7 Resume normal speed.
7� Slow for chicken crossing the road.
7� Resume normal speed but keep eye on bicyclist on left side of road who will swerve toward car as you pass."
And so it goes: every mile an adventure. The belly-bloated bodies of cattle that have passed away unexpectedly lie in ditches along the road like huge russet balloons. Vultures pick at them (this is the best place in the world to be a vulture), and hawks dip in for a share. Coyotes tear off steaks and chops, overeat and are turned themselves into buzzard fare by speeding cars. The monstrous ravens and red-beaked vultures can almost always be trusted to fly off the road just before you reach them. Almost always. I knew of a man who liked to see how close he could come to buzzards before they flapped away. One day he drove at 70 mph toward a vulture gorged with rattlesnake meat and wiped out the windshield of his Cadillac Eldorado.
"That is exactly why the Mexican highway police do not have to enforce the speed laws," says Carlos Gutierrez V., president of Continental Tours, a Mexico City travel agency. "The laws are enforced by nature. If you speed in Mexico, sooner or later you will be in trouble."
Veteran Mexico hands have worked out a set of informal rules for approaching roadside animals. "There are key things to remember," says a travel-wise American. "Like the fact that cattle lie on the highways at night to soak up the heat of the asphalt. And the fact that pigs are nimble, as nimble as lambs if they choose to be."
"A pig can give your car a harder time than a cow," says Carlos Gutierrez V. "A cow will just stop you cold—bang! crash! and it's over—but a pig is a bag of grease, and that low mass has a tendency to roll your car over. And the pig is more unpredictable. But remember this whenever you approach any animal on the highway: if he has his head down, you have a few seconds. By the time he lifts his head and decides to walk in front of your car, you can slow down or swerve. But if the animal has his head up, look out! He can move into you in a second, and that may be just what's on his mind."
And what do you do if you hit an animal? "You drive away as fast as you can," says an American expatriate living in Monterrey. "Technically, the farmer is wrong and you're in the clear, but all kinds of things can happen. A friend of mine ran over a goat and reported it to the farmer. The farmer wanted 100 pesos, about $8. My friend said, 'Why, your damned goat had no right to be on the highway!' The Mexican said, 'Why not? Where were you going?' My friend said, 'To San Luis Potos�". 'So was my goat!' the Mexican said, and my friend finally paid off."
A Mexican police official had the last word on the subject of cattle and American drivers: "I understand natural selection and the Mendelian laws, se�or, and this subject puzzles me greatly. The stupid cows are getting killed off one by one, and you would think they would breed up a new species that would not step in front of cars. The same with North Americans. The dumb ones kill themselves off. And yet there are always more. God seems to make an infinite supply of dumb gringos and stupid cows!"
The norteamericano should be aware that accommodations vary. We stayed at highway motels that looked like discarded sets from Bonnie and Clyde and at others that were lavish by any standards. But the service is always unpredictable and so are the facilities. We enjoyed the Tres R�os Motel in Culiac�n, with its beautiful gardens, its immaculate dining room and its soft beds, but we showered under ice water. "We weel hov the hot water in 10 meenutes," the girl at the desk said. She kept saying it all night. We were also puzzled by the admonition on the back of the door: "Visitors of opposite sex to that of room occupants are not permitted in the guest's room after 10 p.m."