Our friends, Claire and Marsha, own a condo on Mission Bay in San Diego and usually winter there. This year, they stayed home on Whidbey Island in Washington, but Marsha came down for just a week to do some business. The timing was perfect for us to visit her.
Enroute to San Diego, we took a two-night respite at Wilderness Lakes, a Thousand Trails resort. It’s just 80 miles south of L.A., but took 3.5 hours to get there doing the freeway creep. We found neither wilderness nor lakes at the resort (it’s next to a new housing tract in Menifree), but it did give us a place to collect ourselves, do piles of laundry, sweep enough dog hair out of Bessie to concoct a small animal, and relax by a quiet pool in the hot weather.
The day before our health insurance through Kate’s work ran out, we were scrambling online to get some sort of coverage. We’d planned to eek by with a catastrophic plan, but at www.healthcare.gov, we were able to find very reasonable coverage with low co-pays and no exclusions. (Thank you, Obama!!!) We did not, however, opt for dental insurance.
On the way to San Diego, I developed a bad toothache, and by the time we got there, I knew I was in trouble. In my last months in Eugene, I’d had oral surgery on a failed root canal, which then became infected. I also got a new crown that likely needed adjusting. I suspected another infection as well.
It’s hard to get into a new dentist without notice, but I found one who promised to meet me the next day. So Wednesday morning, I drove to a nondescript office building downtown. When I entered the office, three heavily tattooed Latino men in scrubs were talking behind the reception desk about a patient who had OD’d on drugs that week. There were no other patients.
The oldest was a handsome man with slicked back graying hair and a gold dagger necklace. He graciously introduced himself as Dr. H and the other younger men by first name. “They are like my assistants,” he said.
I was still mulling over “like my” when an assistant with a mohawk and sagging pants took me back to the exam room. Dr. H where did a quick adjustment and had the assistant take a couple of digital x-rays. Dr. H confirmed that I probably did have an infection. He gave me a prescription for Amoxicillin and one for Tylenol 3, and since I’d mentioned I no longer had dental insurance, he pointed out that he wasn’t putting a name on the prescriptions, in case I knew someone with insurance who would be willing to get them filled for me. He also refused any payment. He said he’d be in his Palm Springs office the next few days but gave me his cell phone number and told me to text him if I had further issues. Or call the office and “his boys” would help me out. “They can do anything I’d do.”
The rest of the week, my tooth hurt more and more, in spite of the antibiotics. I was doubling up on pain killers and still the pain knocked me flat. My left cheek and gland swelled, my throat was sore, and I felt exhausted and feverish. I spent most of one day on the couch. I wasn’t much of a house guest, but I was so grateful to be with a good friend and to have the condo to hole up in.
Having a medical issue on the road is something I had dreaded. You’re at the mercy of people you don’t know anything about. The dentist I found was questionable on several levels, but Kate looked him up online and he was legit. He probably makes good money in Palm Springs and keeps the office in San Diego to help out a less privileged population. Or maybe he was in transition. At any rate, he was respectful and kind and made time to see me on his day off, without charge. When I texted him later, concerned that the antibiotics weren’t working, he responded quickly, encouraged me to keep taking them, called in a refill for the Tylenol 3, and offered to see me as soon as he got back. Maybe some of the red flags I’d perceived when I first came into that office were actually racist/classist reactions.
So I stayed the course, kept with the antibiotics and the dentist, and very slowly got better. On Monday, I saw Dr. H again. He readjusted my bite, warned me that I will need to get the crown replaced if the infection recurs, talked to me about a bite guard for possible night grinding, and promised to call in prescriptions to wherever I am if the infection doesn’t fully clear. He told me to send him a photo of the Grand Canyon.
Not all of my week was spent on the couch. One afternoon when I felt a bit better, the three of us went to the San Diego zoo. I wasn’t my usual perky self, but I still got some great animal photos and enjoyed the distraction. At Claire’s insistence from afar (her treat), we went to lunch at The Prada, a favorite place inside Balboa Park, where I ordered black bean soup and an ice pack. I was also able to carefully chew the most tender and delicious calamari “fries” I’ve ever tasted.
Later in the week, after dropping Marsha off at the airport, Kate and I went to the Saturday Market and Art Walk in Little Italy. We walked Bailey all around the closed off, dog-friendly streets, checking out booths and even buying some prints.
Fixing Up Bessie
We’d been collecting a few Bessie issues along the way, waiting for a chance to get her into an RV repair shop. We thought a week in San Diego would be a great opportunity, but the Winnebago Warranty places we called were booked into May. One suggested a mobile RV repair service that was approved for warranty work: All Seasons Mobile RV Service (619-749-8736). We would have to pay up front and submit the receipts to Winnebago for repayment, but the repair person would come to us, which was a lot more convenient that dropping Bessie off somewhere.
For the repairs, we parked Bessie in the beach lot across the street, which was empty and flat. Dean met us there and efficiently went to work on the issues we’d listed. The most important of which was that the wires to the driver’s seat had become disconnected so adjustment was impossible. I could barely touch the gas pedal. Dean fixed that and several other minor issues, but two bigger ones he noted for future repair. Our exhaust pipe had been pushed forward somehow so that it blocked the hole used to empty the waste tanks. We could still empty them, just couldn’t close the bin door while the hose was connected. For that he referred us to a muffler shop. He also discovered that the new driver’s side window we’d had replaced in Eugene didn’t lock. The window would have to be replaced. Again.
We were able to get Bessie into a muffler shop where the exhaust pipe was quickly repositioned (and shortened — it was too long, apparently) for $50. (I wish I’d had my camera or phone to get a photo of Bessie high in the air.) Now we just have to figure out how to get the window replaced, since it takes several weeks to get the part.
Kate took advantage of the space and the down time to whip out a couple of sewing projects. On my couch day and Marsha’s work day, she set up her mobile sewing room on the condo dining table, and she was at her happiest, creating surprise gifts for a couple of loved ones. (I can’t reveal the final products until they’re received.)
Marsha flew back to Seattle on Saturday morning, but invited us to stay in the condo as long as we wanted. We’re meeting friends at the Grand Canyon on Wednesday but decided to stay here till Tuesday to allow me time to get better and see the dentist again on Monday.
By Sunday I was feeling well enough for a bike ride along the bay. It was a beautiful day, and it seemed the whole city was out enjoying it: water skiing, kite surfing, BBQ’ing, tossing Frisbees, playing catch, swimming, making sand castles, riding JetSkies, rollerblading, skateboarding… Later that day, Kate and I walked Bailey in the same park and let her swim-fetch balls in the bay. On Monday, the weather warmed to 80, and we finished the day with a bike ride to the beach, just in time for the sunset.
When you start to feel better after an illness, everything around you is intensified and you feel so happy and grateful to feel good again. Coming to life again in this gorgeous place was like waking up in paradise. It was exhilarating to be alive and well, and I feel so incredibly grateful for everything – our year of travel, friends, this beautiful place and gorgeous weather, and right now I’m especially grateful for Dr. H.