A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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June 1, 2005 —  We left Zacatecas early. The map showed a long stretch of two-lane road but when we got to it, we were pleased to discover it was actually a two-lane road with shoulders a bit more than half a lane on either side. These are used in a way that astonished me the first time I saw it in southern Texas but is pretty common in Mexico: slower vehicles in either direction drive half on the shoulder and half into their lane, effectively making the highway a three-lane road. Traffic was pretty light, and with this system there were no hair-raising passes to terrify me.

I pulled out a notebook and wrote down most of the signs along the highway for the blog, leaving out signs to towns and repetitions of the same signs. I may have misspelled a few, but here they are, in the order we saw them. There were also signs that were mostly graphics. As you’ll see, many of them are driving lessons in brief.

Utilice el centuron de seguridad.
Use the seat belt.

No maltrate las senales.
Don’t mistreat the signs.

Guarde su distancia.
Keep your distance.

Maneje con precaucion. Tu familia te espera.
Drive with precaution. Your family awaits you.

Si vas manejando, no tomas.
If you are going along driving, don’t drink.

Una carretera limpia es una carretera segura.
A clean highway is a safe highway.

Este camino no es de alta velocidad.
This highway is not high speed.

Disminuje su velocidad. Tus hijos te esperan.
Diminish your velocity. Your children are waiting for you.

Carrill izquierdo solo para rebasar.
Left lane only for passing.

Obedezcas las senales.
Obey the signs.

No deje piedras sobre el pavamiento.
Don’t leave rocks on the pavement. This exhortation is one of the most common ones and makes no sense at first to a foreigner. There is a common Mexican habit of putting rocks on the pavement if your vehicle breaks down in a traffic lane. These rocks are often put a good distance back from the vehicle, and so once the vehicle is running again, the temptation is to just drive on again. The presence of rocks on the highways, while in our experience greatly diminished from past decades, is a good reason for not driving at night!

Prohibido tirar basura.
It’s prohibited to throw garbage.

Conceda cambio de luces.
Conceed the change of lights. When seen before a one-lane bridge, this means that whoever flashes their headlights first has right of way, though do be sure the other driver is honoring your lights! We saw this quite often on four-lane highways and puzzled over it. We finally decided that in this context it means that if you are in the left lane and someone driving behind you flashes theire lights, you should get over into the slower lane.

Quite a common one that I didn’t happen to note in this batch is Respect the signs. Don’t destroy them.

Noting the signs, and continuing our review of places we had lived, made the morning enjoyable. We reminisced about Ashland, Oregon, where we had a llama ranch in the 1980s and began a llama-related publishing company which still exists with a broader range of topics. Conversation was so lively that Kelly failed to notice how low on gasoline were until we had just gotten onto a toll freeway to Torreon and a useful sign said that the next gasolinera was 90 kilometers down the road. We pulled over and put in the extra two gallons we always carry. With that, Kelly was sure we had enough. As it turned out, we were probably running on fumes the last little bit into Torreon, but we did make it.

Torreon, Lerdo, and a third city the name of which escapes me at the moment form a huge complex. After the previous day’s emotional storms, I didn’t want to risk another meltdown so I took a tranquilizer about an hour and a half before we got to the urban area. When we stopped for gas, the man there told us how to get back on the freeway. The map showed a left turn I was concerned about. Lo and behold, when we got back on the freeway it turned out that we had just done that left turn and we were already beyond the big urban glop. Wonderful!

A comment about my popping tranquilizers: I don’t think I’d ever had one in my life till about a year ago, but I got a prescription to try them and I do find they help a lot with the stress that rapid heavy traffic and air travel tend to evoke in me. I have spent a lot of years being afraid, being horribly embarrassed that I was afraid, and either not doing things because they were too scary or doing them in white-knuckle style. I’m mentioning this here to encourage others who may have similar issues. I’m very glad I didn’t stay home in Colorado because of these fears.

The rest of the day went smoothly, as it was four-lane highways and no more big cities. We continued our reminiscing. By late afternoon we got to Ciudad Camargo, a small city where we had been the only campers two years ago at a rather run-down RV park. As we went by it slowly, we saw it was still there and open but we had a loftier goal. I’d found mention in a couple of old guidebooks of a hot spring a few kilometers off the highway. Hotel Ojo Caliente is north of Cuidad Camargo just a little ways, just north of a river you cross — there was a billboard which would be much more visible if you were coming from the north. We found that and then went 4 or 5 miles west on a reasonably good gravel road. There were some significant bumps in the road, where it went down into arroyos, and we scraped on them but not badly. Still, larger RVs could have trouble.

Anyway, once we got there, we discovered a tranquil spot with indoor and outdoor pools and just a few Mexicans, as it was a Monday evening. I’m sure at times the place is totally mobbed. We paid 45 pesos each (about $4) to use the pools, and we got to park overnight for free in the reasonably level parking lot.

We were assured that it was very secure and that Jesus lived in room 1 of the hotel. We met Jesus — he spoke excellent English and has traveled a lot in the United States. So we took the waters — the cooler ones first, as it was quite a hot day — and had a long chat with a Mexican man who works (legally) as a construction crew chief in New Mexico. His family lives in the US with him and the kids are bilingual. His son of about 10 years of age had no accent to his English. He also was a bit scornful of how little English his dad spoke. A common dynamic.

Here’s one of the outdoor pools, with the water slides reflected in it:

Next to it was a metal deck over an irrigation ditch. It was fun to sit there with our light supper and gaze directly down at the water:

Once the motorhome cooled off enough to go to bed, it was very tranquil there. The pools had closed about nine. About an hour later, a car came down by the waterslides… and a pickup, and another car. We fell asleep to the happy sounds of local teenagers swimming, joking, and laughing… having a great time. I thought I’d hear the vehicles leaving, but neither of us was still awake by then.

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