Not long ago, I took a rare trip motoring from lakeside into Guadalajara, the city once known as the Pearl of the West.
Driving in Guadalajara is motoring’s Decathlon.
I have put together 10 valuable tips for first-time drivers in a city where most traffic zooms at movie-chase speeds.
1) Leave word of your destination and approximate arrival time with the person holding your power of attorney and final wishes.
2) Have definite directions in mind. Do not count on asking for directions from Tapatios. They will confidently send you somewhere, even though they never heard of Rogelio’s Somalian Leatherwear.
3) Bring along water and snacks just in case you miss a turn, find there are no street names any longer, and wind up miles off course in agave fields.
4) Be sure to bring maps, directional gizmos, charts, radar and astrolabes. All aids will help you arrive at your consulate’s office to cheering crowds.
5) Once in the city, plan to do as many things in Guadalajara as you can, so you don’t have to drive back again needlessly, even any transgender surgery you might have considered.
6) Rushing traffic may move as though white lane lines are purely decorative. However, if you do continue to drive in one lane only in Guadalajara, you may be stopped by the police, assuring themselves you are not ill and unfit to drive.
7) There are also signals and uses of the roadways you might not be familiar with. Like a driver swishing up so close alongside that you’ll be able to use his mirror to check on the tailgater behind you who is waving his rosary beads as a threat for slowing down. Drivers in Guadalajara all seem to be in get-away cars.
8) If you think your car is being attacked by the Ajijic Thriller crowd, it’s not. They’re just hawkers selling peanuts and souvenirs.
9) Another peculiarity in Guadalajara are specialized retail neighborhoods. They sell only one specific item for blocks and blocks. If you find yourself lost in the 14-hectare bathroom sink neighborhood, Everything Baño, and you’re not in the market for bathroom sinks, you may wind up driving for hours. The problem is that one block looks like the next in these neighborhoods, and it is easy to stay lost, all within a nightmarish panorama of bathroom sinks, tubs, bidets and other sundry washroom kit and tackle. So the best thing to do is go into one of the stores, buy a soap dish and ask for directions.
10) Make sure any directions you get do not take you through Everything Tires. This is a grim urban quarter that sprawls out over five bountiful blocks with nothing but llantas and more llantas and more llantas and gives one the feeling the world has ended.
The only way out of Everything Tires is through Everything Shoes, an acropolis of shoe displays that could shod the entire sub-Saharan. Shopping in Guadalajara is actually a junket for women, remember that The Pearl of the West was founded by a woman, Doña Beátriz de Hernández. Follow a Zeta Gas truck and it will lead you to a main road where it can annoy the largest number amount of people.
Taxis queue up outside the parking lot. Obviously, this is how people ply the historic city center – parking three quarters of a mile away and then cabbing. On one of my first trips, I parked and got into a taxi with the intention of going to the Hard Rock Cafe for a beer to settle my nerves. But the first thing the driver wanted to know was if he was taking me to “our beautiful historic cathedral. Some tourists, they are so pathetic,” he added, “All they want to do is go to the Hard Rock Café. Do you believe that?” Four minutes later, I was walking up the steps to Guadalajara’s historic cathedral. It’s actually quite beautiful. And worth a trip.
Best advice: take the bus, taxi or Uber and give your heart and nervous system a break.