Tag Archives: driving in Mexico

Too Much Signage

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So the other week, I noticed a lone worker digging a hole near the crossroad to La Yacata and I started to speculate. I thought to myself– maybe they were going to put in a light, perhaps solar as there are no connecting wires. That section of road is extremely dark at night and there has been more than one fatal accident at the intersection.

The lone worker dug steadily for a week. Each day, I was more and more convinced that it would be a light. After all, the town was putting in MORE lights every few feet on several of the main thoroughfares. Literally, less than 10 feet from existing lights, light posts were going up. There were even a few solar lights installed near the new CAISES. Yeah, baby! Our time had come!cam05234 cam05235

Imagine my disappointment when I came home one day towards the end of the week to find a HUGE green road sign, and then another. As the road that we live on dead ends in La Ordena, how much traffic does this road really get? Certainly not enough for such a HUGE sign. I guess it’s for the occasional lost cows that wander about. This way to Morelia.

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Take a look at how many signs there are in the 2 km between La Yacata and the intersection. Of course, not one can be seen at night, due to the lack of LIGHTING in the area.

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I have no idea what the smaller sign means. Women dragging men?

I have no idea what the smaller sign means. Women dragging men?

Meanwhile, there was a lighting celebration going on in town for those newly installed street lamps. Now it’s so bright when I take my son to school in the morning that I feel like I need to wear my sunglasses.

Just goes to show, there’s just no accounting for town spending practices.

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Driving Hazards–Vehicles without brakes

red line on road

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.

sand pitRampa 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!

toll lane

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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Just another weekend adventure

It's a good idea to keep one of these in your wallet when driving in Mexico.

It’s a good idea to keep one of these in your wallet when driving in Mexico.

Saturday started out rainy, which never bodes well. The amount of rain that falls is proportionately related to the number of classes I have.(See Failing at your own business–Saturday classes) Sure enough, I had only half my classes show. Well, I put my time to good use on other projects for the school until the rain let up and my son and I raced home on the moto before the next storm hit.

My husband arrived shortly thereafter for lunch. As it was clouding up again, he thought it best to take one of the vehicles back for his afternoon shift at the viniteria (liquor store) instead of his moto. Butch, the truck, had a slow leak in the back tire. He loaded the tire into Myrtle (See Placando Myrtle) to have it repaired in town before his shift. Then Myrtle, the VW bug, wouldn’t start. So he and I pushed her out of the garage, only to discover the back tire was flat. There was nothing to be done but put some air into the tire with the bicycle pump. That finished, Myrtle still wouldn’t start. We gave her a running push down the hill and nothing. My husband opted to take the battery out of Butch and connect it up, hoping that Myrtle’s battery would charge with the drive. We think maybe there’s a loose wire someplace but didn’t have time to run a full diagnostic during lunch break.

Joey posing for the camera!

Joey posing for the camera!

The rest of the afternoon passed quietly enough, except for an incident with Joey. (See Joey) Joey, as the biggest male in our animal kingdom, fully believes he is the head mucky-muck around here. Joey’s dad lives across the way in my brother-in-law’s B partially finished house but is seldom out and about. Joey’s dad is a full-fledged, ornery stallion. His bad-tempered self happened to be tied out near our house for an afternoon grazing session. Not thinking much about it, my son took out Shadow and Joey for their dinner grazing. B hollered over and told my son to take them back in until he got his horse back in his stall. Shadow obediently trotted back inside. Joey didn’t. He sniffed the air, snorted and was off, rearing and neighing. Of course, Joey’s dad didn’t take kindly to the upstart challenger. There was a lot of horse screaming, bucking and running about for the next 10 minutes or so. Joey’s dad was tied, so Joey felt brave enough to get right up next to him and throw some shadow kicks. My son and B had the lasso out and were trying to catch Joey before Joey’s dad broke his rope and caused some real damage. Throughout it all, Shadow was carrying on in the stall, eyes rolling in her head. All of a sudden, Joey gave up the fight. He ran right through the neighbor’s corn field and back to his stall. Joey’s dad snorted and huffed, then went back to his dinner. Of course, we waited until the coast was clear before taking our two horses out again.

While my son was out with the goats and horses, I cooked dinner. I wasn’t expecting my husband until about 11 pm but I didn’t want to be cooking at that hour, so I made his favorite cacapapa (fried potatoes, garlic, onion, and tomato) so I could just heat it when he got home. Well, 11 pm came and went. Midnight came and went. By 12:30 am I was starting to get worried. I tried calling his cell phone, but he didn’t answer. I dozed a bit, woke up to find that he still wasn’t home, and called his phone again. The next morning, he still wasn’t home. I called his phone at least 30 times during the course of the day.

We checked with my father-in-law, who went to town on his bicycle to see if he could find out anything. We drove around between torrential rain showers, checking his regular route and hang out places and found no trace of him or Myrtle. By mid-afternoon, we were pretty sure he was dead in a ditch somewhere. I started worrying about how to get the truck out of the garage for the wake since the back tire was in the back seat of Myrtle. (See Mass and burial Mexican style) My son and I talked about which animals to sell to cover the funeral expenses. Joey, after his little stunt, was at the top of the list. Then I started to worry that nobody would inform us of his death. None of his documentation in his wallet has La Yacata since the community doesn’t have any street names. Neither is Myrtle registered at our home address, for the same reason. (See Getting Legal–License to Drive)

My father-in-law came by to say that none of my husband’s buddies had seen him since yesterday. He also told us that my husband’s nephew L, who had only been out of jail for a few weeks (See More thoughts on Safety and Security) had been in a serious moto accident on Saturday and was in the hospital. The passenger was in a coma. Due to the nature of the laws here in Mexico, should the passenger die, L will be charged with homicide (See And Justice for all?) Since he had been to the hospital, he was able to confirm that my husband had not been taken there. He suggested we contact the police. I told him that if he had been arrested, surely he would have been allowed to call to let us know where he was. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one phone call rule here in Mexico, but I didn’t know that at the time.

I sent messages to my sisters-in-law T and P. T hadn’t seen him. P didn’t answer. A little while later, T called to say that a muchacho (young man) had just been to see her to tell her that my husband was in the jail in Uriangato, the neighboring town. I didn’t even know Uriangato had a jail. T didn’t know where the jail was, nor had transportation to go and get him out. B, who is currently living with his sister T, knew where the jail was and had transportation but wasn’t interested in doing anything about getting his brother out of jail. My son and I went up the hill when the rain let up to see what my father-in-law had to say. He’s always full of good advice. He didn’t know where the jail was either, but his son C, who was visiting, did. I couldn’t follow his directions, but understood it was just minutes from where P had moved to recently. So I called P. From the noise in the background, it seemed like she was at the hospital. She sent her brother M and her sister L on the moto to check the jail and called me back. Yes, my husband was there (which I already knew) and that the fine was 200 pesos, which nobody was willing to pay. In any case, he could only be held 24 hours and as he had already been there more than half, he’d be released soon. I had the money to get him out, but I still had no idea where the jail was and no one was willing to take me.

About an hour later, my husband himself called me. He said that he had just been released from jail and was walking home. I told him to take a taxi home. He said he didn’t have any money. I told him that I would pay the taxi when it arrived. So 30 minutes later, he was home. The taxi ride was $70 pesos.

Here’s what happened. My husband got off work at about 11 pm. Myrtle’s tire was low again, so he started towards the gas station a few blocks away to put air in it. The car stopped. The battery was dead again. It wouldn’t start, so he tried pushing it. As he was doing that, a police car came up and asked what he was doing. They checked the car out, saw the truck battery in the back seat, arrested him and had the car towed to the police station. Apparently, someone had reported a truck battery stolen or so they said. Sounds like the time my husband was arrested when getting a load of water because someone reported a stereo stolen in Ojo de Aqua en Media (See Christmas in Mexico–La Aguinaldo)

While waiting for the judge to hear his case, he was put in the holding cell with 4 other hardened criminals. Three of the four were from Cuitzeo and had been arrested for changing their clothes. Yep, you read that right. Most of the manual labor workforce and domestic servants in Moroleon are from Cuitzeo, a small town just across the Michoacan border. They have the curious custom of changing clothes. They take the bus to Moroleon, walk to their job sites from the bus terminal, change their regular clothes to work clothes, work their shift and at the conclusion of their shift, change back into their regular clothes to take the bus back to Cuitzeo. That’s what these three men had been doing. It seems the walls of their job site weren’t finished yet, so their changing could be seen from the street. They were seen, arrested, and charged them with indecent exposure.

The fourth delinquent was the young man who runs the papeleria (stationary store). He had been arrested because his music was too loud. You know those paper store types, always causing a ruckus. Once he paid bail, he stopped by T’s house to let her know where my husband was.

Meanwhile, one of the three from Cuitzeo paid my husband’s bail of $341 pesos, a bit more than the 200 quoted to M and L. He told my husband to pay it forward. When he went for the return of his personal items, the $400 pesos formerly in my husband’s wallet was nowhere to be found. So the judge gave him 10 pesos to take the bus back to Moroleon. Unfortunately, by now, it was late Sunday afternoon and the buses weren’t running anymore. Thus the $70 pesos taxi ride.

On Monday morning, my husband took the car title and my identification, because Myrtle is registered in my name, back to the police station to get the car. In order to regain possession of the car, he had to pay the police grua (towtruck). That bill was $850 pesos. He borrowed a battery from el plomero neighbor and brought Myrtle home. Since the money was gone, there is the very real concern about his debit card. On Tuesday, he went to the bank to see what could be done since his card number has been stolen once already. That time we did not have to pay for the resulting mystery shopping spree because we had informed the bank and changed the card prior to the date the charges were made. So far, no strange charges have been credited to our account.

I have to say that I am mighty impressed with the local police force. They certainly know how to clean the riff-raff off the street and keep its citizens safe. I mean, just last month alone….the mother of three of my students was gunned down on her way to the gym at 9 am….oh wait, no one was arrested. And just after that, the father of two other students was stabbed and his taxi stolen…but no, no one was arrested in that case either. And before that, the father of another student was kidnapped, his dismembered body returned to his family even after the ransom was paid…yet again, no one was arrested. However, committing the heinous crime of having two batteries in your vehicle or changing out of your work clothes or playing your music just a bit too loud, well, the police all over that. Thank God!

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Getting Legal—License plates

Myrtle

Placando Mytle (a little play on words) Placas are license plates.  Placar means to tackle.  So tackling license plates….

As much as I love my moto, I have to admit it is not as much fun to use during rainy season. With that in mind, this year we found a 1993 VW bug, known here as a Vocho, in our price range, owned by someone whose family we know and could feel reasonably confident buying from and voila, Myrtle joined the family.

With the policía del estado (State police) camping out at the crossroads that is the main entrance to La Yacata, (See Driving Hazards–mordidas) we decided to waste no time in getting license plates and tarjeta de circular (permission to circulate) for Myrtle.

oficina de recaudadora

My husband went down to the Oficina de Recaudadora to see about that particular transaction. He took his driver’s license, his IFE (voter registration card) and the electric bill from his sister’s tortilleria (tortilla shop). However, the guy at the desk said that one or the other of his identifications must have the address that the electric bill had listed.

Oh, but wait! My newly minted moto license has that address on it! (See Getting Legal—Motorcycle license) Problem solved. So we went back and showed my documentation. I brought my residency card, my driver’s license, my passport, just in case, and Myrtle’s papers. We checked with the guy at the desk and everything seems a go. We took a number and waited.

At the counter, the girl asked for the original factura (factory receipt), the baja (the receipt from when the previous owner turned in the old license plates), the CFE receipt (the electric bill), and my driver’s license. My husband also insisted I show her my residency card. I explained that my last name is not E. but F. and that I don’t have a second last name and that E. is my middle name. My husband signed over the car to me on the back of the original factura with 6 other transfers of ownership. He wrote Cedo a los derechos a (I cede the rights to this receipt to) my name, then signed his name and dated it. The counter girl asked for copies of all these. She told us to get a number from the guy at the desk when we came back.

So we trooped down to the first floor to a costume store that makes copies, $1 peso per side. That was a little steep, but it was the closest copy place. We went back up to the third floor and the desk guy said we could go over to the counter. But as the girl said we needed a number, we asked again. He hollered over at the girl and she said we could come on over. There wasn’t a line or anything.

So she took the copies and entered stuff into the computer. She asked how much we paid for the vehicle. My husband said $12,000 pesos although we really paid $17,000 but I guess the price of the plates is partially determined by the value of the vehicle or something. We asked if she could determine if the car had ever been a taxi since we discovered chips of green paint under the white. She said that there wasn’t anything in the system that said that it was, however since it had been originally purchased in D.F. (Mexico City) there was a good chance that it had been.

She told us that the plates would cost between $1200 and $1300 pesos but she couldn’t be sure since it was the end of the month and the price goes up at the beginning of the new month. My husband asked why we couldn’t pick them up today since it would be cheaper than waiting. She said that there was a 3 to 10 day waiting period in order for the State Police to check if the documentation we presented was fake or not. No worries! She gave us a recibo de documentación para tramites vehículares (a receipt stating she had received our documentation) and an appointment for Wednesday at 1:20 pm to come back for the alta (plates and permit and literally the opposite of the baja).

So Wednesday came around and we arrived 5 minutes before our appointment. I handed the recibo (receipt) letter that we had been given to the desk guy. He took it over to the window and gave it to the same girl we spoke with before behind the glass partition. Then we sat down. The waiting area was more crowded but the TV was on, so we watched a telenovela (soap opera) while we waited. It seemed the girl was finishing another transaction and she had to go hither and yon into different areas for paperwork, so the wait was about 10 minutes.

She then called my name and we went to the window. She apologized for the wait and said that she had indeed been working a troublesome transaction and thus the delay. She gave me the plates and read off the number on the tarjeta (card) to make sure they were the same. She asked the original factura (factory receipt) and $1123 pesos, which was much lower than we had been anticipating. I signed two or three documents. She rubber stamped and signed the original and the copy of the factura and she handed me the card. We were done.

How refreshing for an official transaction to be so simple and straightforward! We took Myrtle out for donuts that very afternoon, cruising right past the policía without a care in the world.

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