have grounds to do that though, but he did give us a huge talking to about not having our passports and all that jazz, making sure it was clear that we knew how easy it would be to get shipped home. It was pretty nerve wracking that's for sure! Finally we got the ID's back and were sent on our way (with waves and byes from the other two guards) and off we went. Never been so happy to see the sign for Uvalde! I mean I love a good adventure but not that much of one. So note to self, if I'm ever back in that part of Texas, bring a passport with you the minute you head out of town. It did give us a pretty funny story for the next day at the field though that for sure.

Friday morning:
On my way back to the house after the meeting I was passing a car that was swerving a bit and making me nervous to drive behind, but I made the mistake of accelerating a little bit over the 50mph speed limit. Within about 10 seconds of getting in front of this guy there was a cop behind me with its lights flashing, oh yay! Not so much. So I pull over in the church parking lot, and I'm sweating bullets because I don't have my passport on me. Cop comes over and tells me I was going 54 in a 50, I try and explain why but he's not having it. Takes my license, and goes to pull up the vehicle registration and all that good stuff. Turns out I had actually accidentally given him my health card by mistake instead of my drivers license (same pocket of my wallet, my bad), but he didn't realize that until about 5 minutes later when he came back and was curious about us driving with "a health permit"... I quickly corrected my mistake and he seemed relieved that it made much more sense now. That was just the start though, because apparently he noticed that the little registration sticker on the front windshield was expired. Bad news bears. I should have checked that, but I never even thought of it! Another lesson learned. So I was in trouble, because that means the car is technically illegally driving around, and in theory he could have impounded the car or taken me in. Thankfully he asked an open ended question that let me explain about the gliding contest and why I was here, which seemed to warm him up a little. I may have played the poor innocent canadian girl card a little bit too... hey I need to be arrested like a need a hole in the head. After much talking and deliberating on his part he decided to let me off with a warning on my "speeding", and let me go as long as I promised to go straight home (which was like 6 blocks away). Which I realize was really lucky! Man was I ever happy to drive away. He did make it very clear though that "they'd be around so I had better not be driving the car until it was sorted out", just incase I felt like being a crazy idiot and testing my luck after that... Not happening. So straight home I went! So note to self, never go over the speed limit, even by a little, and alway always check every date on a car before you drive it. No more cops please!

So now if you see by face on America's Most Wanted you'll know why. Let's just hope they don't have some red x on my name when I try to get through customs today to get home! Funny jokes right... I'd like them to stay as jokes though, I've had enough law excitement for one trip.

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