It turned out that the last gentleman we asked for directions was right. We did run into M180 but it was quite by accident and 45 minutes later! I was so glad to be back on the road we needed. A little further and we found the entrance to the freeway system and were going to finally leave the bad roads behind for awhile. Of course, there was no sign for Veracruz. There was one directing us to either Poza Rica or Boca del Rio. I could not stop to look at the map and blindly trusted Jaimie when he told me to head for Poza Rica. This was also the city name that we followed to get out of the mountains and back onto M180 so it was a name that had become quite familiar to us. We really did not want to go to Poza Rica though. It was just a large city for us to use as a guide to get back to the M180. Evidently Jaimie forgot that we really did not want to go there. I, of course, could not even begin to keep all the various and strange Mexican names straight in my head. Poza Rica, Rica Poza, Boca Poza, they were all the same to me. So, following Jaimie’s instructions, down the freeway we went. I was happy to be traveling 70 mph and finally making up for some lost time. We would travel at this speed for 21 miles before realizing our mistake.
Rest areas are non-existent in Mexico and signage is just as bad. There is never a sign at a junction or intersection telling you which way to go. In the distance, I could see a typical green highway sign with city names and distances on it. I saw the name of Tuxpan, the town where we had just spent the night. “Jaimie,” I said, “check the map. I think we are going in the wrong direction.” “No” came back his reply. “we are still on the road to Poza Rica.” I repeated that I did not think that that was right. We should not be seeing any signage for Tuxpan on our side of the road if we were heading to Veracruz. I pulled over under an overpass as soon as I could and wrestled the map away from Jaimie to look for myself. Sure enough, 21 wasted miles and another 21 to get back to our starting point. I was not happy and although I did not yell at him or anything like that, he must have sensed my dismay because he was strangely silent for most of the 21 mile return trip.
As we rounded a rather sharp turn just past where we got on the freeway, another fork appeared just ahead. Which way now? No signage to help at all. I certainly did not want to go off in another wrong direction. Jaimie quickly consulted the map (why was I continuing to trust him??) and said to take the right one. I made him give the direction is Spanish just to be sure he was saying right from left correctly. We had been down that road before where he confused right and left in English. Better for him to say it in Spanish and point! So to the right we went.
The road led us back into the mountains, which did not concern me too much since I had no idea what we would see on the road to Veracruz. What did concern me was when, 40 miles later, we ran out of freeway and were faced with a toll booth. As I pulled up to the toll booth, which had a bar across it to keep people from driving through, I could see that immediately passing through we would be faced with another decision. Right or left? And the bad part was that neither city listed was familiar to either of us. We decided that we would call upon Jaimie’s direction asking abilities again. I did not understand much of what the toll booth guy, and the mandatory armed security guard, said to him but I did understand it when they said Veracruz and pointed back done the road in the direction we had just come! How could we have missed it? By this time I was frustrated beyond belief, hot, thirsty and more than a little angry at my navigator. I was even more angry at myself for not looking at the map better at that underpass. I told him we were going to back out of the toll booth gate and pull off to the side of the road. I needed a cigarette! So I paced a bit and chain smoked two cigarettes. I needed to calm down and get myself under control or it would indeed be a long trip!