©stephanie-klepacki-unsplash, Rio Grande Bosque, Albuquerque

PVR to SLC and Adios to Albuquerque

If you’ve ever been to Albuquerque (ABQ), New Mexico, you know it’s one of those places that’s hard to get to from anywhere… especially from Mexico! Heidi’s dad Verne and his wife Willa had lived on a ranchette along the Bosque of the Rio Grande (above photo). But Verne had to move into assisted living several years ago, and then Willa followed this past spring.

So in June, Heidi and her brothers Paul and David made the decision to move Verne & Willa from Albuquerque to Salt Lake City, UT, to live closer to family. Heidi’s brother David (Willa’s son) lives in Salt Lake, and her other brother Paul lives in Bozeman, MT, so they would be able to visit much more often. And there’s even a direct 3-hour flight from PVR (Puerto Vallarta) to SLC (Salt Lake City) which would make it easier for us to visit as well. 

However, at the time we moved them to SLC, none of us “kids” had the bandwidth to deal with selling, renting, or emptying out their Albuquerque house—not to mention the Delta variant was ramping up again and no one wanted to travel… so we let the house sit for a few months while friends and neighbors checked on it. And then a few months later, one of the neighbors made us a great offer to buy the house. So suddenly we had to deal with all the stuff still in the house sooner than later. Verne & Willa had lived there for over 30 years, and both collected quite a bit of stuff…

Because Heidi was busy with school and her health coaching business, Kirk graciously volunteered to fly up to SLC and drive to ABQ with David, to divest the house, and return to SLC with a U-haul trailer. That trip was originally scheduled in mid-October, but then David came down with bronchitis (thankfully not the Delta!) and Kirk and David had to postpone their trip by several weeks. The house was closing in mid-November, so suddenly we were up against a time crunch.  

David with his John Prine shirt and Kirk with his Beatles shirt at the Moab Folk Festival 2021.

Rescheduled for the first week of November (and hedging bets against the first winter snowfall!) the guys made plans to drive from SLC to ABQ, with a stop in Moab for the Moab Folk Music Festival. (David, a patron of the event, already had his ticket and a planned trip to Moab, so it dovetailed nicely, and Kirk much appreciated David’s offer to join him on the road trip and music fest, rather than flying to ABQ!) Heidi was also trying to coordinate a trip to SLC to visit Verne & Willa and maybe overlap with the guys on their return.

And then we got a call from Verne’s hospice nurse (also named Heidi!) Verne was starting to decline more quickly, and she recommended we come sooner than later. While he likely still had a few more weeks in him, he would probably not make his 91st birthday in March, as we’d hoped. Verne had been in and out of hospice for almost three years, but this time he was declining more each week. However, we couldn’t find anyone to cat sit for us in Barra…

We were in a bind, not wanting to leave David to deal with the ABQ house all on his own (a daunting task!) if Kirk had stayed home with the cats so Heidi could go see her Dad… And not able to leave the cats alone to fend for themselves for 2+ weeks if Kirk went on help David… It was the end of hurricane season, and most of the boats in Barra were making plans to sail south so no one could commit to cat sitting. This is one of the only downsides of having pets—when you can’t find a good sitter and need to leave town for a family emergency. 

We’re sure somewhere, someone would have LOVED the opportunity to live on a sailboat in Mexico and play with Tosh & Tikka for a couple of weeks, but we weren’t able to connect with them when we needed to. [HINT: if this is you, please let us know so next time we’ll know who to reach out to! :-)] Thankfully, our dear friends Judy & Paul from Seattle / PV came to our rescue again (as they have several times!) and would be happy to have Tosh & Tikka stay with them at their condo in Puerto Vallarta. The only hitch was that they were still in Seattle… not due back to PV for another week.

We finally decided to head to Judy & Paul’s condo in PV with cats in tow 2 days before Kirk’s flight to SLC (so he could get a much-needed haircut and his mandatory US-re-entry pre-flight nose swab!) Our friend and boat-worker, Pancho, drove us and the cats to PV, a beautiful 5 hour drive up from the coast, and up the mountains into the arid planes and pine forests, and then back down the tropical side of the mountains, through the jungle (where the signs warn to beware of jaguars – just because you didn’t see the jaguar, doesn’t mean it didn’t see you!), and down to Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta. 

The Katrina was about 25′ tall, the “sugar skull” was about 4′ tall, the Katrina sea lions were lifesize, and the fun mural of skeletons at the beach is a new one in PV.

We arrived on November 1, which is Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. One of Mexico’s best celebrations (if you’ve never seen the animated Disney Pixar movie Coco, it’s a must-see to better understand this holiday). So we dropped the cats off at the condo (they immediately seemed right at home!), and headed downtown to the Malecón to see all of the Katrinas (skeleton statues). Each year they have different art, and this year had some of the most creative we’ve seen yet. 

And then Kirk took off for SLC to rendezvous with David. Kirk got a brief visit with Verne & Willa before he and David hit the road for ABQ. Meanwhile, Heidi trusted Verne would hold on for a few more days until she was able to get there. 

Great chiropractic appointment and fun Girls Night Out with Rachel. Click the drink photo to view larger, the artisan drinks and food at Mescal Y Sal were amazingly beautiful and tasty!

It was nice to be back in Puerto Vallarta and catch up with a few friends. And we realized how much we miss it there. Heidi had an appointment with our awesome Chiropractor and friend Rachel (first chiropractic appointment in 7 months and boy was her body happy!) and then a fun girl’s night out. Heidi also took walks along the beach each morning watching the fishermen casting their nets in the surf, and marveling at the variety of birds in Mexico. Heidi’s maternal grandfather Oxy and her dad Verne were both big birders, so it seems that some of their ornithology must have rubbed off on her! 

White herons and grackles on the beach in Puerto Vallrta.

A few days later, Judy & Paul returned to PVR, and Heidi left the next morning for SLC, grateful for that 3-hour non-stop flight! We are also grateful that Judy & Paul were able to cat sit, that Tosh & Tikka are so comfortable at their condo and that the cats are cool with their dog Coco too! 

Heidi arrived in SLC to see her Dad on Veteran’s Day (he was a Korean War-era Vet). And Verne was SO glad to see her. He wasn’t speaking much anymore at that point (except for “Damn it!” every time they gave him any medication, LOL!) But he did manage a bright smile and a “Hi Heidi!” when she arrived. 

At this point, Verne was mostly bed-ridden, but being a Veteran on Veterans day, they’d gotten him up to take part in a little parade around the activity room, but he soon tired, and Heidi got him back to his bed.

Meanwhile, the guys had a great road trip to ABQ, including stops at the Moab Folk Music Festival, and hikes to Corona and Bow Tie Arches at Moab and around Hovenweep National Monument, in southwestern Colorado. Verne would have loved that, as he took his kids on many camping and hiking trips around the desert southwest when they were young. Kirk really enjoyed the road trip and adventures with David. They had never spent much quality time together before, and this trip cemented their brotherhood. Both of them are talkers and love music, so they were never at a loss for words! And it was great for Kirk and David to have some FUN and charge up their batteries before the daunting task of divesting the house, that lay ahead. For any of you collecting stuff, now’s the time to divest of it, before your kids have to deal with it. 

Kirk and David also visited Corona and Bow Tie Arches at Moab.

Back in Salt Lake Heidi spent her days visiting her Dad (who was mostly sleeping), making final arrangements with the hospice staff, and taking Willa out for lunch. It’s nice to still be able to take her out for a meal, though her Alzheimer’s has progressed to a point that much of the conversation repeats itself. Heidi also enjoyed getting in daily hikes with old high school friends, and visiting cousins. The fall colors were beautiful, and while it was quite cold for us tropical people (28°F instead of 28°C! on one morning hike!) we were grateful the snow held off until we left.  

Beautiful fall colors in Salt Lake City and a great meet-up with high school friend Patti (we were roomies on our high school europe trip in 1980). Patti is a meteorology professor who keeps an eye on the weather for us in Mexico! And great visits with FAV cousins: Nan, Heidi, Erik, Soren, Laurie in Salt Lake City.

Some of our most favorite cousins in the world live in Salt Lake City, and Nan & Erik’s home has always been a wonderful respite from everything else going on in life. Nan is an amazing cook and dinners around their dining table were so colorful, delicious, and FUN! They and their kids are wonderfully creative and zany, and any visit with Nan & Erik, and family is guaranteed to leave you with a side-splitting ache from laughing your head off! So it was the perfect place to hang out and lighten the mood between visits with Verne & Willa in the assisted living facility. We are so grateful to Nan, Erik, Soren, Laurie, Per (and missed you Nels!) for their generous hospitality. Also grateful to Heidi’s other parents Jean & Pete, for arranging and taking care of our hotel stay at the downtown Marriott. 

Adios Albuquerque: David, Luba, and Kirk; sandhill cranes in the neighbors yard; the Outback with U-Haul loaded for bear… And the lovely old cottonwood in Verne and Willa’s driveway… grateful we’ll never again have to pick up leaves, sticks, and cottonwood fluff, or wonder if an old branch would come cracking down on a car or person at any moment, LOL.

Back in ABQ, Kirk and David worked tirelessly from morning to night packing up anything valuable or that any of the “kids” wanted to keep. Heidi only wanted family photos, and the guys packed up 4 boxes full of photos. (Verne was a photographer, always with a camera around his neck, so there were lots of  family photos!) Kirk also found Heidi a nice pair of her Dad’s birding binoculars. Paul mostly wanted outdoor gear and Verne memorabilia. We also got a beautiful, heavy 1950’s ribbed glass and sterling plate water pitcher, that belonged to Willa’s Aunt Willa.

We know you might be thinking, WHAT would you do with that on a boat? But thanks to world-cruisers Lin & Larry Pardey, who always cruised with silver, crystal, and china—we long ago decided to ditch the plasticware from our boat. We have real bone china (it’s STRONG), and glass drinking ware, so a glass and silver water pitcher fits right in! Not to worry, everything is carefully stowed and cushioned for passages.

The new owners (neighbors) would be doing a major remodel to the house, and offered for us to leave anything behind that we didn’t want. They would take care of getting it to Goodwill or the garbage. And they also purchased some of the furniture that none of us wanted. Some of Willa’s family (niece and great-nephews) also helped with packing things up and loading the U-Haul. And our dear friend Luba stopped by to visit the guys briefly too. Kirk and David were hurrying to get back to SLC in the hopes of seeing Verne again before he passed on. 

Over the past 30 years, we had some good times visiting Albuquerque… adios ABQ, it’s been real.

School photo flash-backs, and sorting through boxes of family photos at David & Sharons, with Paul & Darcy.

Paul and his fiancé Darcy drove down from Bozeman, just as Kirk and David arrived back in SLC from ABQ, so we all met at David’s storage unit and unloaded the U-haul trailer. Then took the boxes of photos back to David & Sharon’s house and ordered Indian take-out and had several fun evenings going through family photos and reminiscing. There’s not much Indian or Vietnamese food to be found in Mexico, so every meal we could we ate Indian or Vietnamese, our favs. Except for one lunch out with David where gourmet burgers (ours were veggie burgers!) for 3 + fries and dipping sauces came to over $50! Talk about sticker shock, that’s a week’s worth of food in Mexico, LOL!

Long wait for lunch at Citrus Grill, Willa & David, the long wait was definitely worth it, the food was delicious!

Dinner at Nan & Erik’s: David, Erik, Nan, Soren, Kirk, Per (in kitchen), Darcy, Paul, Arne

Heidi’s other brother Arne was flying through SLC to visit Jean & Pete south of Tucson, and since we were in town, he changed his flight to layover a night and we all had a great family dinner at Nan & Erik’s. THANKS, Arne! Even though they all live in SLC, David & Sharon hadn’t met Nan & Erik before (other side of the family), so it was fun for them to all meet each other as well, and of course David and Erik hit it off famously… no doubt those guys will be getting together again soon!

Due to Verne’s rapid decline, we didn’t know how long we’d be in Salt Lake and ended up extending our return date twice—grateful the at Judy & Paul were cool with the cats extending their stay! And being state-side, we were also trying to take advantage of stocking up on anything we can’t get in Mexico, from supplements to gluten-free/organic/Asian foodstuffs, to boat parts, and outdoor gear. So between visits to Verne & Willa, we were also running errands. David works from home, and we were grateful for his generosity in lending us his Subaru Outback, as we’d both owned Outbacks in Seattle and felt right at home driving it.

BFFs from high school, Heidi & Nancy; Hiking with Nan and Erik; and delicious brunch at Trio.

Heidi’s best friend from high school, Nancy, lives in Salt Lake and they were planning to get together for a visit. One afternoon Kirk and Heidi headed to REI for a few items, and as we walked into the store we heard “Hey Heidi!” We were kind of shocked that someone would know us in the Salt Lake REI, but turns out it was Nancy! Such a small world, Heidi had planned to phone her that afternoon to get together. As it turned out, Nancy was headed out of town and needed a cat/dog sitter for the next few days. So we were happy to move out of the Mariott and help care for Pebbles (cat) and Kaya (dog) at Nancy’s house, a win/win!

We spent much of the days visiting Verne and saying our goodbyes, and though it was sad to be losing him, everyone was at peace with his impending departure. Verne had lived a very full, long life, with no regrets, and as a life-long outdoorsman, hated not being able to do anything anymore. His body just wore out.

On November 18, we spent most of the day in Verne’s room. His hospice nurse had let us know to keep talking to him and playing music till the end, as hearing is the last thing to go. So we read him some poetry from Rumi and Hafiz, and his own book Bouncy the Giraffe (a kid’s book he’d written for Heidi and Paul when they were little). Though he’d not opened his eyes for four days, Heidi played one of his favorite songs, Zorba’s Dance (from Zorba the Greek), and Verne squeezed Heidi’s hand several times, so we knew he was listening. 

We said our goodbyes and told Verne we were going for dinner and that Paul would be there shortly to visit him. On our way driving back to Nan & Erik’s for dinner, David called to say he’d gotten the call that Verne had passed away about 20 minutes after we’d left his room. The hospice staff also told us this was very common, for people to wait for family to be around and say goodbyes—but to actually want to die alone, not in front of family—so many people apparently wait until their family has left the room, and then they pass on. 

See RIP Dad — The World Lost A Great River Man…

We all gathered at Nan & Erik’s for dinner that night, and sang a round of “Hun skal leve”, a Danish song of celebration… Though Verne wasn’t Danish, he did live in the Danish town of Solvang, CA for several years, and taught Danish Folk Dancing, so he would have been pleased.

Visit to Red Butte Gardens, David, Darcy, Paul, and Heidi

We spent three more days in SLC helping with final arrangements and visiting with Willa and her cat Panini. We “kids” took a walk around Red Butte Gardens, where we decided Verne would have loved a memorial bench to sit and watch the birds from. And then it was time for us to fly back to PVR and relieve Judy & Paul of their cat-sitting duties!

Willa loves her kitty Panini

We can’t express our gratitude enough to Nan & Erik, and David & Sharon, and Paul & Darcy, and their families for their generosity, hospitality, and so much LOVE during this final visit to spend time with Verne. We are grateful for so much quality family time, laughing and crying, and supporting each other, and most of all LOVE.

David, Nan, Erik, Heidi, Kirk, Paul, Darcy—grateful for our AWESOME family!

Back in PVR, the furbies were so happy to see us!! Judy & Paul had a house guest (our mutual friend Alex who also loves Tosh & TIkka) for two days after we returned, so we stayed in the PV Holiday Inn & Suites for a couple of days, hanging out with the cats, and Judy, Paul, and Alex during the day and sleeping at the hotel at night. The hotel had a beautiful swimming pool which we took advantage of too. 

Spending a few more days in PV before returning to Barra enabled us to go to our favorite Angél Beach Yoga with Sam on Friday morning, as well as stock up on more groceries at Costco (which we don’t have down south). We also saw our favorite neighborhood tienda owners, Rosie & Javier, and the cats got their check-ups with Dr. Lalo at Wolfs Veteniary, thankful for clean bills of health for both! Plus we ate a few nice meals out with Judy and Paul. 

Angél Beach Yoga – THANKS Sam! Heidi & Rosie at Chrismar tienda in Marina Vallarta.

PV was fun, but we’d been away from Due West for a full month and were ready to get home! Our dear friend and taxi driver Alberto drove us five hours back from PV to Barra. All four of us were SO happy to be safely home after a month of travel. The winter high season of cruisers is upon us with new boats arriving in Barra de Navidad almost daily for the Christmas season. Looking forward to seeing a few of our cruising friends over the next couple of months down here. 

Tikka & Tosh’s souvenir from our trip the US was a larger carrier that made traveling much more comfortable for them! (If they are in two separate carriers they will cry, but when they are in one carrier together they don’t make a peep!) Alberto our Taxi buddy is a great guy with an awesome new Suzuki mini-SUV that seats 7 with luggage; and Home Sweet Due West at Marina Isla de Navidad.

Currently, we think we’ll sail back up to Puerto Vallarta by early March, and on up to the Sea of Cortez by mid-April… but as always, our plans are written in sand at low tide, and subject to change with the winds. 

A gorgeous sunset in PV the night before Heidi flew up to Salt Lake City.

3 Comments

  1. Capt on December 25, 2021 at 12:11 am

    Fun times. Lots of good work and loving friendship.

  2. Jolene & Derry. Evans on December 25, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    Happy Xmas Mariners & the hope for a healthy & happier New Year.
    Your life & beautifully written & edited BLOGS are special indeed.
    Sad that Verne is now with his Maker. Truely a remarkable man, fun to be with & a special shout out to Willa with whom we spoke over a year ago and enjoyed a visit to her home in the Bosque while Verne was Guiding in Jackson.

    As Aye,

    Derry & Jo G

  3. Jim+Olney on December 26, 2021 at 10:01 pm

    Wishing you all the best for the holidays! So nice to hear from you as I really enjoy your Blog. All our love, Jim and Traci

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