Family Adventures in the US

It’s been a minute (or four months!) since we last updated our Blog. Where does the time go? In this case, we’ve been busy traveling back to the US for a few different adventures. 

Due West in Hurricane-prep mode. Everything strapped down, or down below, double lines to docks.

After arriving in Puerto Vallarta in early June, we got Due West all prepped for the summer Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season (mid-May through mid-November). Then we flew to the eastern US, leaving Tosh & Tikka in the good hands of fellow sailing friends Kim & Tim and their daughter Kennedy, as cat sitters. It had been a couple of years since we’d seen Kirk’s brother Galen and his wife Ann, and we were long overdue to visit them in Naples, Florida. Galen has also been dealing with some health issues, so it was really important to visit them. 

Our hearts go out to everyone in the Naples and Ft. Meyers area after hurricane Ian. It’s shocking to see the difference from when we were there a few short months ago, to now. So much destruction! Thankfully Galen & Ann and family are all ok, but sadly, our friends Max & Steve sustained major damage to their home and boat. So we continue to send love and healing energy to that whole area. The aftermath of hurricanes are no bueno! But this one wiped out a century worth of traditional southern Florida beach bungalows that will likely never be replaced. (Or rather, will be replaced with big houses and skyrise condos instead.)

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The Ft. Meyers waterways, a dockside restaurant and shrimper fleet, damaged or gone now.

Ann had a trip planned to visit her family in Ohio, and Heidi had a staff retreat with her functional medicine school in Asheville, North Carolina. So a couple of days after we arrived in Naples, the girls left Kirk and Galen to have a boy’s weekend. 

According to them, it was a whole lot of FUN and not too wild and crazy (that’s their story and they’re sticking to it!).  They made beer and went boating the Ft. Meyers waterways with our Seattle friend Steve. They also got to pick up the grandkids from soccer camp one day, and take them out for some very colorful ice cream with toppings! 

Top row: Galen making beer; Galen, Mav and Kye after soccer; Kye and Mav with their multi-colored ice cream treats with toppings. Bottom row: Kirk, Steve, and Galen in Steve’s boat; Brotherly LOVE.

Heidi’s staff retreat was also a lot of fun, and she finally got to meet several of her School of Applied Functional Medicine colleagues in person, after only knowing each other on Zoom for the past two years. She was super surprised and humbled that the school had chosen to gift everyone with a copy of her book, The Food, Mood, & Gratitude Journal, in their welcome swag bags! The retreat included a mix of functional medicine education, along with daily yoga, meditation, massage, hiking, and tree climbing (one of Heidi’s FAV things to do!) The views from the Blue Ridge Parkway were stunning. And one day as they drove to a trailhead they were lucky to see a black bear cross the road in front of their car. While the temperatures in Naples were similar to PV, North Carolina was quite a bit cooler, and Heidi had to pull out the long pants, hat, and socks!

Ashville, NC, SAFM staff retreat: Heidi’s Food, Mood, & Gratitude Journal among the swag; Donna & Heidi climbing trees; Firepit with comfy couch; and the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

When Ann and Heidi returned to Naples, we all had a blast hanging out together, more boating with friends around Ft. Meyers, and a fun hike in the CREW Bird Rookery & Swamp Trail. It was really eerie walking along boardwalks through the swamp, hearing alligators all around us, CLOSE by (but we couldn’t see any at first). Who knew they sound like giant bullfrogs croaking? Then as we continued our hike, suddenly we saw a couple of alligators blocking our trail…so we cut the hike short as we didn’t want to disrupt them! 

We also rescued a snapping turtle stuck on the trail bridge (it was too big to fit through a gap under the board and there was a chain-link fence above it, so it would have had a looooong way in the hot sun, to walk to get back into the swamp). Heidi picked it up carefully and dropped it over the fence into the water below. Cool wildlife sightings included several ospreys, a few lizards, a beautiful grasshopper, and wild hibiscus in the swamp. They are a much larger variety than their cultivated cousins.

Kirk & Heidi, Ann & Galen pontoon boating with friends; Southwest Florida sunset; Kirk & Heidi, Steve (longtime sailing friend from Seattle), and Ann (Galen taking photo!)

CREW Bird Sanctuary & Swamp Trail: lizard, turtle, grasshopper, alligator, and wild hibiscus in the swamp. There are, no doubt, alligators in this photo we just don’t see them!

Fun to visit with our nephew Mike and his wife Sara and kids at their new-to-us house and met their new puppy, Timo, too. The kids, Mav and Kye, remembered visiting us in Mexico a few years before and they were ready with a couple of Spanish phrases to practice with us. We always have so much fun hanging out with Galen & Ann and family, and only wish we all lived closer, and saw each other more often. 

Nephew Mike (holding new PUPPY Timo), Galen, Mav, Heidi, Kye, Kirk, and Ann (Sara taking photo!)

Just after our return from Florida, we learned that our friend Bel (who was our tour guide in Cuba a few years ago) finally got her visa to immigrate to the US and join her daughter and granddaughter in Miami! Bel had applied for it many years before, but immigration from Cuba was put on hold during the previous administration. In Cuba, she was a university professor of English. And she is hoping to find work teaching college somewhere in south Florida soon. We’re so happy for Bel to be reunited with her family. The US is an entirely different experience than Cuba, and we wish her the best in acclimating and finding her path. We’ll look forward to seeing Bel again on our next visit to Florida. 

Back in Vallarta, it was rainy season with thunder and lightning shows happening several times a week. And we moved off of Due West to condo-sit for our friends Judy & Paul for the rest of the summer. Tosh & Tikka have been to their condo numerous times, and take zero time to adapt to being in “the big house” again. Condo-sitting is a win-win, Judy & Paul get someone to look after their home during hurricane season while they return to Seattle for the summer. And being off the boat gives Kirk a chance to do some major repairs and upgrades to Due West

Tikka & Tosh waiting for an Uber to head to “the big house”; Tosh doing his afternoon yoga-nap, waiting patiently (NOT!) for Kirk to return home and feed him; Tikka enjoying the view from the condo.

Being from Seattle, Kirk always has his umbrella (paragua!) handy during rainy season! The night sky is often lit by lightning during hurricane season (that is not moonlight!) Tikka and Tosh are NOT big fans of the lightning and thunder, nor the nearly nightly fireworks set off on the beach below. Mexicans LOVE their fireworks and will have shows as big as our 4th of July for any wedding, birthday, anniversary, or random Tuesday night…

This summer Kirk’s boat projects have included replumbing the entire head (toilet/bathroom) and freshwater plumbing system from the galley (kitchen) to the head (bathroom). The plumbing runs under all of the floorboards and behind the built-in furniture, so it’s an impossible upheaval while living aboard. We are grateful to Judy & Paul for their hospitality, and for their big (normal size for you land-dwellers) fridge and freezer. Our fridge/freezer on the boat is dorm-sized! We also love seeing the sunsets from their condo each night, second to none!

Head re-plumbing job: removal of toilet (prepping to paint base), and old hoses removed! Heidi is grateful that Kirk is tackling this thankless job!

Judy & Paul’s condo is right on the Rio Pitillal (“pee-tee-all”) river delta at the beach (see photo of Tikka above and river exing through the beach). We beach-walk daily with our garbage bags, trying to make a dent in the copious amounts of trash, plastic, and ubiquitous styrofoam bits that wash down the river and into the ocean. Occasionally we find fun treasures like blue beach glass too! The river and beach dynamic evolve daily, and it’s so fascinating to watch the POWER of mother nature, as this river moves around, and moves thousands of yards of sand with it.

This beach glass was all collected in one week of beachcombing.

In early September Kirk celebrated his 75th birthday with a few friends. It was a great mix of Gringos and Mexicans, everyone speaking Spanglish. Our taxi driver-friend Alberto almost didn’t come because he doesn’t speak English. But when we convinced him to stop by, he was pleasantly surprised to see a few Nationals he could talk with! Although it was Kirk’s party, Tosh was the life of the party, making the rounds to ensure that EVERYONE had the opportunity to PLAY with him! All the world’s a toy for Tosh. Kirk really wanted a carrot cake, but that is apparently not a “thing” in Mexico, so he had to suffer through a chocolate cake—and we all helped him out with that! He did eventually get a piece of carrot cake in the US.

Two days later, we made another trip to the US for the Celebration of Life for Heidi’s Dad Verne, who had passed away almost a year ago. With Heidi’s brother David and cousin Maki, we road-tripped from Salt Lake City to Verne’s favorite spot in the world, the Tetons of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The temperatures in Salt Lake were in 90s when we arrived, but a few short days later in Jackson, they plummeted to the 40s. Thankful for our stash of winter clothing we keep aboard Due West for traveling north. Kirk’s motto still holds: A Warm Heidi is a Happy Heidi. But a too-warm Heidi is NOT… LOL.

It was a cool and cloudy visit to Jackson Hole and we rarely saw the Tetons in their full glory, but even shrouded in clouds they are still a lovely sight. Heidi is forever grateful to all of her parents for choosing Jackson Hole to raise their kids!

Verne’s little cabin in the woods; Heidi and her brother Arne in front of their “one-room” school house in Wilson, Wyoming; Sister Kari, nieces Noelle and SJ, and Heidi bundled up for rafting; the whole fam-damnly on a Barker-Ewing Scenic Float trip on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park.

Verne’s Celebration of Life at Dornan’s, Moose, WY: Paul, Kari, Arne, Andy, Heidi; Jared, Kirk, and Don Cush; Leith, Heidi, and Paul telling tales about Verne; David and Noelle serenading us; A great turnout of friends and family to celebrate Barker-Ewing’s 60th Anniversary, and their first boatman “RIVERNE” Huser; and closing down the party with Heidi leading everyone in Zorba’s Dance.

What a fantastic gathering with lots of old friends and family—we SO MUCH appreciated seeing those of you who were able to make it to this celebration of a great river man. Verne’s Celebration of Life was a multi-day affair, with family meals, a float trip on the Snake River with Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips, and a combination gathering with Barker’s to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their business. Verne was their first river guide back in the ’60s (and known as the “hyphen” in the Barker-Ewing name), and there were many old-time river rats gathered to celebrate Barker-Ewing and Verne. 

The event included great stories and puns—“What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhino? Eleph-I-no?!”—as Verne was a consummate punster! David sang Gordon Lightfoot’s Rainy Day People, then he and our niece Noelle (Verne’s granddaughter) sang a duet of the song River Rat by Quicksand Soup / David Steward. A singer/songwriter with her own band, Noelle also sang an old favorite of Verne’s, Rocky Mountain High by John Denver. Verne always said he was “born in the summer of his 27th year”, the first time he set foot in the Tetons, and he would have loved to hear Noelle playing that song. Dornan’s did a fabulous job with the food, Texas brisket that Dad would have loved, and his fav Shiner Bock Beer from Texas too. And we ended the celebration of Verne with some Greek folk dancing (he lived in Greece for a year on a Fullbright in the early 60s, and Zorba’s Dance was his fav when he taught Greek folk dancing!) The weekend was capped off with a family hike in the Tetons where we held a moment of silence for Dad. The foggy morning cleared, and the autumn colors did not disappoint.

Morning hike into the fog to Phelps Lake (THANKS to the Lawrence Rockefeller family for donating this gem back to the Grand Teton National Park!) Heidi’s whole fam-damnly: SIL Darcy, brother David, brother Arne, sister Kari, Heidi, niece Noelle, brother Paul, niece SJ, Kirk (and cousin Maki who took the group photo.) Heidi, Kari, Arne, and Paul, rocked their colorful Patagonia clothing; Kirk & Heidi; and the fog finally lifted to give us a stunning view of Phelps Lake, ringed by mountains.

Spending time with our nieces Noelle and Sarah-Jane (SJ) who we hadn’t seen since before Covid-daze was a highlight too—as was hanging out with all of Heidi’s siblings hailing from Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming—and seeing many long-time family friends that Heidi had known since she was a toddler. We even kept a bird and animal count as Verne would have done. Dad would have loved it all! 

We flew to/from Salt Lake City and hung out there for a few days before and after our road trip to Jackson Hole. So grateful for the hospitality of favorite cousins Nan & Erik and their awesome college-age “kids”. These young adults are so talented (as are their parents!) and serenaded us one night with one Beatles tune after another. What fun to see their generation appreciating the Beatles! 

Salt Lake City Fun: Cousin Per with his friends Inaki and Cheyenne, serenading us with Beatles songs; Heidi & Nancy, BFFs from high school in Jackson; Brother David and niece Miriam with Heidi.

Cousins Erik & Nan hosted us in their lovely home in Salt Lake City.

We were also grateful for several nice visits with Heidi’s step-mom Willa, who is in memory care in Salt Lake City. For now, she still knows who we are, and we realize that one day that may no longer be the case. One afternoon we took Willa out for a chocolate malt and to Red Butte Gardens to see Dad’s memorial bench. Big thanks again to all of you who contributed to his bench. If you visit Red Butte Gardens, it’s the first bench on the right as you walk up the Water Conservation Trail. Dad would have appreciated that!

David, Willa, and cousin Maki, chocolate malts at Baskin & Robins (when we were kids, Willa used to tell us she had the store built just for us when she took us to get ice cream, and we believed her, LOL!); Kirk, Heidi, Willa, David, and Maki on Verne’s memorial bench at Red Butte Gardens, Salt Lake City.

From Salt Lake, Kirk headed back to Vallarta and the condo and kitties, so grateful to our friend Don who cat-sat for us while we were away. Tosh & Tikka love how Don spoils them! Heidi flew on to Tucson for a nice visit with her mom Jean and stepdad Pete. One day, Heidi and Jean had a fun morning visiting a local community park, Desert Meadow Park, full of colorful, whimsical garden art. Such a creative idea!

Heidi and her mom Jean enjoyed visiting Desert Meadow Art Park, in Green Valley, Arizona.

Just after we returned to PV, our friends Donna & David came to visit from North Carolina, and we had an awesome time showing them around town. Puerto Vallarta is known as a tourist destination by most, and there are a lot of touristy things to do here, however, as “locals” we also know a lot of off-the-beaten-track activities. So if you come to visit, we promise you won’t get the touristy tour! 

Colorful Puerto Vallarta street scene; We took Donna & David to Angél Beach Yoga with our friend and yoga teacher Sam (Donna is an amazing artist and yoga teacher herself, and created Kirk’s tank-top ad her yoga pants which you can buy online here); Donna and Heidi in the Arts District of Vallarta; Donna & David (with Heidi’s drink in foreground) at Mescal Y Sal, a super-creative, woman-owned Mescal bar, where no two drinks are ever served in the same vessel or in the same way; Puerto Vallarta street mural interpreting a Mexican shaman’s peyote travels.

And we’re looking forward to having a few friends and family visit PV in the next month or so. One of Heidi’s cousins will be on a cruise ship that stops here for a day, so we’re planning to spend the day with them and give them the non-cruise ship tour of PV! Kirk also has a high school friend who will be visiting soon as well. 

While Kirk heads to the boat to work most days, Heidi has been teaching a few wellness workshops at a local yoga and wellness center here. And two other yoga studios have recently asked her to teach her workshops there over the next couple of months as well. She loves working with her health coaching clients, helping them to restore balance and function to their bodies via functional medicine concepts. And she facilitates two mastermind discussion groups of functional medicine students via Zoom each week.  Plus, she’s been creating some graphic design work for the school as well, so wearing several hats there and keeping her creative juices flowing. Next week she’s completing her Reiki Master Teacher certification, and looks forward to being able to teach Reiki to others soon. If you’re interested in that, please reach out to Heidi.

We’ll likely stay in the PV area through this winter since Heidi has some business opportunities here, including writing wellness articles for a local PV magazine. And we’re looking very forward to sailing north to visit the Sea of Cortez again in the Spring. For now, we’re loving the slower pace of life, PV sunsets…and the big fridge and freezer!

In other news, Hurricane Roslyn, a Cat 4, just brushed by Banderas Bay last week with BIG SEAS, and some rain, but thankfully not much wind (30-40 knots). The surge did the most damage around here, including the PV malecon. And for those of you who have been to El Barracuda restaurant with us (on the beach in town, with the fire dancers), it was significantly damaged by high waves. Roslyn made a direct hit on Sayulita and San Pancho, north of us, which lost a majority of their beaches… most of the sand was transplanted into the beach-front restaurants, filling them up. What a mess and a lot of work. Even our PV beach yoga has been impacted by too much sand on the concrete platform. We need a few shovels and brooms to get the sand back on the beach so we can practice again!

Dia de Los Muertos is just around the corner, on November 2nd, and it’s a very festive time of year here. This year they’ve built a Catrina statue that qualifies for the Guinness Book of World Records at 23 meters tall (75’). If you’ve never seen the Disney movie Coco, we highly recommend it for its great insight into this lovely traditional Mexican holiday which embraces death in a beautiful light. (And is one of the reasons Mexicans are such happy people, they don’t spend their life fearing death.) In the meantime, we leave you with a few photos of the Puerto Vallarta decorations. We’re looking forward to attending the annual Dia de Los Muertos Parade on Wednesday night. 

Tosh & Tikka are doing great, chasing geckos on the lanai, and chasing each other up and down the condo hallway when they aren’t napping. They send their love to all of you, as do we. xo

Giant sugar skulls, Elvis, and a caballero and his caballo. This year’s 75′ tall Katrina broke the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s tallest Katrina!

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