When I get on the road early enough I can take my time and enjoy the side roads to get to the next city. Leaving Zacatecas after breakfast with Cloe, I skipped the main autopista and jumped on highway 54 to ride to Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. I passed by police and military trucks with soldiers in the back, rifles in their hands. This is the governments response to recent attacks from organized crime in the state and city. I’m glad it doesn’t seem to have drastically affected the city as it’s such an incredible place. This was the most military presence I had seen so far on my route through Mexico. Once I was away from the city I didn’t see any police or military for most of the trip except the time when I blew past a police car parked at a roadside restaurant. Thankfully he must have been paying attention to his food and not my speed. The road would pass through small towns every so often that had the same charm as Zacatecas but much smaller. Villaneuva and a few of the others were also built in the colonial Spanish style.
The further south and east I went the land became lush and green with farms of all kinds, especially maguay farms (the plant that the make mezcal from) dotting the countryside.
About 80km outside of Guadalajara the road makes an impressive ascent into and over the mountains. The temperature climbed too and I had to open the vents on my jacket to keep cool. As long as I was moving it was fine. Coming around a bend in the mountain I was instantly in the middle of Guadalajara’s urban sprawl. Buses, motos, and people everywhere. Some intersections had ten guys, many young teenagers, trying to wash the windows of the cars waiting at the traffic lights. Here’s an advantage of motorcycle travel I didn’t realize till today. No one ever bothers me about cleaning my windshield. Though my visor could certainly have the bugs wiped away.
In Guadalajara I am staying with my friend’s cousin Priscila, her husband Oskar, and their young son. Priscila gave me directions and with only the help of a gas station worker and one phone call I was at their house. Though once again the gas station worker said the road I was looking for was 4km away when in reality it was 12 or 13km.
I spent Friday and Saturday in Guadalajara with Priscila, Oskar, and their son. Oskar showed me around his city on Saturday. The centro of Guadalajara is a nice place to just walk around and see the sights. We went to one neighborhood for breakfast at this neat place called Piggy Back. There were a few things on the menu that I had to try. The first was the traditional Mexican dish, chilaquiles. The other was machaca, a dried and spiced pork or beef that they shred into thin pieces. The food and coffee was delicious and the restaurant had a great atmosphere with good tunes playing on the radio. I could see this place being my breakfast spot if I lived in Guadalajara.
It was a beautiful sunny day in Guadalajara so the sidewalks were busy with families and tourists. The streets are lined with your basic stores, fancy coffee shops and restaurants, along with your traditional barrage of American fast food chains. We walked from one end of the center to the other and took in all the sights. From cathedrals, to the main plaza with old people dancing, to the opera house and market.
The above photo of the Dance of the little old men is a famous traditional folk dance in Mexico from the state of Michoacán. The dance has been around for hundreds of years. They say the origins of the dance came from when the Spanish arrived in Mexico the people were surprised at how fast they aged. They made a dance mocking them. Though others say it was around before then and is just a fun way to honor old age. Either way it’s entertaining. Typically the dance is performed by kids who dress up with masks and use canes. They walk in circles, hunched over using their canes like they are very old, then jump into a spirited dance, tapping their feet and moving around.
After spending most of the day in the centro of Guadalajara we drove over to the neighboring town of Zapopan. I really liked this small city. It moved at a slower pace than Guadalajara. One of the things Zapopan is known for is at the Zapopan Basilica where the Virgin of Zapopan is. Annually since 1794 on the 12th of October there is a massive parade to honor the virgin Mary. Over 1 million people participate. They participate, they don’t just sit on the side. A procession of 1 million people, many dressed in vary outfits and performing dances. I was just a week late to see this but it sounded fascinating.
Later that day we went to the mall to run some errands. This place was so nice. For those that live in Orange County, this mall in Guadalajara matched or was nicer than South Coast Plaza. While they ran errands I enjoyed a Starbucks iced coffee. Always refreshing. We went to a sushi restaurant where they served “Mexican sushi”. I got a California roll and wasn’t too surprised that the “mexican sushi” was better than the normal rolls. It was so nice to spend 2 nights with them; sharing meals, learning about their lives, and their city. Once again, I’m feeling blessed.