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We Visit Progresso, Mexico
November 15, 2008
Mission, TX, Leisure Valley Ranch, Lot 159 — 15 days
Saturday, November 15, 2008 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 6 Months
Sunday, November 9. We go to Progresso, Mexico
 I am on the bridge looking towards the US when Dennis, Tom, and Theresa walk towards Mexico greet me like a long lost friend

I am on the bridge looking towards the US when Dennis, Tom, and Theresa walk towards Mexico greet me like a long lost friend

We had no plan for today and we figured we’d hang out with the Cranes and see what they need to do to get their Casita started.  However in the morning Tom dropped by in his golf cart and asked if we’d like to go to Mexico.  Mexico! — Well, why not?  We changed clothes and quickly got ready to go.  It was very overcast and looked like rain but it was not cold at all.  They came back in their Dodge super cab truck and picked us up.  To my surprise, Theresa was driving and the guys rode in the back seat.  It turns out that Theresa belongs to the Teamsters in Fairbanks and is a professional truck driver.  She drives their motor home and like Dennis, she is the one who always drives when they go out together.

We had a really fun day.  Theresa understood that I like to window shop so first we stopped at Ganji, a shop near the border but on the US side that has unusual household goods and clothes.  There were some very nice modern styles and it was fun to look around this shop.  Then we came to the border and parked in the US.  We walked across the bridge to the town of Progresso.  It is safe and Americanized and preferred by people in this area — just as Algodones is popular near Yuma, AZ. 

We walked around a bit and then went up to a third floor restaurant.  It was pleasant with good service and good food.  It actually rained while we were there so our timing was good.  After lunch we window-shopped and Tom bought some drugs for a relative.  (People talk about being in the “donut hole” with insurance.  That’s when they shop for their prescription drugs in Mexico.)

As Thersa pulled into our driveway, we ran into Betty and Jay so they were introduced.  A big group from Leisure Valley Ranch plans to go to a performance next Sunday.  We invited Tom and Theresa and they will join us.  The concert is well known and has a popular reputation.  Produced by La Joya High School it features, Mariachi “Los Coyotes”, Grupo “Folklorico Tabasco” and Conjunto “Los Diamantes.” We are told that they train for years and the Folklorico dancers are excellent.  Tickets for Sunday at 2:00 pm cost $6.

Monday, November 10, 2008.  Tom offers to sell his double corner lot to us.

Tom has a corner lot on W. Bogey.

Tom has a corner lot on W. Bogey.

This morning Tom dropped by and asked if we wanted to see where the nearby post office is located.  Why not?  We’ve got nothing going.  So we hopped in his truck and left.  We left the windows open and thought we’d be back shortly.  But we weren’t!  Tom had a bunch of errands to do and we ended up keeping him company for several hours. 

Tom drove west on US-83 and showed us that it soon quits as a freeway and becomes a boulevard.  We drove past the little town of Penitas to La Joya.  Tom likes the closer and smaller post office in this nearby town. He pointed out a development around a lake in La Joya.  Later we saw the Mission Post Office, which is much farther away and he says it is always crowded.

Tom is talking to us about buying one of his lots here in Leisure Valley Ranch.  I don’t know why we’re talking to him about it — probably boredom.  We liked planning our last house and it is tempting to plan something here.  Tom has a double lot on a corner just down the street that we like.  I don’t want one of these narrow lots lined up in a row.  But a double lot on a corner is tempting to me because it offers space for a garden.  No one here puts in more than one or two token plants.  There are few gardens although there are many wonderful trees and bushes that grow in this area.  Dennis is tempted also.  The most tempting thing about this place is: PRICE.  It’s cheap.  A 1.5 lot down the street is 26K.  Tom wants 40K for his corner double lot.  He says he thinks he only has 6K into it and he thinks his monthly payments are $400.  We would pick up his payments.

If we bought a lot, we would have a more or less centralized place to stow a few things during the year.  And it would give us a place to sit and rest for a few of the colder northern months.  But mostly, Dennis and I are builders and people who like a project.  I like to design and Dennis likes to build.  So we’re talking and asking questions and looking at dimensions.  The lots are 40’ wide and 75.06’ deep so Tom’s corner lot is almost square: 80’ x 75’.  Some build a pad for the RV and a rectangle or an L-shape casita and some leave a small area for a garden.  A corner lot lends itself well to incorporating a small amount of landscaping.

The other temptation is a time crunch.  This development is almost finished.  After it is 95% complete it gets turned over to a homeowners group.  It would be easier to get a plan approved by the owner/developer than by a committee.  Tom says we can take over his monthly payments.  He says we should get a plan approved and pour a concrete pad right away: lock it up.  That way we are not at the mercy of a committee a few years down the road.  Prices have gone up so I suppose if we want to develop our own design here, it is now or never.  Later, if we want to sell we could do that and perhaps make a small profit.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008.  Betty and Jay get their casita started.

Sunrise on 11/11/08 at 6:58 am. I took this from the door of our bus looking down Bogey Rd.

Sunrise on 11/11/08 at 6:58 am. I took this from the door of our bus looking down Bogey Rd.

Betty and Jay are getting ready to start their casita.  Their plan is approved and they have Oscar, the local cement guy, lined up to pour the concrete pad tomorrow.  Things move quickly here.  In Leisure Valley Ranch, ‘tis the season to be building.  Everywhere we see equipment scraping off “the organic matter” and then concrete poured and then a framework going up.  What is built is classified as a shed, not a home, and you are not allowed to sleep in it — although people put in Murphy beds and do.  With simple structures and without the kinds of codes required in places like California, things move fast.  Betty and Jay are excited and involved in all the decision details.  They are acting as their own contractor so they have to do a lot of research.  I haven’t actually had time to visit much with them.

Today we did a few errands but not much else.  I did a fast thirty-minute walk yesterday morning.  This morning I did thirty minutes of core exercise with the balls and stretch cord.  I don’t want to overdo it and then get discouraged so I’m taking it slow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008.  Financial reverses at the masonry.

Tom dropped by and gave us more details on his lot.  He has 15K into it so that is what we would have to do for a down payment.  And his monthly payments are something like $575 — almost $600 a month.  So this would be a stretch for us.  It would be nice to do business with Tom because he’s been here six years and he knows all the ins and outs of developing a lot here.  He would be helpful and facilitate construction, I’m sure. But it’s a big outlay for us so Dennis said he’d think about it. 

No sooner had Tom left than Dennis got a call from Sylvia, who works for Dennis at the masonry.  I could tell it was bad news.  No money has come in.  Once again the masonry is in jeopardy.  Some jerk hasn’t paid and jobs aren’t starting because money is tight.

Dennis got very quiet and very depressed.  I hugged him but didn’t make him talk too much.  What can be said?  He will probably need to go home to see what can be done.  We are an eight or nine day drive away from home.  It is almost 1,900 miles.  Fuel costs are down but all in all, it would take about $1,000 or more to drive home.  We both noticed that the minute we thought about extending ourselves financially, we got a warning shot across the bow!

We didn’t go out.  I published webpage number 60, “Bryce Canyon Mules”.  Now I have posted ten new letters since October 24th.  I’m making headway.  That is better than three per week and that is quite good.

In the evening Tom and Theresa dropped by and we shared our news.  We can’t consider buying a lot at this time.  And the truth is we were saved from ourselves.  We are not so enamored with this place that we would choose to return every winter.  There are so many other places to be!  For one, I’d like to be nearer to my family during the holidays.  What about somewhere near San Diego or somewhere in the desert near Palm Springs?

Thursday, November 13, 2008.  Dennis may have to fly to California — wish I could!

This morning we walked the dogs and then we went over to the Crane lot to see what progress there is today.  It was overcast and breezy and in the mid-sixties.  (Later we reached a high of 77° and a 17 mph NNE wind brought rain.) I left to do my fast walk around Bogey Drive.  Betty came by in her car to ask if I wanted to keep her company on a quick errand.  We drove to La Joya ISD, the school district where she is registered to be a substitute teacher.  I did not mention our financial worries.

Tom and Theresa came by in their golf cart and he put up the mailbox.  Theresa came inside the bus to visit for a while.  She has a friend in the hospital, Nancy, who will have heart surgery tomorrow.  She is worried.

Dennis called Sylvia and got email copies of office reports and the latest financial status.  I didn’t ask whether he would have to fly home.  I just got busy and used Expedia to look up airline costs.  He could fly direct from McAllen to San Jose round trip next Monday for $390.  If he must fly home I don’t want it to drag on into Thanksgiving week.

Fill dirt is spread and forms laid for concrete on the Crane's lot. I am standing on a pad to the rear and one lot over where the Crane's are staying temporarily while they develop their lot.

Fill dirt is spread and forms laid for concrete on the Crane’s lot. I am standing on a pad to the rear and one lot over where the Crane’s are staying temporarily while they develop their lot.

About four, we decided to go out and look for a decent nearby local restaurant.  We drove west to La Joya to the post office and turned north on Tom Gill Rd. where we found a substantial building that didn’t look too run down and it had several cars parked by it.  So we decided to try El Meson de Poncho Villa.  We chose from the Platilloes (plate) menu and had a very adequate meal.  The place was large and clean and the waitress spoke English.

After that, we drove to the closest HEB on Abrams Rd.  What a mistake to go at 5:00 pm after work.  It was rush hour traffic and the store was crowded.  It started to rain as we parked and it was raining heavily when we came out but it stopped shortly after that.

We know the shortcut now to return to Leisure Ranch but there is construction and it is pitch black at night with no streetlights on these country roads.  Back at the ranch we saw a fair amount of flooding so we drove around the development to see what parts get most flooded.  Dennis says Tom got a map and figured out the high ground before he bought a lot.  Some areas were very flooded and there are big drains on the streets for run off.

Friday, November 14, 2008.  We go out to dinner with Betty and Jay.

We woke to heavy morning fog.  It was so thick one wouldn’t want to drive.   With this kind of ocean weather, why not live on the ocean?  Later it cleared up and the sun came out and it got quite warm with a high of 82°. Winds from the SE reached speeds of 14 mph.

I was late going out to walk and by the time I did it was hot.  I decided to take Rudi and make him heel so I could do my fast walk.  I put on his halter and used a short leash that I tied to my belt.  I took a baggie and some ties.  I walked on the left and made him heel on the curb.  Without Margot and on a short leash he was very good and just trotted along with no barking.  I was able to walk with free hands.  When he pooped, I tied the baggie to his halter.  There are no pet trash bins anywhere on the Martin Valley Ranch grounds — a pet peeve of mine (pardon the pun).  I am going to buy a small stuff bag and tie it to his halter — or buy a saddlebag!  I’m tired of holding a poop baggie for an entire half hour walk.

This method worked so well I came back and got Margot.  We took a shorter loop and she also did very well.  Both dogs seemed to enjoy themselves.  Afterwards I drove the Honda around Bogey Dr. loop.  It is 1.2 miles and I walk it in about 25 minutes.

I spent the day assembling webpage 61 “Chase Crew 101” about the first day of the Salina Balloon Festival.  I arranged it as instructions for a Chase Crew with a complicated arrangement of 77 photos.

In the evening we went out to dinner with Betty and Jay.  She asked where we wanted to go and I suggested Carrino’s, an Italian chain that we’ve run across in other cities.

Betty said, “Is it nearby?”  I think Betty doesn’t really like to eat out and she doesn’t want to spend a lot of time on going out to dinner.

I said, “Nothing is nearby!”
Jay said reprovingly, “Oh now, Elsa!”

Jay thought I was complaining, but I wasn’t.  I was stating a fact.  There are no nearby restaurants.  You have to drive 12 miles on the freeway and another five miles on boulevards.  As we agreed, it depends on your definition of “nearby.”  We did go to Carrino’s on Nolana Dr. past 10th St., near the Chinese Buffet where we went with Tom and Theresa.  They enjoyed it and liked the appetizer we chose, stuffed mushrooms.

They are tired.  They’ve made a lot of calls and errands as their lot has begun development this week.  The leveling and forms have been done and the electrical and plumbing.  Next Monday the concrete will be poured.  They are their own contractors so they are busy making choices on roofing, siding, doors, windows, etc.

I hope our satellite is not giving out.  It has a clear shot at the southern sky but we’ve lost reception a few times the past few nights.  Maybe it’s the rain and fog?  Does it need to be cleaned?

I am in deep doo-doo.  When we first got the bus I threw dental floss in the toilet until Dennis noticed and told me to stop — but that was many months later.  I stopped before he got the macerator but that is what has clogged and broken the macerator.  It is a big mess and could be very expensive to repair or replace!  Dummy me.

Last night at 1:45 am, we woke up as a breeze came through out open bedroom windows.  From the NNW, within fifteen minutes this breeze turned full force with a maximum wind speed of 32 mph and gusts up to 44 mph. Rain spattered sideways through the window.  I closed the window and this sudden storm lasted less than an hour.  It was like a squall that passed quickly through our area.  These desert locations!  You never know what will happen.

Saturday, November 15, 2008.  I fall and end up in emergency.

(This is a photo I took on Wednesday.) On Friday, I stumbled on the 3" raise of this concrete pad. There were chairs and people and the dogs and I was looking ahead instead of down and didn't see it. These raised pads are everywhere. No one marks them with tape and I think they are dangerous. Essentially, everywhere I go, I must remember I'm on a construction site — including the pad where we are parked.

(This is a photo I took on Wednesday.) On Friday, I stumbled on the 3″ raise of this concrete pad. There were chairs and people and the dogs and I was looking ahead instead of down and didn’t see it. These raised pads are everywhere. No one marks them with tape and I think they are dangerous. Essentially, everywhere I go, I must remember I’m on a construction site — including the pad where we are parked.

It was foggy this morning with a low of 47°. However by nine o’clock the sun was out but it was only 60° and the wind came back.  It reminded me of Cherokee Springs.

Today turned out to be a bit of a disaster.  I fell and ended up spending the morning in emergency.

Betty called in the morning and told us they are getting the lot ready to pour on Monday.  She told us to come over and see all the activity.  Dennis took Margot and left before me.  Fortunately it was chilly so I decided to wear jeans and a jacket and my jogging shoes — so had some padding on me.  I took Rudi and walked to the lot where the Crane’s are staying.  A group was standing at the end of their RV lot watching the work on the Crane’s lot.  Rudi was straining at the end of his extended leash to pull ahead to catch up with Margot who was barking and pulling on Dennis to meet Rudi.

I was looking ahead at the dogs and the group.  Because of the commotion caused by the dogs barking, they were turned to look at me.  All these lots have a concrete driveway and a 3” raised concrete pad that marks the end of the driveway and the beginning of a casita — whenever it will be built.  They are very dangerous as it is easy not to notice them.  We have the same thing on our lot and I have almost stumbled several times walking over it either up or down.  This time I didn’t see it so I stumbled and did a belly flop forward with my arms stretched out.  Because I was walking quickly and Rudi was pulling me, I fell fast and hard with no time to catch myself.  I took the blow primarily on my right knee and on my chin.

Betty ran to me and grabbed the dog leash.  Dennis ran to help me sit up.  I didn’t cry but I knew I was injured because my jaw felt funny where it attaches under the ears.  It felt like my jaw had been shoved up and toward my left ear.  My knee hurt and my chin hurt but what worried me was that I had somehow dislocated my jaw.  My ears and neck hurt.  Betty put me in her car and drove me back to the bus.  Dennis brought the dogs.  We agreed that I needed to see a doctor and get x-rays.

Where to go?  I took an Ibuprofen and we spent half an hour in investigation.  Betty wanted me to go to a nearby clinic that she knew about.  I called Tom and he thought I could go to a doctor with an office at the end of the Western Rd. next to the Parker Ranch office.  I looked on the Internet.  Betty’s clinic and Tom’s doctor were not open and the clinic did not have emergency care.  I chose the hospital where Tom and Theresa have been visiting their friend.  I called the Rio Grande Regional Hospital and the operator put me through to emergency, that told me to call 911.  We didn’t want to do that so I got the address and we left in the car.  It was easy to find and it only took us twenty minutes to get there.

I took a book and my notebook and I was prepared for a long wait in the emergency room.  I was remembering a long wait at Stanford years ago.  But we were surprised.  They sat me down immediately, took my vitals and got the facts.  We sat down in the waiting room and I was called within five minutes.  We spent a few hours in a cubicle with chairs, a gurney and curtains.  They put me in a gown and I was shivering so they put warm blankets around me while they got my history and my insurance.

Here’s a tip that we’ve learned and that everyone should take time to do.  We have all our history typed on a form with a list of prescription medications and our doctors, etc.  (We use a Meditag Personal Information Form.) When they come to take a history I give them the form with my information and they take it away to do their data entry.  It’s easy!

Eventually, an Indian (India) doctor came in.  He was the cold techie type who wasted no words and spent less than one minute with me.  He looked disapproving but ordered x-rays.  Eventually I was wheeled on the gurney to an elevator and up to x-ray where they took photos of my knee, neck and my “mandible” (jaw).  Back down in our cubicle we waited until the doctor returned who used ten seconds to say I had nothing broken.  I have “contusions” and a sprained knee.  I could go home.  I felt like the little old lady who makes a big fuss about nothing.  But how was I to know?  My jaw hurt badly and I had to be sure nothing was out of place.

We were at the hospital for about an hour and a half.  It was after one o’clock by the time we left and I was ready for food.  The sun was out and it was a beautiful sunny day with a high of 72°.  We drove to nearby I-HOP where I chose a minimal chewing breakfast of eggs and pancakes.  I was very hungry.  At that time I took a Tylenol.  Because of liver disease I use Tylenol very sparingly and I can’t take any other drugs for pain.  We came home and I lay down and soon fell asleep.  When I woke I finally looked in the mirror and saw a very noticeable red abrasion on the tip of my chin followed by a black bruise under my chin and on my neck.  It looks ghastly.  My knee is covered with a big bruise.  Although I hit my chin and my chin hurts, the major discomfort is around my ears.  My ears are clogged up as if I were on an airplane.  My jaw and neck ache.

Tomorrow we plan to go to the Folklorico performance so I hope I feel better by then.  I certainly will look awful….

Christmas with New Friends in Yuma
December 26, 2007

Yuma, AZ, Day Three in Cocopah RV & Golf Resort, 577 Kah Nee Ta

Seven months in our bus.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23. WE DRIVE TO YUMA, AZ.

On Sunday, we were ready to leave Phoenix and head south for Yuma. But pulling out of our site in Sun City posed a bit of a logistics problem because it was so tight.  First Dennis surveyed the situation.  Then I was posted to watch certain impediments as he pulled out.

Our trip to Yuma took us four and a half hours — but we took a fifty minute lunch break.  We drove 195.3 miles.  Our route took us west on I-10 and then south on AZ-85 S.  In Pima we joined up with I-8 S and that brought us to Yuma.  Yuma is located in the far southwest corner of Arizona.  It is located next to the borders of California and Mexico.

Cocopah is a different kind of resort.  It isn’t adult only and it is far less dressy than Paradise in Sun City.  They don’t have the amenities in terms of classes and craft rooms.  Our site was on a street with other RVs.  There were also streets with mobile homes but the whole effect was less dressy.  I got the impression that this was more of a place for families and athletic types.  I like the feel of a pretty resort without the sense of being uptight.    However, the primary reason I chose Cocopah was not only because it had good reviews, but also because several people wrote about the pet area.

Like Paradise, Cocopah is also divided into pet and non-pet areas.  The pet people are near a designated Pet Area which was a lawn that had to be at least an acre.  Pet owners wrote reviews about this and they raved about the opportunity to let their dogs run free.  Shortly after we arrived we walked over to the lawn with the dogs to check it out.  In theory you keep your dogs on a leash.  But after we hung out awhile with other small dog owners we let them loose.  There were a few large dogs also loose but the lawn was large and there seemed to be an unwritten rule where they stayed on one side and we stayed on the other side.

Margot and Rudi had a great time!  So did we.  We talked to other pet owners and complimented each other on the good looks and abilities of our dogs.  Oh my, it was fun.  It was almost like our Cotton Club — my weekly Coton Playdates when we lived in Los Altos.

DYANNE DEMAREE RADKE AND TOM RADKE

Dyanne Demaree Radke is the reason why we came to Yuma.  And it was Dyanne and her husband Tom Radke who made a Christmas celebration for us.  I’ve been corresponding by email with Dyanne over the past year ever since she and Gretchen contacted me. We all attended Seaside Elementary together and we all graduated from the eighth grade at Riviera Elementary.  Hollywood Riviera was located on the hill above Redondo Beach but it was part of the Torrance school district.  Gretchen moved to Santa Monica High but Dyanne and I graduated together from Torrance High School in 1957.  Gretchen and Dyanne were trying to organize a Riviera reunion that would coincide with the fiftieth high school reunion scheduled last August in Torrance.  (In the end, neither Dyanne nor I were able to attend.)

It was this correspondence that made it possible for me to look up Gretchen Carman-Palmer in Denver, CO and another childhood classmate, Ben Boegh, in Atlanta, GA.

Dyanne and I have felt a special attraction because we both share the RV way of life.  She gave us advice and encouragement, as Dennis and I made ready to buy our bus and begin our new way of life.  So we were very anxious to meet the Radke’s.  They still own their home in Ohio but they run from the snow each winter.  After years of winter travel they bought an RV site in Yuma and now they settle here every winter.  Over the years they’ve accumulated dozens of snowbird friends who also stay in Yuma every winter.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 24. CHRISTMAS EVE WITH THE RADKE’S

On Christmas Eve we were invited to meet them at their house in the afternoon and then we were invited to join them at the home of friends for a Christmas Eve Soup Party.  We found the Radke’s living in southeast Yuma and discovered an entirely new kind of suburb.  This one is designed to house and shelter people with big coaches like ours.  A half-house has an attached carport roof that is big enough and high enough to shelter a 13’ bus.  The house has a patio and sliding doors that admit you to a living room.  Beyond is a bathroom and kitchen.  Behind the kitchen is a two-car garage.  The Radke’s also have a side yard and driveway that allow guests to park a bus while they stay for days or weeks to visit.  Both couples can share the extra space available in the house.  It is really a new way of looking at a vacation home.

Tom and Dyanne are very friendly and easy to get to know.  They showed us all around and we sat on the patio to visit.  Later we drove a few blocks away to a party in a regular house with larger accommodations for a party —living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms.  Something like a dozen couples were gathered for the Soup Party.  They are all snowbirds and they all stay in Yuma for most of the winter.  Tables were set up in the living room and a buffet set up on kitchen counters.  The hosts, Garry and Sue Wilson, of Sandy, UT made three kinds of soups and there were many other side dishes as well.

Garry sat next to us and we discovered that he is a talented artist.  He makes framed pictures out of small, multicolored pieces of wood.  The technique is called Intarsa.  He showed us several photo albums of his completed work.  I was amazed.  Sitting next to us were Garry’s neighbors, Larry and Janet of Iowa.  Janet went home and brought back the rendering that Garry made of their dog, Brittany.  I believe she was an English Spaniel.  The carving was wonderful and we all admired it.

Yuma has given us an overwhelmingly friendly welcome.  We no sooner pulled into our Cocopah site then another Allegro Bus couple hailed us and came over to talk.  Our neighbors in a Terry Quantum fifth wheel came over to welcome us.  They had a “patio” set up outside their RV with extra chairs and a little patio propane fire pit.  They invited us to join their group at any time.  This is unusual and it gave us a feeling of cheer as soon as we arrived.  Maybe it is because of the Christmas season.  The atmosphere everywhere is informal and welcoming.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25. CHRISTMAS BRUNCH WITH AN “OMELET IN A BAG”

Early Christmas morning Santa dashed through Yuma and stirred up a sand storm in his wake.  It woke me about three AM and that was my first thought:  “Santa must have just blown by.”  Our bus shook and I wondered if we should bring in our slides.  In the morning I saw that our Terry Quantum neighbor still had his awnings up.  Then I noticed they were tied down with lines secured in the ground.  He’s used to these storms.  Their chairs and other effects were scattered everywhere but no damage done.  I peeked out the window and saw trees blowing and decorations swinging.  With fascination, I watched the expert blackbirds find shelter from the wind as they settled on the ground in the lee of an RV or a concrete pad.

The dogs, our kids, were excited with their little stockings filled with doggy treats.  Soon we ventured out in the wind for another outing at the pet park.  Then we left them and carefully drove 35 minutes to the Radke’s house for a Christmas morning Omelet-in-a-Bag Party.  There are warning signs in these parts about dust storms, which can cause you to pull over with zero visibility.  With the wind and sand I was worried about arriving safely and also being able to return.  The amount of sand blowing across the freeway was a remarkable sight.

The party at the Radke house was tremendous fun.  Their guests, Ron and Sue Pyeatt of Washington, were the official hosts.  I was very curious to see how one does an omelet in a bag.  We learned and now I can’t wait to stage a similar party.  What a fun idea!  As we sipped our mimosas and supervised the assemblage of our individual omelets. we met the same people we’d met the night before and became better acquainted. We talked with Betty and Einar of Montana, Dan and Dianna Kerzarin of Salt Lake City, and Ingvar and Ramona Vik of Livingston, Montana.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26. WE VISIT ALGODONES, MEXICO

Dyanne read my report of our visit to Mexico when we crossed from El Paso to Juarez.  She said she wanted to introduce us to a much better border town experience. So we made a plan to visit Los Algodones on the day after Christmas.

Tom picked us up and we rode in the Radke’s van.  Cocopah is actually situated in the corner of Arizona right next to California and Mexico.  We could see I-8 and California and the Mexican border from the pet park and lettuce fields of Cocopah.

There are many articles available on the Internet about Algodones.  One states that it is less than five minutes from Yuma.  However, from Cocopah, it took us 35 minutes.  To drive there we had to backtrack through Yuma to I-8 exit 2 and then drive across the state border into California and then to a parking lot owned by the Quechen Indian Tribe.  They charge $5 per day and it is a very short walk from there into Algodones.

What a difference between Algodones and Juarez: no long and depressing prison wire bridge and no hassle from the vendors.   A quick walk by a building and we were there.  Algodones is considerably more sophisticated than Juarez.  A serious attempt is made to have the streets, shops, restaurants, and public bathrooms be neat and clean.  Vendors speak English and while they encourage you to enter their shop, they don’t hound you and follow you around.  The atmosphere was more like an arts and crafts faire where everyone is friendly and having fun.  This was helpful to us but I think our experience was also greatly improved simply because we were with fellow Americans who knew their way around and acted as our guides.  We were able to relax and have a good time.

Like thousands of other winter visitors, Tom and Dyanne go to Algodones regularly.  They buy their prescription drugs there, get their prescription glasses there and visit their dentist there.  They also like to shop and buy gifts or decorative items for their house.  They are very familiar with the town and confidently walked us around the three by eight blocks between US Customs to Ave “A” through Ave “C” and from Zaratoga and Canal Alamo through 1st St. to 3rd Streets up to San Felipe & Mexicali.  See map: http://www.losalgodones.com/map.htm

The Radke’s showed us where they buy their prescription drugs and made an appointment with their dentist.  We explored some shops and then went to lunch.  They took us to Rincon Ristorante.  We could have sat indoors or on the patio but although it was a cold day, we decided to brave the chilly air so that we could sit outside on the upstairs balcony and watch the street below.  The menu and food were no different from any of the many Mexican restaurants where we eat in the states and our waiter was friendly, humorous and spoke excellent English.

After lunch we went downstairs to the plaza and took time to watch the spray paint artists.  They work very fast making paintings (framed instantly) or decorating vases and other objects with painted scenes.  Clearly they have made hundreds of the same scenes and they execute the development of a painting with amazing speed.

We were ready to leave at 1:20 PM and we did find a line and waited 35 minutes to go through customs.  Algodones provides a shaded walkway and waiting benches.  The waiting crowd was cheerful and we all joked and talked in line.  On a busy day I was told the wait could run up to three hours.

On the way back the Radke’s showed us the old downtown area of Yuma.  I picked up some brochures at the Visitor’s Center.  We are enthusiastic about Yuma and plan to return, especially now that we have friends to visit.  Tom and Dyanne definitely made our Christmas and our visit to Yuma.  Despite our fifty-plus ties from grade school and high school we were essentially strangers.  Dyanne made it all happen and I am grateful to her.  We paused to rest a minute in the bus and then hugged goodbye with promises to get together again soon.

Remember The Tipping Point; How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell and his three personality types, the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen, and the roles they play in social epidemics?  (Gladwell’s use of “epidemics” refers to everyday life changes in ideas, products, messages and behaviors that spread quickly.  I thought this book was fascinating.)

Gladwell says, “What makes someone a Connector?  The first–and most obvious–criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don’t think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people.”

I suspect that Dyanne is a natural born Connector.  I think it is an amazing trait.

WE TAKE A WALK IN THE DARK AND I TWIST MY ANKLE.

After our return, Dennis and I set about getting ready to leave the next morning for Lake Havasu City where we plan to visit the Walton clan. Of course, we had to take the dogs for a walk after our return and I took a few more photos of Cocopah RV Resort. On our drive back from Algodones I took a photo from the freeway in California of Cocopah. Then from Cocopah I took a photo of the horizon where the Mexico border is located. It is strange to be within walking distance of these borders!

That Wednesday night, December 26th, I fell and turned my ankle.  We think it is a bad sprain and not a fracture — I hope.  It happened because we decided to walk the dogs before going to bed.  It was dark but we had a flashlight.  The Radke’s gave one to each of us Christmas morning after breakfast.  It’s a little marvel that works without batteries.  It has a metal piece that goes through a coil when you shake it.  But Dennis didn’t keep it on as we walked.  It didn’t seem necessary as we walked on the empty macadam road towards the pet area. Usually your eyes get adjusted to the dark but it was a black night and there are no lights by the field where we walked.

We were talking and I was looking up at the stars so I wasn’t paying attention.  I guess I wandered over to the side of the road and didn’t realize it.  My right foot was parallel to the right edge of the road but half of it stepped on the road and half rolled off four inches down into the dirt shoulder.  My ankle twisted over to the right and my anklebone hit hard on the ground.  I fell forward.  Wow, I was shocked.  What a surprise.  I’m not the type to have accidents or hurt myself.  I’m not particularly athletic and I’m very careful.

Poor Dennis couldn’t get to me because both fool dogs started to bark at me as if I was a chupacabra sneaking up on them to suck their blood.  He had to get them under control before he could help me to sit up.  He helped me to get to a parked car and I leaned against and held Rudi’s leash while he took Margot back and got our car.  He drove me back to the bus and I laid down on our bed.  Oh boy!  The ankle was swollen up — especially on the right, as if a balloon had sprung out of my anklebone.  Dennis thought we should go to a doctor but I didn’t want to get in the car and go wandering around a strange town and then spend hours in emergency.  I said I thought it wasn’t broken because I could move wiggle my toes and move my ankle.  Dennis put ice in a bag and we wrapped that around my ankle with a towel.  I kept it elevated for the rest of the night.  We left the next morning for Lake Havasu as planned. I figured I would deal with it later.

SIDEBAR 1 LOS ALGODONES, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO

Algodones, Mexico is an unusual little border town. What’s so unusual about Algodones? We heard that within a four block radius there are more pharmacies, doctors, dentists and opticians than a similar four block area anywhere else in the world! And, this “border medical land” attracts thousands of Canadians and Americans weekly. What’s the big attraction? You can find heavily discounted prescriptions, eye-glasses, and medical and dental care. And, if you listen to your friends in the snowbird RV parks, they can tell you that the care from their Algodones doctor or dentist is as good as anywhere back home.

Good new! You can eat the food served in the local restaurants and have a margarita without worrying about water-related issues. The water, I am told, is Yuma, Arizona water. And indeed, we had salad, Mexican food, a Margarita and had no problems whatsoever. Keep in mind that the Margaritas may be pretty potent so adjust your consumption accordingly. We enjoyed dining al fresco at El Paraiso, The Garden Place. The patio is not easy to find as it’s in the center of one of the shopping blocks. Any vendor can direct you though. We enjoyed our lunch, listened to live music and got a kick out of the begging tortoise that roamed from table to table begging for lettuce. Vendors also went table to table. While this added to the color of the experience, we were glad that they easily took “no, gracias,” for an answer. Prices? We had a full lunch, extra guacamole and a large Margarita for $19.00 for the two of us.

We also heard that Pueblo Viejo restaurant, close to the border crossing is good. Pueblo Viejo looked clean and cool inside. It would be a good stop on a hot day.
http://gosw.about.com/od/southwestmiscellaneous/a/Algodones.htm

Los Algodones, Mexico loves to receive visitors from the United States and thrives on the American dollar for its livelihood. It offers city blocks of curio shops, pharmacies, doctors, dentists, open-air cafes in the plaza, sports bars, and more to attract tourists coming through the gates. The merchants plan several festivities around the influx of winter visitors, which include a welcome party in December, a 20th anniversary party celebrating the plaza curio shops in March, a spring party, also in March, and more.

The friendly atmosphere encourages shoppers to spend money—and almost all of the vendors are willing to dicker on price. Most everything you can buy across the border is cheaper, and visitors must only pay attention to the limits on quantity (three months of prescriptions) as they buy.

Curio shops go on for about six city blocks. Photo By Mary Reynolds

Dental and medical care is tremendously less and the quality matches their American counterparts. There are a couple hundred dentists and doctors in Algodones, specifically to cater to foreign visitors.
http://www.greenandwhitesheet.com/wvdirectory/wvalgodo.phtml