Tucson, Tecate, Puerto Vallarta

30 January 2021

Hiking in Arizona's Sonora Desert filled with giant Saguaro cacti.

Post-Vaccine Travel

Summer of 2020 I volunteered for the Moderna vaccine trial, got lucky and was accepted. Got lucky again in the fall when I got the actual vaccine not the placebo.

After finally being officially “unmasked,” I started traveling again, extra cautiously at first staying within the US. Then, feeling increasingly liberated, to Mexico and Colombia.

Incidentally, this New York Times article was extremely influential in shaping my optimism about the protective power of the vaccine.

Tucson, Arizona

Time to see my wonderful, peripatetic sister Kathy currently residing in sunny Tucson — and hike the hills nearby — and stay at Canyon Ranch wellness retreat for more exercise and healthy food.

Stunning Agua Caliente Park in Tucson looks like a Moroccan oasis.

When I think of the American West, I think of these big, iconic, fantastic cacti. But I learned that actually the Saguaro cactus grows only in the Sonoran desert, mainly southern Arizona and just across the border in Mexico.

Hiking with awesome sister Kathy in Saguaro Natl. Park, and aerobic swimming with competitive guest Kyle at Canyon Ranch.

Tecate, Mexico

Weather back home was getting colder, so I went for another sunny destination: Rancho la Puerta, a hiking and health retreat in Tecate, just south of San Diego.

Like Canyon Ranch in Tucson, this place was also operating at about 20% capacity, but was not cutting back on its activities. It was another weird but wonderful experience, as if you have booked a big place for your exclusive use with a few of your new friends.

Little hike up to Alex's Oak with Rancho la Puerta below.

Hike being lead by Connie, one of the best trainers ever.

Canyon Ranch in Tucson is impressive, but I still far prefer Rancho la Puerta in Tecate — much more camaraderie, convenient hiking, warm staff, and better hourly options. I stayed ten perfect days until the weather in northern Mexico started turning cold and then I went south to...

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

My first visit to Puerto Vallarta (aka PV) was a wonderful, warm, ten-day getaway.

Mexico had just declared the state of Jalisco a "red zone" due to increased Covid-19 cases. This was a strong test of my Moderna vaccinations. While the beaches were windy and spacious, I was not exactly in an antiseptic bubble since I was enjoying restaurant meals with people and a daily vacation massage.

I'd been in contact with fewer people in the stricter environments of Tucson and Tecate. But Moderna passed my Puerto Vallarta test without a cough.

In a typical winter high season, I'm not sure I'd like Puerto Vallarta with mobs of people. But due to the pandemic, PV was not crowded at all.

Only occasionally would someone stroll by and briefly block the view.

PV's warm latitude is right in line with Hawaii and it's a lot closer.

Nice daily walk for a couple of miles along PV's beautifully landscaped Malecon with sculptures and shops, but no crowds of tourists.

Dusk at the Playa Los Muertos pier.

Where to next?
How about Cartagena, Colombia, which is supposed to be extraordinary?