Monday, October 06, 2014

Navigating Guadalajara

Our city map gets
a good workout.
This morning I had an appointment in a new part of town, so I spent significant time analyzing Google Maps alongside the city map we purchased soon after arriving here. Maps are essential in Guadalajara. I suppose GPS is helpful, too, but I don't have access to that right now, and to tell the truth, it usually distracts me more than helps. I like seeing the big picture on the map and getting my bearings that way.

One of Kraig's fellow profs told us about a friend who visited Guadalajara and after a few days announced, "I've figured out the signage in the city! The highway signs aren't for people who are visiting the city and need to know what roads they're on. The signs are for people who have always lived in Guadalajara and suddenly decide they want to leave the city! Headed to Chapala? Take this road. Monterrey? Just follow that one. Puerto Vallarta? No problem! You can find signs anywhere."

Today, thankfully, there seemed to be more signs that pointed toward streets, so that was helpful, but one can't expect the street to be clearly labeled when one arrives at it. This is one reason why scrutinizing a map is so vital. Usually I find myself memorizing which streets I'll be taking, and how many streets I need to cross before certain turns. Landmarks are helpful, too. I knew I needed to keep an eye out for a "ninety foot black-and-white cube structure." Sure enough, I found it, though as I passed it I realized it was to my right and should have been to my left. I'd missed my exit.

An open road is promising...until the I realize
the light is stuck on red. To go or not to go,
that is the question....
Time for travel is another key to navigating. I try to avoid rush-hour, and this morning was no
exception, so for the most part there was little traffic hindrance to the drive. But I knew that since it was my first time in this area I would inevitably make a mistake, and I needed to be sure to have enough time to turn around and work my way back to the correct route. It's not wise to second guess. If I think it is the right way to go, it usually is.... But I did plan enough time today, so there was none of the frantic searching and maneuvering. It's amazing how much more relaxing even a new route can be when one has the time to make mistakes. And the thrill of reaching one's destination makes it worth every misstep.

None of these details take into account the need for defensive driving. While people tend to follow road rules better here than other cities I've been to, it is still wise to keep an eye on everything, especially busses and trucks. We've been blessed with a minivan this fall, so we aren't the smallest car on the road, and that helps when we need to shoulder our way onto a street. But busses rule, and it's wise not to test them.

I do like finding my way around; it satisfies my love for spacial relations. But I'll be the first to admit the things I avoid if at all possible: rush hour, driving at night, and a time crunch. Oh, and there are certainly parts of town I wouldn't want to navigate no matter what time of day. So far we've managed to avoid those. If these aren't factors, I'll happily continue to navigate Guadalajara. And eventually, it won't matter what the street signs say.

Helpful signs here, except I realized later I should have been in the
middle lane.

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