For a person of my tastes, the photograph below is best appreciated to Mötley Crüe. In a pinch, Steppenwolf works. And when feeling less Jurassic, most pop-punk will suffice, as will Kid Rock's "Son of Detroit" or anything from the Donnas’ first album.
So, roads. In a blatant attempt to whomp up comments, I’ll start by quoting Jonathan Edelstein:
[Super]highways have come to Puerto Rico in the past generation, and the main intercity routes are well maintained, but once you get off the autopistas, things get wiggy in a hurry. The two-lane roads that aren't quite wide enough for two cars, and the signs in all the wrong places and none of the right ones, are the least of it. Roads in Puerto Rico have a way of suddenly ceasing to exist or being closed without a warning or detour sign, and changing their names without apparent reason.
The city streets are even worse, with many of them built before automobile traffic and the shortage of off-street parking (even the hotels have postage-stamp lots) choking things off even further. The method of choice to control urban traffic - one-way streets - has been implemented without a great deal of rhyme or reason, giving urban driving a distinct similarity to a maze from the rat's point of view.
These were his first impressions. Do they match mine?
The rural roads, yes; the urban streets, no.
Rural roads first: they can get ridiculously narrow, just as Jonathan says. Sometimes these tiny roads run through densely-populated exurbs, which can make for some amusing situations. Now, not all the roads are like that. In fact, most are not. But plenty are, and that's not something you'll see much of in the continental United States.
The signage isn’t particularly good, although it's not particularly bad either. I only had trouble at that Route 10 detour that I mentioned in the last post. I, however, have two advantages. First, I’m accustomed to (if not quite skilled at) driving in signage-deficient situations. Second, Amma is a truly excellent navigator. In addition, you can easily buy superlative road maps in Puerto Rico (or download them into a GPS system), which is not true for many other places.
I didn’t think the roads were that badly maintained. We drove around the island quite a bit—not hard to do, since the entire place is only about 2½ times the size of Long Island—and there aren’t many potholes you could use to shelter a small family.
That said, "good maintenance" is a relative concept, and I have very low standards. I’ve driven in Trinidad, where the roads are worse. I’ve also driven in Chiapas, where they are much worse—and often unpaved. In fact, I’ve driven in Afghanistan, parts of which take "worse" to a whole 'nother level: imagine driving an armored pickup truck to the Pakistani border along a "road" consisting of the rutted tracks of the jingle trucks that preceeded you.
My experience of the urban roads, however, is the diametric opposite of Jonathan's. I thought that they were as good as New York and better than Boston.
My guess is that Jonathan was talking about Old San Juan, not the rest of the city. The thing is, Old San Juan is small. You can walk across it in ten minutes: by the time you hit Puerta de Tierra, the streets are as broad and modern as any American metropolis.
The lesson, I suppose, is this: when travelling to cities in the Western Hemisphere, you’ve got to visit to the suburbs.
I have a request for our readers: Any good road stories from outside your home country?