A couple from Niagra Falls, Canada is home safe after having a run-in with masked and heavily armed banditos along Mexico's infamous "Highway of Death." Depending on your perspective, Jack and Eileen Appleton either line up for the poster child award for either the bravest or stupidest RVers on the planet.
Traveling back from a sun-filled winter season in Mexico, the Appletons were traveling Mexico Highway 101 en route to Matamoros, the frontier town across the border from Brownsville, Texas. You may not know the highway by number, but you've probably heard of it by infamy. Recently nearly 200 bodies have been found in mass graves along this highway near the Mexican town of San Fernando. Last summer 72 were unearthed in the same area. It's a highway favored by drug traffickers, and where two major drug cartels are shooting each other's members for control.
The Appletons had made it into the town of Matamoros and were headed for a US Border crossing when an SUV manned by masked men bearing automatic rifles zoomed up beside the family's Bounder motorhome. The passenger shook his rifle at Jack and ordered him to pull the motorhome over. Jack, a retired Royal Canadian Mountie told the bandito what to do--in no uncertain, and certainly in terms unsuitable for polite company. With Jack's failure to comply, the SUV driver pulled in front of the motorhome in an attempt to force a stop. Appleton gave the Bounder a full-stop air brake command, then slammed the rig into reverse, backing a couple of blocks down the highway. He then whipped the motorhome around and began driving the opposite direction--against oncoming traffic.
Imagining that the bandits would be put off by company, the Jack Appleton drove his motorhome into a convenience-store/gas station; but the bandits were not to be deterred. Not only did the SUV pursue the Appletons, it was joined by two more carloads of bad guys. Eileen Appleton, herself a retired policewoman, whipped out a digital camera and began shooting pictures of the assailants. Appleton family dog, Nigel, soon joined in the fracas, barking wildly at the eight armed men.
In the melee, Eileen attempted to secret the camera she'd been using in her blouse. One of the assailants grabbed her arm in an attempt to get possession of the instrument, and Eileen aimed a roundhouse punch at the man. The punch went wild, but the villains got angrier, pointing an assault rifle at the dog's head and threatening to pull the trigger. After the camera was surrendered, the banditos jumped in their cars and vamoosed.
The Appletons provided statements to the local police, whom they say took the matter in a rather lowbrow fashion. Officials at the border were no more responsive to complaints than the locals. But the Appletons, now back home in Niagra, say the past is past, and figure on returning to Mexico for further snowbird relief.
Readers of Canada's St. Catherine's Standard newspaper were quick to question the Appletons trip routing--and their sanity. Many wondered why tourists would knowingly travel a highway shunned by so many due to its dangerous reputation.
photo: torontosun.com. Additional story on Saint Catherines Standard website.