Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mysteries re Driving in Mexico

Last winter we spent 6 weeks driving the Baja Peninsula, and so far we’ve spent 12 weeks here this winter. It was only very recently we came to understand one of the mysteries of driving in Baja. Fairly frequently the vehicle in front of us, going our same direction, would slow down and turn on its 4-way flashers. A couple minutes later, they’d turn off the flashers and pick up their speed. More commonly, we’d notice an oncoming vehicle flashing its headlights at us, or driving with its 4-way flashers on, and always wondered why. One day recently we saw this happen more frequently than usual and FINALLY correlated it to something else going on simultaneously: the presence of cows immediately adjacent to or on the highway! We’ve mentioned before the lanes on the Mex 1 highway are narrow (9’) and have no shoulders, and cattle free-graze throughout the Baja. So it’s common to come around a curve in the roadway to find a single cow, or a dozen, grazing right next to the lane of traffic, and then see one or more simply step into the highway. We hear many cattle, and cars, die every year due to collisions between the two. So now we know, and when we see oncoming cars flashing their headlights or 4-way flashers, we’ll slow down in the future and watch for cattle!

You may recall we had two days of heavy rain earlier this month. One of those days we had a drive to the airport planned to pick up Lynn and David. As we left our house in the morning it was raining hard, so Russett warned us to be attentive as we come around curves in the highway, as we may come upon a Mexican car and driver going 10 mph, and of course we’d want to avoid a rear-ending accident. Since Mexicans don’t normally drive so slowly on the highway, we inquired as to the reason for this behavior. It turns out the Baja sunshine and heat combine to destroy windshield wiper blades quite rapidly. And because many years only see two days of rain all year long, poorer Mexicans don’t consider an investment in new wiper blades every few months to be necessary. So, when the rare rain does come, they drive down the roads and highway without windshield wiper blades, necessitating very slow speeds when it’s raining hard, as they can’t see out their windshield!

Finally, the mystery regarding why Mexicans mark road obstacles the way they do – that one we still haven’t figured out! Check out this photo depicting the marking of a utility access hole in  the center of a nearby road – ha!

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