For most of my career, I’ve written for publications that are dominated by photography. While writing The Coyote’s Bicycle, I wanted to recreate the rarified worlds I’d discovered, in words only. I realize this can be a futile task, because we are such visual creatures. And in the end, it’s fun to see images of people and places behind the story. So I’ve decided to start publishing shots from the years of research it took to get this tale. I think people who’ve read the book will get more out of them, but hopefully the unique atmosphere of our southern border finds wider interest:
The phenomenon of thousands of car tires that wash across the Tijuana River, from Mexico into the United States, first brought me to the Tijuana River Valley. The interesting thing about this migration is, these aren’t Mexican tires at all, but tires bought new and used by Americans. That is Los Laureles Canyon, Mexico, in the background. These are tires that came to rest in the U.S.
The Tijuana River Valley abuts the Pacific Ocean, where one broad beach is divided by the U.S. and Mexico. This fact causes all manner of strange things to wash up. (That’s the bullring of Playas de Tijuana in the background. To the right of the frame can be found Tijuana Sloughs, the little-known birthplace of big-wave surfing.)
This is the fence built under President Clinton’s “Operation Gatekeeper” in the 1990s. It is constructed of temporary runway panels used in foreign conflicts. Migrants who cross over, under and through this boundary often etch their names and the date into the steel.
The Secure Fence Act of 2007 mandated multiple walls, fences and roads to be built next to the old one, which you can see to the right of Tijuana’s International Road.
The walls and fences are joined by Border Patrol agents in trucks, jeeps and on quads, who monitor everything that moves. Technology like drones, infrared cameras, laser trip-wires, and seismic sensors also aid to enforcement of the boundary.
So, you can see how I found it strange when I went to report on car tires, but discovered that locals were actually swamped with bicycles, bikes that were being used to cross the most fortified five-mile stretch of our 2000-mile border.
And these ownerless bikes were piling up . . .
. . . day after day.
The people who rode the bikes were nowhere to be seen.
But that doesn’t mean, that they weren’t watching . . .