Rite of Passage

I once read somewhere that no self-respecting RVer could call themselves a “full timer” without a trip across the border for dental work.  That never really made sense for me in the past, because along with the golden handcuffs of my corporate job came really good dental insurance.  Why drive to a border town to pay $35 for a cleaning, when Delta Dental would pick up the tab?

Self-appointed tour guide, at your service!

Self-appointed tour guide, at your service!

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Well, it just so happens that my four month anniversary from retirement coincided with my arrival in Yuma.  Perfect timing for the newly uninsured.    So Debbie, Kim and I booked back to back appointments on the same day with Dr. Eva Urena, who has earned the seal of approval from seasoned bloggers everywhere.   This would also serve as an excuse for us to, as Debbie would say, “tear up Algodones.”  ;-) IMG_0894

Shrimp Tacos worth the wait in line...

Shrimp Tacos worth the wait in line…

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After having read many blog posts about the enigma that is Algodones, I knew what to expect.  Hawkers lining the streets, offering to sign you up for appointments right on the street corner.  Streets lined with pharmacies.  A gringo ghetto of teeshirts, trinkets, and trash for sale.   But what I had not envisioned is the steady stream of gray haired people flowing through the turnstile.  As Kim and Debbie made a pit stop at the border baño, I stood in amazement as the crowd of white tennis shoes shuffled by.   It was not even 9:00am, and already the farmacias were overflowing.IMG_0904 IMG_0909

With Viagra, you get one free??

With Viagra, you get one free??

The other thing that surprised me is the menu boards outside the pharmacies that read like a commercial break during an episode of The Bachelor.  There is Viagra and Cialas to get you up, Vallium and Xanax to get you back down again, and any number of antibiotics to cure what ails during the in-between.   Even the pharmacy is named for the Little Purple Pill.   It’s quite an enterprise.IMG_0905

"Wild and Tasty!"

“Wild and Tasty!”

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The cleaning process was painless enough.  It’s never the pain in the mouth that gets to me, but rather the pain in the ears.   I’ve tried headphones before, but that just doesn’t work out.  “Rinse, please.”  “WHAT??  No, it’s not the BeeGees, it’s the Beatles.”  So for the most part, it is not unlike any other dentist in the USA.  I find most of the equipment to be just as modern as my dentist in Atlanta, save for the “spit sink.”  My former dentist got rid of his long ago in favor of the suction tube.  But nothing feels better after a gritty grinding than a good old rinse and spit!  ;-) IMG_0915

Not your average dentist office decor...

Not your average dentist office decor…

Okay, enough posing, let's get this over with!

Okay, enough posing, let’s get this over with!

Nostalgic over the Spit Sink

Nostalgic over the Spit Sink

Decir "Queso!"

Decir “Queso!”

Smiles now sufficiently buffed, we did our best to “tear up Algodones.”  The tacos were tasty, the margaritas made us mellow.  The line to cross back was only half an hour, and the parade of vendors selling giant ceramic frogs and dunking peacocks was entertaining.

Doctor Feel Good

Doctor Feel Good

I select my tequila just like I select my fine wine...whichever one has the prettiest label.

I select my tequila just like I select my fine wine…whichever one has the prettiest label.

The border crossing line is very long, but thankfully moves fast.

The border crossing line is very long, but thankfully moves fast.

Nothing like standing in a line with a few hundred weary seniors to get a dose of the “Ugly North American Tourist,” though.  “Why doesn’t someone run all these vendors out of here!  They are making it too crowded!  I can’t get up and down the sidewalk for all their crap!”  “Well, ma’am,” (as I look at the woman holding her nursing infant under a blanket on one arm, selling jewelry on the other)….“I suspect they are just trying to feed their families.”   I would say we forget we are a guest in their country…but sadly, some people never stop to realize it in the first place…

That Lucky Old Sun…

I am a Farmer’s Daughter.  I grew up on a cotton farm in central Texas where the soil is as black as Texas crude.   The smell of musty, earthy, peaty fresh plowed dirt can send me back there faster than you can ask which row to hoe. DSCN7594 I understand the toils and troubles of farming.  I spent my childhood springtimes watching my Dad pace the front porch, studying the weather patterns, sweating out whether or not his freshly planted crops and entire livelihood were about to be wiped out in one single night by the ravages of a hail storm or voracious tornado.  Summers he would leave before sun-up, and come home long after dark, covered from head to toe in maize husks like some furry coat he had sprouted.   And autumns were spent riding in the cab of the pick-up, singing all the versus to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” with my Mom, while helping her hitch and unhitch the cotton trailers bound for the gin, sides bulging from the burden of bales of freshly stripped cotton.   Winters, they finally got a break when we would usually head to South Padre Island. Back then, it was little more than a strip of beach, a jetty restaurant, and a bait shop. Then it would start all over again… IMG_1049 IMG_0992 IMG_1050 I wasn’t really much of a “farm girl.”  I protested having to do chores around the farm, dreaming of the time when I could finally graduate, follow my first signs of leftist leanings to UT Austin, and protest the Vietnam War.  Still to this day, the farm life holds no appeal for me whatsoever, save for the label of “Home.”DSCN7595

The wilted spinach may not be the best endorsement for "Yuma grown."

The wilted spinach may not be the best endorsement for “Yuma grown.”

DSCN7596 But for some reason, I still feel a tug of familiarity at the sight of farm work in progress.  So driving down Highway 95 to Yuma, it is tough to stay focused on the road.  There is so much activity going on all around me!  I am so curious to learn what those abundant crops are, laid out in colorful crazy quilt patterns across the horizon.  In spite of my snub toward farm life, I am still fascinated by the efficiency of the specialized equipment, the precision with which the rows are mapped out, and the tenacity of the migrant workers who labor tirelessly, all for the sake of feeding their family.IMG_0962 IMG_0982 IMG_1044 As I drive from field to field observing the processes, the air smells of cabbage and cauliflower.  I watch every few days on my trips into town as the fields seemingly mature overnight.  Workers empty from old school buses with porta-Johns in tow.  They wear large sun hats, gloves, and long white aprons, their conjunto music blaring as they swiftly move through the fields like a swarm of locusts, leaving behind the shell of leaves where the cabbage heads once nestled.  Within a few days, the field is plowed under, the ground is flooded, and new crops are planted.  Rotation continues methodically as the rise and set of the sun along Laguna Dam Road, just as it did back on the farm.IMG_1058 IMG_1045

If you like the sound of a "rain bird" skittering across the lawn, you should hear what is going on here!

If you like the sound of a “rain bird” skittering across the lawn, you should hear what is going on here!

All this is possible because of the Yuma Siphon Project, the vast irrigation network of 53 miles of canals, completed in 1915.  Deemed one of the largest and most efficient in the nation, it serves 275 farms today.  This expansive irrigation system exists due to the creation of the Laguna Diversion Dam, which in 1905 was the first dam to be built on the Colorado River, thereby ending northbound river traffic.   I have never been a fan of damming the rivers, but it is hard to argue with two million pounds of lettuce produced per day.DSCN7638DSCN7635

Irrigation Pipe

Irrigation Pipe

According to Wikipedia (internet law, of course,) Yuma is “the sunniest place on earth,” receiving eleven hours of sunshine per day, with an average of only 3 inches of rain per year.  The abundant sunshine, stable climate, silt-rich soil and the consistent water source from the Colorado River makes Yuma the winter vegetable capitol of the world.    It boosts Arizona up to the third largest in vegetable production in the nation, preceded only by California and Florida.IMG_1067

Field flooded by irrigation in prep for planting

Field flooded by irrigation in prep for planting

Several of us wanted to take one of the many farm tours offered as part of Yuma’s Agritourism program.   Even though the tour offered “a healthy lunch,” at $45 a person, we all agreed that was too pricey for a U-pick salad. Alas, I would just have to be content to observe from the road, reminiscing about the sights and smells emanating from the earth, without the trouble and toil, work and worry endured by my parents, all for the sake of feeding their family…DSCN7629

“Up in the mornin’
Out on the job
Work like the devil for my pay
But that lucky old sun got nothin’ to do
But roll around heaven all day

Fuss with my woman, toil for my kids
Sweat till I’m wrinkled and gray
While that lucky old sun got nothin’ to do
But roll around heaven all day

Dear Lord above, can’t you know I’m pining, tears all in my eyes
Send down that cloud with a silver lining, lift me to Paradise

Show me that river, take me across
Wash all my troubles away
Like that lucky old sun, give me nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day”

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Jeep Trails and Sheep Trails

Hiking here around Mittry Lake, just 15 miles north of flat Yuma, requires a bit of imagination, invention, and adventure.  While there are literally hundreds of trails rimming the brown, pink, mauve, and grayish-green mountains that surround us, not one of them is an “official” trail.  Often times, the only choices available are Jeep trails versus sheep trails. Continue reading

What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?

I get news that Jim and Gayle are passing down I-10 on their way from getting Jim’s Frequent Visitor Card stamped at the Mayo Clinic, so we decide to rendezvous at Saddle Mountain near Tonopah, AZ.  I am excited to see them, as it was early December when we said our goodbyes, and I am in bad need of some laughs and philosophical discussions on the hiking trail.  Continue reading

Flat Out on the Flat Iron

Having extended my stay in the overflow lot in McDowell for four straight days, I grow weary of the “day to day availability game,” so I decide to move over to Lost Dutchman State Park. I want a closer look at the Superstition Mountains I have been admiring from a distance all week. But being high season, Lost Dutchman is also full. Continue reading

Eight Miles High…

After three weeks in Mexico and another 10 days in Texas, stepping back into the Winnie never felt so much like “Home Sweet Home.”   Thankfully, everything was still just as I left it.   The engine was a little slow to start, as was the propane, but after a few false starts, by the time my bags were unpacked and things put away, everything was firing on all cylinders.  Continue reading

San Miguel Sunday Hiking Club

It didn’t take long after my arrival in San Miguel to realize I was in hiking withdrawal. After a couple of walks all the way across town to the Mega Supermarket “just to have some place to go,” I realized the cobblestone streets of Centro Historico were not going to be enough to satiate my need for perpetual motion that had plagued me since retirement in October. I still seemed to be suffering from “restless leg syndrome.” Continue reading

If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be…

If it’s Tuesday, this must be….market day!

Early Tuesday morning, a steady stream of taxis, delivery vehicles and farm trucks rumble up the hills of the Cuesta de San Jose and Canal Street toward San Miguel’s Tuesday Market, also known as “Tianguis del Martes.”  It only takes place on Tuesdays (ergo the name “Tuesday Market,”) between the hours of 9am and 4pm.   Just the fact that an open-air market of this size, estimated to be as large as three football fields, can set up and disassemble so quickly for only one day a week makes it worth the trip. Continue reading