BootsnAll Travel Network

On the Ruta a la JK

So what is it like to drive south of the border? Mad times, crazy, man. Let´s just say this is sort of freestyle driving. Sure, you could follow all the traffic rules, but what fun is there in that? I think that would just show a lack of creativity. Actually, Mexico compared to some countries we have driven in is quite calm and safe. The drivers here usually show a lot of restraint, even when stuck behind the infamous Doble Remolque which is a ridiculously long tractor-trailer. Yes, we have them in the US, especially the western states, but in Mexico the double trailers and even the triple trailers go almost everywhere a scooter will try to go. Also, there are many mountainous two-laned roads around here that are a challenge for a new Porsche. There is a stretch of road called El Espinoza del Diablo (the Devil´s Spine!) that lives up to its name. The big rigs on these roads sometimes clip along at a donkey pace- no exaggeration. And that´s not a donkey in any hurry either. I tried going at a dog´s pace, but Giselle started to get a little green, so I slowed back down to hobbling goat.

Another very exciting aspect of driving here is the “tope.” Otherwise known as a speed bump, topes can catch you by surprise because they are the most common form of speed control on every road except the toll roads. The roads here are usually in excellent condition, often better than in the US (remember we live in DC), but the topes knock driveability down a few notches. A tope can be anything from a gentle lump of asphalt stretching across the road. These topes say, “Excuse me kind driver, perhaps you might consider reducing your velocity. Remember, there are children about. Thank you, and have a nice day.” There are other topes with bad attitudes. These topes are like the waiters who spit in your food if you ask them for more water. When you drive over these topes, even at the aforementioned donkey pace, the tope says, “Look here mo-fo, I am going to rip your transmission a new hole, and there is not a dang thing you are going to do about it. By the way, I hope you have a terrible day. Now get out of here and don´t come back…ever… or else.” Another interesting aspect of topology is that often, when you slow down for these lumps people on the side of the road come up to your car to sell things. Many things. We have seen all varieties of fruit, clothing, unrecognizable things, big things, small things- you get the idea. Never let it be said that the people of Mexico are not industrious. It seems like all market niches have been covered; at least on the side of the road.

Concentration is the name of the game. On Eisenhower´s interstate highways back home you can often take catnaps with little consequence. (Dear Insurance Company, please disregard last comment). Here, I blink with my right eye and then my left eye. I have hit a few topes at over 25 mph and it is not a happy feeling for passengers or vehicles. In addition to topes there are animals of every variety using the highway as a barnyard. No kidding, we have seen every one of Old MacDonald´s menagerie out there on the pavement. Note: cow big.

There is also a lack of sidewalks outside of cities. People who live in the villages along the roads have no choice of how to get around. Most of them are not hopping in their Camrys, so they have to walk along the roadside. There is usually not a lot of space for such activity. There is the center line, your lane, the line on the edge of your lane and then about three and a half inches for a person to walk. Going to school kid? Hit the highway. Going to market? Highway. Going to wherever. Highway.

The mix of huge trucks, roaming animals, hapless pedestrians, killer topes, and vomit-inducing curves keeps a driver on his or her toes. My favorite passenger clutches the sides of her seat, stares straight ahead, lets out the occasional scream and tries to avoid puking into her Sudoku puzzle. I think she has finished one in 5,000 miles.

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5 Responses to “On the Ruta a la JK”

  1. Lonnie Bruner Says:

    Excellent post. More Mad Max stuff! Yeah!

  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. Jules Says:

    Giselle – SuDoku ?!?!??!
    I didn’t know you were bit by the sudoku bug.
    I would have hooked you up big time before you & Dan went south.

  4. Posted from United States United States
  5. Krissy Says:

    You’ve been on the road an entire month almost and I’m just checking in!! Terrible friend! So I’m going to actually try Soduko now, and catch up on the whole blog and comments…great pictures!!!!

  6. Posted from United States United States
  7. Taki Says:

    Hey guys,

    Glad to hear you’re still on the go-go. Beautiful pics! Thought you’d be interested in an article in the LA Times about a guy who’s crisscrossing Chile overland. Here’s the link:,1,1414131.story?ctrack=1&cset=true


  8. Posted from United States United States
  9. Giselle Says:

    Jules, yep, I’m a sudoku sucker. My coworkers gave me 2 books for the trip, one to indulge me, and the second to cure me of my addiction. I’m not ready to be cured yet, so I still haven’t tried the second one.

    Krissy, great to hear from you. Hope all is well with you. How’s your back?

  10. Jules Says:

    Oh Giselle…you’ve just begun on your path.
    Call me when you get back. Consider me your Sudoku connection.

  11. Posted from United States United States