Thursday, January 09, 2014

beaters are for eggs

We were somewhere on the toll road between Los Mochis and Culiacan when my brother's mobile telephone rang.

From the conversation, I could tell it was his wife, Christie, checking up on our brother road trip from Salem to Melaque -- because boys left unattended are bound to get in trouble.  When Darrel told her we were rolling along the highway, she asked something along the line of how many "beaters" we had seen.

That question is one that comes up regularly in conversations with people who have not driven Mexico's toll road system recently -- a highway system that rivals the autobahns

The assumption is that Mexican highways are awash in old, smoke-bellowing heaps and suspension-challenged chicken buses.  That if you are not careful you will get run down by Jed Clampett -- or shot by Granny.

I suspect what my sister-in-law had in mind was something like the photograph at the top of this post.  It was the most beat-up vehicle I could find after an hour search through Melaque.  And the worst thing that can be said about the truck is that it appears to have led a very utilitarian life.

What I did discover as I wandered the streets of Melaque were plenty of late model sedans, pickup after pickup, well-maintained delivery trucks, one Bentley, a Lamborghini, and countless new SUVs and vans.  My neighbor's Lincoln Navigator is representative of that last group.

Admittedly, not all of the SUVs are Escalades and Navigators, but a lot of them are.  Admittedly, the Bentley and Lamborghini were anomalies.

As I have mentioned before, Mexico is a middle income country.  Even though 40% of the population are still listed as being in poverty, that leaves 60% of the country in the middle and upper classes.  And that is the group that drives most of the vehicles I see around town.

And that is what Darrel told Christie.  My 2001 Escape was the least expensive vehicle we encountered on miles of toll roads we drove from Santa Ana to Tepic.

Are there "beaters" in Mexico?  Of course, there are.  Just as there are in The States.  But I do not see very many of them in my travels.

One factor is always consistent.  No matter where I go in Mexico, the vehicles are always clean.  I never fail to be amazed at how a car owner can produce a sparkling car with only a sponge and a bucket of water.

If I were to drop you off blindfolded in a Walmart parking lot in Bend, Oregon or Manzanillo, Colima, I doubt you would know which country you were in simply by looking at the vehicles.

Looking at how they are parked in the lot may give you a clue.  But that is a tale for another day.

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