Road Trip to PV COVID-Style

So yes, Kirk needed more of his favorite coffee, but that wasn’t the main reason for our road trip to Puerto Vallarta. While it’s a two-day sail away, it’s only about a 4-5 hour car ride—depending on the number of stops for photos of roadside attractions—like designer bus stops out in the middle of nowhere, far too many shrines along the roadside, cozy little homes tucked into the jungle, or house-sized rocks driving down the road.

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We like Barra a lot, but sadly it leaves a bit to be desired in the medical and veterinary departments. Thankfully we have a GREAT acupuncturist in Barra (Doug Grootveld from PDX) who’s been keeping us in tip-top health. However, we were all in need of some other medical appointments. And in particular, Tosh and Tikka needed to see their vet Lalo at Wolf Veterinary in PV. Plus we wanted to stock up on some food items and things for the boat we can’t easily get down south.

Originally we thought we’d rent a car and drive up in August. But due to COVID outbreaks in PV, we pushed it back to September, and then October. It was one of those trips that we kinda-sorta didn’t really want to do because of COVID but finally couldn’t put off any longer. Tosh & Tikka were jonesing to get in a car for 4-5 hours and we desperately needed haircuts! 😀

So we rented a car from our friend and boat worker Arturo (a deal at $700 pesos/day including insurance!) Loaded up the cats with VetriScience Composure calming treats (Tosh got 3 and Tikka got 2), and hit the road. Tosh and Tikka had never been in a car for longer than about 20-minutes to the vet before. But they have always been troupers and as long as they are both in the same carrier together they rarely make a peep. This trip was no exception and in fact, they amazed us at how calm and cool they were (THANKS VetriScience) We left the carrier open for better ventilation, and about half-way through the drive, Tosh ambled out and lay on the floor. But Tikka never took advantage of the extra space to sprawl out.

The scenery was incredible! We left Due West in the dark via water taxi at 0700. Arturo met us on the Barra side and we packed the cats and overnight bags into the car and set off down the road. The road between Barra and Puerto Vallarta is a 2-lane highway in fairly good condition. Except for the part that washed out during the recent Tropical Storm Hernán, which was now S-L-O-W-L-Y being rebuilt. Bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, the cats didn’t like that part too much and we weren’t big fans either! But soon we were past the bumps and climbing the hill towards the jungle. This video of the bumpy jungle road gives you a good feel for the road trip.

In the more rural areas we passed tractors, vaqueros on horseback, and cows in the river and on the road! Almost thought we were back in Wyoming for a minute! Hillsides were covered in white-flowering barsino trees, a type of hardwood tree common in Mexico that is apparently used for making furniture, chairs, and dining tables. Because the rainy season here is from August through October, everything blooms in the autumn. By springtime all the surrounding hills are dried out and gray, so it’s opposite world here, compared to the US. These vibrant flowers were everywhere along the roadside. And we didn’t realize we’d captured a bee in this one until looking at it later!

Our first stop in PV was Wolf’s Veterinary appointments for Tosh & Tikka. Like most vet clinics and even some doctors and dentist offices in Mexico, they don’t make appointments, you just go when you need to go. The theory being everything sorts itself out organically and you rarely have to wait. Due to COVID, Dr. Lalo came out to the car to get Tosh and Tikka and take them in for their check-ups. This left us enough time to zip down the street to Organic Select and stock up on a few important food items we can’t get in Barra, like organic chocolate bars!

Back at Wolf’s, we got some good news: Tosh got a clean bill of health, still cancer-free 2+ years later (thanks to Holistic Animal Remedies homeopathic cancer treatment, plus CBD oil, other herbal remedies, Traditional Chinese herbs, and Tosh’s GREAT disposition—we threw the holistic medicine book at him and it worked!) So grateful he’s our Medical-Miracle! And some less-than-great news: Tikka is a bit overweight, with body fat mostly on the INSIDE of her, pushing on her colon and causing or exacerbating constipation. Sorry if that overshare, but we thought it was important to share – because she really doesn’t look overweight from the outside. We didn’t know cats can be overweight inside without really showing it. So now she’s on a diet and getting extra pumpkin and fish oil to help get things moving.

Originally we had looked for hotels in PV that accepted pets. But the ones that were the most COVID-safe did not, and the ones that accepted pets seemed pretty sketch when it came to COVID-cleanliness. No thanks! So we asked our dear friends Judy & Paul at the condo (where we’ve condo-sat the past three summers) if we could leave the cats with them. They were totally game since they love Tosh & Tikka, even though they now have a Chihuahua named Coco. It would be fun to see how Tosh and Tikka and Coco-the-Chihuahua all got along!

Judy also invited us to stay with them. Since they have been as religiously COVID-safe as we have been all summer long, we would have our own room/bathroom, and all the doors are open to the front/back of the condo with a strong breeze blowing through the place, we felt safe in staying there. And it was wonderful to be able to see them again, even if socially distancing 6-feet apart.

So how did the cats and dog do? Tikka (who in spite of her weight is smaller than Coco) wanted nothing to do with Coco, and spent most of her time hanging out in the closet of the guest bedroom. Tosh, who is a bit bigger than Coco, was infinitely interested in Coco! We kept him in kitty-jail at first so he and Coco could meet nose-to-nose-through the mesh gate. After a hiss and a yip, they became buddies, both VERY curious about each other. Tosh is fearless when it comes to other animals (not so much when it comes to fireworks!) Soon they were sharing dinner off the same tray, and sharing toys too! Tosh, where’s your DOG?!

We packed in our back-to-back appointments to chiropractor, haircuts, boat parts to the machine shop, groceries, farmácia Ahora (where Kirk’s prescription points card paid off BIG when he got a $97 prescription for free! In fact, that savings paid for the rental car). We also stopped by Marina Vallarta to check on a friend’s boat for them (Bandit looks A-OK Fred!) and for a brief visit with Rosie & Javier at the Chrismar corner tienda, where we used to buy our water, bananas, limes, avocados, and onions.

Much to our shock and disappointment, our favorite Yogi Bar (yoga, juice-bar and organic cafe) has now moved to a different neighborhood and wasn’t open on the weekend. We also rendezvoused with another fellow cruiser at the Walmart parking lot to pick up the passport of one of the cruiser kids in Barra so we could deliver it back to them… Strangely for being Mexico, everything went swimmingly and everything was on time. Maybe this is a perk of COVID? Fewer people out and about, making things “get late”.

It was finally time for some R&R for us! We met our BFF Lizzie and her husband, Travis, along with Judy & Paul at another old fav, El Baracuda, on the beach for a socially distanced dinner outside in the breeze. Great to catch up with our friends, (sorry no photo of Judy), and sorry not to see more friends this trip, next time. Sunsets in PV are always gorgeous, and the fire dancer evening entertainment is fun to watch too… check out this fire dancer video clip. Apparently, Heidi needs to practice her hooping a bit more, LOL! John, Paul, George, and Ringo would be proud…

All too soon it was time to hit the road back home. First stop Costco, to load up on organic produce, frozen berries, tofu, and other foods we can’t get easily in down south. Plus Pee Wee Herman sized TP and Paper towels to split with a fellow cruiser in Barra. Along with the boat-kid’s passport, we were also delivering back a YETI cooler for the same family. So we took advantage of that and packed up all our frozen/cool goods. If you don’t know about YETI coolers, check them out. Heavy and expensive, but boy do they keep things cool in 90° and Mexican sunlight. We’re hoping Santa brings us one!

Back at the condo, we said our goodbyes to Judy & Paul, and packed up our bags and cats. Tosh & Tikka got “drugged” with Composure treats again, and we were on our way. Last stop in PV on the way out of town was the whole purpose of the trip… so Kirk could get coffee at La Ventana Cafe and a visit with his barista amigas Gabby (Chica Loca) and Omerica (La Bruja Buena).

As long as we were on a Road Trip, we wanted to check out a few places along the way. So we took a side trip to visit the Pueblo of Tomatlán about half-way between PV and Barra. It’s a rural town on an agricultural plateau. We had hoped to grab some lunch there, but between the narrow streets with not much parking, and the lack of COIVD-safe looking restaurants, we made it a photo opp instead of a lunch stop.

The town is vibrantly-colored, and there are tack stores on every corner like Starbucks in the US! Check out the fancy spurs and bits below. From the looks of the gates to the church, we were expecting an Iglesia mas magnifico. Guess they spent all the money on the gate and grounds? We didn’t take the time to go inside (Kirk stayed in the air-conditioned car with the cats), so maybe we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Perhaps it’s much grander inside? All in all, a cute ranching town.

Oh yeah, we still had to re-trace our tracks through the gravel highway (road construction) again, bumpity-bump… one more video of our Mexican road-construction road trip, to give you a real-world view. Pete, we took these for YOU!

Back in Barra, Arturo met us at the water taxi dock to help us schlep our gear bags, Costco toilet paper and paper towels, YETI cooler, and cats to the water taxi, and retrieve his car. Boy were the cats happy to get home. From inside the carrier, Tosh stood up and started sniffing the air as we zoomed across the bay back to Due West. He knew he was home. We were SO impressed by their chilax attitude for five hours in a car, we just might take them on another road trip. LOL!

It was nice to get away for a few days. And now we’re back to the daily grind in Barra again. Kirk’s back to boat projects and riding his bike to take and pick up laundry. Heidi’s back to work and school, while also helping her dad and step-mom with “life-support” from afar. Along with her brother Paul and step-brother David and his wife Sharon, they managed to get the Jackson Hole property renovated (thanks Paul!), 40 potential tenants screened (the JH rental market is NUTS), and a new tenant moved in just as the first snow was flying. This is the little cabin in the woods that Heidi’s dad Verne built for their family when she was four. Grateful it’s still in the family.

Although we have our Residente Permanente (permanent green card) for Mexico, and can remain here as long as we want to, we are keenly aware and (and horrified by) what’s happening in the states this political season. We are grateful that Washington state has a slick online voting option for overseas voters. We have helped other voters get registered and find out how they can vote in their home states from overseas. And we voted on the first day available in King County. We’ve also been phone banking for the Biden-Harris ticket all the way from Mexico.

This meme pretty much sums up our political views this year: “Voting isn’t marriage, it’s public transport. You’re not waiting for “the one” who is absolutely perfect. You are catching the bus. And if there isn’t one going exactly to your destination you don’t get on one going the wrong way. You take the one going closest to your destination.”

PLEASE VOTE. It’s your civic duty and your great-grandmothers (Suffragettes) fought for this right for us all. Let’s hope the US is in a better space by our next blog post!

Stay WELL, wear your masks, wash your hands, social distance, and VOTE.


  1. Mary & Giff Jones on October 28, 2020 at 11:59 pm

    Hola Heidi & Kirk, You two continually entertain us with your adventures. We feel like we are almost there right alongside you. Aren’t our felines the best companions! And your accompaning photos are a story in and of themselves, so colorful. Thanks for keeping us posted on the “Adventures of Kirk & Heidi and Tosh & Tikka”.
    Good to hear you are keeping safe and well; we are as well. Hugs, Mary & Giff

  2. Sarah Cooke on October 29, 2020 at 6:19 am

    hugs guys. hanks for the blog update. Love the road trip details and glad the kitties are doing well albeit being a bit “inside fat”.

    You are lucky you aren’t here. The stress of only 1 week to go and wondering what Trump, McConnell and the alt-right militias will do is terrible.

  3. Sara on October 29, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    So fun to read your post. The sunshine and warm weather looks Devine as I’m huddled in my sleeping bag with extra down comforter and wool blankets in Canyonlands. Freezing temps at night.

  4. Judy on October 30, 2020 at 10:19 pm

    Great post! I loved all the photos & videos! Looking forward to your next road trip to Vallarta! Love you guys!

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