This weekend Bonita and I ventured on a run to the border. No, not for Taco Bell but for something much more mundane. We had to renew the permit for our U.S.-plated car. Mexico does not allow permanent importation of a foreign-plated vehicle; you get a permit at the border which must be surrendered every 180 days. So off we drove from Chapala to Nuevo Laredo to take care of business.
In another post I’ll talk more about the actual journey; today, my focus is once again on driving in Mexico, building on my first post on the topic.
The drive from Chapala to Nuevo Laredo (on the Texas border) is a clear shot North. Much of it, probably about half of it, is on toll road. Pretty straightforward. Toll roads in Mexico, at least those we’ve encountered, come in two versions: divided four lane and undivided two lane.
The divided four lane is easy-peasy to navigate and drive. Indeed for much of the time on these I used the car’s cruise control and sat back and drove.
What you encounter on the toll roads are mostly trucks. Here in Mexico, you see a lot of double semi’s, and on the rolling hills and mountain passes they can move at a snail’s pace (upside) and road runner (downside). On the four lanes, you zip right along.
You’ll pass a lot of trucks. But, always, always check the mirrors. Despite doing 70 to 75 mph myself, a number of the cars that use the toll roads treat them like the autobahn and will flash by you in the blink of an eye. And they seemingly appear out of nowhere.
The fun part is on the two lanes. On the toll roads with two lanes, there’s typically a paved shoulder, specifically marked. The shoulder is most often treated as another lane here in Mexico.
You are expected to drive mostly on the shoulder. The trucks almost all do so. Thus another “lane” is created in the middle of the road. The double yellow lines down the middle are ignored. And you pass in this “third” lane and you will be passed too. Even where it appears impossible to safely pass.
It seems that everyone understands this here in Mexico. The police do it; the trucks do it; buses do it; cars do it. It appears to be considered very bad form to doggedly drive, especially slowly, in the marked single lane in the road on these two lane toll roads.
Every now and then, you’ll see signage that clearly says “no passing”. However, there seems to be no signage that says “passing allowed”. You just do it.
The same is true in the cities. Be prepared to be passed on the right on the shoulder.
And motorcycles and scooters zip everywhere.
I see the Mexicanos driving and talking away on their cellphones. I shake my head in amazement. It takes all the focus and attention I can muster just to drive here.
It’s not better; it’s not worse; it’s just quite different than driving in the U.S. or Canada.
I do wonder though. Do the Mexicans find driving in the U.S. and Canada as challenging as I find driving in Mexico?