Yuma and Mexico Dental Work

December 17, 2020. I spent a couple of days reorganizing and re-doing the inside of MissAdventure. The bed platform needed a bit of tweeking, and I had bought a couple of cabinets from a lady down the street from me and needed to install them. Now that we are not living full time in the van I am going for a more cute and stylish look rather than stuffing everything I own into every nook and cranny I could find. It will be nice to have items with a permanent place and out of sight!

My first dental appointment is Friday, but we leave in the early afternoon Thursday because no trip to Yuma is complete without time spent at the Bark Park and I want to make sure The Chiweenie Brothers have a great time. I get in a lot of walking, and an afternoon’s worth of running, hiking (in every sense of the doggie version of ‘hiking’) and sniffing for the boys leave all three of us worn completely out.

We spend the night in Wally’s parking lot only to wake up and find a flyer on the windshield stating they no longer allow overnights in their lot. Alrighty then. We head out onto I-8 West toward San Diego, and in just 8 short miles we take exit 166 and head south to the border and my dental appointment with Dr. Dennis Cochran, DDS, whose goal is the become the best dentist in Mexico. She’s on her way to being that in my opinion.

She preps my mouth for the ‘installation’ of two zirconia crowns on the implants I had put in a couple of years ago, takes impressions and I’m set free until tomorrow. Our adventure part of the trip begins.

I looked up a couple of places I wanted to see this trip and first up and just a few exits from the one I take to get to Los Algadones is Old Plank Road off Gray’s Well. This is a small preserved section of the wooden plank road built to connect the lower section of Southern California to Arizona. Built in 1915 the east-west route over the Algodones Dunes provided the last link of the commercial route between San Diego and Yuma.

Constructed of huge, thick, wooden planks linked together with metal strips and big bolts, it is a testament to man’s ingenuity of doing what needs to be done to go where he needs to go. I cannot even fathom the work that went into this endeavor nor the muscle used to keep the planks free of blowing sand.

Not wanting to press my luck with trying another night at Wally, the boys and I locate a LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) off Sidewinder Road and ask the host if there is a section where one could park just for the night. He says no, not in this one, but if I go back to the Chevron Station just this side of the freeway and take the service road for 3 miles there is a 14 day stay free area right after the pavement ends.

This service road may be paved but it’s the roughest damn thing ever. Slowly we drive, slowly we get there rolling forward a few feet, BUMP, and then another few feet and the back wheels BUMP, and so it goes for three long miles, but we finally arrive and shockingly nothing inside MissAdventure has been jarred out of place or fallen over. We are rewarded with a nice spot to park for the night with no neighbors within 1/4 mile.

After a good night’s sleep we are up early and head back to Yuma on the 8 and I head into Walmart to purchase a new battery for my solar setup in the van and get a few groceries. A quick stop at the ATM to pull funds for my crowns and we head back to Mexico for my 10:00 a.m. appointment.

The second half of the crowning appointment didn’t go quite as planned. Due to a power outage my zirconia crowns are not ready and I sit in the reception area for four hours. They must have noticed me getting a bit worried when it got to be 1:00 p.m. and I kept looking at my watch wondering if I would get back into the US before they closed the border at 3:00. Poor doggies still in the van all this time.

The receptionist, Margot, a VERY young lady, asks if I want to go see the new office they are moving into next year. I jump at the chance to get my mind off the border crossing and my boys being stuck in the van all this time. We walk out to the sidewalk between two vendors where her scooter is parked and she tells me to wait, she will go get the car.

Margot makes it back in jig time in a beautiful what-looks-like- brand-new white four door Chevy. Is this Dr. Dennis’ car? Yes, she says. I hop in and we buzz along back toward the crossing and she makes a right turn and up the hill we go getting a few looks from some pedestrians as she whizzes by leaving a hair’s breadth of space between them and the side of the vehicle. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding when she pulls in and parks in front of Dr. Dennis’ new place.

It’s big. It’s beautiful. The interior has some Spanish style roundtop windowless cutouts in walls between some of the rooms, and there is room left for her to expand her business. In my opinion no one deserves it more than this young hard working dentist that wants to become the best dentist in Mexico. From one chair to two, and with this move two chairs and a dental surgeon she will rent to. She’s smart as well as deserving.

Part of the interior walls are painted this gorgeous shade of green, one of my favorite colors. The perfect shade. That, of course, has no bearing on my love of her new building. 🙂 We wave goodbye to the young man swiping what looks like spackle onto a section of the entry and get into the car.

Young Margot starts the car and begins to back up. I glance behind us just as a woman begins to step behind the car. I yell stop and Margot slams on the brake. The pedestrian glares and Margot laughs and says she glad she didn’t hit her. Oh yeah, me too!! I’m grateful she didn’t hit any cars either, I think to myself.

Margot says when she was hired Dr. Dennis (and this is pronounced like our female Denise) asked her if she could drive. Margot told her yes, and that she had a license. Welllll. Margot confides in me that she just said that so she would get hired, that she doesn’t have a license. You told her the truth, though, right Margot? She laughs and says yes, after she was hired. Oh dear Lord. 🙂

When we get back to the office I am whisked into a chair and the crowns are screwed onto the posts and cemented around the bottom or whatever it is they do. I won’t be able to eat for an hour. Lordy, it’s been a good eight hours since I have eaten, but I still have enough padding to get me by I am sure despite what my stomach is telling me.

There is a line today to get back across the border, as there always is when you stay in Mexico past noon, and that gobbles up a good half hour. People are desperate in this Covid pandemic and the usual vendors who ply the line headed back across to the USA seem especially desperate. Selling everything from masks to yard ornaments to ironwood statues these merchants have a different look in their eyes this year.

One young woman with two little girls sits on the low rock wall playing an accordion. She looks tired and sad. As I get closer I see a quiet desperation in her lovely eyes and I give her a dollar. The look she gives me and the quiet ‘gracias’ in thanks breaks my heart. It’s a dollar; her gratitude and her eyes tell me it might as well have been a hundred as far as she was concerned.

Spending more time waiting for my dental work to be finished than I planned on, I forego the other places I wanted to explore and will save them for next time, but I do stop to get these photos of the All American Canal.

The All-American Canal is an 80-mile long aqueduct, located in southeastern California. It conveys water from the Colorado River into the Imperial Valley and to nine cities. It is the Imperial Valley’s only water source, and replaced the Alamo Canal, which was located mostly in Mexico. The Imperial Dam, about 30 miles northeast of Yuma, Arizona on the Colorado River, diverts water into the All-American Canal, which runs to just west of Calexico, California before its last branch heads mostly north into the Imperial Valley. Five smaller canals branching off the All American Canal move water into the Imperial Valley. These canal systems irrigate up to 630,000 acres of crop land and have made possible a greatly increased crop yield in this area, originally one of the driest on earth. It is the largest irrigation canal in the world, carrying a maximum of 26,155 cubic feet per second. Agricultural runoff from the All American Canal drains into the Salton Sea.

The wait in line to cross the border, stopping for the photos of the canal and the short trip back to Yuma with some traffic eats up most of the Do-Not-Eat-For-An-Hour order I decide to stop at In and Out for a burger. The line is long and it takes about 40 minutes so I am good to go… I mean eat. A burger never tasted so good!! The Chiweenie Brothers enjoy an unsalted hamburger patty and we are on our way home.

Thanks for stopping by 2DogsTravel. We are hoping for more travel in the coming year. Praying all your hopes come to pass also. Hugs, Shawna

Books read since last post: Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore. Very good read about a rape and the effects on the victim, the town and its citizens. *****

This Magnificent Dappled Sea by David Biro. The Holocaust, an Italian family, a Jewish family, a baby, a disease. Another good read. ****

The Ultimate Road Trip Guide by Christina Bogantz and Melissa Rios. Their trip to visit 47 state parks in two months. Some good info here. ****

Mexico

After getting a tooth repaired in Parker ( a simple patch on a crown, five minutes in the chair, no Novocain required, and cost me $200),  and being told I had a bottom tooth that was in dire need of a crown I made an appointment only to be told the cost would be $1500!  Not wanting to go into debt for one tooth the decision is made to head to Los Algadones, Baja California, Mexico and get the work done there. I know many people  make this part of their winter routine when coming to the desert southwest, but I have been hesitant.  Money talks and mine is shouting at me …

Next morning we drive to Bouse and the boys get in some dog park time. We spend the night at a near by boondock site, and are up early on February 16th to head south.  First breakfast, then another dog park adventure (that was the last post), then we  head toward Q via the scenic cut-off route between Bouse and Quartzsite. It’s a beautiful  20+ mile drive which I always enjoy taking.

When we reach Hwy 95 we turn left and head south. It’s about 80 miles to Yuma, and once there we spend the night in the back parking lot of the Paradise Casino.  We will cross the border tomorrow early.

The weather is perfect for the boys to be comfortable inside the van while mom searches for a dentist in Mexico. This is something I must consider when deciding to cross the border, and choosing a cooler day is paramount.

The border crossing is only a few miles from Yuma off I-8. Take exit 166 and cross over the freeway. The border is next to the Quechan Indian Reservation, and the Quechan’s make it easy for travelers to cross into Mexico by providing parking on US soil, and you can walk across. You can also stay in the dirt lot, for free, at the Quechan Casino the night before if you like.

When you’re ready to cross the border pull out onto the highway (the highway number escapes me at this moment)  turn right, and drive a couple miles to the parking lot.  It’s fenced and safe and only costs $6 for the day.  I felt very comfortable leaving The Chiweenie Brothers in the van for my time across the border.

Everything is very well marked, but you might want to take note of what row your vehicle is in. There are hundreds of parking spaces and it fills up most days.  Walk toward the buildings and look up. You will see the Mexican flag and that’s right where you want to go.   Don’t worry, you can’t get lost, but if you need a little help there will be LOTS of people going to the same place so just follow the crowd.  You will go through a turn stile and voila! You are in Mexico.

They have a sign posted as you cross over the border that no photos are allowed. Be respectful and don’t take any photos. Remember you are in a foreign country and you could get yourself into a pickle if you step out of line. Not sure just how much trouble you would get into if you did take photos, but I wasn’t going to find out!

Be prepared to be approached by people with the job of trying to get you to go to a particular dentist or vision office.  It’s legit, but if you already have someone in mind or have a recommendation, just walk on by.  There are several dentists and eye doctors on every block and at every turn all vying for your business.  Sometimes there is dental and vision sharing the same office. That’s the route I went.

If the paid “guides” become a little too persistent, there was someone there to remind them to back off.  I never felt threatened, but did feel a bit overwhelmed at it all.  I ended up asking “Victor” to help me find a dentist and he took me to his friend (hey, you can’t blame them!) but I chose not to have my work done there. I explained that I felt nervous. To Victor I said I wanted someone gentler. It was all I could think of to say. The last thing I wanted to do was offend anyone. The dentist was a large man with huge hands, and I just didn’t think he would be able to work in my mouth. Every dentist I have ever gone to has said the same thing: Don’t let anyone tell you that you have a big mouth!!

I could tell he was very disappointed, and I felt so bad. They are trying hard to provide for their families, and Los Algadones has many, many dentists all vying for the American dollar.

I apologized to Victor telling him I hoped he didn’t think I was being rude, but that I would feel better with someone a little gentler.  He took me to who is now my dentist, Dennis Cochran.  Dennis is a she, and her name is pronounced Denise.  She’s maybe 4’8″ tall, and the sweetest thing you would ever want to meet.  She made me feel comfortable right away.  Her husband, Ritchy, is the “receptionist” for her and the young eye doctor she shares an office space with.

One has to be prepared for the simple, small spaces.  There are probably some places a bit “fancier” and more like what we are used to in the states, but Dr. Cochran’s workspace is no bigger than a small narrow bathroom. She does all the work herself; there is no dental assistant. The dentists take your X-rays, put on your bib, and also do the cleanings. Need to spit?  Dr. Cochran will hold the old fashioned “funnel on a hose” for you.

She asks if I am on any medications. I tell her no. Not even aspirin?  No.  Baby aspirin is okay she tells me, as it won’t make you bleed like regular.  I just smile and shake my head. High blood pressure?  Nope.  I don’t think she believes me until she gets underway and no blood bath occurs.

Oh, and the only forms you have to fill out when you enter the office is a small paper on a small clipboard asking your name, phone number, and email address.  That’s it.  No lengthy questionnaires on your health.  Probably a real good idea to be honest about the questions the dentist asks.

My bottom back teeth are notoriously hard to get numb.  Dr. Cochran did it with one shot, and noted that the tooth next to the one I was having crowned would also need a crown soon. Would I like to have her do that one at the same time?  Yes, please. She prepped both molars and placed the temporaries. I made an appointment to have the permanent crowns set on Tuesday.  Ready in three days!

I ended up getting TWO porcelain crowns for the grand total of $280.  I also made an eye appointment with her office partner for the same day I was to come back for the crown placements, and got a pair of progressive Veralux lenses including the exam and the frames for $195.

Victor was hanging around the general area–but anyone would be happy to tell you–when I was ready to leave, and he showed me exactly which way to go to get back across the border.  A note on this: Be prepared with a passport or a driver’s license and birth certificate to get back across the border.  Mexico has open borders, the United States does not and it’s our country requiring these documents.

It used to be easy to get back in the US with just a DL and birth certificate, but soon you will have to have a passport or enhanced driver’s license to come back in. Times are changing.  Honestly I don’t think they would NOT let you back in, but could and probably will hassle you and keep you waiting.  Why deal with that aggravation? I got back in this time with my DL and birth certificate, but I will be getting my passport before next year’s trip across the border.

Lines to get back into the US can be long. They were fine on Friday for my first appointment, but I left before the afternoon rush. When I went back on Tuesday there were very strong winds and the electricity went out and wasn’t back on for well over an hour.  By the time I got my crowns seated and my glasses (in two hours!) I was thrown into the madhouse that can be the line to get back into the US in the late afternoon. It was a VERY long line, and it took me an hour and half to get through it.  I wish I had been prepared with tip money as the street musicians were out entertaining the waiting crowd.  This is how they make their living so please tip them generously.

Next year I will plan a little better, having some extra cash on hand. I want to be able to tip and do a little shopping while in Mexico.  Si?

Thanks for stopping by 2DogsTravel!  Hugs, Shawna