My wife, Nadyne, and I arranged to be in Yuma, AZ, this winter long enough to pop over into Mexico for some vanilla, prescription drugs, alcohol and a new denture. Without debating the pros and cons of buying prescription drugs there, my wife’s denture was a priority due to our lack of dental coverage since we retired. We had been receiving a lot of great feedback regarding Los Algodones and decided to give it a try.
Nadyne was born and raised in Tucson and she used to travel into Mexico on occasion at the Algodones crossing in California and the Nogales border at Arizona, and the former was always the least troublesome for her. I had only crossed from the U.S. into Mexico once, a day trip into Tijuana several years ago, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
We drove from Yuma to a parking lot at the border, costing $6 a day. Walking into Mexico was like walking into a shopping mall. There were no guards, no metal detectors, no drug-sniffing dogs, no gates and absolutely no waiting. Just a fenced walkway that ends in the edge of town. To walk anywhere from there, one has to run a gauntlet of aggressive shop hands willing to drag you into whatever store, vision clinic or dental office employed them. They acted as if they were being paid per customer delivered, and probably were.
Making no eye contact with vendors and exiting the crowded sidewalks to the street, we were able to hike the three blocks to Dental Solutions, one of about a hundred dental offices in town. We chose this one after some prior research, including reaching out to customers we knew of and a few phone calls. The office was in the middle of the street with an eyeglass storefront on one side and a pharmacy on the other. It didn’t look like the building could withstand an earthquake of more than about 4.5 on the Richter scale.
Once inside, the office was old but clean. Its minuscule waiting room was painted a stark white and had a single sofa, oversized for the room. I found out later that there was an additional small waiting room in the back. Nadyne had her appointment and the total for her new upper denture will be about $350, a great price without insurance. We had to return in 90 minutes, so we took the time to have lunch, again avoiding as much of the sidewalk chaos as possible.
We chose a restaurant in the rear of an indoor alleyway, about a hundred feet in from the street, named El Rancherito. On a narrow stage near the front door was a middle-aged Mexican couple providing a variety of live music and singing, mostly of a Hispanic nature with a few Patsy Cline numbers thrown in. The food was good, including the imperative deep-fried tortilla chips, and the prices were reasonable. We tipped the entertainers on the way out.
We made it back to the dental office and Nadyne had her follow-up visit, then we went to a purple-painted pharmacy and liquor store to fulfill our shopping list. This was one of the “Purple Shops” and is definitely as professional and knowledgeable as we had hoped. I got my asthma medicine and Nadyne got her drugs and a cheap bottle of Mexican vanilla, plus my chocolate tequila, which I have been searching for ever since our cruise a couple of years ago.
The afternoon exit was not as quick as the morning entrance, with a line of about 300 travelers patiently waiting, passports in hand. It took about an hour to get through the border guard station, time that I didn’t count on but not a terrible wait. There were no metal detector or police dogs, just a couple of border patrolmen pushing us cattle on through.
Now that we’re back in our rig, I’m going to try that chocolate drink…
Jack Huber is a novelist with 6 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.