Thursday, May 28, 2015

THE TOWN THAT CAVITIES BUILT...

Los Algodones Shopping
WEEK ONE:  Now that we have decided to take the plunge and get Chris’ dental work done in Los Algodones, BC, Mexico it’s time to choose a dentist.  Goldilocks had it easy one out of three – picking one out of over three hundred is daunting.  After hours of on-line research Chris narrows his choices down to 2 dentists.  He calls their U.S. phone numbers and makes appointments to check out the facilities and interview the dentists.

One of hundreds
of small dentists offices
Crossing the border is a piece of cake.  We park on the California side in the Quechan Indian Tribe parking lot for $6 daily and walk through a revolving gate into Mexico.  We’re initially greeted by the hawkers; “Need a Dentist? Need Glasses, Prescriptions?”  Since we already have appointments, we just smile and say “No gracias.” The downtown is so small – 4 blocks - there is no “bad’ part of town, and you would never get lost.  Coming back into the States takes a bit longer while they scan passports and check the items being brought in from Mexico.

Venus Dental
Modern and Clean
In the end Chris chooses Venus Dentistry with Dr. Krystal Sandoval (general & cosmetic dentistry) and Dr. Hector Beltran (implant specialist) because they do a full set of x-rays as part of the initial evaluation and their immaculate state of the art facility with digital imaging.

A Dental Spa…ahhh
Venus Dental looks like an upscale day spa. This is a really comfortable, immaculate office with two dentists, one dental assistant and an office clerk.  They do not overbook and each dentist usually sees only two patients a day, so they provide a lot of individual attention and no one gets rushed.  Everyone is really friendly, speaks excellent English and goes by their first name. They have lots of cold bottled water to drink and Netflix playing in the waiting and exam rooms, so we can choose a movie or two to watch while work is being
done.

State of the art technology
around the corner
WEEK TWO: Since Chris will be getting implants, Hector orders a CT scan.  This lets him see the sinus, bones and nerves that he will work around when installing the implants.  While Chris is getting scanned, I get an exam & teeth cleaning. The next day Krystal starts removing all of Chris’ caps and crowns. Some of the teeth need root canals, so they call in Endodontist, Dr. Norma Hashimoto. After each day of treatment, Chris comes home with a full set of temporary teeth.  Besides being cosmetic, these temps will help them correct the bite when the final caps and crowns are installed.  While Krystal is working on Chris, Hector replaces all of my failing silver fillings with composites.

Crystal  & Chris
WEEK THREE: Crystal finishes up prepping and stabilizing and one more visit from Norma for a final root canal. Then Hector performs a bone graft, sinus lift and installs 4 implants.  (Two more implants will be installed in 4-6 months after the bone graft heals.) It’s a soft diet for a few days while healing.  The biggest inconvenience is NO nose blowing for 4 weeks while the bone graft below the sinus heals – I have visions of living with the kid from Bad Santa LOL.

WEEK FOUR:  7 days after implants a check-up and another set of temporary teeth. Chris drops me off at the Quechan Casino on the California side of the border.  Check-up for him, small jackpots for me ;-)
The Team
L-R: Dr. Hector, Chris of the pretty smile, Daniel (Dental Asst)  & Dr. Krystal

WEEK FIVE: Final check-up (not necessary but recommended) and last set of temporary teeth that will last until we return in 4-6 months for the next phase of this process. After a dozen visits in a month Chris is happy to be out of the dental chair for awhile, but we’ll miss Krystal & Hector.

The entire process will take about a year. In the end, Chris will have a completely restored mouth for less than 1/3rd of the cost quoted in the States for caps, crowns, bridges and partial dentures.  Cost and service will most likely keep us coming back for our dental check-ups & cleaning in the future.

Los Algodones is typical of many small Mexican Towns.  Although the number one industry is dental, there are a number of optical businesses offering really inexpensive prescription lenses with one day or less turnover and Farmacias that carry name brand and generic pharmaceuticals at extremely discounted prices.

Giant Piñata anyone?
Stop at the Purple Stores
For pre or post appointment and the non-medical tourist, there are curio shops and a giant liquor store with tequila tasting. Tequila prices are excellent other alcohol is the same or even a bit higher that in the US.  Quality Mexican Vanilla can be found in the Farmacias & Liquor store.  There are outdoor cafes and restaurants, no Michelin Stars, but decent food at really reasonable prices.  Los Algodones is recognized by the Unites States government as a safe community for tourists.  It has been said that it's as safe as Disneyland.

Now that this is done - time for more fun…

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CRISS-CROSSING-CALIFORNIA…


Soaring anyone?
After Ivanpah, we start moving north and stop in Tehachapi at the Mountain Valley RV Park.  The park is adjacent to the Mountain Valley Airport, home to the Skylark North full service glider flight school.  The exceptional lift conditions generated by the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the North, the Tehachapi Mountains to the south and the Mojave Desert to the East have produced countless spectacular and record-breaking flights.  We have a great view of the runway to watch planes towing gliders take off.

In the morning we grab breakfast at the Raven’s Nest at the airport. This is a nice little soup and sandwich place for breakfast & lunch.  We get the Dual with A Lift: a buttery croissant with grilled ham, cheese and a fried egg, served with fresh fruit.  We dine outside and watch the pilots ready their planes for today’s flights. We will definitely return here and do a glider flight or two…

Raven's Nest on Urbanspoon

Heading toward Paso Robles on Hwy 46 a big rig passes us and gives us the flat tire signal.  (Thank you trucker but… SHIT!) We immediately pullover and sure enough Dimples left rear tire is just about toast.  Chris rolls the trailer up onto a stack of leveling blocks and swaps out the flat tire with the spare and within a half hour we’re back on our way.

In Paso Robles we get a super spot at the Wine Country RV Resort.  This is part of the Sun RV Park family.  We stayed in a number of these parks on the east coast so our name is in their system.  Since we are a Sun repeat, but first time visitor to this park, we get upgraded from a cheapie spot along the highway to one of the best in the park. (Sometimes it’s fun to be us LOL.) They have a great general store stocked with lots of local vintages. (Guess what we drank for dinner?)  Also, the Eos Estate winery is within walking distance, (as in right next door) but they were closed by the time we got all situated. (We’ll save that for next time.)

NOW… it’s time for some private boon docking…
Our Own Private Watsonville

A couple of days on a ranch in Watsonville, a couple of weeks along Cow Creek in Palo Cedro and a few more days on a horse ranch in Shingle Town…

In Freedom, near Watsonville we join friends for dinner at The California Grill.  This strip mall eatery takes the farm to table movement to the next level.  Local organic farmer Dick Pexioto co-owns the restaurant with his daughter.  Dick also owns Lakeside Organic Gardens; the largest family-owned and operated solely organic vegetable grower/shipper in California. Producing over 45 commodities, they are 100% committed to being organically grown in the USA. Their meats, seafood, breads and desserts are locally sourced.  This level of quality control obviously raises expectations and this California Grill delivers as promised.

We start our meal with Organic Veggie Dippers:  Lakeside Organic Gardens organic carrots, celery, cucumber, sweet baby broccoli & watermelon radish, (a sweet and spicy radish that knocks your socks off!) Served with jalapeño aioli. For Entrees, we order the Pan Seared Scallops (cooked perfectly IMO) and the Veal Parmigiana, real comfort food with layers of cheesy-veggie-marinara goodness.

California Grill Restaurant on Urbanspoon

We drop off Dimples flattened tire in Santa Cruz for replacement and head over to Capitola we meet a friend for lunch at our local favorite Sushi Garden. We’ve eaten here for years and every time it’s love at first bite.  It’s rolls & miso soup for lunch. But wait…that room wasn’t here before… they have expanded since our last visit and added a Sake Bar.  WOO HOO!!!  We have plans to meet more friends for dinner… We call and tell them to meet us at the sake bar later that evening.  After lunch we pick up our new tire, do a little shopping and then return to Sushi Garden and sip sake till our friends arrive… then… lots of food… lots of drink… and a fun time for all!

Sushi Garden on Urbanspoon

Equine Bromance
HR Cattle Ranch
Lots of family time in Palo Cedro… In Shingletown, our cousins give us a tour of the area and show us a ranch with amazing rock walls.  As we take photos, the owner of the HR Cattle Ranch stops – (probably to make sure we weren’t nefarious evil doers intent on mischief.) He introduces himself and answers our questions about the walls.  The first walls were built only 10 years ago, after a tornado came through the valley and destroyed fences and the loading ramps and shoots. They were suggested by a former employee who learned the art of stacked stonewall building in prison.  The ranch is 2,000 acres fenced and cross-fenced. All of the stones have been sourced from the pastures. There is a staging site on the ranch to sort & size rocks, and hired labor continue to replace all of the barbed wire and wood fences.  The fences are long lasting, and beautiful with a bonus – every rock picked up from the pastures leaves a spot for more grass to grow to feed the cattle.

The Great Wall Of Shingletown
We cross over the Sierras into Nevada.  Friends, Family and acquaintances have continued with the “Why aren’t you going to Mexico?”  We’re beginning to question our decision to return to Southern CA for Chris’ dental work this summer. So we start some serious research… Los Algodones, across the border from Yuma seems like the best place and NOW is the time to do this before the weather gets too hot…

So we skirt down the eastern side of the Sierra’s on Hwy 395.  Stop at Kehough’s Hot Springs Campground outside of Bishop. (Nothing beats a hot mineral soak after a four-hour drive.) A quick overnight in Indio and then we land in Yuma, AZ at the Cocopah Golf RV Resort.  Let the dental adventures begin…
k

Sunday, March 29, 2015

JESSE JAMES AND THE SUNNY ACRES SIPPING, SAILING AND SOARING SOCIETY…

leaving everyone
in the dust

We are friends with an interesting couple… he’s a world-class champion land sailor and she’s a falconer.  So how can we not join them and others from our past life in Santa Cruz for the 2015 America’s Landsailing Cup (March 21-28, 2015) at the Ivanpah Dry Lake Bed on the California-Nevada border?




Ivanpah Sunset
California provides the dirt and Nevada contributes Primm: a three-casino-resort-plus-mega-shopping-mall-and-a-couple-of-mini-mart-gas-stations “town” off the I-15. Many of the race participants get a bargain room in one of the casinos for a comfortable night’s sleep, some just get rooms for the shower and dry camp on the lakebed.


Camping with SASSAS
 We arrive the day before races begin and set up camp near our friends. Who are also dry camping  but generously share their room key for showers for the duration. Everyone is getting the boats ready for the next day’s start of competition.  There are sailors from across the US and Chile.  Word on the playa: excellent sailing conditions for the coming week…


There are ten classes of dirt boats racing.  The largest class is the Manta Twin with 36 registered boats.  The Biggest boats hit 80mph in 29-knot winds… Depending on the wind & our mood, we trek out to the judges stand to take photos of the start & finish or park ourselves out by the mark for action shots each day. 
part of the Manta Twin line-up

Dimples' all aluminum Cousin?

 In the late afternoon after the races end, Chris goes out with a friend in a Manta Twin and they hit the butt puckering speed of 50mph, the next day I’m finally convinced to give this a try and get a thrilling 30mph (fast and puckering enough thank you very much) ride.

A solar Monet

Mirage
The races are fast andexciting. Three major sailing clubs are represented:  SASSAS (The Sunny Acres Sipping, Sailing and Soaring Society), MOOSE (The Montana organization of Sailing Enthusiasts) and the Wind Wizards from SOCAL.  There are also individuals from across the country and a competitor from Chile.  Each day ends with the awards ceremony and a BYOB potluck or a dinner sponsored by one of the clubs. SASSAS does ribs, Wind Wizards cook up some mighty tasty burgers and the MOOSE fry up 50 lbs. of bacon and serve it up with hors d’oeuvres. YEA!!! Of course adult beverages are plentiful.

despite the illusion, this is a DRY lake

Ready to Rumble

On the early windless mornings before the races start, we join our friend with her rabbit hunting duo of Jesse James: a Harris’s Hawk and her Hungarian Vizsla: Buso. The Jean Roach Dry Lake area supports a decent population of Jack Rabbits.  Jessie chases but never connects.  He’s still young, so with a bit more experience he’ll be a jackrabbit’s worst nightmare.
Jesse James
Lookin' for those waskeley wabbits

Jesse and Buso on the hunt
 By the end of the week, we’ve each shot over 1,000 photos each, (See more photos here) we've generated a mountain of laundry and Dave and Dimples are dusty inside and out. What a great way to start off this year’s travels…

One interesting note: When sharing about our plans to return to CA for Chris’ dental work, we are beginning to hear, “Why aren’t you going to Mexico for that?  I have a friend/relative/co-worker etc… who had great work done really cheap.” Something to think about…


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

AHH… THE GOOD LIFE…until the other shoe drops...

Imperial Beach
It's our third winter on the road and again we wile away the winter months in the San Diego area.  This year we spend the entire break at the Bernardo Shores RV Park in Imperial Beach.  We enjoy holidays with family, visit some of our favorite spots, binge watch Netflix, get our camera's checked and services at Canon's fancy service center in Costa Mesa and take care of some repairs and upgrades to Dave and Dimples, while we enjoy the warm southern California weather.
The View

Dimples gets:  All new screens, Sirius XM Radio, a Rogue Wave WIFI antenna and a US Carberation Generator Conversion Kit to convert our Yamaha generator to run on gas or propane.  


Balboa Park, San Diego

Living Coast Discovery Center

Orchids bloom in Balboa Park



There are lots of restaurants within walking distance so we don’t always have to cook...

Three of our favorites:

Don Pancho’s is the go to place for cheap good eats.  We graze through their menu.  Never a disappointment, and we have more than a few favorite dishes. All of their burritos are bigger than my forearm and packed full of goodness. The Carnitas Burrito ($4.75) is juicy with just the right amount of crispy edges and there is just a smattering of salsa and onions to balance the flavors.  The Surf and Turf Burrito ($6.95) is a perfect blend of Carne Asada, Jumbo Shrimp and Mexican rice.  An order of the Carne Asada Fries ($7.69) or the Nachos Grande ($6.59) is a meal in itself.  The Breakfast Burritos are also tasty and a great bargain at $3.30 each.

All of the meat here is tender and flavorful, veggies are fresh and the sauces are zesty.  The only thing we’re not fond of is their guacamole, too much cream and not enough avocados, but this problem is easily solved.  Just add fresh made avocado salsa from Northgate Market and a couple of Negro Modelo’s for a perfect take out meal!
Don Panchos Taco Shop on Urbanspoon

Giant Pizza King is a local chain that makes horrible Pizza - BUT their Lasagna Dinner for $8.99 is surprisingly delicious.  It comes with a generous mixed salad and a huge chunk of focaccia bread.  It’s enough to serve two average appetites.  Even better - they deliver, so a quick phone call and about a half-hour wait (just enough time to let the wine breathe) and we’re enjoying a really good lasagna dinner.
Giant Pizza King on Urbanspoon

Big Kahuna’s offers up burgers and such with a Hawaiian twist.  We have to agree with Samuel L. Jackson about the Big Kahuna Burger – “Now that’s a Tasty Burger!”  They also have great pulled pork dishes, rice bowls, and a favorite breakfast: the Loco Moco – ground beef, onions and gravy served over rice and topped with two fried eggs.
Big Kahuna's on Urbanspoon


Overall it's a great winter, with one crappy exception.  Chris gets a tooth ache… goes to the dentist & discovers that all of his 20+ year old caps & crowns  are failing… he gets a plan and a price to basically rebuild his mouth with new caps, crowns and partial dentures… we are in sticker shock… but the work needs to be done, so he starts the process and we tentatively plan to return to IB for the summer...