Miss Trilly and friends at the 2016 Quartzsite Gathering
Over a year has rolled by since our last post in February 2015. The previous post was March 2014—another year span. This timeframe may have become normal for us. It seems the days stream past so very quickly now. Our apologies should you be expecting more frequent updates. Looks like they won’t happen. Rest assured, Zuzu and Miss Trilly are still transporting us in style to many adventures and beautiful places.
Our journey this Winter took us first to Pinnacles National Park, around the Monterey Peninsula via San Juan Bautista, and south on Highway 1 to Plaskett Creek, Big Sur, a National Forest Campground. The wind blew gale force and it rained heavily. Thankfully, our campground was well sheltered and uncrowded—folks who had made reservations stayed away. We visited Hearst Castle during drizzly rain and watched Northern Elephant Seals at the rookery near Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. Continuing south along the coast, our campsite in the oak-studded hills of Cerro Alto, another Forest Service facility, proved very convenient to Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. Morro Rock, the Elfin Forest, and Los Osos Oaks are as Nina remembered them from the early 1970s—unchanged. San Luis Obispo, on the other hand, had grown so much it was nearly unrecognizable!
Northern Elephant Seal ©2015 Clark Wagaman
Staging to view the Rose Parade Floats at the post-parade venue, we camped at Wheeler Gorge above Ojai. We found the local library handy for wi-fi, but the room was cold as a walk-in meat locker! We left the campground before dawn in order to arrive in Pasadena by 7 am, hopefully before the crowds. We parked Miss Trilly at the Rose Bowl Stadium (free) and rode the shuttle ($3 round-trip) to the display. Tickets to view the floats are only $10. We were surprised by the numbers of people at this early hour! The weather was perfect, but the crowds made photography difficult and we did not appreciate the loud music that blared over closely spaced speakers. Three years ago, we enjoyed nearly unencumbered viewing of these marvels of floral creation. It was grand.
Photos ©2016 Nina Courtney Wagaman
East of Pasadena, the only campground we could find within reasonable distance was Rancho Jurupa, a county park in Riverside. It was brown, dusty, photographically a disappointment, and $30 per night! We seek out federal areas where we can camp for free or use our Senior Pass for its 50% discount. Thus, we rarely pay more than $10. The weather forecast heavy rain, so we drove on next day to Joshua Tree National Park where we knew it would be beautiful, whatever the weather. We were not at all disappointed!
Yes, there were torrents of rain, dense fog, and it was very cold, but Miss Trilly is incredibly comfortable. Her original propane heater works very well and her large windows afford wonderful views. A dear friend, who happened by looking for a campsite for his Aliner, found us sheltering inside our little “egg.” Next day when the storm broke, we all hiked together and photographed the unique rock formations of the park. From Joshua Tree, we drove to the BLM 14-day area known as “Roadrunner” south of Quartzsite AZ. We did our laundry and took $7 showers at Main Street Laundromat & Showers. It is a great meeting place for RVers! After two nights, Zuzu towed Miss Trilly 100 miles farther south to another BLM dispersed camping area off Ogilby Road in California.
Miss Trilly & Zuzu off Ogilby Road
One of the reasons we traveled so far south this trip was not for sunny, warm days, but for dental work. Over the years, several Snowbirds, both Canadians and Yanks, have told us that the dental services in Mexico are both very good and very inexpensive. With a couple of referrals, we began doing research from the library in Yuma AZ. We were astonished to learn there are over 300 dentists within the five-block area of Los Algodones adjacent to the border. We checked out the border crossing into Mexico and the $6-per-day parking area run by the local Quechan tribe of Native Americans. It seemed very easy—folks were simply walking into Mexico from the parking lot with no check-in required and walking back out through US Customs.
As a way of acquainting ourselves with the “procedure” of crossing and navigating the streets of this bustling town, which is not only crammed full of dentists, but opticians and pharmacies too, we made an appointment for free exams with a dentist whose website claimed to offer same-day Cerec crowns. Nina had one of these ceramic crowns done years ago in Sandy, Oregon. At the time, she paid $1200 for the tooth-colored crown, which was carved by water jet as she watched! 3D-imaging instead of impressions, cutting of the crown itself and its installation—all done in less than an hour and a half!
Tumco Ghost Town, Miss Trilly off in the distance.
On January 12, we crossed early, sidestepping the many hawkers offering dental and optical services. “Crowns $130 dollars! Free exam! Free x-rays! New glasses only $30! Get a second opinion! Best price!” Every few feet a hand thrust our way with a flyer or business card, the fellow claiming, “We’ve been waiting just for you!” Looking lost, we were offered help by several folks. After failing on our own to locate the address of our appointment, we accepted help. Our benefactor phoned the dentist’s office. Shortly, a nice-looking woman arrived on foot to lead us there.
In the very tiny clinic, everything was shiny, clean, and new. Our mouths were examined very quickly (and superficially) by a dentist who spoke only Spanish. He took digital x-rays only of the teeth we felt needed treatment. Clark had one problem tooth, but his recommended “treatment plan” included six crowns and a root canal! Moving on to me and my two problem teeth, the dentist examined the x-ray of a lower molar that had been broken for a decade. He made a phone call. Less than ten minutes later, a specialist arrived to pronounce (in Spanish, of course), “It needs to come out!” In addition to the extraction (to be followed by an implant or bridge), I was advised several more crowns were needed. They were prepared to move ahead with the procedures immediately!
We had chosen this clinic because their website stated Cerec was offered, but the staff had no idea what Cerec was. So we said, “We need to think about it.” and asked for copies of the treatment and prices. They had no copy machine, so they led us to a main clinic just few blocks away. We were a sight—the receptionist, Clark and me, the dentist himself and the specialist—all parading through the colorful confusion of the streets of Los Algodones.
The fellow who had helped previously offered Nina a free second opinion from the dentist he represented. This dentist took another x-ray and said, “Yes, there is decay, but there is no emergency, ” and handed us the film. Out on the street once again, we resumed searching for the Cerec dentist. Finally, another very nice young man led us directly to his office. There we learned that this particular dentist does his own lab work and is the only “game in town” offering Cerec technology. We picked up a price list and made appointments for exams. Standing in line waiting to check back into the US, we felt fairly confident that we could take care of our dental needs while saving ourselves some money. We were camping for free, after all, and the costs for procedures seemed about one third of what is typical in the US. In Los Algodones, an implant prices range between $700 and $800, plus $400 to $500 for a zirconium crown and abutment. Things were looking good so far.
White-faced Ibis at Cibola NWR
Before beginning dental procedures, we took two side trips, first to Cibola NWR, hoping to photograph birds. Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, and several kinds of ducks were there the first day, but on our second day they had all but disappeared. Hunting season opened—in a Wildlife Refuge!? We were camped at a BLM “fee area” on the Colorado River called Oxbow, where the sounds of gunfire punctuated the air. We also fled, stopping at the dispersed camping area at Tumco Ghost Townsite off Ogilby Road. After a couple of nights, we were off to Anza Borrego Desert State Park. There, we joined a couple that we met at the Elephant Seal rookery north of San Simeon. We enjoyed a lovely evening around the campfire swapping stories and getting to know each other. We hiked Palm Canyon, where we saw two Bighorn Sheep, then drove out to camp along the dirt road leading to the very popular mud-walled slot canyon called, aptly, The Slot. Because we were so close, we enjoyed unhampered photography for an hour before a troop of Boy Scouts came running through.
Looking for a new campsite off Ogilby Road, we turned up the wide dirt road leading to American Girl Mine. As we came around a curve, we spotted two vintage Boler fiberglass trailers. We decided to set up a comfortable distance away along the wash. We met both couples and, over the next two weeks, shared “happy hour” chats in the afternoons. Our spot was but a short drive to the Quechuan parking lot and we could pick up a good cell signal.
On January 14, we began our dental treatments in Los Algodones. At first, we were quite impressed with the Cerec dentist. His English was good and he took time to explain things. Patients in his waiting room offered endorsements of his skill, his perfectionism, and their satisfaction with the results. One couple had been seeing him since 2007, driving all the way from their home in Idaho. The wife had twelve implants, all successful. They were happy patients. Ultimately, we made seven trips into Los Algodones over five weeks for our treatments. We each had a molar extracted, then bone grafts, all in preparation for receiving implants. We could return for crowns six months later. Nina had an implant placed, Clark did not. Our experience, to put it succinctly, differed greatly from the patients we met in the waiting room. Our association with this dentist ended bitterly. We thought we had chosen well with the Cerec dentist, but things went horribly wrong. There were signs. We regret that we did not walk away when the red flags first started going up. Such is life. We learn.
Now back in Sacramento, we are each undergoing treatment to repair and replace all the work done in Mexico. Clark’s bone graft failed. My bone graft and implant also failed. The local dentist we are now seeing is highly skilled, thorough, and very attentive. The atmosphere and our experience in his chair is vastly superior to what we were put through in Mexico. Now, we each have fresh bone grafts and a four- to six-month waiting period before implants can be placed. This is the best experience we have ever had with a dentist and we are grateful for it.
Peace and solitude in the desert…
Clark & Nina