Driving cross-country - should I take the 10 or the 40?
June 23, 2018 12:44 PM   Subscribe

I'll be traveling from Louisiana to CA and am trying to decide which route to take, particularly with regard to border patrol.

I'll be driving from Louisiana to LA soon and am trying to decide whether to take the 10 or the 40. I will not be doing any sightseeing, just trying to complete the drive as quickly as possible.

Given the current atmosphere regarding the US-Mexican border, my biggest fear is being targeted by border patrol while traveling along the 10, though I'm not sure if my fears are founded. The 10 is slightly faster, but it also runs closer to the border. I did a similar drive a few years ago via the 40 and didn't have any issues.

For background, I was born in the US and am a US citizen; I will have my passport with me; I have a regular American accent. However, I'm a brown woman, which is why I'm concerned. No kids, no pets. I'll have personal belongings for a cross-country move, but no drugs, no guns, no produce (I've heard this is important). Car is insured and is registered to me. I have no criminal record or any red flags like that.

Basically, I just want to move cross country, and I'm not sure if my fear of being hassled by border patrol as a brown person is founded. I'm aware that there are border checkpoints along these routes, more along the 10. If I take the 10, should I expect to be pulled over randomly outside of the checkpoints? Is it less likely if I take the 40? I've never been arrested or had any major interactions with law enforcement, so the prospect of something like this actually makes me really anxious.

I have seen this question but would like more information about this specific concern.

Thank you for your advice/insight, everyone.
posted by aquamvidam to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I live northeast of El Paso and go through the BP checkpoint every time I come back from El Paso. I look Mexican. Generally, they ask me if I’m an American citizen, and I say yes, and that’s the end of it. Occasionally they ask me where I’m headed, and sometimes they comment on the Whataburger cup in my car. Last year I went through the checkpoint in a UHaul truck packed to the brim with everything I owned, and they didn’t even ask what was in it. I think as long as you don’t have anything that triggers the K9, you’ll be fine. Don’t act nervous, just act normally friendly and like it’s no big deal.
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:19 PM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In theory, Border Patrol is allowed to set up immigration checkpoints within 100 miles of the border. Check out this ACLU factsheet about the 100-mile border zone for more details. Almost all of 40 looks like it lies entirely outside the 100-mile zone up until you hit CA; since coastlines technically count as borders, the 100-mile zone also covers most of coastal CA.

Given your (completely reasonable!) anxieties, I would take the 40 if I were you -- at least that gives you pretty good odds of not having to deal with this bullshit, at least up until you hit LA. But once you're in LA, I'd wager your odds of encountering a checkpoint are going to be much lower anyhow. FWIW, there are some semi-permanent checkpoints set up in and around LA, like this one on 5 in San Clemente. As far as I know, 1) these checkpoints aren't always manned, but given that I haven't lived in LA for a while, this may have changed recently, and 2) they don't check papers, but rather pull over cars that look suspicious (which is still bullshit) so in that sense they're at least a bit different from the indiscriminate, "Papers, please" dragnets that we've seen in the news recently.
posted by un petit cadeau at 1:21 PM on June 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I drove from Las Vegas to Mississippi twice this April, once on I-40, once on I-10. So that will be covering 90% of the same ground, and I'd slightly recommend I-40 in any event, and based on your criteria would definitely recommend it. I'd take a short detour to avoid Dallas if you take I-40, but otherwise it's an easy trip the whole way. Northern AZ and NM scenery are better than southern scenery, in my opinion. Otherwise, I felt like the I-40 was a little flatter, especially once you got through Arizona.

The only checkpoint I had to stop for on I-10 was an hour or two east of El Paso, and it was very quick, probably lost less than 2 minutes. I had a large uHaul truck and they just asked me if it was all personal belongings and then waved me through (I am a white guy though).

No checkpoints when I did it on I-40, butI was stopped by a cop while doing literally 3 mph over the limit. I think they pulled me over based on my Nevada license plate. It was one of the quickest traffic stops I've ever gone through and he let me go with a warning after running my license and insurance, which furthered my belief that they were just checking to see if I would act suspicious if they pulled me over. Anyway, I know through my job that I-10 is heavily policed with an eye toward drug trafficking (I work for a public defender's office).
posted by skewed at 1:31 PM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 40 is also just a nicer drive imo, and you will likely get slightly better gas mileage due to less ac usage.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:42 PM on June 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

40 is a nicer drive but 10 puts you closer to Carlsbad Caverns along the way
posted by tilde at 1:52 PM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

10 has checkpoints at NM, AZ, and if you come in low also on the 8 in CA (and there's another stop going N on the 5 between San Diego and LA, but they used to only stop non-trucks at night or when they were looking for something/one specific). Last time I crossed the state lines I did not get asked about my citizenship (middle-aged fat white lady driving a Prius with TX plates, several years ago), only about explosives and agricultural products.

It's far enough into summer that you are unlikely to have wintry weather problems on I-40, so I would go that way.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:55 PM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Going into CA you will have to stop from any highway because they don't want out of state produce brought in due to possible insect infestation (and no, the local bugs don't know).
posted by brujita at 2:22 PM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The I-10 border patrol stop in Sierra Blanca,Texas, east of El Paso, only stops eastbound drivers; those heading west don't have to go through the checkpoint.
posted by attentionplease at 2:30 PM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was on I-10 a few months ago, and they had a temporary checkpoint installed about 70 miles east of El Paso.

They wanted to see my papers and search the truck. I gave them my passport card on my middle finger and refused the search. They sent me on my way. I'm probably on a watchlist now.

I'd recommend 40, with the caveat to avoid Dallas at all costs or go through at night. Also, the KOA in Amarillo sucks.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:06 PM on June 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 40 is quite scenic in some parts. It's my favorite highway to drive West to California on. Peace of mind is worth a lot on a road trip.
posted by ethical_caligula at 5:26 PM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just a side note, in Texas we don’t call any main roads “the”; it’s just I-10 or I-40.

Also, remember that many, many people in the states you are driving through are Hispanic so you won’t even stand out. I have numerous friends in Mexico that drive from and to Mexico with no problems all. You should not have any problems other than a whole lot of boring driving on either road. . And it’s just as hot either way.

Having said that, I-40 has more towns and places to stop than I-10 and the scenery is nicer.
posted by tamitang at 5:44 PM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your advice, I really appreciate it. You've definitely reassured me, and now I'll be able to sit back and enjoy the drive! I think I'll take the 40 just for peace of mind, and perhaps for the better scenery that some mentioned.

Tamitang, I am from Southern California, not Texas. I am aware of the unique SoCal-ism of referring to freeways using 'the'.
posted by aquamvidam at 6:03 PM on June 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

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