We woke up quite refreshed from our first day’s drive in Mexico and feeling pretty good about ourselves. Yes, we only had intermittent Waze access, but Google maps seemed to work ok and coincided with the written instructions we had from other expats, and the drive was uneventful. We had a great breakfast at the hotel, and only about six hours of driving to “home”…or so we thought.
Leaving Matehuala, all we had to do we re-enter the highway, drive south by southwest around the towns of San Luis Potosi and Lagos de Moreno, and we would soon be on the Macrolibramento (Outer Beltway) around Guadalajara and home to Ajijic. Since the previous day went so well, I let my guard down and as we approached the first bypass for San Luis Potosi, where we had to make a decision. Google maps showed us going around to the north, but our written instructions were very clear: take the southern bypass labelled “Guadalajara.” We came upon the exit at speed (about 80 kmh) and I said to my navigator (Judy), “I’m going with the digital directions; at least they are ‘live.'” With that we headed along the northern route. I thought about the line from the Steely Dan song “My Old School,” “Ohhh, no, Guadalajara won’t do!”
At first, we seemed to be on another bypass, and I thought, “hey that worked out well.” But next we were on an a I-395-like highway right through the middle of SLP. Still not too bad, and we cleared the city with only about 30 extra minutes of drive time. Then we found the road changing from an divided highway down to a four lane local street and
finally a two lane country road. Better still, one side of the road was a cliff straight up, and the other (our side) a cliff straight down. The Mexicans say “Vaya Con Dios” or “Go with God,” and they mean it, because there was no shoulder and no guardrail. Even my dog stood up in his tiny back seat space and began to pant in my ear.
The road swerved along a series of ridges for 30 kilometers or so; in many places the switchbacks were so severe you were headed back in the opposite direction every hundred meters. We survived it and breathed a sigh of relief when we finally rejoined the Cuota (toll road) to which the other bypass lead. Now we were an hour behind schedule.
I committed to following the written instructions, and luckily Waze began working and confirmed our choices. We made it around Lagos de Moreno and headed onto a Carretera (main highway) toward Guadalajara. We had about 150 kilometers of high desert plateau to drive through, straight as an arrow and no towns, so it seemed like we could set the cruise control and “go.” But we had another Mexican moment coming: all of a sudden, all the traffic on our side of the four lane, divided highway was collapsing into the single, left lane. Up ahead, we came upon a car with flashing emergency lights driving slowly in the right lane, and then we passed a group of bicyclists following a flatbed truck with a religious shrine to the Virgin Mary on display in the back.
Seems today was the day of a bicycle pilgrimage south of Lagos de Moreno, and every mile or so for the next hour, we passed another set of pilgrims gamely riding bicycles up and down the same mountain road we were driving. Only in Mexico.
This too passed and we were finally approaching Guadalajara’s outer beltway, which is a toll road and still under construction. We started down our exit and came to a small toll booth. As we pulled up, I asked the young lady “Cuando?” (how much) but she responded with a “no” and a stream of Espanol that immediately exceeded my limited capabilities. So we sat there at the exit, with a restraining arm between us and the road home, and looked at one another and thought, “what now?” Judy asked if the the girl spoke English, but no, she didn’t. Luckily, no one was behind us, but we were stuck. The girl spoke again, and Judy heard “Chapala” and correctly guessed she was asking us where we were going. We cheerily shouted “Lake Chapala” and like a magic password, she raised the arm and let us through. Why does the Mexican government pay to have someone asking people where they are going on a limited access, toll road? Quien sabe?!
We left the toll road, drove up the pass over Sierra San Juan Cosala and arrived at our house, 90 minutes behind schedule. Bu then again, what’s a schedule? “Schedule, we don’t need no stinking schedule.”