When I first started writing for the Manzanillo Sun, Freda and I decided that it should be about living in Manzanillo. However, when her illness set in, and we found ourselves far away, in Canada, for exceedingly-extended periods of time a year, it be- came necessary to write of other Mexican things. With my love of history and researching abilities, we settled on Aztec Mythology. For some reason, I had always pictured all the Americans and Canadians living on one area sort of like a compound. Having come down here, I find that there are some folks that like to be located in secured areas with a lot of like minded individuals. But, I’m very happy to report that we ‘expats’ are living all over the place in all sorts of various types of housing and locations. Now that I find myself back in Manzanillo, at least for a couple of months, with prospects of returning this fall, I would like to tell of some accumulated impressions, strictly off the cuff, of living on the beach in Manzanillo.
DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: If you come down here with an American or Canadian attitude toward road sharing, traffic maneuvering, stop and go, courtesy and just simply following posted traffic laws, don’t drive down here. Let me explain with some examples:
When traveling from one township to another on any two-lane road, the passing/no passing lane markers and road signs are the same as they are up north. Here, no one follows any of them. If you come across a truck in your lane, regardless of the road on a curve or not and passing or no passing indicated, he will move over for you onto the shoulder and expect you to pass. It doesn’t matter if there is traffic coming toward you be- cause they will move over too. Trust me on this because, if you ever run into a situation where someone doesn’t move over, it will only happen once and you won’t have to go back north after that – ever.
Mexican methodology for speed control isn’t done with speed limit signs and official patrol enforcement. In both the inner city
side roads, as well as the main boulevards, and just about everywhere else, they have speed bumps. Some are marked with lines across the road. Some have paint on them and others have signs announcing the fact that there is something across the road that will tear the shocks off your car while sending you through the roof should you hit one just a little too fast. The thing to remember is that some of these suspension destroyers’ are not marked at all and you get to pick which ones you want to drive over. I am not a great fan of speed bumps but, down here, I think it preserves a lot of lives because no one pays any attention to the pedestrian road-crossing signs or pass-over walkways either for that matter.
Night-time picture taken out of our back veranda (the lens had puppy lick on it).
We live on the main drag running through Manzanillo about a block down from Sam’s Club. Along here, it is a four lane divided road with two slow lanes running parallel, next to the main lanes running each way. Where there is a center separator, it is raised, about a meter and a half wide, with landscaping (palms and grass). There are traffic separators at some of the lights for the slow lanes and the boulevard is widened at these intersections which are all controlled by traffic lights, mostly working, for each of the eight lanes. The yellow lights are somewhat quick but the greens start to blink toward the end of their cycle.
What is unique about these ‘slow lanes’ is that the far outside lane is used like the passenger drop off zones in our major air- ports and the inside slow lane is designated for cross-traffic turning. Whoever designed this had to have been a genius. A favorite thing that the northern residents like to tell their guests is that if you want to go left you have to go right first. Eureka, California could use this design. It sure beats waiting at a light and then sneaking a “U” turn and solves all those problems I’ve seen in other cities wondering which lane you should be in to turn onto another street.
There are two ways to drive to Manzanillo from any point in the states. They are the free roads and the toll roads. Regard- less of what you find, you must always take the toll roads wherever you can. We spent just about $100.00 USD getting down here from Nogales but would probably still be on the road if we had taken the free roads. The only other thing I will include here about driving in Mexico is to make sure you have good insurance and don’t travel at night if you can possibly help it. Oh yeah, one last thing – Always go with the flow of things. You may not live longer but you won’t have that coronary in frustration either.
DINING OUT: I’ve never had a bad dinner in Manzanillo. It isn’t because there aren’t any places that serve bad food; I know I’m just lucky. Okay, let me run through some helpful guidelines. First of all, if the restaurant has a solid roof over it, you can probably drink the water. I usually ask for an iced tea. These people are religious about using bottled water. Otherwise stick with the flavored fizzy drinks like Coke or Pepsi. Mexican beer is good. In most places, you can designate how much spice hot you want in your meal.
My big disappointment is that most places offer a seafood cocktail. But, unlike Tijuana, where you can get a huge one with raw seafood and chilled to the bone, here they all seem to want to serve them hot and fully cooked. Many of the places offer menus in English or a server that speaks a little. What I like to do is to go out at night and sample the street vendors’ menus. Some of those guys serve outstanding food.
For the taco sticklers, I recommend a little trailer painted with a blue sign that says: “Baja Tacos.” There’re located just north of the Thursday market place along the boulevard. Again, with that meal on a paper plate, its beer or your favorite soda pop to go with it. What I don’t recommend is that anyone comes down here and tries to lose weight. I’m doing it and we live four flights up across the street from a street vendor and an- other open air, meat sliced off a vertical rotating spit – and you have to go next door to the local version of the 7-Eleven to get your coke – eatery. The side of our building is covered with saliva marks and other signs of drool.
Kirby was born in a little burg just south of El Paso, Texas called Fabens. As he understand it, they we were passing through. His history reads like a road atlas. By the time he started school, he had lived in five places in two states. By the time he started high school, that list went to five states, four countries on three continents. Then he joined the Air Force after high school and one year of college and spent 23 years stationed in eleven or twelve places and traveled all over the place doing administrative, security, and electronic things. His final stay was being in charge of Air Force Recruiting in San Diego, Imperial, and Yuma counties. Upon retirement he went back to New England as a Quality Assurance Manager in electronics manufacturing before he was moved to Production Manager for the company’s Mexico operations. He moved to the Phoenix area and finally got his education and ended up teaching. He parted with the university and moved to Whidbey Island, Washington where he was introduced to Manzanillo, Mexico. It was there that he started to publish his monthly article for the Manzanillo Sun. He currently reside in Coupeville, WA, Edmonton, AB, and Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico, depending on whose having what medical problems and the time of year. His time is spent dieting, writing his second book, various articles and short stories, and sightseeing Canada, although that seems to be limited in the winter up there.