Top ten things that make it interesting to drive in Mexico

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Escrito por El Atun Grande desde (?) el día viernes, 18 de marzo, 2005 a las 16:29:35 horas :

For those of us who have had the pleasure of driving on Mexican roads, there can be many things said. It may be many things, but boring it never is. Here are the top ten things that make it an experience to drive in Mexico for me.

1. Roads – You have to start out with this one. Some of the most interesting roads I have seen. They don’t drive as fast as they do in Italy and Portugal, the roads are wider than in Ireland, but the switchbacks and mountain roads can be killers. The road from Lazaro Cardenas to Manzanillo is about 200 miles or so, but takes a good 5 hours to drive. The worst part is a 100km stretch just past Pichilinguillo (Northbound) that is nothing but switchbacks, and hills. It goes from sea-level to 1000ft in a matter of milesSporty to say the least. . Signage is almost non-existent for most streets and many highways. So it is easy for anyone to be lost and afraid.

2. Topes – Ah, the delight of all drivers here. Mexico’s answer to making you slow down. Unmarked small mountains on main roads and in all towns. Make American speed bumps laughable. The worst in Zihua is on Calle Los Cocos in front of Doña Lichas. The worst I have seen is between Pinotepa and Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca. A tope in the middle of a major road with no buildings around. The only thing to tell you it was there was the skid marks of braking drivers as they tried to save their tires. That and the numerous hubcaps lying by the side of the highway.

3. Animals – Burros, cattle, horse, iguanas, dogs, goats, pigs… This is a definite driving hazard. Almost always unattended, there are simply too many free ranging animal herds for even major autopistas. Last week I saw a truck launch a goat about a hundred feet through the air as we came upon a herd at speed on the Autopista to Uruapan. I narrowly missed the remainder of the goats as they casually crossed the road.

4. Antique Cars – I haven’t seen so many American motors products since the mid-seventies. Gremlins, Pacers, Ramblers, and Ambassadors are all alive and well and living in Mexico. That and Datsun. I called my friend last week and told him I saw the B210 he drove in high school on the street in Morelia. If the people here realized how much they could get in the States for some of these antiques, they wouldn’t be around much longer. Most are in better shape then they were in the US during their prime. Where they get parts I have no idea. That they still run is a credit to Mexican mechanical ingenuity.

5. Doble Remolques – Double Semi trailers are always a delight to pass, especially going uphill on a road loaded with curves. This goes hand in hand with overloaded smaller trucks. Saw a semi, overloaded with scrap metal roll over onto another passing 18-wheeler on the Infernillo death road between Zihua and Ururapan. Luckily they both came less than a foot from plunging down onto the new freeway a hundred feet below.

6. Local Tolls As described in an earlier post. These are set up by local communities, disgruntled workers, anyone who has the ‘huevos’ to step out into fast moving Mexican traffic. The usually only have a rope or string that they use to stop whomever they please to tell them they are required to pay in order to pass. I got pinkeye from one such extortionist on the old road to Uruapan a couple of years ago. I passed a 2 ton truck one time, with the flag covered rope adorning his cow-catcher in the front. Evidently, he didn’t like to stop either.

7. Flying Trash –This is a real peeve of mine (and probably everyone else out there). There is a tendency to throw whatever trash there is in the car out the window while cruising at 70mph down the highway. I was following a carload of Chilangos (those from Mexico City, a term of pride for them, but said with much derision by the rest of the country) down the autopista last week, when out came the sack of trash, then the half-full drink cups, then the partially eaten sandwich. I guess they figure someone else will pick it up.

8. Gas Stations – Those who have driven in Mexico know that there is only one place to get gas, and that is Pemex. One price, no competition. In Zihua, it is widely known that the Gasolinera by the bus station does not always give you a full liter. I found this out when some of my fishermen friends took their 60 liter tanks took 65 liters. You just never know.
9. Vendors, Squeegie Families – In the cities they always make stopping at an intersection entertaining. Sometimes they clean your window, or try to. The men in Uruapan do a great job, quick and efficient. The families and kids not so much. There is also usually some form of entertainment, fire breathers, jugglers, hand walkers. You can buy parts for your car, dental products, gum, candy, drinks, phone cards, puppies, and a thousand other things along the way. The Mexicans are the most entrepreneurial people I have ever seen.

10. Taxis – Finally, the taxistas. They don’t think they own the road, they know it. Slow when they are looking for a fare, crazy and fast when they are on their way to a destination. There are more than you can count in any city. If you ever have an accident with one, you will soon be surrounded by a dozen others. They know how to protect their kind.

I am sure there are more, but this should give you something to think about.

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