What Do These Three Things Have in Common?
Traveling in Mexico, that is what. Everything changed when we crossed the border. Remember the photos of Steven, siphoning and huffing gas in the past post? Well, Bimbo is a diesel rig. Yeah, I am totally getting the RV lingo down. On our way down to the border from NH, we needed to fuel up which sounds simpler than it is. In a car, you just pull up to the pump, no big deal right? Have you ever, pulled up to the wrong side and had to turn around. I have, especially when driving someone elses’ car. On a side note, did you know that you can tell the side of the car the gas tank is on by where the pump hose is in the picture on your dashboard. If that was obvious to you, great, however, I just learned that recently from the Car Talk guys. Where was I? Oh, yeah, so we needed to fill up the RV with diesel fuel. First thing we needed to do was figure out where the diesel hose is. In the US the pump handle is green (foreshadowing…..). So we would need to pull this 37 foot beast towing a small car behind up to a tank. Ok, I say we but I mean Steven. I have not driven this massive creature and don’t know if I will try it. Anyway, we were getting pretty good at figuring this all out.
First fill up in Mexico, we scoped out the station and Steven maneuvered his way up to the green pump. I start practicing my spanish with Laura, the gas pump attendant (there are no self-serves in Mexico, and you always tip the attendant). “llenalo por favor”. We are chatting and chatting and answering questions about the rig and our trip, the dogs are barking etc, the usual. We pull out of the gas station and start the second leg of our trip from Tampico to Costa Esmeralda. Took a wrong turn and started heading down a very steep hill into a little town. Now this is scary because, as I mentioned, the RV with the car in tow is 55 feet long. We can’t just turn around in a driveway, even if there was one. Worse, people are stopping, some staring, some waving, some shaking their heads in disbelief. Even worse, we hear this loud bang and Steven says, “Oh, shit, I think we are losing the engine.” What???? Ok, we can’t think about that now, we have to get turned back around. We keep going and miraculously, we find a way to manuever around the town square and back up to the highway. All the while the engine is dragging and backfiring. In the back of my mind there is a niggling thought but I can’t find it.
You may have guessed what happened. We figured it out a few more kilometers south. We pulled into a gas station a realized that we had put gas in the engine. As we were pulling in we saw that the diesel pump is black, and the economy gas is green. I went up to the attendant and explained what had happened. He asked me if I wanted him to buy the gas. Hell no, I said, you can have it if you can get us a 50 gallon drum and a hose. Steven breathed in more of his share of fumes. He managed to get about 45 gallons out and we put in 45 gallons of new diesel fuel. We were out of cash but happy that there was a solution. What is it we talk about in yoga; paying attention?
Washed out Roads
We got back on the road, and found it rough going. Incredibly beautiful countryside with really, really bad roads. In Mexico, there are a few things you need to get used to:
1. The aforementioned bad roads. Driving on these roads in an RV is like rattling around in a tin can. Everything has to be secured or it will go flying.
2. Topes. Topes are speed bumps of varying sizes and shapes. As our friend Luis said today, if there is a dead dog in the road, they just pave right over it and make a tope. Now, I am not just talking about one or two. I am talking about sometimes 10 in a row. They are ubiquitous here and you most often are warned but not always.
3. Roadside food. All over Mexico, you will be approached on the road by various people with food and drink. This often occurs, you guessed it, at topes. So far, we have purchased, pineapple juice, jicama with chile, fried bananas, mandarin oranges, coconut cookies, coconut water, right out of the coconut, and a brittle made out of cane sugar, nuts and seeds. The cool thing is that all of these foods are from the region that you are driving through. We just entered the state of Tabasco, and have seen lots of bananas. You gotta love it!!
4. Kids with flags and rope. If something is coming up ahead that is dangerous, you will often be stopped by kids holding a rope across the road and waving a red flag. You stop, give them a few coins and they let you through. You then find out what is ahead when you get to it.
5. Washed out roads. This region gets hit hard by hurricanes and floods. We have been on many roads that just seem to disappear over the edge or right in front of us.
6. Passing ritual. When you are on a one lane road, the driver ahead of you will let you know when you are safe to pass by pulling over to the right a bit and putting on their left hand blinker. It actually works really well and seems more civilized than our system.
7. Lot’s of animals. Dogs, cows, pigs, horses, donkeys,and chickens are everywhere. Strangely, I have only seen one cat the entire time.
8. Roadside stands. Again, everything is regional so you will see specific kinds of foods in specific places. When you see your first mandarin orange stand, you can be sure to see at least 20 more. However, when they are gone, they are gone and replaced by something else. Like in Catemaco,there was a row of stands selling honey, flavored bee pollen, vanilla, dried beans, cane sugar syrup, and a few other things.
9. Roadside Restaurants. The cool thing is that each town also has it’s own specialties. Now, everyone has tortillas and beans but some places sell gorditas, which are fatter tortillas fried with a lip around the edge like a pie crust. Some sell enfrijoladas, which are soft tortillas with beans and cheese. Some sell chiliquiles, which are tortilla chips cooked in either a red or green sauce. I had chiliquiles for breakfast at a roadside restaurant south of Coatzecoalcos.
They love pools and water parks in Mexico. It seems that everywhere we go, we find a place with a pool and at least a little slide. In Casitas, they had a water slide made out of cement. Kind of rough but fun. In Catemaco, there was a really nice one made out of tile.
Here is Villahermosa, we are actually staying at an RV park in a water park. So much fun. It was so cool because, as we were driving down the road to the RV park a bunch of neighborhood boys followed us down. We got out and talked about the dogs etc. For some reason, everybody has pit bulls here. We haven’t seen one this whole trip and this town is full of them. Shanti feels right at home. Steven and the boys got out of the RV with Nerf guns, swords and light sabers. The kids immediately started to play. It is amazing what a few tow weapons can do to break the ice!
After that we were all pretty hot and sweaty. We went swimming and yes, you guessed it. The place has an awesome water slide.