Long Distance, Short Journey, Part 1

Most of the travel on this blog has been of the local variety; however, that changed late last week.

My wife Julia is leaving for Arizona this next  weekend to spend two weeks with her mother who is having surgery.  That means I will have three weeks as my son’s sole caregiver.  A teen in a power wheelchair  knows how to push a parent’s buttons, so Julia offered this past weekend to travel solo as I wish in compensation.  I usually go backpacking within a four hour drive when presented with such an opportunity.  But I started playing around on the last minute travel web sites, and found a super cheap non-stop flight from Chicago to Puerto Vallarta, leaving early Friday morning and returning Sunday night.  I grabbed the last  seats on the flights both ways, and I was off to the races in planning.

Now would be a good time to discuss my individual travel style.  There are many different ways to travel; there is no right way.  Different strokes for different folks.  Some people like to stay in expensive beach hotels. Here are a few, which were five blocks from my $40 hotel.

(Most of the photos on this page can now be clicked upon for larger images, if desired. I am picking up the bloggers’ learning curve)

Other people like to relax, eat and drink on a cruise ship that only stops for a partial day at the ports of call.  Below is the Grand Princess of Princess Cruise Lines, docked at the marina during my stay in Puerto Vallarta.

Still other people only dabble their toes in foreign waters, preferring to keep the same amenities found back home.  Puerto Vallarta offers such amenities.

My own travel style is a frugal one. I spend as little money as possible on the mechanism of travel and lodgings.  My preference is to experience as much as the local culture as possible, especially when it comes to coffee, beer, and food. My favorite mode of travel is walking whenever possible.

Thursday night,  March 2, 2017

On Thursday night, I drove down to Chicago, close to the airport, where I had booked an $11 room at Motel 6.  This was made possible by my son’s affinity for T-mobile Tuesday deals, which happened to be a $30 Travelocity coupon. While fitting my frugal travel style, I may have pushed the envelope.  I slept only a little. The couple above my room screamed at each other until 3 a.m. I’m pretty sure the conversation involved money, drugs, and/or prostitution. Eventually, I just got up, showered and was ready to go before my alarm went off at 4 a.m. to catch my early morning flight.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Air travel to Puerto Vallarta went off without a hitch.  Although I was booked on a full plane, the aisle seat went unoccupied.  I slid over from my middle seat and had room to stretch and sleep.  Upon landing on time after a 4 1/2 hour flight, customs and luggage pickup went quickly and without incident.  After clearing customs, arriving passengers negotiate through two rooms full of timeshare salespeople/sharks who are there to “help” you.  Having been warned by prior accounts, I refused eye contact and briskly walked my way to the airport front door, where I found warm temperatures and an outdoor bar.

It was noon and time for a Modelo Negra, a Munich dunkel style lager brewed in Mexico.  My hotel check-in wasn’t until 3 pm., so I had some time to kill.  An airport taxi would have taken me to my hotel  for 600 pesos (about $34).  Alternatively,  trip reports on the internet advised that I could walk across the pedestrian bridge in front of the airport for about a 50% discount.

Of course, I was in no rush, so I asked my bartender for directions to the even cheaper city bus.  He told me to turn left in front of the airport and take any bus marked “Centro.”  I walked about 100 yards to the bus stop and asked the bus driver in Spanish if the bus route went by the old part of the city.  He nodded yes, so I  paid my 7.5 pesos (less than 50 cents), settling in for the hour ride past the beach and downtown.

During the ride, I followed along with the maps I had printed out. When we reached the old part of the city, I exited with my suitcase.  I had to stop and ask directions from a street vendor because many streets do not have street signs.  I was directed four blocks up and soon arrived at the Hotel Belmar–still two hours before my check-in.  The desk clerk spoke better English than my Spanish and promised to watch my suitcase until the room was ready. I would recommend this hotel to any budget traveler who is not afraid of stairs.  There is no elevator, and there were five flights of stairs to my room.  Here are some views from the hallway outside my interior room.  Click upon any photo for a larger image.

Suitcase secured, I headed off to walk along the beach.