Puerto Vallarta Malecon in the rain.

Summer Adventures in Vallarta + 2 Trips North

Land ho! This summer we’ve embarked on another house-sitting gig in a brand-new house, just a mile upstream from Playa Holi Beach, in Puerto Vallarta. While we’ve loved our years of condo-sitting for our friends Judy & Paul at their beautiful ocean-front Grand Venetian condo at Playa Holi, new adventures await us as we explore more urban neighborhoods for a few months. We miss Judy & Paul—who, sadly for us, said adios to Vallarta last spring and returned to the States—but from the looks of things, they’re loving life stateside.

Our new housesitting gig is only one block away from the beautiful nature trail along Rio Pitillal. And we are grateful to be surrounded by this urban oasis. On our morning walks, we often see and hear orange-fronted parakeets (photo from Google: they are mostly bright green with an orange stripe across the bridge of the beak) flocking in the banyan and parota (huanacaxtle) trees. There is a lovely horse pasture nearby, and also a small canal behind the house (muddy water on right, below), that flows into Rio Pitillal, complete with frogs, lizards, and iguanas. 

And we recently discovered many neem trees along the river walk too. Neem (also called Indian lilac for its fragrant flowers), is native to India and South Asia, (and grows in tropical climates around the world) and in Ayurvedic Medicine, it is used for skin, eye, and gut health. So we have been collecting and drying neem leaves (above right), and drinking neem tea. Thanks, Mother Nature!

Since we both needed to make trips to the US to visit family—and didn’t have a cat sitter available—that meant we had to stagger our trips so somebody could stay home with the furbies. (If you ever want to visit Vallarta and cat-sit for us please let us know. Tosh & Tikka would love to see you!) Dog sitters here are a dime a dozen, but cat sitters seem to be more difficult to find.

In mid-June, Heidi flew to Tucson where she had a great visit with her parents, Jean & Pete. She was able to help them downsize and repurpose a lot of their stuff. She turned it into a fun family “texting swap meet”. Heidi took photos of all the items her parents no longer wanted/needed and texted all her siblings, nieces, and nephew—first come first served! It was a raucous event with bartering going on amongst them. Then Heidi and her mom, with the help of Lupita (photo above right), took everything to the UPS store… and voila, Christmas in June for the family! A win-win for everyone.

CLT Airport Art

Then it was on to Asheville, North Carolina area via Charlotte, NC airport (fun CLT wall art above), for Heidi’s annual functional medicine school retreat/conference. She enjoyed hanging out and learning with her colleagues from the School of Applied Functional Medicine, where she is on staff. Lots of outdoor time and nature hikes too. (Gorgeous photo below, ©DonnaHollinshead)

And finally a stop in Salt Lake City to visit her brother, David, and his wife Sharon, and Heidi’s stepmom Willa, who is in a memory care facility there. We had a nice visit and took Willa out for her favorite chocolate malt, and to a park where she enjoyed seeing the ducks (below left). Unfortunately, since that visit, she is declining more rapidly. We also picked the final spot for our dad Verne’s memorial bench (RIP) at Red Butte Gardens (below right). Surrounded by nature, Dad would love it! 

David & Sharon had just gotten new kittens (David w/ Utu and Inanna below left), which were super intertaining to play with. And Heidi also had a lovely visit with her long-time BFF from high school, Nancy (with kittens, below right). Big thanks to David & Sharon for their hospitality and for being our “mail house”. Whenever we head back to the States, we stock up on things we can’t get in Mexico like professional-grade supplements and our fav Neals Yard Remedies organic, sustainable health and beauty products, plus some health food items, a few boat parts, and kitty toys.

Once Heidi returned to Vallarta we got settled into our new summer housesitting gig. Tosh & Tikka like the space to run around this two-story house and chase each other up and down the stairs. They also love the back lanai and pool area, chasing lizards and bugs. Tosh almost went swimming one night when he went after a bug on the pool cover. As his two front feet met the pool cover and it started to sink he quickly back paddled… and ran inside with wet paws and wet belly fur. Hopefully, he remembers that lesson! Fortunately, he does not like water. Yikes…wild animal lurking by the pool.

The house is brand new at the edge of the 20-year-old townhouse-style (common wall) middle-class Mexican neighborhood of Fluvial (photo below). We’re just one mile from Costco, and other shopping facilities, so an easy walk—or a quick Uber away when it is too hot out or raining too hard, which seems often this summer! 

Fluvial neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta

Our new friends and owners, Joanne & Stan are grateful to have us caretaking while they spend their summer in Canada. Since the house has not yet been through one hurricane season, they wanted to be sure everything fared OK. And we are grateful for the opportunity to help them out and be off the boat for a bit so that Kirk can tackle some bigger boat projects. 

Like every summer, the exterior of Due West is in hurricane-proof mode from June-November. And if a hurricane is imminent we stow the canvas sun/rain cover. Inside the boat, the refrigerator decided to start misbehaving (thankfully it waited until we moved into the house!), so Kirk needs to figure that one out—possibly low refrigerant or a bad fan? The port water tank is also leaking around the access plates Kirk installed last spring, ugh—so the access plates need to be modified. And the new alternator still needs to be installed. Since our engine is in the middle of Due West’s living room, that entails removing the salon dining table and opening the engine compartment, which makes the “living room” unlivable while working on the engine or water tanks. So these projects, along with others really need to happen while we are off the boat. 

Shortly after we got settled into the house for the summer, David & Sharon came to visit us for a few days. We had a great time snorkeling, touring around Vallarta, visiting art galleries, walking along the Malecón, and eating at a couple of our favorite restaurants, El Campanario (traditional Mexican) and La Bodegita del Medio (David and Kirk waiting for their traditional Cubano food, above). However, we were so busy having fun, we neglected to get many photos!

As David & Sharon returned home to SLC, Kirk departed for Naples, Florida, where he had a wonderful time visiting his brother Galen & sister-in-law Ann. Sadly, Galen’s nerve and muscle deterioration from ALS is progressing slowly, but surely. And Kirk’s being there gave Ann the opportunity to go to Ohio for her annual sister’s reunion, while getting in some good brotherly time with Galen. 

Ann, Galen, and their grandsons Mav and Ky; and one of Kirk’s favorite houses in their neighborhood.

Our nephew Mike, (along with his wife Sara and their boys Mav & Ky) treated Uncle Kirk and Galen to a day on the water on their runabout. Kirk also got to kayak with several of Galen & Ann’s friends whom we’d met on previous visits, and many of them inquired about life in Mexico.

Another day, Kirk and Galen “windshield toured” the damaged areas of Fort Meyers remaining from Hurricane Ian, nearly a year ago (September 11, 2022). The damage is still extensive and it appears rebuilding progress is spotty and delayed by insurance claims, labor shortages, and the current economy as well. 

We know of some people who were able to self-fund their repairs immediately and are letting insurance catch up with them later. But many people were not so fortunate, with houses gutted from storm damage and/or mold toxicity, and insurance claims yet to be paid out.

There were also warnings about hiring out-of-state workers due to many scammers. And about 80% of the multistory condos and hotels still have first- and second-floor damage and ocean-side windows blown out. Most of them are still empty and uninhabitable, while they wait for repairs. Last year’s tourist season was a bust for both vendors and guests, and this year may be as well.

On the flip side of the coin are the thousands and thousands of big, expensive houses and 3-4 story condo complexes in the area that were undamaged. So much occasional use and seasonal wealth here, while so many remain homeless.

Photo above from just after Hurricane Ian, September 11, 2022 (courtesy Google.) Most marine facilities are now repaired and functioning again.

Now: August 1. 2023, 1 year later. Many many of these high-rise condos are still empty.

Many homes like this one above were for sale. Even with insurance money, rebuilding to meet current federally required storm design standards, along with inflated material costs makes rebuilding a home like this out of reach for many of the people who once lived here. Sadly, in many areas of Fort Meyers, historic small beachfront bungalows are now a thing of the past. 

Strip malls are still empty a year later…

This once-popular restaurant… still closed a year later.

The week flew by too fast. And Ann returned home from her sister’s weekend just in time to take Kirk on some fun last-minute errands, shopping for new shoes and stocking up on “Everything But the Bagel” spice at Trader Joe’s (one thing we cannot get in Mexico!) Ann loves shopping, and Galen does not, so Kirk waited to do his errands until Ann got home. And then he returned home to Vallarta wearing his new Skechers sport sandals.

Meanwhile, while Kirk was gone, Heidi held down the fort with the gatos and kept busy with school and work. She recently joined a Puerto Vallarta Women’s Business group and was interviewed on a local radio show about her health coaching business, as well as for a local magazine article about her book, the Food, Mood, & Gratitude Journal. And she was also interviewed on her colleague Jodie Campbell’s Instagram podcast, talking about toxins in our environment.

However, most of her energy recently has been going into setting up her Revive & Thrive Group Wellness Coaching program for women starting September 12. Registration just opened, so if you or anyone, you know, is interested in getting to the true root of your wellness issues and reversing them naturally (hint: this usually involves your gut microbiome), check out Heidi’s Revive & Thrive Group Wellness Coaching program here. 

When Kirk returned, we took a day trip to the mountains to visit our friend Sam’s tropical paradise garden.  Sam is growing two of every type of tropical fruit tree (think mango, papaya, banana, coconut, avocado, star fruit, lychee, passion fruit, and many more), plus medicinal herbs. It’s a beautiful spot and she’s done an amazing job turning what was once a cow-grazing hillside, back into an edible, sustainable terraced hillside farm. And a couple of Mexicans with local plant knowledge are helping her with this labor of love. Sam has sourced tropical plants from around the globe through various people’s yards and local nurseries. Many of the plants have been donated to her, and she plans to donate food and plant medicine from her farm back to the local community. It’s a beautiful project and we hope to volunteer at her farm on occasion.

Like elsewhere in the world, the weather in PV this summer has been unusually hot. With higher than average temperatures, and high humidity, the heat index frequently says “it feels like” 104°-109°F (instead of the low-to-mid 90s it used to be). Most local Vallartians say this is the hottest summer they can recall. So we are grateful for the A/C and the solar panels on this house!  Though the rain started much later this hurricane season (not much rain until late July when it usually begins in mid-May) it’s also been much rainier than normal once it started. So we’re keeping a close eye on the canal behind the house, which fluctuates 2+ feet in height before and after a good rain storm. This video shows the rain we got from Hurricane Hilary.

We are grateful that Hurricane Hilary bypassed Vallarta a few hundred miles away—hoping for the best for those in her path in Baja and Southern California, and further north.

We’ll leave you with this beautiful sunset from PV. This summer, we’re enjoying the change of scenery, and appreciating the river and its lush urban oasis instead of the beach and Banderas Bay. And while we can’t quite see the ocean from here, we still get some stellar sunsets. Positive vibes to all.

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