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From: Zacatecas to Guadalajara via Mex 54
Date: December 1, 2000
Logged By: Mike and Terri Church
Vehicle: 19-foot Class B Van

Note: This is one of the most beautiful drives in Mexico. Old timers call it the Barrancas Route (Ravine Route). It is not a drive you want to do in a big rig since the mountain grades in the southern half, both up and down, are extreme. Since there are other faster and easier routes there is not a lot of truck traffic so despite the extreme terrain most smaller vehicles should be able to safely maintain an average speed of about 40 mph.

000.0 Miles (000.0 Km) -- This drive begins at the junction of Mex 49 and Mex 54 just west of Zacatecas. At this point Mex 49 is a four-lane divided highway with the two directions widely separated. To reach the intersection we drove out the westbound lanes of Mex 49 from Zacatecas and then used a cross road to get to the east bound lanes. As we approached Mex 54 eastbound there was a massive police roadblock with traffic being stopped on both the highway and the cross road. We stopped and the police officer offered us the chance to buy a raffle ticket for 20 pesos. A purchase seemed diplomatic, We're sure it was for a good cause.
    Highway 54 on this northern part of today's drive is two lanes with a moderately rough surface from lots of patching. Paving work was being done on the first few miles but not farther south. In the southern part the road surface is generally better but the road still narrow.

002.5 Miles (004.0 Km) -- Enter the small roadside town of Cieneguillas. Trucks are parked on the wide dirt shoulders in town. There are three topes (speed bumps) strategically placed in the populated area to slow traffic.

003.4 Miles (005.5 Km) -- Big Coca-Cola bottling plant on the left. After leaving town the road begins to cross a dry almost flat plain known as the Mal Paso (bad crossing).

011.8 Miles (019.0 Km) -- Small town of El Fuerte slows traffic with two topes.

014.5 Miles (023.4 Km) -- Pemex #3873 on the right. It's very large with good access and some truck parking, it sells magna and diesel.

019.3 Miles (031.1 Km) -- Small town of Felipe Angeles with one tope.

026.3 Miles (042.4 Km) -- La Quemada archeological site to the left. This is an interesting site thought to have been inhabited by the Chichimeca peoples who may have been the ancestors of the Aztecs, among others

033.1 Miles (053.4 Km) -- Enter the outskirts of Villanueva, a medium-sized town located on the Río Malpaso.

033.9 Miles (054.7 Km) -- Pemex #2463 on the left. It's medium-sized with no truck parking, it sells magna, premium, and diesel and has a restaurant.

034.4 Miles (055.5 Km) -- The road enters narrow city streets and then makes a 90-degree turn. We wait for a bus to get out of our lane as he swings wide to get around the corner. After the turn the street runs between the town square and the church, then crosses the river and enters more open country again.

035.6 Miles (057.4 Km) -- Pemex #5197 on the left. It's a big station with lots of truck parking and magna, premium, and diesel. Now we enter country with some grades and views, particularly of the lakes to the west behind dams on the Río Juchipila.

052.7 Miles (085.0 Km) -- As the road descends a steep downgrade we reach the town small town of Zapoqui. The town effectively slows the speeding downhill traffic by putting up lots of tope warning signs, but there were actually no topes. We suspect this trick will not work for long.

070.5 Miles (113.7 Km) -- Pemex #4847 on the left. It is a big place with lots of truck parking in front and offers magna, premium, and diesel.

074.4 Miles (120.0 Km) -- The larger town of Tabasco is off to the east of the road. There is a cutoff here and one a few miles down the road. Between the two the road is great! Then it goes back to its former narrow and fairly rough condition.

074.9 Miles (120.8 Km) -- Pemex #4987 on the right. It's big with lots of truck parking, it sells magna, premium, and diesel.

082.6 Miles (133.2 Km) -- Road enters Huanusco and is again on narrow city streets. It makes a 90-degree turn to the left and goes between the square and the church. Déjà vu?

084.0 Miles (135.5 Km) -- Pemex #3683 on the left, medium-sized with magna and diesel.

091.7 Miles (147.9 Km) -- Cutoff to the town of Jalpa with a population of 35,000. Fortunately the road goes around and not through the city.

098.2 Miles (158.4 Km) -- Pemex #5138 on the left. It has a store; magna, premium and diesel; and lots of truck parking.

099.7 Miles (160.8 Km) -- Military roadblock. We were waved through.

109.6 Miles (176.8 Km) -- Enter Apozol, population 2,360. All of the towns through here (we're not mentioning them all) are very clean and attractive. It feels like we're in Italy. Fruit is being sold along the side of the road.

112.0 Miles (180.6 Km) -- Sugarcane fields on the right.

114.6 Miles (184.8 Km) -- Pemex with magna, premium and diesel. It's a large one but has little truck parking.

115.2 Miles (185.8 Km) -- Enter the streets of Juchipila, the town square is on the left.

125.8 Miles (202.9 Km) -- Town of Moyahua de Estrada on the left.

126.4 Miles (203.9 Km) -- Pemex on the left, #2817 with magna, premium, and diesel. It's a medium-sized one with no truck parking.

130.0 Miles (209.7 Km) -- After leaving Moyahua behind the road leaves the Juchipila Valley and begins crossing the Sierra de Nochistlán. For the next 44 miles there is one long steep ascent and descent followed by another. The scenery is spectacular. I spend a lot of time worrying about a very hot engine and transmission. It's 85 degrees F on the first of December and we're pulling pretty steep grades.

186.2 Miles (300.3 Km) -- After descending a 10-mile long hill and then ascending a 11-mile-long one we reach the crest, expecting a fantastic view. Instead we're suddenly in the suburbs of Guadalajara. We've been climbing out of the Barranca de Oblatos, not climbing a mountain as we thought. People and cars everywhere. What a contrast!

189.0 Miles (117.2 Km) -- We're at the Guadalajara ring road or Periférico.

See our book Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping for information about camping in the Guadalajara area.

Copyright © 2001 Mike and Terri Church