Friday, August 12, 2011

Ah, Mexico!

August 12—The purpose of our trip to Yuma was not to visit Yuma—it was to go to Los Algodones, Mexico, for extensive dental work.
Los Algodones, known to Americans as “Molar City,” is just south of Yuma. However, we discovered that it actually borders a town in California. (A side note: I don’t know why, but when we entered Arizona, I didn’t feel that far away from home, nor that far west. But as soon as we crossed the border to California, I felt as if we had gone clear across the country—which, of course, we had, from Florida!) Had we known we had to enter through California, we would have RV-camped closer. But, it’s not a big deal to make the drive.
To get to Los Algodones, you drive down U.S. Hwy 186 for about eight miles. The Quechan Indian reservation abuts the border, and the Indians operate a parking lot next to the customs station. Because this is the off season here (winter is high season in Yuma), the parking lot was relatively empty, and we didn’t have to walk far to cross the border.
Border towns in Mexico are all very similar: A lot of poverty, a lot of street-hawking, and a lot of outright begging. In Los Algodones the street hawking extends to soliciting patients for the 350 dentists who practice there. An unknowing dental traveler would be overwhelmed. I had found a website that operates a referral service to dentists; however, we decided to rely on the personal experience of friends.
A friend of mine who lives near Phoenix has visited Los Algodones for years. She provided the names of a couple of dentists she has used. And a friend of my sister in Oregon also gave us a referral. I had spoken to this lady directly, and we decided to visit that dentist. If we weren’t pleased, we would go elsewhere.
The office was very small, but clean. The dentist gave us a complimentary exam and told us how much the procedure would cost. I knew I needed at least two crowns and a root canal, but I also have a number of very old crowns that I suspected needed some work.
Jim also had an idea of what he needed/wanted—his work was more extensive than mine. He also asked the dentist about his options, for instance implants rather than fixed bridges.
The bottom line? A fraction of what we would pay in the States. I will be getting seven new crowns, a root canal, and a cleaning—for $1,330. Jim will get 15 crowns, a root canal, and a cleaning, for $2200. And surprisingly, he said he would do all this in two visits. (He calls in a specialist to do the root canals.)
Incidentally, while we were waiting, an American lady about our age just finished with the dentist. I stopped her and asked her about her experience. She said the dentist had given her implants and she was extremely pleased. I looked at her smile and it was very nice.
Will we be pleased? I think so. We’ll find out next week. Our first appointment in Monday morning.
My niece, who is in the State Department, assigned in Eritrea (a god-awful place in Africa) posted a note on Facebook, saying that the State Department considers Mexico to be the most dangerous place in the world right now.
Not in Los Algodones. Medical tourists are the reason why that town exists, and I think everyone takes extra care to make sure Americans feel secure. We did not feel threatened; we felt safe. And as we left, passing through security was easy.
After we had left Los Algodones, however, we realized we had forgotten to do any shopping. (Jim wanted to check the price of Irish whiskey, thinking it might be cheaper in Mexico than here.) Rather than turn around and return to Los Algodones, we decided to drive to San Luis, another entry point. We didn’t realize San Luis was a distant 20 miles until we were halfway there. When we got to San Luis, we parked on the street, crossed the border, and found a larger city that did not feel as comfortable as Los Algodones.
Someone directed us to a farmacía that sold liquor, but Jim didn’t find any bargains, so we decided to leave. The line at the border crossing was much longer than in Los Algodones. One of the Border Patrol guards wore a bullet-proof vest, and the fellow who looked at my passport questioned me about why I had gone to Mexico! I was happy to have left that town and will not return there.
It’s a warm 104 degrees (but doesn’t feel that hot; there is no humidity), and I think I’ll go for a swim now. Tomorrow we will brave the heat and go golfing.
Until next time,
Your Reluctant RoVer,

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