The Metropolitan Cathedral in Chisinau, Moldova. Photo taken December 5, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Transnistria. The country that doesn't exist!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Not the smoothest day

Sometimes everything goes according to plan, and sometimes it doesn't!

Yesterday was a "doesn't" day!

First problem was that we didn't get the earliest start, and that was nobody's fault but our own. We set out just after 9:30am, and the plan was to ride our bikes on the dirt road that goes around the mountain and hooks up to the road going across the border.

The road wasn't the easiest to ride a bike on. It's sand and gravel, but in a lot of sections it was more sand than gravel, and bicycles don't do well in sand.

Ruth, heading downhill. If you click this photo to make it full size, you'll see a gate up ahead.

You'll see just to the right of center in the photo above is the Quechan Casino. It's on Indian reservation land, and at some point in the last couple of years I guess the Indians decided to put a fence up. Of course the fence blocks the road.

And that means that you have to detour quite a bit along the fence line to get to the other part of the road. That meant pushing the bikes through sand. Not fun.

Gate blocking the road.

Eventually we made it to the paved road that leads down to the border. From there, it was an easy five minutes on the pavement to get to the border itself.

We arrived at the Los Algodones border at about 10:30am.

So, it took us almost an hour to do the 4.5 miles (7 kms) which I suppose is not bad, just not as easily as we had thought it would be.

We simply rode our bikes across the border into Mexico. No passport check, no inspection, no questions, nothing.

The only reason we went was to find a dentist to do the crown for Ruth's root canal. We had a couple of recommendations, and we made it to our first choice, Dr. Eva Urena, but she was booked up solid until mid February. Apparently she's very popular.

But they let us leave our bikes there in their courtyard so that we could walk around town.

What a zoo!

There are over four hundred dentists in the tiny Mexican border town of Los Algodones. At least every second building houses a dentist, and very often they are side by side. Usually, if there's not a dentist occupying a space, it will be an optician.

A typical street corner in Los Algodones, Mexico.

However, even though this town is geographically located in Mexico, it's not really Mexico. Everything is in English, everybody speaks English, and all prices are in U.S. dollars. 

They'll accept pesos, but only at the current exchange rate to the U.S. dollar, based on the U.S. dollar pricing.

I have a big problem with that. Our experience has always been that if you're paying for something in Mexico that's priced in dollars, then you're being overcharged. And it's no different in Los Algodones.

Especially for Canadians, because the U.S. dollar is now worth 28% more than the Canadian dollar. But Americans are also being taken advantage of because the American dollar has appreciated a lot vs the peso as well this year. If pricing were in pesos instead of dollars, you wouldn't need as many dollars to pay for your dental work.

However, despite all of that, it is still cheaper to go to the dentist in Algodones than it is to go to one of the crooks in Canada or the United States. Just not as cheap as it should be.

We went to our second choice dentist, Dr. Elena Rodriguez. We didn't have an appointment, so we didn't mind waiting, but he said it would be about 20 minutes. An hour later, I asked the reception guy how much longer. "Oh, maybe half an hour more" he says. We went for a walk and came back, and then she was brought into the chair.

But it wasn't Dr. Elena. It was some relative. Okay, he's a dentist too, so we didn't question it.

He ground down the tooth some more, and did the impression for the crown. Said to come back in an hour and have the temporary installed, and then to return on Friday to have the permanent one installed. Kinda figured that we would have to do this again.

Total price was going to be $210 USD ($268 CDN). I refused to pay in dollars, so they exchanged it into pesos. Don't know what exchange rate they used, but it may not have been current and that's what I was counting on. So it came to 2,970 pesos, which means that we saved about $10 by not paying in dollars. Every little bit helps!

We then went for lunch. There was a place right across from the dentist office that seemed busy with lots of locals coming and going and getting takeout. Lots of gringos too of course! We went and looked at the menu, then asked for one in Spanish. They didn't have one! And all prices were in dollars too. But the lady was really nice, and said that since it was our first time there she would give us our first drink for free.

Sold! I told her that we didn't have any dollars, only pesos, and she said that was fine.

We both had enchiladas. They were great, and we were stuffed!

I had two beer, Ruth had a margarita, and the food. Total bill was 250 pesos ($17 USD, $21.50 CDN). Not bad.

Then, it was time to ride back across the border. We rode our bikes into the car lane, and waited with the cars. A few people told us we weren't allowed to do that, so I rode ahead further and asked the border guard. Nope, he says, we have to wait in line with the people who walked across! Crap!

There were probably 300 people in line. So, we waited about an hour for our turn, but it went by fairly quickly because we were chatting with other people in line.

No problem getting back in to the U.S., and then we had to get back to Sherman. We tried riding our bikes up to the Interstate freeway hoping for an easier route back, but there was nothing. We thought about simply riding the one exit stretch on the side of the Interstate. There was a sign saying "No Pedestrians". but nothing about bicycles. We decided not to take the chance, however in doing later research it turns out that you can indeed ride your bike on a stretch of California freeway where there is no alternate route. Interesting, and the law varies depending on the state. They have wide paved shoulders here, so for a short distance it wouldn't be a problem.

But this time, we went the back route again, pushing the bikes as much as riding them. Oh well.

Back at the motorhome, we made a couple of drinks and relaxed. Got out some mixed nuts, and on the very first bite, Ruth's temporary crown came off. She swears she was not chewing on that side. It had been listed separately as a $50 item, so you can bet I'll be arguing against paying that part of the fee!

Here is the sewer hose that we use...totally happy with it, and wouldn't use anything else...


36 comments:

  1. Oh boy! I sure hope that crown turns out OK. Cousins of dentists? Maybe. Sounds like a rough day.

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    1. I am very confident that the permanent crown itself will be fine! It seems that things like that run in the family. Our favourite dentist in Mexico has a practice with her father in a small Mexican town in Jalisco up in the mountains.

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  2. Wow what a day you guys had. We should be down to the knob on Friday we hope. If you need a ride anywhere be glad to help.

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    1. Looks like we may miss you both. Tomorrow we are going to drive the motorhome over to the casino and then walk to the border, get my crown done and then head back to Quartzsite to see our friends there once again. After that we will head over to the Imperial Dam area for a while.

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  3. Pretty cool header photo!

    We needed you along to help with this Pesos thing! We paid in American money. Oh well, next time we will know better!

    Oh my gosh. Poor Ruth. Sometimes if you didn't have bad luck you would have no luck at all!

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    1. Because everything is priced in American dollars it probably wouldnt make a huge difference to you if you pay in dollars or pesos but with Canadians we have to pay an extra 28% on the American dollar which is what frustrates us the most because we get a much better deal when we are actually in the REAL Mexico where things are priced in pesos and not American dollars.

      I am sure that the permanent crown will be totally fine! We are in the area so if there is a problem, you can be sure we will head right back there.

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    2. My husband didn't have insurance it cost him $950.00 for one crown but it took only 2 and half hours to finish everything, no return later for permanent crown.

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    3. Ouch, that is a lot of money, i would hate to think what the dentist would have charged if you did have insurance. Nice that he was able to have it all done on the same day.

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  4. With your experience, I may just skip seeing a dentist down there.

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    1. It would be interesting to see what an American dentist would charge if you told them right away that you don't have insurance! It is possible that it may not be a whole lot different than the Mexican prices.

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    2. Big difference my girlfriend here in US just had a crown and it was $2,100 Sorry you didn't get Elana she did all my work, and I have had no problems what so ever, keeping fingers crossed, it has only been a month. Our problems have been transmission and brakes, so if you don't get it one way you get it the other.

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    3. Wendy, do you know if your girlfriend had dental insurance? Sometimes if you tell them you don't have insurance they will quote you a lower price but I highly doubt that the price will be low enough to compare to the Mexican prices.

      Good luck with the transmission and brakes!

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    4. No insurance, but it is so high in Canada and US. Spent many $$ on transmission and out of service for almost a week glad we were close to friends and we did have the car intow brakes only took a few hrs.

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    5. Ouch, that is hard on the pocketbook at lest you had friends close by. Hope things are all fixed up now.

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  5. Would it be easier to boondock just south of the casino on Algodones road? I boondocked there last year, and while a bit more crowded than Pilot Knob, it was an easy 1 mile down to the border.

    Thanks for the heads-up on Dr. Urena's schedule. Better book my appointment now!

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    1. Yes, it may have been easier but because we had bought the $40 LTVA sticker we figured that we would get our monies worth and go to the LTVA. Having said that it would have been fine if the bike ride had been a bit more straight forward and not through a ton of sand. Tomorrow, we will drive over to the casino and then walk to the border.

      Many people have spoke highly of her so yes, phone ahead and book an appointment.

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  6. I had root canals and crowns in Reynosa (RGV) 5 years ago without any problems to date but the one Dr Rodriguez did in Algodones fell off and had to be replaced in Ottawa. It can be a crap shoot.

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    1. Totally agree with you Esther, it can be a crap shoot! We will talk to them about the temporary crown and see if we can get some kind of discount and because we will be in the area for a while hopefully that will give us time to see in the permanent crown will stay in place long enough, if not we will be back for sure and we won't be happy campers.

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  7. So far I'm happy with the dental work I had done, but it's been less than a week.

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    1. That is good to hear, and I think the majority of the time the work is good!

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  8. Always an experience there in Los Algodones. We have found that returning to the USA much shorter lines before noon. We have been using that exact sewer hose for years, and does stand up real well.

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    1. We would have liked to have crossed back earlier but the dentist appointment didn't make that happen and the fact that we couldn't cross the border in the car lane with our bikes. Hopefully it will work out a bit better on Friday when we go back for the permanent crown.

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  9. Hundreds of dentists in Algodones! You bet. In the U.S. and Canada you pay through the nose. You think American dentists would catch on including the those that regulate the industry. And the dentists in Algodones are rich BTW!

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    1. We are curious as to what an American dentist would charge for a crown if you went in and told them that you didn't have insurance. Maybe next time we will do just that, just to see what the price would be,

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  10. I agree that you should fight paying for that temp crown or get some sort of a discount..that's ridiculous! My US dentist said that a temporary can stay on for up to a year just in case -- sometimes there's still pain and a root canal needs to be done instead of a crown, and wearing a temp for awhile is one way to know if the pain is going to go away or not. So, they should use decent (but not permanent!) glue. Also, my husband and I rode our bikes for about 1 mile on the Interstate in North Dakota as there was no alternate other than many, many miles out of our way. I was terrified at first, but he talked me into it, and it was FINE. There's a huge shoulder, and fortunately the stretch we rode was just slightly downhill, so we were able to fly. Speed limit on this stretch was 80 mph for cars, if memory serves. Your adventure of bicycling to Mexico sounds just like something we would do -- good on you for going for it!

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    1. Trust us, will will be asking them about that. The temporary crown is really a joke, at least in this case. I had the root canal done about a month ago and haven't had any pain whatsoever so I know the root canal was done properly, so I am really hoping that when he puts on the permanent crown it will be with good glue and will stay put. Luckily we will be in the area for a little while so if there is a problem we can return to have it done again properly. I do have faith that it will be done right the first time though.

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  11. I have used Dra Eva Urena a few times. She is very good. Also has an office in Mexicali.

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    1. We really do wish that we would have been able to have gotten in to see her but unfortunately it didn't work out that way. We did try emailing her but we never got a response so I guess the best way to make an appointment would be to call her.

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  12. I personally would not have dental work done in Mexico but that's just me. I had three root canals and three crowns done in USA with dental insurance and I had joined a medical savings account at work so it covered everything. All went smooth all three times. I've had two crowns for over 10 years and the third one was done three years ago. I am retired now but still carry dental, vision & health ins. I don't pay through the nose for coverage.

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    1. We don't have any dental insurance coverage so prices would be high for us. Kevin had bridge work done in Mexico 6 years ago and has never had a problem and is totally happy with it. For me the root canal I had done in Mazatlan went well and I found the dentist to be extremely professional and so far I am totally happy. Even though the temporary crown came off quickly I am totally confident that the permanent crown will be fine. Many people have had dental work done in Mexico but unfortunately it seems you only hear about the ones that went wrong and not the many thousands that had no problem. Like anything people have to do what they feel comfortable with and I am totally confident that Mexican dentists are as qualified as any other dentist.

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  13. Bummer about the temporary crown. You guys definitely had quite the adventure down there.
    Nina

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    1. Yep, it was but I am confident that I won't have a problem with the permanent crown and that is the one that really matters. Tomorrow's trip down should be much easier! :-)

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  14. On another note...When the lineup to return to the US got really bad one time, we joined with another couple and negotiated with a bicycle taxi (tuktuk) to carry us across the border. It was much faster! I can't remember what we paid but it wasn't a huge amount and we were tired of standing in that huge line after multiple dentist and eyeglass visits. :-)

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    1. No tuk-tuk's here and that was one of the reasons that we rode our bikes over was because then we could cross back over in the car lane but they unfortunately changed that rule a couple of years ago so we had no choice but to stand in line. :-(. Hopefully we will be able to cross back over by noon and the line up should be much smaller, our fingers will be crossed.

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  15. I also had my temporary crown fall out. Then when she put the permenant one on it kept falling out also. This was washingtin state. I think its a real challenge getting a dentist who really knows how to do a good job. I finally got a good perm crown that stays on by going to another denntist. I think you should give up now with the one you have. They will prpbably want to keep trying to make it work.

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    1. We had already left a deposit for the work and felt that he was doing a good job. He was very professional with his work and he had warned me that he was only using a light glue so that it would be easier to remove the temporary crown in two days time, I guess he maybe could have used just a little more glue.

      I went back today and had the permanent crown put in and it does seem secure and so far it is staying put. We will be in the area for a few weeks yet so if there is a problem we will return and have it redone but I am confident that it will stay in place.

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