Saturday, February 20, 2016

Driving the Toll Roads of Mexico

Driving the toll roads of Mexico is a joy ........unless one is going through a big city of eight million inhabitants such as Guadalajara.  More on that later......

The drive to the beach north of Manzanillo and back is beautiful, the terrain is unique from high mountain ranges to salt marshes and even passing a very active volcano near Colima.

My 1997 Nissan Pathfinder hit 170,000 miles on this trip.  Other then a slight, maybe not so slight at times, shimmy and a front light casing falling out on the trip back, that car is always ready for the road, thanks to Luis, the mechanic in San Miguel who always makes sure it is road ready.

The suspension system will be fixed in the next week or so now that I'm back in SMA where Luis can get the parts and get the car fixed, thankfully.

The front light casing fell out somewhere between my leaving Calechosa and past Colima.  I noticed when I got out of the car at a Pemex station.  I could not believe my eyes and still can't figure out how it broke and was dangling on the fender.  Oy vey.

I knew I was in for a long trip, another six hours or so and so I needed to figure out the word for tape and find someplace to stop and find tape.

Off I headed down the road trying to figure that out.  Of course I could not think of the word for tape.
After returning to SMA and looking in my Spanish dictionary, I can assure you I would never have thought of the word cintas in my life time.

As I drove along, amazingly, and I do mean amazingly, I saw a Green Angel truck!  I passed them, put on my dual blinkers, rolled down the window, stuck out my arm pointing to the side of the road.

They stopped!
What a relief.  Then the fun began.  I took them to the front of the car and the dangling bulb and casing.  I stuck the thing back in the whole and mimed taping it.  I used the words electrical and negro for black in Spanish and a light bulb went off on their faces. One guy went to the truck and came back with nothing.  Uh oh.  The other guy who was driving went to the truck and came back with black electrical tape.  And he began to tape and tape and tape.  Yeah!  I tipped them, waved adios and I was off to face the insanity of driving through Guadalajara.  I highly recommend the Green Angels of Mexico, who will be found on the toll roads of Mexico.

I will say this unequivocally,   Guadalajara has the worst signage in Mexico.  And, that is saying a lot.
They have plenty of signage, too much, like signs for Soriana, the grocery store, for hotels, for other businesses, etc, BUT when it comes to telling you where to exit,  GOOD LUCK.

The sign for one of the MAJOR roads, periferico sur, is barely marked.  Even being in the correct lane to exit does not help.  That exit also takes you, after a major circle, to the Mexico/Morelia exit which is what I am looking for to get through the city unscathed.

It almost never happens that I make the exit.  Getting back to it is hopeless.  I've ended up in all kinds of places, as I did this week.

Without going through all the gory details of how I drove down a dirt embankment and almost accosted a taxi driver sitting on the side of the road to ask his help, suffice to say, that same taxi driver drove for about 45 minutes to get me out of what I now call, The Hellhole of Guadalajara.
The cool thing is the dialogue I had with the driver when I asked for his help.  He spoke English, what a godsend.  And, when we stopped on the side of the freeway near Chapala and I asked if I paid him a little more would he take me to where I needed to be for the Mexico/morelia exit, he told me I was a godsend for him.  I could not believe he used the same word I had thought.  He had tears in his eyes too!  WOW.  He not only lead me for another 30 minutes, but he watched as I entered the toll road right where I needed to be and waved.   Well worth it as I might still be circling in the city with terrible signage.

As I was heading to the beach back in December, I discovered, quite by accident that there is a new toll road, Salamanca/Leon that bypasses all the villages and towns between the highway out of Celaya and Leon.  It goes through beautiful, pristine farmland.  There were so few vehicles on the road that I was keeping my fingers crossed that it was open all the way.  It was and was such a smooth, easy transition into the toll road that heads north to Aquacalientes.  It was just as easy to get on it when I was heading home, as long as you know, out of the THREE new toll roads which one to take!  Luckily, I took the Mexico/Morelia-Salamanca/Leon toll road and it worked.  Beautiful, smooth new road and rest stops.  Few cars and hardly any trucks.

I highly recommend the toll roads and filling your tank at the 1/2 full mark just in case there is not a Pemex station for quite a while as they were almost 4 hours apart going toward Guadalajara!

The cost for the trip/3 tanks of gas and tolls, about $149USD each way.  Well worth it.  Don't believe me?  Try driving the free roads.........with a billion trucks and potholes.  Remember, ha, I told you so.  I had to drive those free roads back in the 80's and 90's.  NO MORE.

The toll roads of Mexico are as good as, if not better then, the interstates in the USA!
Happy travels.


crynoutloud said...

The last time I drove through Guad., headed home, I somehow ended up on a dirt road and I stopped next to a small rustic Casa with chickens and a goat in the yard, scratching my head.

Remember the emergency number on the toll road is 066. Don't take my word, double check that.
I wish I would have known that when I broke down in the desert and ended up riding in the back of a little Toyota pickup, lugging jugs of water into restaurants with the Godsend delivery man who agreed to help us.

Babs said...

Well, it is always an adventure, for sure. I wondered how if you call the 1800 emergency # or 066 how you tell them where you are.

When I had a blowout several years ago, I got out and walked back to a transportation company and got an employee to come help me change the tire. Luckily it was only about a mile walk...

I think my solo, long car trips might be at an end!

ETN and Primera Plus are looking better and better............

Steve Cotton said...

I am glad to hear you are ensconced in San Miguel de Allende. Whenever I head over to your way, I have to dig into the old files in the back of my dusty brain to recall where I need to turn. You are correct. The signage is terrible. I have now stopped using the peripheral; it seems to take longer than the more traditional route through the southern part of the city. But there are still turn issues on that route, as well.

Babs said...

IF there is ever another trip your way, I think ETN is looking better and better. And, I think that if I had no car, I would look to rent a place in Barra. I like the walkability of the town.

Jvineyard said...

I am so moved by you serendipitous connection. For that man to have tears in his eyes speaks volumes. I'm so glad that you were able to help each other. And that you're back in SMA safe and sound.

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Babs said...

It was definitely a Mexican Moment!

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