Right now, we're close to civilization. San Luis splits the border, with most of the town on the Mexican side -- which is a problem, because the people on the south side of town are not huge fans of the Border Patrol. That's why the trucks down here have some extra modifications.
"I want to show you a War Wagon," Wilmot says as we cut down toward the Colorado River. Jimmy and photographer Brian Konoske follow in the civilian Raptor. Wind whips the dust in thick clouds, pasting everything with grit. Parked in the middle of this tableau is a Border Patrol Chevy Silverado 2500 with metal grates and mesh over the windshield and side glass.
"People throw things over the fence," explains the major. "Like rocks."
"And dirty diapers," says Jimmy.
"And balloons filled with chicken blood," adds the Border Patrol guy stationed here. The wind whips the sand into my eyes, nose, and ears. A portable light tower rests nearby, awaiting nightfall. It's called the Nightbuster 4000. I imagine it's probably a big step up from the Nightbuster 3000. Just the thing to spot those incoming chicken-blood balloons. Maybe later they can use it to look for Konoske's hat, which the wind rips off his head and tosses straight into Mexico, providing a nice moment of levity for everyone.
As charming as San Luis is, we haven't really seen the Raptor in action yet, so I'm itching to hit more rural terrain. We don't have to go far. As we head east out of town, the fence on our right, the graded dirt road morphs into pure desert. There are tire tracks, but this isn't what you'd call a road. Nonetheless, we fall into an easy 60-mph cruise. To our right, we can see traffic on Mexico's Highway 2, just a couple hundred yards away. We're keeping pace, even though we don't have the benefit of a road. This is the Raptor in its element.
"With our other trucks, we're tearing up shocks, suspension, skid plates," Wilmot says. The Raptor, though, is designed precisely for this mission -- high-speed desert recon. In fact, deputies take an off-road driving class where they learn how to take advantage of the Raptor's off-road talents, preferably without destroying it. "We call this truck the career-ender," Wilmot says. "You mess this thing up -- your career's over."