borderFrom Chicken to Dawson City

Driving away from Chicken, I paused on the hillside across the creek and used my binoculars to look down at Tisha’s schoolhouse. I could barely see the roof of the building—but at least I could claim that I had ‘seen’ it now. My postcard would have to suffice for a photo, though.

The Milepost showed that I would need to travel 108 miles to reach Dawson City, Yukon Territory. My route would take me over the Top of the World Highway.

When I saw the name for the highway, I scoffed a little. After all, the surface consists of potholed gravel and mud—not my notion of a ‘highway.’ In addition, the elevation at the summit is lower than the elevation of the town in Arizona where I live. I’ve driven over the nicely paved surface of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain Park—which tops out at 12,000 feet above sea level.

Nevertheless, the wide-open spaces and beautiful vistas fit my contemplative mood. In Alaska, the tundra starts at a much lower elevation. I drove slowly, wanting to enjoy the views but still make it to the campground on the west side of the Yukon River right outside of Dawson City before it got too dark. I also needed to make it to the international border crossing before it closed for the day.

When I arrived at the Little Gold/Poker Creek Border Crossing, I marveled at the short line. I jest. Only two other vehicles had passed me in three hours of driving between Chicken and the border. I imagined that I’d nod my head at the agent, wish him or her a cheery, ‘Good evening!’ and be on my way.

It didn’t work out that way at all.

The Bin of Shame

“Good evening!” I chirped when the agent came out of the small building and approached my window.Top of the World Highway

“Where you headed?” he asked.

“Home to Arizona.” I did a quick mental inventory of any fruits or vegetables I might have to peel or surrender to the bin of shame, but I couldn’t think of anything.

“Which route did you use on your way to Alaska?”

“We came across the border north of Bozeman, MT,” I replied, wracking my brain for the name of the crossing.

“When was that?”

“June 20.” At least I remembered the exact date.

“Do you have any firearms or pepper spray?”

“No firearms,” I assured him, “but I have some pepper spray.”

“That’s illegal,” he assured me. “You’ll have to surrender it.”

“Really?” I asked, flushing with guilt. “They didn’t ask me about it when I crossed into Alberta.”

“Yep. You can’t have it.”

“Oh, boy,” I said, “I’ll need to look for it. What about bear spray?”

“You can have bear spray, just can’t have pepper spray. Leave your rig there while you look for it. Not much traffic behind you.”

I looked in the rearview mirror and laughed. “You got that right!” I dug through the middle console, the seat pockets, and the glove box. “May I get out and look in the trailer? I can’t seem to find it in here.”

“Go ahead,” he said. “I’ll step inside. Be back out in a few minutes. Don’t go anywhere.”

I chuckled to myself as I got out. Besides the utter lack of traffic, my bright red truck and trailer would make it impossible to hide from the border patrol and Mounties.

For ten minutes I searched every backpack, pocket, nook, and cranny in the trailer—and I still couldn’t find the pepper spray.

Border Grace

When I emerged from the trailer, the agent glanced at my empty hands.God can teach us lessons any time and any place--even at the top of the world. #BGBG2

“No luck, eh?”

“Absolutely none.” My mind fast-forwarded to worst-case scenarios. Tickets, fines, border agents ripping apart the trailer trying to find my contraband pepper spray, prison.

“Well, I guess if you can’t find it, you won’t use it,” the agent said. “Next time, remember that you can’t bring pepper spray into Canada.”

I nodded. “I’ll do that,” I promised. I couldn’t help myself, so as I climbed back into the truck, I asked, “But I can have bear spray?”

“Sure thing,” he assured me, and headed back into the station.

Grace. Pure grace. None of my worse-case-scenario nightmares came true. It made me think of all the times God has extended grace to me, a dirty, rotten scoundrel.

Sure, I might look like a clean-cut goodie-two-shoes on the outside, but Jesus didn’t differentiate between sins. Thinking negative thoughts (e.g. criticism, comparison, disparaging, cutting, and mean) about a person is no different from stabbing a person. (Matthew 5:21-26).

#Sin, no matter what its flavor or visibility, puts a rift between God and me. Click To Tweet

Sin, no matter what its flavor or visibility, puts a rift between God and me. And time after time, I mess up. The good news? Time after time he extends grace. The gift of grace holds equal value—whether God extends it in response to visible sin or an internal sin.

Sometimes you have to cross a border to realize it.


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  1. “Sometimes you have to cross a border to realize it.”
    Brilliant sentiment!
    And I cracked up about the bear spray!
    We summer vacation in Northern Michigan …where
    there are bears! Sometimes way closer than we’d
    like to admit! #bearsprayjustincase
    Happy Monday!!
    Megs recently posted…The PJ Days (#jammed daily devo day 23)My Profile

  2. What a fun story. (Well, fun to read, but perhaps not so much fun to live.) 🙂 Thanks for sharing, and oh how thankful I am for the grace of God in my life, too. — I hadn’t known about your linkup before now. 🙂 Will have to remember that on Monday. 🙂 I have one on Thursdays called “Chasing Community” if you’d ever like to linkup there. 🙂 ((grace upon grace))

  3. Hi Anita,
    I love your pioneer spirit! You really are inspiring! I’m so glad you didn’t run into any difficulties with the pepper spray on your way back, although I feel confident you would have successfully pleaded innocent! 🙂

  4. I would have been freaked out! Glad he let you go and I love that he pointed out that you wouldn’t use it if you couldn’t find it. He is logical as well as kind!
    Sarah recently posted…ParableMy Profile

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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