On Patrol in a 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

Brian Konoske

We keep heading east, deep onto the Barry M. Goldwater Range. Wilmot's map of the area points out that there are a few hazards for travelers around here. For one thing, the average high temperature in the summer is about 105 degrees. Also, un-exploded warheads litter the area (a photo on the map shows what looks like a small missile stuck in the side of a cactus). And there are abandoned mines, scant fresh water, and, of course, a colorful variety of on-the-go drug smugglers, human traffickers, and other ne'er-do-wells. Further, the map warns that, "If a road is impassable because of flooding, mud, moon dust, or a lawful closure, turn back." That's right, moon dust. Did I mention that the main thoroughfare through this terrain is a trail called El Camino Del Diablo, or The Highway of the Devil? Well, it is.

But we're on no highway whatsoever when we come to the burnt-out hulk of a car sinking into a dune. Based on the shape of the roofline, I guess that it's a Dodge Shadow, but what's left of the engine indicates that it's a Mazda. Probably an old 626. I ask the major how a car got out here. "Well, before there was a fence, people would just drive in from Mexico," he says. And, if they were driving a Mazda 626 through the desert, apparently they would not get very far.

Believe it or not, cars still manage to get through the barrier. "They'll park a car carrier on the other side of the fence and use it as a bridge to drive over the top," Jimmy says. That strikes me as pretty ballsy, but it's far from the only trick. "They'll come out with a welder and cut a door into the fence, complete with hinges," Wilmot says. "We've seen them remove a real Normandy barrier and replace it with a Styrofoam look-alike, so they can just move it aside whenever they want."

Getting past the fence on foot is much more straightforward, but out here, the question becomes: then what? You're miles and miles from anything. This area is so remote that there are actually safety beacons scattered around the range, intended for Mexicans who've decided that it's better to get arrested than die of heatstroke. The beacons feature a big button that you push to alert the authorities, but even then a sign warns that it could be an hour before anyone shows up.

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