When we started talking about our trip to Mexico a common response was, “Aren’t you afraid to go there? It isn’t safe is it?” I didn’t have any concern about our safety. I was sure that as long as we didn’t linger near the border where most of the violence seems to be occurring, we would be safe.
I must admit to being a bit apprehensive about driving in Mexico though. I pictured long stretches of road with no gas stations, places to stay, or restaurants. I worried about parking in towns and cities where the car might be stolen or damaged. I imagined roads that were narrow with drivers who ignored any semblence of order. I insisted that we buy a three gallon jug of water before crossing the border in case bottled water wasn’t readily available.
The things that I worried about didn’t exist. Gas stations were frequent (although some were still under construction and occasionally one was out of gas), restaurants were abundant, in fact there was food for sale along the road and in the many small towns that line the highways. Every town had at least one hotel and most had several. Parking was never a problem, if there was no on-site parking, there were secure parking lots nearby. Bottled water was provided in every hotel, except the one that cost us $15 for the night, and for sale in every little shop.
Although most of the highways are two lane, they are wide with lines defining the road but plenty of room on the shoulder. In fact, drivers straddle the line on the shoulder, effectively turning the road into three lanes making it easy to pass. The exceptions were the roads through the mountains. They were narrower but well maintained. Occasionally we found short stretches of road that were broken and potholed but that was rare.
Traffic in every village and town is controlled most effectively by means of speed bumps. Usually a town has a series of speed bumps slowing traffic to a crawl in settled areas. Only in the large cities did we find traffic lights. Unlike city traffic signals in the US, pedestrians wait for green.
Wherever traffic is slowed, vendors can be found selling food of some sort, tortillas, chilies, oranges, garlic, anything that is abundant in the area. We passed through two major orange producing areas. The roads were lined with nearly identical stalls selling bags of oranges and at the speed bumps people were selling plastic baggies of orange juice. I wondered how so many competing stalls could exist.
Along the Gulf Coast densely populated areas alternate with fields of crops. Inland where it is mountainous and arid, the land looks very unfogiving. We might drive for miles without seeing anything but cacti and then see a few goats on a hillside, tended by a shepherd. No sign of a dwelling or other indication of habitation. Wherever we drove goats, burros, horses, and cows graze on the edge of the highway.
Our Mexican experience reinforced my belief that there is no point in worrying about “what might happen”. Chances are it won’t, and if it does, worrying in advance doesn’t help!

Roadside grazing

Roadside grazing

Tlacotalpan truck, note ladder

Tlacotalpan truck, note ladder

Sugar Cane

Sugar Cane

Mountain road block

Mountain road block