Ever wondered if this writer has a hobby?
It’s fairly obvious I need one.
For decades I’ve had an interest in demarcation lines that separate states and nations.
I love the 1940 film, “The Mortal Storm.” In a riveting final scene, Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan strive valiantly to escape a Nazi ski patrol by skiing from Germany into Switzerland … and freedom.
When I was 6 months old, I accompanied my mother and grandmother on an auto trip from Orange County to Kansas. It was my first encounter with state boundaries. I don’t remember a thing about the trip, but am told I was carsick most of the way.
When I was 11, my family crossed from California into Oregon. I was thrilled. We stopped the car by the side of the road and took photos standing in front of the “Welcome to Oregon” sign.
By taking a step across the border from California into Oregon, I imagined I was being transported into a wholly different realm. The trees on the Oregon side seemed greener, the sky bluer and the highways smoother.
I remember the first time I “went abroad.” I was 14, and we crossed from the United States into Canada at the famous Peace Arch that straddles the border of the two nations. It also separates the State of Washington from the province of British Columbia.
We spent 15 minutes at Peace Arch Park, erected to honor the longest international border in the world. My mom snapped a photo of me standing with one foot in Canada and the other in the U.S. — not original, but a delight for a 14-year-old.
While in the U.S. Army, I walked the 14th Street Bridge, over the muddy Chattahoochee River, from Columbus, Ga., into Phenix City, Ala.
I’ve crossed the Jordan River on Allenby Bridge from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan into Israel. I stood at the border of Israel and Syria — well up in the Golan Heights of northeastern Israel — and looked down into the largely abandoned Syrian village of Quneitra.
I’ve stood at the Berlin Wall. I’ve walked from what used to be Checkpoint Charlie in former West Berlin into what used to be East Berlin.
I’ve crossed Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. That wall was the northwest frontier of the Roman Empire for 300 years. I’ve navigated the Brenner Pass in the Alps, from Austria into Italy.
I’ve crossed the Oder River from Poland into Germany. After the establishment of the European Union, I blew through two abandoned border stations on the French-German frontier.
I’ve peered from South Korea into North Korea from the DMZ that divides the nations. I’ve also stepped from South Korea into North Korea at the truce village of Panmunjom.
I’ve crossed the English Channel from England into France. I’ve stepped across the Mason-Dixon Line. I’ve crisscrossed the U.S.-Canada border in the middle of spectacular Waterton Lake, which lies partially in Montana and partially in Alberta.
I’ve crossed from England into Wales. I’ve taken the ferry from Wales to Ireland. I’ve gone from Switzerland to Liechtenstein to Germany to Austria to Italy in a matter of hours. I’ve entered Russia via the Baltic Sea. I’ve gone from Utah to Arizona to Nevada by car in 20 minutes.
I’ve crossed Lake Champlain from Vermont into New York. I’ve crossed the Hudson River from New Jersey into New York, and the Delaware River from Pennsylvania into New Jersey.
I’ve gone from Alaska into the Yukon Territory, and from the South Island of New Zealand to the North Island. I’ve stepped on the soils of Holland, Germany and Belgium minutes apart.
I’ve crossed north to south from St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, to Calais, Maine.
And I’ve driven from Canada into a smidgen of U.S. territory that dangles below British Columbia into Puget Sound, beneath the 49th parallel boundary line. Labeled Point Roberts, USA, the only way to get from that peninsula to the contiguous United States is by boat or by driving 30 miles east through Canada to the international border crossing at Blaine, Wash.
Boundaries. They’re as old as civilization.