Now this was a driving day. It took us about ninety minutes to work our way around Tampico, a city of over 500,000. The geography of the area reminds us of New Orleans. Tampico sits on a huge river delta and is surrounded by marshes and wetlands. It also has a huge petrochemical industry just as the Louisiana coast does. Parts of the city smelled very chemically and a coastal fog added to the dank atmosphere. But the petroleum industry also gave the city a prosperous, productive feel. Large oil rigs sat in the delta and factories were busy constructing more rigs.
Our trip log indicated that we would be paying numerous tolls today because we would be driving on cuota (tollways.) Boy, was that a hoot. All 19 of us would stand in a long line at one toll booth to shell out a few pesos and then bump and lurch our way over the worst pavement we have driven on in recent memory. I began to wonder if the toll booth was the first part of the tollway they build. Perhaps we were paying to give them enough money to build the rest. Our leader said that one reason the roads are so bad is that the weight of the trucks is not regulated and they cram as much on each chassis as humanly possible. So we were sharing this so called tollway with overloaded trucks as well as faster moving buses and cars. The tollway was narrow and went through towns with huge topes (speed bumps). Mexicans must feel that topes are a better way to regulate traffic than traffic lights. The topes were hardly necessary, because the potholes did a more than adequate job of keeping our speed below 20mph. It took us three hours to drive the first sixty miles and we still had over 150 more. At one point a road crew was actually out trying to patch the right hand side. As Ken tried to ease left to avoid them, he was being passed two semis. There was also the occasional donkey cart and other livestock to contend with.
As we crawled along the scenery began to change and the sun broke through the fog. The flat river delta gave way to gently rolling hills covered with lush green. The tollway slowed down even more as trucks heavily laden with oranges joined our queue. Orange groves alternated with banana trees. It looked like a great spot to film the next season of TV's "Survivor." Since the road was so rough and narrow there were no good places to pull off. Our lunch break was a big twenty minute stop while we refueled. Just as we were about to lose it altogether, the last toll paid for some smooth pavement and we flew across the countryside at the lightening speed of 50mph.
Nine hours after we left Tampico and $30 in tolls later we finally rolled into our campground on the Emerald Coast. As I opened our slide outs, I could see shards of glass all over our kitchen and living room. Two light fixtures did not make it through the day and lay shattered everywhere. The bulbs are intact so we still can see at night, but it does give our rig a rather penal ambiance. We are camped right on the beach and have a swimming pool as well. Our electricity supply is variable and our water supply is a trickle, but when we look at the beach, utilities seem inconsequential. Looking forward to being in the same beautiful spot for a few days.