Tag Archives: driving in mexico

Don’t Pour Gasoline

31 Jul

I try to keep my life chill. When a problem arises, too often the pull is to pour gasoline rather then step away from the ledge. I make problems bigger and scarier rather than talking them down. This week I had the ultimate test of my resolve…a car accident.

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Pulling out of our drive in Austin, Texas

The Tortas drive a large Ford F-150 truck that was perfect for hauling our possessions to Mexico but does not work well maneuvering in a small town like Bacalar.

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A busy mercado with limited parking.

During a quick stop at the mercado to pick up some veggies for dinner, I found a taxi double parked in front of my little fruteria and leaving me little room to maneuver. I squeezed through but did not leave enough room to pass the car parked on my right. I clipped the bumper and tore it off completely. My stomach began to flip flop and I was in a panic before I even got out of the truck. We all know what’s it’s like having a car accident, not fun at best and a complete life-altering disaster at worst.

A man and his wife and adult son emerged from an older sedan.  They circled the car, pointing out damage and shaking their heads. My fear was that they would call the police. It’s not that I’m afraid of the police, but the more people that get involved, the higher the price goes.

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Local police.

I didn’t know what to do. They began discussing mechanics. I was pouring gasoline.

When I asked what they wanted to settle things, the man meekly asked for two thousand pesos which I did not have and was an outrageous price. I pulled a 500 peso bill from my wallet and offered it as compensation ($30us). The woman looked me in the eye and said, “we’ll take it”. I handed her the money and we shook hands. When I came out of the store, they were gone. To put this in perspective, most laborers make about 250 pesos a day for hard manual labor.

It took me hours to get the adrenaline out of my system. How often do I create problems where there are none, but there “could be”? Valuable lessons were learned, among them, always deal with the woman. DOS TORTAS

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A Tootle To Merida

3 Apr

Living in the U.S. gives one a certain perspective on automotive travel. It probably has as much to do with traffic, ability to find parking and one’s genetic makeup of hating or liking to drive.

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One of the Pitfalls of Driving in Any Country

While living in Mexico is not so different, it really is. For one thing, bus travel is far more convenient, comfortable and cost effective. Five hours on a bus allows you to catch up on your reading and possibly make a new friend. We took a tootle this week and visited Merida, a four hour drive by auto, just down the street and an ungodly distance by my old life perspective.

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Sunrise Outside Our Room in Merida

We stayed in our favorite Airbnb, visited Lisa’s surgeon and SHOPPED. I can go to the dark side when visiting a big city like Merida. Shopping is very limited where we live in Bacalar, Mexico’s southern frontier. Although, when Home Depot opened in Chetumal, thirty minutes away, the old timers pointed out how easy we had it building our house now, as opposed to “way back when”.

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Finally Found the Illusive Costco!

We got quite lost driving in Merida and spent way too much time in traffic. Remember, when asking directions in Mexico, make sure the person you ask knows how to drive. The little man in the taco stand can not likely give directions, unless he pulls out his iPhone and Google maps.

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We Didn’t Overdose Too Badly

After Costco we drove to Progresso, on the Gulf, just for the heck of it. Lunch on the beach proved entertaining; watching people and seagulls.

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Lisa Checks Out the Seafood Menu

For the week after Easter, things were pretty quiet in this little beach town.

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A Favorite Way To Beat the Heat in Merida

We were both glad to get home. There was a lovely birthday party next door on Friday evening for our neighbor Teresa. Happy seventieth Darling. A relaxing end to a very busy week. DOS TORTAS

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OMG Driving In Mexico

3 Jan

There wasn’t time to grab the camera as a doble remolque (18-wheeled cab pulling two trailers) passed us on a double yellow line as we both crested a hill! Much like in Japan where buses have the right of way and pull out from the curb without warning…a big ass truck in Mexico can do almost anything.

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An example of one of the better highways.

Most articles about driving in Mexico start with, don’t drive at night. Given the conditions of the roads, we heartily agree. Here are additional considerations.

  • Signage may be nonexistent and if you’re watching for a turn, SLOW down. There is little warning that your turn is coming up.
  • The same goes with road construction (and it is everywhere). The guy waving a flag may give you ten feet of warning to avoid a ten foot drop.
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Luckily it is fairly easy to turn around.

  • Speed limits are a suggestion which makes for a relaxed trip. In three years we’ve seen one cop with radar.
  • It’s always best to drive with a partner if possible. A second pair of eyes notices the man gathering wood along a road with absolutely no shoulder.
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It took us awhile to understand that using rocks to slow traffic is common. This sign says not to leave them in the road. Good idea.

  • A wide shoulder on a two lane road is used to facilitate passing. Pull to the right to let a vehicle pass you OR to allow a car coming at you to pass oncoming traffic. Flashing headlights may provide some warning. Do however watch for pedestrians, bicycles, motos or goats ambling on the shoulder.
  • A vehicle with its left turn signal on is telling you it’s clear to pass. If you want to make a left hand turn, pull to the right shoulder and wait for all lanes to clear. At the same time, if you see a car using turning signals for anything, they’re probably a foreigner.
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A peloton with motorcycle support. A rare sight.

  • Stick to the toll roads if you can afford them. At the same time, they may be as torn up as the libramiento. It’s a flip of the coin.

We are blessed in Bacalar. The road from Cancun to Chetumal may be the best maintained road in Mexico AND it’s free. Hoping your holidays were tranquilo and your new year is full of love. DOS TORTAS

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Traveling Tortas

13 Dec

Crossing the border at Agua Prieta, across from Douglas, Arizona was the easiest crossing into Mexico from the U.S. we have made yet. The Tortas have been on an epic journey to California to attend the birth of our grandson and bringing Lisa’s mom Alice to live with us in Bacalar. The guards took one look at my white hair and packed truck and said, move along. Gracias a Dios. The ability to speak Spanish always helps. 

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Sunset south of Phoenix, AZ.

Immigration did not make us offload our truck which would have been a major inconvenience.

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Packed to overflowing with “just one more thing”

There have been long days driving and we are so ready to be home in Bacalar. The odometer noted  five thousand miles driven, a few days ago. We’ve been gone almost six weeks.

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Looking south near Bisbee AZ

The mountains of Chihuahua have been beautiful. We have seen lots of Mexican terrain, but none of the culture, museums or people. Lisa and her mom have head colds. We have been pedal to the metal, hotel to hotel and getting lost following outdated maps. We’ll be home to our little house on Laguna Bacalar in a few days. Until next week, stay warm. Peace from DOS TORTAS.

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Mass Shootings or Farmer’s Markets

6 Dec

Bloggers living in Mexico notice with increased interest when scarey stuff happens in the USA. By comparison, Mexico is looking good. 

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Myself, I try to avoid the news. It’s hard to do I admit. Whether online or on TV there’s such a pull to understand the non-understandable. I refuse to be afraid.

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So instead, I will present another aspect of California that hasn’t made the news lately. The Tortas visited two really nice farmer’s markets on our recent trip to California. I always head to the ethnic food vendors. Mediterranean was especially good at both Windsor and Bakersfield markets.

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Olives, dates, tabouli, hummus and pitta bread are all impossible to find in our little corner of Mexico.

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Of course, every Mexican village has the most wonderful mercado. They are filled with hundreds of items you don’t get in the US, fresh coconut water, tree ripened bananas, and plants and pottery that are really, really cheap.

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US-style farmer’s markets are catching on in Mexico where there are large foreign populations. I attended one in Merida and they were selling bread! Mmmmmm. Fortunately or unfortunately one will never appear in Bacalar. We live in a part of Mexico with a very small foreign community. Which is just the way we planned it.

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Green juice vendor in Bacalar.

So if you’re looking to move to Mexico, don’t come because you’re afraid of the US. You’ll bring your fear with you and be equally unhappy here. Just my opinion.

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California Dreamin

22 Nov

After driving three thousand miles across Mexico and up the Baja to Northern California for the birth of our grandson, the Tortas say, “never again” that is of course until the return trip.

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First phase of our trip.

The ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz was not the seventeen hour trip advertised on the website. It was more like twenty-four hours. Geesh.

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Arriving in La Paz on the Sea of Cortez

The ferry ride was an adventure to say the least and the drive up the Baja was as breath taking as any I’ve seen, purple mountains, winding cavernous roads, forests of cactus, huge boulders and ocean vistas.

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Stopping for a little walk and to admire the view.

We arrived in Bakersfield to pack up Lisa’s mom (Everyday Courage). Our grandson, Maxwell Michael Toth was born November 19th, clocking in at 7 lb. 8 oz. and 24″. We are two happy grandmas.

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Grandma Lisa and a less than 24 hour old Max.

We’ll hang out here for awhile before heading south. The goal is to be home by Christmas. We miss our puppy who is growing like a weed, but there’s nothing like grandchildren.

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Benefits of Friendliness

1 Nov

Driving in Mexico, we think nothing of being pulled over by youngsters with machine guns. We smile and are relaxed, but then again, we are Dos Tortas.

The upper portion of our hutch. Skylights above add natural light.

The upper portion of our hutch. Skylights above add natural light.

Bacalar is thirty minutes north of the Belize/Mexico border. Because of illegal entry and the smuggling of goods, there is a checkpoint before entering Bacalar from the south. Vehicles are flagged for inspection according to a selection process that is not obvious to us. However, a large black pickup with Texas plates….

The window between our living room and bedroom. There will be a bifold door to provide privacy when desired.

The window between our living room and bedroom. There will be a bifold door to provide privacy when desired.

One week when we were making numerous trips up and down the highway, making purchases for the house and going to the bank, we were pulled over several days in a row by the policia estatal, state police.

Keeping the dogs from digging in the garden. Aren't I clever?

Keeping the dogs from digging in the garden. Aren’t I clever?

The usual questions, Where are you going? Where are you from? What is in the truck?

This time I told the officer that he knew us. I reached out to shake his hand and introduce ourselves. His face lit up with a big smile. He clearly enjoyed our response. Now every time we pass the check point we wave and guess what? They wave back. We haven’t been stopped again.

Day of the Dead. A chance to tell stories and fondly remember our ancestors.

Day of the Dead. A chance to tell stories and fondly remember our ancestors.

I’m sure others have horror stories about being stopped by the federales. Once in college I had a machine gun aimed at my face. Being Dos Tortas or two old women makes us pretty invisible. Not being afraid makes us respected.

DOS TORTAS

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A Literary Suggestion for the Mexico Bound

11 Jan

Bacalareños had a quiet Saturday night. The long holiday vacation is over with adults back to work and the children in school. The cool weather and rain had the perros curled up and quiet until the rooster alarm clock went off this morning. We cherish these mornings.

Rainy Sunday morning.

Rainy Sunday morning.

I’ve been hearing from readers about adventurous plans to travel or retire to Mexico. I thought you might enjoy a reading suggestion to pass the time until your trip.

On my night table is The Lacuna by Barbara Kinsolver.

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The main character tells of life growing up with his Mexican mother and his relationship with Frieda Kalo and Diego Rivera.

Artists of Mexico.

Artists of Mexico.

As a young adult he returns to seek out his US father and ends up living in Asheville, NC. of all places. My brother lives in Asheville and I’ve visited many times, however familiarity with the city is not a requirement to enjoy the book.

I found The Lacuna slow to engage but persisted after I saw it included among the coffee table collection at La Casa de los Venados in Valladolid. If the owners of this amazing art collection thought enough to place it front and center in a room where there are no accidents, I decided to give it a second go.

All things Mexico.

All things Mexico.

The largest private collection of Mexican folk art.

The largest private collection of Mexican folk art in the world.

Our reclusive protagonist develops into a writer of Mexican ancient history and weaver of stories that capture the hearts of post WW I, communist fearing Americans. I cannot tell you the ending, as I am within pages of finishing myself. It feels much like the story of Dos Tortas, off to a slow start, but now within days of receiving our permission to build our retirement home. How perfect a life reflection. DOS TORTAS
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Pull Over And Let Me Out – Driving in Mexico

16 Mar

Navigating the roads of Mexico can be very scary. Glaring daggers, threats of abandonment, raised voices and jumping out of a moving truck top the list of dangers. While we have only done three out of four, I’ll leave it to your imagination. There is a dearth of signage and even a 2012 map is woefully outdated. People have suggested a GPS, but I don’t think more technology is the answer. I did discover that the maps on my iPad work without wifi. While not complete, it actually helps.

There are also the roads themselves with holes big enough to swallow a Volkswagen. Many are two lanes where buses pass on curves. A double yellow line is no deterant.

Few people pay attention to speed limits. Topes pronounced tow-pay, or speed bumps ready to take out your transmission, slow traffic through towns. The slowed traffic provides opportunities for vendors to provide fresh juice or any number of delectable snacks at your window. Fast food Mexican style.

There are few street lights. Pedestrians and cyclists travel the shoulder of the highway at night with no reflectors or red blinky lights. Then there are the dogs, goats, horses and occasional pig to watch out for. Road signs admonish not to drink and drive and to remember that your family is waiting for you.

What Mexico also has is miles of beautiful scenery. There are breathtaking volcanos, pineapple groves, costeras with sweeping ocean vistas, small towns, sugar cane fields, roadside eateries, and the Green Angels. More than one gringo has been rescued from automobile hell by this free roadside assistance program that patrols the highways ready to change a flat or drive to purchase a much needed car part.

Mostly driving in Mexico is a lot of fun. Best to be prepared, not drive at night and try not to kill each other.

Fields of Wildflowers

Fields of Wildflowers

Hang On

Hang On

Streets of Bacalar

Streets of Bacalar

Don't Hit the Goats

Don’t Hit the Goats

Volcano Orizaba

Volcano Orizaba

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Waiting in Texas

12 Jan

The Tortas have been recovering from our adventurous drive from southern Mexico to central Texas. We’re hanging out with our youngest son and his family waiting on the birth of our first granddaughter (Sophia). Lisa’s mom arrived and will be driving back to Bacalar with us at the end of January. I remember playing the waiting game, with babies who refused to be born on anyone’s time but their own, and with a move to Mexico over four months ago. Actually, we’re still waiting to close on our property in Mexico, build and move into our home there. The builder has been selected and first payment made, so we wait some more.

The computers are fixed and the IPad replaced. We are working our way through the purchase of items that are difficult to find in Bacalar – yarn to finish a project, a battery for my watch, new running shoes, lube for my bike chain that rusted from three months of neglect.

I think this week will be pretty low key. Lisa came down with a bug yesterday and we’ve been dealing with fever and other bodily fluids that need not be mentioned. A challenge is visiting friends in Austin, over an hour away, while waiting on Sophia. We’ll probably arrange a get-together on short notice and hope folks can come.

The challenge is always to appreciate the present and not constantly look down the road to some better time or situation. Thanks for visiting with the Tortas. What are you waiting for to be happy?

The Newest Torta

The Newest Torta

Hunter and GrandmaLIsa

Hunter and GrandmaLIsa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So much for waiting.

So much for waiting.

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