As of our third installment for these Chronicles, just as promised by science, the numbers for Covid-19 infection are going inexorably upward. There are currently 96,968 cases in the US, with 1,477 deaths, putting us at first place in terms of total cases, ahead of Italy and China. Here in Michigan, MDHHS reports 2,856 cases, 60 deaths, and a total of 11,886 specimens tested. In a state of over 9 million citizens, my unscientific brain believes our testing is not what it should be.
Looking for some daylight on the health front, a $2.2 trillion aid and stimulus package has been passed by both chambers of Congress and is on its way to the President’s Sharpie. About 35 companies and academic institutions are racing to create a Covid-19 vaccine, with the first of these produced by Boston-based biotech firm Moderna, who will be starting human trials imminently. And just outside our own very windows, the birds are chirping and burping, and the buds are pregnant with the promise of Spring.
So it is against this mixed message that I again endeavor to distract with yarns and common touchstones.
Three Little Monkeys, Jumping on the Bed
When we last chatted I was doing a bit of a George Pierrot travelogue on Puerto Vallarta’s history and local color (if you’re outside of Boomer range, Google George Pierrot’s World Adventure Series). In short, the mountainous marine setting, the people and places, the food and language of PV are a draw that puts most other semi-tropical escapes to shame.
The first time Valkie (Teresa) and I ventured to PV was some 10 years ago, when we stayed in the appending village of Mismaloya, just south of town. While a good time was had by all, the Barcelo’ was more of a guarded compound setting. We did venture into PV proper to take in Our Lady of Guadalupe church and other sights, including first sighting the hotel we just stayed at. We decided if we were to return, we’d want to be in town.
Last year, shortly after my Mom’s passing, we returned to PV, staying at a so-so property, and it was on this visit that we again scouted the cozier, traditional hotel nearly next door on the beach, the Playa Los Arcos, which you can check out for yourself here. Billing itself as the “family friendly” hotel, this place is modernized but still exudes old charm, right down to traditional Spanish uniforms for the attentive staff, a lovely bodega-style restaurant for convenience, four smallish pools and relative quiet compared to other disco-driven choices. So it was here that Valkie and I decided we would lay our heads.
Prior to expounding further on the digs and such, a few words on adventure may be indicated. Who among you does not remember the first hotel or motel you stayed in as a child? Who doesn’t recall the chlorine, “color television,” the pop and ice machines, the magic-fingers massager, fresh white towels and the little soaps in waxy paper, bearing names such as “Holiday Inn,” “Travelodge,” “Ramada” or some quaint independent haunt? Is there any sight more romantically adventuresome to a kid than the blue glow of a kidney-shaped pool and an illuminated vacancy sign at twilight? Any American child who has not jumped up and down on a motel bed may need some form of intervention. Just Saying.
The earliest commercial lodging I can recall was in 1966 at the Thunderbird Motor Inn on US 2 in St. Ignace. An avid reader of the AAA magazine, my Mom planned our vacations, and with a grumbling Dad at the wheel, we ventured north to behold the relatively new marvel that was the Mackinaw Bridge, and its namesake historic island. The image of this span, especially when illuminated in the evening, is a thought picture never far from my mind. It would then make sense that a lifetime later, I would fall deeply in love with a woman born and raised on the other side of that bridge.
Wherever You Lay Your Head
Those places as described above are the type most folks would gladly lay their head, even today, though many have vanished. Alas, as I grew up, and away from the modest largess of Mom & Dad, I was left to my own devices in terms of travel and lodging. Through much of the 80’s we rambled somewhat rough, throwing whatever we thought we’d need, together with the pup-tent and mess-kit, into the Honda and taking off. Many times during that era, the eventual destination was Florida; I distinctly recall camping in a dilapidated KOA, over the fence from the end of a runway at Ft. Lauderdale’s airport.
Generally our ultimate vector on these jaunts was the middle-and-lower Florida Keys in the chain, near to the Bahia Honda State Park, an amazing snorkeling spot. Like dozens of other well-meaning vagabonds, we would make camp on levees and spits of coral jutting off of US 1, doing our best to drive tent stakes into hard rock, cooking on Sterno, hanging by the fire and staring awestruck at a sky full of stars. Come day-break, we’d historically draw the attention of the sheriff, and get tossed off the private landings we had found, scattering to recongregate at Bahia Honda.
There we would try and grab one of the tiny tiki-huts for occasional shade, and laze the day away sunning, snorkeling, lobstering and otherwise simply embracing each other, freedom, nature and the lack of a mortgage. Once the sun began to dip in the west again, we’d scout out a new hobo camp and repeat the process for days, until the heartbreak of a return to the north.
Alas, this was what we can call Old Florida, a mystical place from nearly four decades ago, when that state’s population was half what it is today. As Theodor Seuss Geisel reminds us, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
So back in the here and now, untroubled by thoughts of sleeping on dusty, hard coral in musty clothes with multiple insect and wildlife friends, Valkie and I arrived in PV with reservations at a place we’d long wanted to stay. Nothing left to do but . . . acclimate to a new climate, new money, a new language, new people and a new place to live for nearly half a month. And it is here we can let our story endeth for now, with an invitation for any reader to share a remembrance of your own travel for fellowship and the common good.