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How long does it take to get to Guadalajara?

Posted by ButlerC on December 13, 2009, 3:52 pm

I was staying in Colima, and my host spoke perfect English. I could have asked “Cuanto tiempo es para ir a Guadalajara?,” but he preferred English. Answer: 2 hours and 17 minutes.

Once on my way I realized I hadn’t factored in enough variables. Where in Guadalajara did he mean? I was headed for the airport. Since I had ample time, or thought I did, I decided COSTCO just west of the Periferico would fit his time frame. I’d left at 9:15, so COSTCO at 11:32 would leave time to shop for half an hour and arrive at GDL by 1 PM.

My first setback was the 180 car, bus, truck, and road-grader bottleneck where construction is underway – apparently for years. I was sixth in line – behind a two-trailer semi, engine off – at the foot of a long incline; there was a 10-minute wait before the oncoming train of vehicles even arrived and another 20 for them to go by. Scratch COSTCO. Sometime during the 30 minutes it occurred to me that that last cup of coffee probably wasn’t a good idea. Not to worry, there’re PEMEXs galore ahead – wrong – and restrooms at the cuota booths.

I was a little surprised that the four-lane cuota turned to two about then, but after getting around the double-semi the pace quickened. About then I began to ruminate on what factors my host – a highly educated and sophisticated innkeeper – knew about the “la supercarretera” to Guadalajara that he could come up with such a precise number. Here are a few that slowly dawned on me.

First, he only has to pay two 100 peso tolls, and he’s friends with the guy who pockets the one peso of the 101 peso toll between Manzanillo and Colima. He knows that the first speed limit sign – which doesn’t look like any of the others – up high on the bank beside the shoulder stating 100 km/h governs until the 110 km zone comes up an hour or so down the highway, after four lanes begin again. The 80 km and 90 km signs beside the two-lane highway are merely advisory, as is the double-yellow stripe warning to pass with care, as opposed to the dashed stripe upping the speed limit to 140 km in order to pass with abandon. Curves are a minor annoyance, but if downhill at least he can coast and save gas. It’s best done “muy rapido” because that double-semi is inching up the back bumper. Of course he also has memorized the topes and knows which ones are small Sierra Madre peaks to approach like a mountain goat and which may be skimmed across at 40 to 50 K.

The frequent diamond person-walking señales on the FREEWAY, he understands, suggest pedestrians may be present, indeed that they may even be hawking their wares at the Sierra Madre topes. But he’s blessed with not being from California, where pedestrians have right-of-way, and figures that folks walking should understand that the signs are warning them that cars might be coming and to be very careful, since they don’t have the right-of-way in Mexico. After all, everyone must “OBEDESCA LAS SEÑALES.” Also, as a Mexican he’s not too worried about “jumpers,” for they mostly look for gringos with fancy Mexican insurance, deep pockets, and easily panicked hearts and minds.

As to the next PEMEX, he knows it’s right before the last “casetas de cobro,” with nada-zip-nada between casetas two and three. He also knows – no matter how desperate – not to slow down under 110 km at the “zona de descanso,” as it’s just a wide spot off the shoulder, littered with broken bottles and beer cans, totally exposed to passersby who would laugh heartily at anyone trying to rest there, much less take a leak. This bucolic spot is also dead center in the “zona de tolveneras,” which at any moment might turn the rest or leak into a total brown out and perhaps whisk the person standing or squatting beside the car into outer space.

Farfetched? Presumably so, but my educated friend from Colima no doubt has heard that some folks in Comala insist that certain stretches of the carretera are haunted with demons, who’ve spirited away several dozen unlucky citizens. Comala also boasts a witch in a gossamer white dress who floats out around midnight sans legs. Apparently she can speak, however, as she’ll tell your fortune for a price, although in a ghostly whisper. While I’m certain my friend rejects such foolishness, he may include the speed of disappearance of those victims in his accounting for how long it takes to drive to Guadalajara.

No doubt my accomplished friend routinely does what I didn’t think to do until my second trip to Guadalajara: Ask the PEMEX attendant in Colima and at least two others if there’s construction going on. Apparently there is for seven days, followed by three days of traffic bliss. I gather there’s a free road parallel to the cuota that bypasses the construction zone. Also, “J” knows to skip that second cup of coffee, as the casetas de cobro # 3 at the PEMEX is too far to make comfortably even for young men. It goes without saying that if Montezuma is on your tail, don’t even think about driving to Guadalajara from Colima.

So, how long does it take to get from Colima to COSTCO # 2 west of Guadalajara? Two hours and seventeen minutes if there’s no construction, you keep up with the flow of traffic, and you only stop at one PEMEX for five minutes. The latter, of course, depends upon how many women are travelling with you. If only one and she’s even more desperate than you, five minutes is enough, and there will be smiles all around. If more than one fem or frozen lattes are likely at the OXXO, add fifteen minutes. And how long does it take to get from COSTCO # 2 to GDL airport? That depends, and that’s another driving-in-Mexico story.

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  • How long does it take to get to Guadalajara? - ButlerC December 13, 2009, 3:52 pm
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