I had no idea what this was about the first time I drove up to one of these agricultural checkpoints on entering California. I'd already been grilled at the U.S. border... surely they weren't going to put me through a secondary set of hoops to get into California?
Well, kinda! These were relatively easy hoops though, they want to know what fruits and vegetables and plant material I had in the car.
The first time, since I hadn't been expecting this, I had my fruit, some apples from a hotel breakfast, tucked away with my clothing in a rubbermaid tub (the official suitcase of the north is also great for car travel). It was on the back seat, so the agent (who was really friendly, and impressed that I had driven all the way from Ontario) cheerfully rifled through my underwear to find them, and approve that they were indeed a suitable apple for import to California.
The next time I went through a checkpoint on the way home from Vegas, I had some apples that I had brought with me from L.A. to eat on the trip (Vegas food is expensive... gotta have a grocery stash). This agent studied the apples much harder, despite my reassurances that they had originated in California, but eventually passed them back to me so that they could return to their neighborhood of origin.
This makes me sooooo curious... what does an illicit apple look like? Are they the secret hallucinogenic apples? Explosive apples? Apples not yet approved by the F.D.A? Really good apples that the agents like to confiscate for lunch? I mean, I get that they are trying to stop foreign pest invasions, but apples tend to come from harmless countries. Considering they all arrive by automobile at these checkpoints, it practically guarantees a North American purchase, or at least previous American border scrutiny. Where is the illegal apple gateway?
Well, wherever it is, there's a loophole. On my last re-entry to California after the most recent Vegas expedition, traffic was heavy, so the agents were just smiling and waving the cars through.
Did I have contraband apples with me? The state of California will never know. Actually, neither will I.