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Thursday, March 17, 2011

VACATION – A day in Los Algodones and almost ARRESTED!

(this post is about Monday, March 14)
Our fearless leader, Mary, took us to Mexico!   We went to Los Algodones just to the southwest of Yuma. We drove on down in the morning about 90 miles to just about Yuma, turn right at the casino and go to  the parking spots right before the border.   You can walk over, and suddenly you are in Mexico!  
to los algadones

We wanted to get some dental work done for Steve, and possibly myself.  Mary led the way through twisty turny roads in the tiny village, and showed us where to go.  She had made us an appointment with:
Dr. Roberto Arce at 

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Steve was first…. Dr. Roberto gives a free exam to let you know what you need done, and quotes you a firm price before he even starts.  Xrays, if needed, are $20.   All cash, no credit cards or checks, and no billing of insurance.  He keeps his costs down this way, and has a nice clean office with a great assistant. 
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Steve had been told previously by our Oconto dentist that he would need 2 crowns, at the cost of $900 each, which would be over $2,000 by the time he was done with all the prep work and xrays.  Since our crappy dental insurance in the states only pays out $1,000 limit when you have $2,000 of work done, it costs us about $720 a year in premiums! 
That is why Mexican dental was so attractive to us….. 
Dr. Roberto examined Steve’s teeth and said that the two teeth would be better candidates for porcelain inlays instead of crowns.  The surrounding tooth was very strong and just the centers with the fillings were bad.  He could go ahead and do two crowns like Steve wanted for $160 each, but he said an inlay is much better, as you save more of your natural tooth, but they do cost more to make than a crown.    So he quoted Steve $800 for two inlays and we said YES, go ahead.  We are sure this would have been closer to $3,000 or more back home in Wisconson for Steve’s work to be done with inlays.
While Steve was getting worked over, Mary took me shopping!   Boy oh boy did we have fun!!!   We bargained and bartered and walked away with vendors chasing us, dropping prices and trying to get us to buy more.  Many would drop the price to even less than half.  One even offered that if I had spent all my money, he would consider taking my camera in trade!  
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The streets were clean and freshly mopped by each vendor, the stores were cluttered but clean and displayed to their utmost.  It was not what I expected of Mexico or seen on tv travel shows.  We are told by the others that Los Algodones is really a town that is catering to the tourists, providing a safe place to patronize their dentists, optometrists,  pharmacies and vendors.  We saw a lot of city policemen smiling and visiting with the locals and greeting the tourists with welcoming words.   We really didn’t see any local people at all, other than street vendors, shopkeepers, or clerks.
The vendors had a bit of everything.  I admired a lot of the woven rugs and one vendor even started to claim he was the weaver, but once I started questioning him a bit closer on technique and looms, he backed down a bit from his claim… LOL   I did like the rug pictured above, but didn’t need to invest in one at this time.  He started at $130, and I got him down to $80 on the first try.  I probably could have walked away with it for $50 or so. 
Now, I can’t show any of the wonderful things we did buy, because our children read this blog and then they will see the souvenirs we squandered our pennies on!   So I will post those later after we get home, as each child and grandchild gets their bounty.  It was fun to barter and we found some wonderful things.
I also bought some big liter jugs of real vanilla, and Mary had us carry back some cartons of cigarettes for her.  (only one carton to a person)   We picked up some medical prescriptions which are soooo cheap compared to the United States.  Example: 100 pills of amoxicillin are $4.60   12 pack of Claritin D is $3.70   So we stocked up on stuff and headed back to see how Steve was doing. 
(I took a lot of photos, so you can just click on each one to bring it up for a closer look)
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Well, Steve was through with the first day of his dental work, and has to come back on Wednesday once the lab has his inlays completed.  Sooooo now it was MY turn to get an estimate.   Last year, I had a fixed bridge made in Oconto of 3 teeth long (2 anchor teeth and a space in between with a fake tooth)   That cost me $3,000.   But on the other side I have a space of two missing teeth, and my dentist in Oconto quoted me between $4,000 and $5,000 for a 4 tooth crown.    Soooo it was time to see what Dr. Roberto could do?    He looked it over, said instead of a 4 tooth crown (2 anchor teeth and 2 fake teeth)  He felt a more secure crown would be a 5 tooth device, with 2 anchor teeth up front and one in the back.   And… the whole quote for this super duper improved device?  Only $960 !!!!
Then he knocked off $30 from each of our quotes because we were a couple!  And Mary fanaggled a free teeth cleaning for referring us! 
Sooooo  2 hours later, I was all prepped with impressions, grinding of the anchor teeth, temp teeth glued into place for our return on Wednesday.  We were very impressed with Dr. Roberto Arce.  We paid a deposit on our bill and left his office.  We gathered our shopping gear and headed to the customs line.   
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Now…. if you know anything about Customs to get into the U.S. , it takes time. A lot of time. And the line is very very long.  You can stand for many hours in the afternoon in line to get across.  At least it is shaded.. but it extends wayyyy beyond to the right in this picture.  And around the block to the left too before you even get close to the building at the border.

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Soooo our dear Mary let us in on a little secret!   For a mere $5 a person, you can avoid the line and hop in a 6 seater pedicab RICKSHAW!  It has a bicycle in the front, then a seat for 3 people behind.  After that is a tiny cart hitch with another 3 seat wagon that pulls behind.  The peddler guy in the front is a retired truck driver, who now lives Oct-April in the RV park nearby and spends his afternoons pedaling folks ahead of all the lines, and the cars!  
Seeing as he is considered a “bicycle”, he avoids the car lines, and gets to cut ahead of them!  If he had a motor on his device, he would have to be in the car lines.   But because it’s only some electric battery assist device, he is still considered a bicycle.  
Sooooo HERE is where I got into trouble, and almost ARRESTED!   
Let me explain:  I wanted to take some pics of the pedicab rickshaw while the folks ahead of us were boarding up.  I also whipped out my video camera to film them as they peddled off……….  
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So I snapped these photos, then filmed the pedicab rickshaw with the video camera, and put the cameras both away in my fanny pack.  
And………………   suddenly a big tall Mexican Federale Soldier with a GUN came up to me and towered over me!  He pointed at my fanny pack and said something like “tourista palabra vista”  or whatever.   I was flummoxed!  Someone else said to me “he wants your camera!”    I was shocked!  I fumbled into my fanny pack and took out my digital camera.  
He said “NO NO”  … and made a motion with his hands like an old fashioned filming movie camera.  Ohhh he wanted my OTHER camera, the video one!   So I gave him that, trembling and shaking.   Turns out when I had panned across the view with the pedicab moving away, I had accidently filmed two Federale agents tearing apart a car doing an inspection in the background!   I really only was filming their butts.. heh heh.   But that was NOT allowed and he told me to delete it.  
I tried and fumbled and forgot how to delete one segment of film, but I finally got it.  He said something to the effect of what else did I have on there.   I said “Tourista Stuff”    He doublechecked it.   I seriously think if my video camera had been newer and nicer, he would have just kept it!  LOL ….  then he doublechecked all the photos on my digital camera to be sure none of those showed their butts.    I have only the remaining two photos above, which do not show any agent’s butts.  

Gosh…  all that trouble to take inclandestine photos of a few cute men butts? 


  1. Them weren't, as ya say,"souvenirs we squandered our pennies on!" They is gonna be family hairlooms that will passed down to many future generations, all with some story about how you was a servin' a sentence in a Mexican prison fer doin' somethin' with a bunch of men, when you handcrafted them.

  2. you are probably lucky it didn't happen on the American side of the border. I have always been treated like a led-than-citizen, at least coming back from Canada. I really need some dental work, but don't know when I will ever be in Mexico,

  3. Yup, we were warned in Progresso to never take a photo of the police or military there. Assumed it was the same in Algodones so was careful there, too. Have read blogs of folks who almost had their cameras confiscated, too. We need to just keep spreading the word!

  4. Oh man...that makes me want to go to Mexico the next time we are there and get my teeth done. The pics and the report are great, thanks Karen. To bad about the video incident, but I am sure that you find other cute butts...really! LOL

  5. You might ask someone who knows about this stuff (a chemist? A nutritionist?) but I heard that the Mexican vanilla is not a safe food additive. When they process it they use a toxic material.

  6. Great time in Mexico. Hope we can get to Mexico when we have dental problems. So far so good. I'm glad you didn't lose the camera. Great pictures of the shopping area.

  7. Glad to see you weren't arrested, I hear those Mexican jails are awful, but now we all know and I will just take our small pocket camera whe we visit a border town, less like to get into trouble with. Be safe out there. Sam & Donna....

  8. We would never go to a Canadian/US dentist again unless it is an emergency. They just cost way too much. Been to the dentist twice now in Mexico and both times have had a great experience and fantastic, knowledgable service.

    You do have to be careful with vanilla in Mexico. Kevin did a lot of reseach on it before buying ours as the only problem would be not getting pure vanilla. The ingredients should include vanilla bean extract, ethyl alcohol, and water. Nothing else. If it includes cumarin (cumarine) then it is not real vanilla.

    We always refrain from taking pictures of military, border crossings or the like in Mexico, Canada or the US, unless we ask permission first.

    Kevin and Ruth

  9. Karen, a couple of years later, how has the dental work held up? I have an appointment in a week with Dr. Arce partly based on your experience.


  10. oh both of us are still soooo pleased by it!

    its now 2013 (2 years later) and my 5 tooth bridge is wonderfully holding up, and just had a new cleaning with a new dentist last week. She said it was VERY smart to have had the bridge (for 2 spaces) mounted to two of the more forward teeth instead of just one. My original dentist wanted over $6,000 for that bridge and was only going to attach it to one. Dr. Roberto Arce suggested doing it the better way for only a few dollars more. He was right!

    My husband had two inlays done (special ceramic inside fillings made to fit the hollowed out tooth) and they are in wonderful shape and our new dentist said they were very well made and not often so you see such good word because most people just have the whole tooth crowned. But Doc Roberto told Steve that his outside and roots were fine, so just do the centers with inlays. He was right!

    When we got back from Mexico two years ago and went to our old dentist for cleanings, he was clearly pissed off at us for going to mexico and also said with such distain that now we have NO guarantees of our work. Yah right, like he would do anything specially priced if we had to go to him for any repairs in the future? I think not. He was just ticked he didn't get the business, as our dental insurance in the states only covers up to $1,000 a year ....

    so we ended up with $800 for Steve's work and $930 for mine.... in the states it would have been $3,000 for Steve and $8-9,000 for me easily ... plus $100 each or more for xrays on top of it. Dr. Roberto only charged us $20 for xrays~!

    And now 2 years later, our teeth are still fine with no problems!

  11. That's a hoot. As I was reading this I could remember seeing a sign to the effect that no pictures of the Federalies (or their butts) were permitted!

    The dental experience in Los Algodones was the same for me, great and I recommend it 100%.

  12. Hello, I know this blog entry was from many years ago, but had a quick question and figured no harm in asking! So you had mentioned a guy with a rickshaw near an RV area that bypasses the lines because it is considered a bicycle. If I were to take my own bicycle through, would I be able to bypass the lines as well? Or is it certain licensed people only?


    1. Boy I am not sure... So much has changed now with border crossings. I wonder if the government website would have something about it?


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