Our drive leaving Mexico City presented us with some interesting stories to share, experiences that we had heard and read about, and now can personally attest to. These were both highlights and lowlights. Lowlights because of the inconvenience and unpleasantness of the experiences, but highlights . . . . . because, what a story to tell! (Click below right to read more . . . )
Amicable extortion - We were pulled over by a federal police officer as we drove through Puebla. He asked for my documents and asked me to step out of the car. We walked around to the back, and he was a most friendly guy. He asked about the family, where we were from, and where we were going, smiling and upbeat. He then told me the problem, I was driving with no reflectors on the back of our black trailer. In addition, I had passed through a 50 km/hr zone, and I was going 65 km/hr. The reflector problem was certainly true, but the speeding claim I found rather dubious. He told me that the fine, if he were to write me a ticket, would be over 6000 pesos (about US$325). Emily came out to help me at this point, and got a little bit of clarity. He asked us a few times what we were going to do about this problem. I told him I didn’t have that much money on me, and he asked me how much I had. I only had 250 pesos in my wallet (US$17), and he asked me to go ask my wife if she had any money. While I did, he chatted amiably with Emily, asking her about her Spanish education, and her future plans. Tera wisely said that she had no more cash, so I returned with my 250 pesos, and told him I’d need a bank. He considered this for a moment, then took my pesos, and waved us on, and returned to his car. There was never any fear or worry, he was easily the friendliest extortionist I’ve ever met! After parting ways, we pulled off the freeway and found an Autozone to buy some reflectors and a reflector triangle to mount to the back of the trailer.
Inconvenient Roadblocks and Dusty Reroutes— About 20 miles from Oaxaca, we pulled into a toll station that was surrounded by protesters, carrying “pass-through free” signs, and some other signs that said something like “don’t come to Oaxaca”. We didn’t think much about it, excited for the free toll station, and continued on. Emily was sleeping, so we missed a detailed reading of the protest signs they were carrying. A few miles on, we came to traffic stopped dead in its tracks. It was mainly semi-trailers, as the majority of the passenger cars were turning around or crossing the median and driving the wrong-way down the opposite side of the highway. We figured, when in Rome, do as the Romans, so we followed those cars and headed to the other side of the highway. Due to the protest, there was zero traffic coming onwards, so it was obvious that a roadblock was halting traffic on both sides. After about a kilometer, we came to the epicenter of the disturbance, and intersection filled with people and cars and taxis, blocking travel in both directions. We turned off onto a side road, trying to find a way around the blockage. We turned onto a dusty, dirty side road heading up and over a hill, which was so bumpy and pot-holed, that we decided to unload all the passengers so we wouldn’t be riding so low.
After Tera asked a passing-by taxi which dirt trail to take to get us past the blockade, everyone got out and walked and I maneuvered my way back down to the main road. But we were on the wrong side of the divided highway, with no intersection to cross. Plus the road was filled with stopped trucks. Luckily, we continued to follow the local passenger cars, still driving the wrong way, and navigating the small alleyway through the stopped trucks on the road, pointed in the opposite direction. When we got past the jam of trucks, we saw many cars driving up and over the center divider. In another life, I would have followed them, but as low as we’re riding with all our luggage in a minivan, I didn’t dare risk it. So we tried another side road, and Google maps provided a re-route that did not involve a u-turn, or driving on the wrong side of the highway. Success!
With spotty and slow internet data service where we were, Emily texted one of her friends in the US to look up what protest may be occurring in Oaxaca. We found out it was the government medical workers protesting, apparently for back wages and poor staffing policies. And to think, we were in the thick of it.
Plan? What plan?
Our 2018 will be filled with family travel, with all 8 suitcases! After going to Hawaii, we are planning on driving through Mexico, to Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. We'll spend about a month there, then drive to (tentative) Costa Rica for maybe a month. Then we'll make our way back up to Texas and fly to London! After that, the plan is to drive around Europe, go back and visit Holland, and maybe navigate Eastern Europe, maybe go back to some old haunts, but whatever it is, it'll be great.