Thursday, October 03, 2019

on the road with mexpatriate

I mentioned last Saturday that I had just returned from a very brief trip to Lake Chapala -- and that I had two traveling tips to pass along.

One may have some permanency. The other, I hope, was an aberration.

You can see my first news item at the top of this essay. On the route to and from Lake Chapala, there are five or six toll booths where tribute must be paid to the God Who Maintains Some of the World's Best Highways. Tribute amounting to 378 pesos. Or about $19 (US). One way.

The first toll booth is between Manzanillo and Tecoman. I started fumbling, as I usually do, for cash (a 500-peso note at the first toll) when I am about 1000 feet from the booth.

When I focused again on the several traffic lanes, there was something new. A series of bright yellow load restricters led to one lane. A lane that announced that cars of a certain height and width could proceed without paying a toll.

I zoomed through -- an experience that reminded me of my military duties in the 1970s when I drove Greek roads toll-free -- several pesos wealthier.

The photograph is not of that booth. It is the new toll booth near lago de Sayula. The restricters were there, but tolls were required.

What to make of this? I do not know. I was going to stop at one of the booths and interview someone in charge. But, when I am on a travel roll, I roll.

Maybe one of you has better information. It appears that some automobiles are going to be able to travel with less expense in the future.

My second news item is not as good. Or, at least, I think it is. Because I do not have any hard facts, I am simply going to report what I saw.

On my drives to the Guadalajara, I encounter four or five police cars. I do not drive slow. That is an understatement. I regularly travel about 20% above the speed limit.

But, on the toll roads, you would think I was one of those old men in Miami who putts along in the left lane with his turn signal continually flashing and a hula girl dancing from his rear-view mirror. Most cars pass me by going at least 20 MPH faster than I am driving. Even so, I keep my eye out for the police.

I did not have to look intently on my Wednesday trip. There were at least six police cars between Barra de Navidad and Manzanillo. That was unusual. By the time I reached Colima, I had counted over twenty. And there were more past there. Usually congregated at the toll booths.

There were even more on my drive back to Barra on Friday. On the trip up, most of the police were waiting along the side of the highway. A couple had the usual trucker and motorcycle targets pulled over.

What was different on the trip back was the number of cars and pickups that were pulled over with their contents unloaded onto the shoulder. Just outside of Colima, what I assume were the occupants of the stopped car, were on the ground with two police officers holding rifles on them. There were six police cars at that stop -- and more were on the way.

About ten miles further along there was a less dramatic stop. Two police cars and the driver held at pistol-bay with his hands on the trunk of his car.

And it was not just police. There were three Army convoys -- one consisting of troops in the back of four white pickups. CFE (our electricity utility) pickups. That is the first time I have seen that.

When I asked my usual police source in Melaque if he knew what was up, he feigned a lack of knowledge and mumbled something about a Jalisco cartel declaring war on a Michoacan cartel in a territory expansion bid. That was not really news. The same story had been reported in the local newspapers.

And what is the moral of that tale? I really do not know because information involving this topics is always subject to a trip through the salt shaker.

What I do know is that I made my trip to Lake Chapala (successful in some respects, not in others) and returned home safely.

And I still have those two tolls to my credit. 

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