On our way home from visiting the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacan, we were intrigued to see a painted red line in the middle of the toll road. Just a little bit down the road, there was a sign that instructed vehicles without brakes to follow said red line. It went on quite a ways before crossing the lanes to the right into a truck stop ramp.
About the time we reached the rampa de frenado (truck stop ramp), we hit major traffic and began moving along at a crawl. Thus, we were able to watch a riveting drama unfold. A small pick-up truck appeared from apparently nowhere at the top of the truck stop ramp. It approached oncoming traffic in the wrong the direction. The driver decided to turn around and turned onto the ramp, which seemed to be made of asphalt. Much to our surprise, and most assuredly the surprise of the driver, the truck sank up to the wheel wells into the “asphalt.” When the driver climbed out to see what was going on, he sunk up to his knees. The “asphalt” was really black sand set up so smoothly that it looked to be a solid surface. The driver got back in his vehicle and attempted to back up. That wasn’t happening. By that time, 3 of his tires were stuck and the fourth looked as if it would pull off the axle at any moment. He tried going forward and no sir, nothing doing. His wife began gesturing furiously. We could just imagine what she was saying about the current predicament. Well, I have to say that the truck stop ramp worked quite well. It stopped that truck dead in its tracks. As traffic advanced, we slowly crept passed, leaving the truck hopelessly mired in the pit of despair.
Rampa de frenado after being used. Notice how deep the sand is!
Just a little way further down the road, we noticed the red line continued. This time, the line curved to the left. I suppose that the second ramp would be in case the vehicle without brakes was unable to enter the first truck ramp on the right. There, on the left, instead of a ramp, we saw a gravel lane at least 1/2 mile long with large gravel speed bumps. In case the speed bumps weren’t enough, there were at least 20 barricas (barrels) full of water (or maybe stones) to slow the vehicle down before a stone wall right loomed up which was in front of a 20-foot steep drop-off. That ought to do the trick.
I think the traffic sign indicated it was a franja, which literally translates as fringe, but if anyone out there has the correct name, I’d be interested in learning it!
As we inched along toward the toll booths we saw the red line reappear. If the vehicle without brakes was still running wild, the center lane had been set aside for its passage, right through the toll booths. In order to keep the center lane traffic free, a brave, brave man stood there with a red cloth, waving the cars and trucks to the side.
All these precautions seemed to be adequate in case of brake failure except for the fact that the toll booths backed up traffic to some point BEFORE the first truck stop ramp, pretty much making it inaccessible. Only in Mexico would toll booths be built at the bottom of a steep hill that required two emergency stops. Maybe the toll road isn’t such a feasible option after all.
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