Sunday, June 14, 2015
toeing the line in puerto vallarta
I love driving in Mexico. Well, almost everywhere in Mexico.
I don't like driving in Puerto Vallarta. Never have.
My driving experience includes a lot of large cities. Athens. Rome. Paris. London. And I rather like the challenges Guadalajara presents.*All of those cities have their challenges to be met and savored. Successfully threading the needle is about as exhilarating as life can get.
But not Puerto Vallarta. Driving there is simply a combination of boredom and frustration.
And I am not certain why the place seems to irritate me as much as it does. The main highway through town is the standard highway construction in large Mexican cities. The highway allows traffic to flow easily. Lateral roads provide access to businesses or space for making left turns.
For some reason, though, I never seem to get the rhythm of crossing from the arterial onto the laterals. And I do not seem to be the only driver suffering a Gershwin deficiency. Long lines, waiting to find a break in the lateral traffic, clog the highway.
On my three-mile drive to Costco yesterday, I saw at least a dozen near collisions. I may have been responsible for a quarter of them.
Every time I visit the city where I once thought I would retire, I am glad that my eyes were diverted south along the Coastalegre coast. My blood pressure would have been out of control if I had to constantly deal with the Puerto Vallata traffic.
But the arterial in town is not my greatest driving gripe there. The only highway that heads north-south along Mexico's coast is Highway 200 -- the highway that runs within tire squeal distance of my house.
Once it leaves the confines of the main city, it mutates from a modern four-lane highway into what looks like a pot-holed country lane. And that is the pleasant part of the drive. All traffic heading south is squeezed through this improvised birth canal.
It gets worse. Once the road twists away from the ocean, it climbs more mountains that Julie Andrews ever dreamt of.
The trick is to maneuver around any slow-moving vehicle (oil tanker, buses of any description, old pickups laden with coconuts or palm frond or old construction material) before the mountain climb. Otherwise, the trip will average 5 MPH for several miles of highway. Let me say it again. In Puerto Vallarta, it is the one and only north-south highway on the coast.
Take a look at the photograph at the top of this essay. That is the highway. And that was the lineup in front of me. There were at least 20 vehicles behind me.
The whole line is led by a dump truck and a front end loader. We moved so slowly that my speedometer thought we were standing stll.
With a bit of Sergio Pérezing, I managed to get past the lineup. Some cars behind me, driven by men with less patience than my own, dared to pass the whole lineup on blind curves. I did not do that. On this trip.
Of course, I always manage to get home. The slowdowns only slightly increase the four-hour trip.
I mentioned Costco earlier. I stopped by to pick up some more fresh cherries, to buy ham steaks for bean soup, and to take another look at a home theater sectional. As so often happens at Costco, none of them were in stock.
As consolation prizes, I bought some printer ink, a bottle of high-quality olive oil, and some turkey slices for sandwiches. Yeah. You're right. They don't qualify even as consolation prizes.
My primary purpose for being in Puerto Vallarta was to drive a friend north to catch a plane. In turn, Jack showed me a store that custom builds furniture. Near my Ford dealership.
Who knows? If I decide what I need to furnish my house, I may have found a new resource.
All in all, the store may have been tradeoff enough to endure Puerto Vallarta.
* -- Because someone will ask, there are giant cities (such as, Mexico City and Shanghai) where I have not been behind the wheel of a car. I choose to be driven there. I suspect some of those mega-cities are just not going to be on my list of challenges.