Friday, May 11, found three excited guys jumping out of bed when the alarm went off at 4 AM. We needed time to finish last minute house details, have a cup of coffee or two and get to the ferry in time for the 6:30 AM departure to Cancun. Dawn was still a sleepy yawn on the eastern horizon as we backed out of the driveway and headed out for the great adventure.
The ride, the seemingly endless forty-five minute ride, on the car ferry to Punta Sam on the mainland was without incident. Except that we were late leaving. I hoped this was not to be a sign of things to come! We docked safely and made our way through the morning rush of Cancun traffic, heading out of town to grab the toll road to Merida. By this time it was a little after 8:00 AM and we were hungry. One of the last pieces of civilization one encounters before getting on the endless toll road is a McDonald’s. I obediently pulled in and we had a quick breakfast of McMuffins before truly heading out.
The road that slices through the jungle from Cancun to Merida is one of the most boring stretches of highway I have ever traveled. And I really feel qualified to say that now! There are maybe three slight curves in the whole thing, no change of elevation and nothing to see. The scrub jungle comes right up to the road and it is just a solid wall of green or brown, depending upon the time of year. At the 62 mile mark is the border crossing and we passed from Quintana Roo into Yucatan. This is also the first opportunity one has for using a bathroom. Rest areas are non-existent in Mexico. Border crossings and gas stations are about the only chance one gets to use a real bathroom. I could do a whole blog on the condition of these bathrooms, but I will spare you. Suffice it to say that I would rather pee on the side of the road (and have!) than enter most of them.
A little further along and one comes to the turn off for Chichen-Itza and Valledolid. There is also a rest station here with various restaurants and a PeMex gas station. There are no other opportunities for gas or to stop until one reaches Merida, about another 2.5 hours down that tunnel of highway.
A quick potty break, a light snack and some fresh water purchases and we were back on the road. Nothing to see, nothing to do but try to stay awake as the endless gray miles of ribbon unfurled in front of me. The two sleeping passengers in the car with me did little to help alleviate the boredom. At times I was slapping my own face and pulling my moustache hairs to keep myself from falling victim to highway hypnosis. "Wake up one of the passengers to help keep me awake", you say? Not on your life! If I did that, how could I complain about it later?! Finally we reached the outskirts of Merida and things started to get a little more interesting. None of this was new territory yet though. That would come tomorrow. For now, we were just retracing miles that we have traveled many times before.
At the traffic circle where one can choose to go to downtown Merida or angle south to Campeche, we chose the southern route. We still had another rough five hours before our first night on the road - Ciudad del Carmen.
As we traveled south, the jungle gave way to slightly rolling hills and a change in the vegetation. We were now starting to see some fields and rock outcroppings. But still plenty of scrub brush. It always amazes me how the terrain suddenly changes, like dropping a curtain and then raising it again to see a totally different landscape. This time when the curtain rose, I was looking at the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico. Only a few more hours and this first, boring but necessary, stretch of the trip would be over.