My Costa Rican Covid Vacation

For 2 years I’ve been wearing a mask, social distancing, and of course, I have gotten 3 vaccines. But my luck ran out in Costa Rica during my recent vacation there in February of 2022. But before you go running and say the vaccine didn’t do its job, STOP! It did do its job. I had a very mild case and kept me out of the hospital.

First of all, let me tell how I got it. Or how I think I got it. The first nine days of my vacation were not typical of most tourists. I had an AirBNB apartment in San Jose and spent a lot of time catching up with old friends. All of them had at least two vaccines (Costa Rica is currently giving third shots and working to get the kids vaccinated.) One night I did meet up with a group of friends at a pizza joint. All had had at least 2 vaccinations. I had planned to Uber it back to my apartment but one couple insisted on taking me. It was about a 20-minute drive. And we wore our masks. But even with the precautionary measures I still managed to catch it. One other woman was in the car and 2 days later she tested positive.

Costa Ricans take Covid very seriously. Their measures are similar to what municipalities in the US had been doing. They require indoor mask use and social distancing, as well as regulating the size of gatherings. They also take temps before entering some restaurants and they are absolutely hand-sanitizer crazy. I consider those 2 measures unnecessary but I respect their local laws and follow them.

Anyhow, 72 hours later or so, when I flew up to Guanacaste to meet up with my husband who had flown in from the US, I came down with my first symptoms. I woke up sweating and feverish. I attributed that to the change in environment, as the NW part of Costa Rica is considerably hotter than the Central Valley. In the morning my voice was horse and I had a slight sore throat. I took some Advil and that helped. But then I developed a dry cough. More than anything it was annoying. For the first two days I was very tired but I just basically was lying out by the beach. I decided to take a Covid test (I had brought a box of two from the US). It came back negative.

The dry cough continued for two more days. Taking my allergy medication (Alavert) helped some.The fourth and final night it seemed to be the worse. But it just suddenly went away overnight. However, that same night my husband had a fever (he always gets a fever rash on his chest). It was exactly 72 hours after his first exposure to me. That next afternoon I decided to test again. Positive.

We suddenly started reading and researching. We were scheduled to do our official Covid tests to return home to the US the next day. I needed to know what lay ahead for me. Even though my symptoms were for the most part gone, I knew there was a strong chance I would still be positive. I was. But my husband came back negative.

From our research we knew that Costa Rica required a 7-day quarantine. Doesn’t matter that the US said five days was fine. We also knew that being cooped up in a hotel room with the possibility that the staff would know would not be fun. After much discussion, we decided that my husband should fly home since his negative result could change after 24 hours. We found a very nice AirBNB apartment for me (in fact, I wish I had stayed there the whole time).  I stocked up on groceries before he left. I also did early morning beach walks (with no one around) and walked to the beach every night to see the sun set, avoiding people. I had a very nice balcony and lay out quite a bit.

The truth was, I felt fine. Many of my friends in San Jose were worried but they didn’t need to be. My husband would not have left me if I had not given the green light.

Back home my husband tested negative twice with the at-home antigen test. He then got PCR test at Walgreens. Positive.  The day after I got home from Costa Rica (which was eight days after my positive test) I tested negative. He was still positive, with the antigen test finally testing positive. His Covid symptoms have lasted longer, although still mild. Dry cough, fatigue, diarrhea, and some tightness in the chest. He’s going to the doc tomorrow.

I was very fortunate. My advice for everyone traveling abroad is to know the country’s quarantine restrictions. The US is still requiring (as the date of this blog in late February) negative antigen tests to get back in. But even if you think you’re fine, you might test positive like me. So know before you go!

My scary urban grassland fire adventure: Colorado’s Marshall Fire

I usually plan my weeks in winter based on the weather forecast. Last Wednesday the 29th was supposed to be a cold day in the upper 20s to low 30ths. But the next day called for warmer temps but with high wind warnings. I decided to run in the colder temps on the 29th. I like running in the cold but windy weather can be a bitch. Little did I know.

The run went well and I felt refreshed. I slept well that night and I felt energetic the next day. I first stopped by to feed the dog I was pet-sitting and then I did a Walmart run and got stocked up on groceries. On my way over I pulled over and took a pic because the skies were so beautiful.

Taken from the Walmart parking lot in Broomfield. Views like this are why we live here.
December 30th started out as a beautiful, albeit windy, day

After getting home and putting away the groceries, I went up to my husband’s office to talk with him about lunch plans. We decided to order some food from a local Vietnamese restaurant. Then I looked out the office window and noticed a huge plume of smoke to the NW. The smoke was darker than a typical brushfire, indicating that it was already burning structures. We could tell it was in the Marshall Road area, probably about 5 miles away as the crow flies (hence its given name – the Marshall Fire.) Before picking up the food I drove to a local viewpoint and took some pics. When I picked the food, I showed the owner whom I know very well some video. Like me, he agreed it was concerning but we didn’t think too much about it just yet. We’d see.  I got home at about 12:30. Shortly thereafter I got a reverse 911 call and a message at 12:50. This was an evacuation warning call. My son and I both packed and I drove down to retrieve my friend’s dog. People were already leaving the neighborhood and the streets were jammed.

Smoke over Rock Creek (south of Coalton) subdivision in Superior My first warning of the fire of impending doom (about 11:45)
looking over Old Town Superior. Much of this would burn (about noon)
Headed north on McCaslin toward Old Town/Downtown Superior. (about noon)
Cars starting to back up as people rush to leave around 1 pm

My husband didn’t think we needed to leave. Yes, the streets were a mess, but still I was nervous. Finally, while he was watching the live stream, he could see that it was about 1.5 miles away from burning through a local greenspace park just across a main street in our community. And then I saw streams of cops headed up to our street. I yelled at him it was time to go. My son and I packed up the dogs and the cat, suitcases, my emergency grab bag (important papers), and sleeping bags. My husband drove his own car. Good news was that when we left around 4:15 the streets were clear. Many people were watching from above our house on Hwy. 128. As I drove I could see the fire in the early evening sky. It looked scary and horrible.

My son in Denver had just recently moved to a large loft apartment with 2000 square feet. The only thing I forgot to bring was the dog bed for my pug and my Melatonin.  We all went to bed at 10 after watching the live streaming news all evening. It appeared that our house was going to be safe but winds can change on a dime. They had died down but neighborhoods were still burning. I barely slept a wink that night.

Pet party during evac
eerie image of our town burning

We got the all clear the next afternoon. I had actually sent my husband home earlier as he has a sports car and it was starting to snow. My friend had already picked up her dog so it was just the pug and the cat and my son in the car. Not quite so crazy.

We had no gas for the next day, but we were lucky to be the first in the neighborhood to get ours turned on since they needed to do the gas line purge for the neighborhood from our house. The next problem was the internet. We couldn’t watch TV but our phones were working well at the time. But as more people returned, our speeds and coverage got worse and worse. Finally the internet came back on on Monday night. I think people were dancing in the streets (seriously, this was worse than a 50 degree house.)

Our neighborhood in Superior was lucky. But others were not. Sagamore, Old Town, and Rock Creek north of Coalton all suffered damages. Sagamore was wiped out (over 300 houses). Old Town was next with over 200 houses, both old and new. The neighboring town of Louisville suffered heavy damages as well. Luckily the hospital, Home Depot, Lowes, and schools were saved. Currently, Costco, Target, and Whole Foods are closed. Target suffered the worst damage. Probably about 2 dozen small business were damaged or destroyed. Total house count is around 1000. Plus many houses suffered horrendous smoke damage.

I have included just a few pictures from the day after the fire. With snow covering most of the burn areas still, it’s difficult to take many pics. Plus, out of respect, I have decided to only take general panoramic shots of the area and not individual houses.

The same parking lot from which I took pictures the day before. It burned up and over this hill.
I’m not sure why this car was left here but honestly I think they should keep it as historical relic of the fire.
Courtesy of Cactus Wax Studio adjacent to Target in Superior.

Now my Christmas shopping is complete: sharing the Christmas spirit with those in need.

With the exception of last year, I always have picked up a gift tag from the mall with a child’s name on it and bought presents for the child.

This year I selected a four-year-old girl who requested clothes, a doll, and an educational toy. The organization which sponsors this toy/clothing drive suggests spending about $50. But I usually go way over that.

I had over $50 in points at Old Navy so I was able to buy her two complete outfits. I know some little girls aren’t into girly girl dresses anymore. So I tried to pick something practical yet a little bit girlish.

I then headed over to Walmart. As it so happened a woman there was shopping in the doll section for dolls for her 4-year-old granddaughter. I asked her for her advice and she suggested some cute little Disney princess dolls that were $7 a piece. So I got three (because one is never enough) and also threw in a tiara. Because every girls needs a tiara.

As for educational toys I found a LeapFrog one appropriate for a 4-year-old. Both my boys had loved LeapFrog and my youngest one actually learned his ABCs at age 2 with his older brother’s LeapFrog toy. But that was before kids had iPads. However, I’m guessing that kids in this program might not have much access to electronics.

The grand total was $50 at Walmart and $8 at Old Navy. So I was just tad over. But to me the dollar amount isn’t important. I just wish I could see her happy face on Christmas Day.

Throwback Thursday: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado

National parks have been very popular vacation destinations during these pandemic times. Many people have heard of Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado, a mere 1.5 hours away from Denver International Airport. Unfortunately, its closeness to a major metropolitan area makes it very crowded. That’s why Black Canyon of the Gunnison in SW Colorado is an enticing alternative. It’s a long drive – nearly 6 hours from Denver – however, with a little planning you can visit some other national parks, such as Mesa Verde, Four Corners National Monument, and Moab (Canyonlands and Arches NP).

Our first visit to Black Canyon was just a stop on our way back to Denver in 2011 after a tour of Utah and Arizona. We were so impressed with it that we made a trip back in 2015 and did a few nights of camping. It’s so peaceful and calm. The scenery is outstanding and its sunsets are out of this world.

Enjoy!

Throwback Thursday: Antelope Slot Canyons – Page, Arizona

I used to publish all my travel photos on Flickr before they changed their membership structure. Nowadays I rarely use my Sony camera (a mirrorless model) and pretty much take all my photos with my smartphone. It’s not the same but it is easier. Anyhow, I enjoy going back through some of Flickr albums and thought I’d try to share some each week.

This week it’s the Antelope Slot Canyons located near Page, Arizona on Navajo Nation lands. There are several tour operators and I have no recollection who we used 10 years ago. However, the pictures are gorgeous and it’s definitely worthwhile to include on your road trip through the Southwest. They’re not cheap. I checked the price on one tour operators page and you’re talking about $90 a person! Yikes. So I’m glad we got to see them when we did.

Enjoy!

Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road (Part 1): the new smoky reality of travel in the Western United States and Canada

This past summer of 2021 we finally checked off Glacier National Park from our bucket list. But unfortunately, we were greeted with smoky skies. A few years earlier we had visited Banff and Jasper in Alberta, Canada and experienced the same. It is, unfortunately, becoming more and more common, as forest fires are no longer the exception, but the norm.

I debated how much editing I should do to these pics, but decided to post them as is. No sugar coating it. Fortunately, the rain came on our last day and I did get some better pics, but in this posting, I am showing what we saw on our first drive through on Glacier’s famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. It is the main scenic drive through the park. Despite the smoke, it is still stunningly beautiful and easily my favorite national park drive. I’ve been to almost every national park in the the Western United States, some numerous times (Yosemite, Crater Lake, and Rocky Mountain), so this is high praise!

Now, a word about parking. It’s pretty bad. Many people’s destination is Logan Pass Visitor’s Center, but you may be forced to wait to get a spot. I returned on the second morning to drop off my husband for a hike he did and it was already packed at 7 am. We did manage to find a space on the first day, but it was pure luck. When we were in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, people parked along the road but you can’t do that here. However, if it is packed, continue on and check out the equally beautiful east side of the park, including Saint Mary Lake. We were unable to find a parking spot for St. Mary’s Falls Trail but did manage to get one for Baring Falls.

The following set of pictures is from the east side (beyond Logan Pass), including St. Mary’s Lake and Baring Falls. There are lots of beautiful road-side falls that cascade down to the road. You can see evidence of the one of the numerous fires that have scorched Glacier over the years. Yet, from the ashes beautiful wild flowers grow again.

I’m officially “boosted” (Moderna #3)

A few weeks back I was distressed to hear that my state of Colorado was about at #4 in terms of Covid hospitalization rates in the US. I was quite surprised as roughly 73% of the population (12 and older) is vaccinated. But right now many hospitals are at or near capacity and have to turn away patients. On the same newscast I also heard that our state’s chief medical officer told vaccine providers that they could give boosters to anyone, no matter what the federal guidelines were (although it appears those guidelines may change soon).

I quickly checked around and found that that I was able to get an appointment at Walmart. Yes, I had to fib a little bit on the online appointment scheduler stating that I did indeed meet the qualification criteria, but this has always been a problem with the pharmacies. During the initial rollout people qualified but the pharmacies always lagged in updating their systems. Anyhow, when I was at Walmart, several people came in for walk in appointments. So I don’t feel bad.

Although I preferred the ease and comfort of the drive-thru clinic I had gone to for my first two vaccines, I found that Walmart was quite efficient and better set up than Walgreens or Safeway.

As a side note, I felt like I was in another country. In Boulder County we have a mask mandate but the Walmart I went to is in Adams County with no mask mandate. I wore my mask during the whole process but none of the pharmacy staff did. Oh well, I’m a proud Boulderite and we do stand out from the rest of the state.

I was prepared to battle the side effects. Sore arm? Yes, but not as bad as my flu shot. Tiredness? Yes, I fell asleep watching the Costa Rica – Honduras soccer match. (Costa Rica won!) The next day was horrible. Fever and chills and a headache. The good news was that by bedtime I was fine.

I feel good about getting my booster and doing my part, which also means continuing to wear a mask. I have a big trip planned for February to Costa Rica and I’m not letting Covid get in my way. In the meantime, I wish the holdouts, like my hair stylist, would get their vaccines.

A Glorious Fall in Colorado

I just can’t get over how beautiful fall has been here in the front range of Colorado. Many years we haven’t been so lucky with an early frost or early snow causing the leaves to fall early. Either that or a big wind event comes along and blows them off before we get a chance to enjoy them. This year the maple tree in our backyard has the reddest it’s ever been. We also had a chance a few weeks ago to do a quick trip up to the foothills west of Golden to enjoy the beautiful aspen.

Glacier National Park: Planning for your visit

Glacier National Park has been on my bucket list ever since I moved to Colorado 14 years ago. However, I’ve always been in a bit of a quandary how to get there. We had previously visited the national parks in Wyoming (Grand Teton and Yellowstone) and doing a 14-hour drive from our home in Colorado to visit this national park in the northwest corner of Montana just didn’t seem like something I wanted to do.

So I reluctantly shelled out close to $800 for 2 tickets for me and my husband to fly there this past summer. It has its own International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell and is serviced by quite a few major airlines. Now, as you probably heard, there was a rental car shortage last summer. Initially I had some issues finding an available rental car, but ended up making a reservation with Hertz through Expedia. It was expensive – $200 a day. But a rental car is essential in Glacier. Lucky for us, the line was short. The line for Alamo was a mile long. I noted that Enterprise is located outside the airport. So I got lucky since I had also made a backup reservation with Enterprise.

Hopefully, the rental car situation will be better in 2022, but please make your reservation for one as soon as you make your flight reservation. Although there are the funky Red Bus tour cars, they don’t offer you the same freedom as a rental car.

Red Bus Tour Car (PC: NPS)

Where to stay?

Well, since it was the Pandemic, we opted to stay outside the park. The National Park Service actually has a variety of accommodations inside the park including seven NPS-affiliated lodges in the park: four on the west side (Lake McDonald Lodge, Village Inn at Apgar, Lake McDonald Motel, and Apgar Village Lodge & Cabins) and three on the east side (Many Glacier Lodge, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn & Cabins, Rising Sun Motor Inn & Cabins). Normally, I might have been inclinded to stay in Lake McDonald Lodge since it is a classic national park lodge with a beautiful location, but we are starting to prefer cabins and AirBNBs because of safety issues in the pandemic.

lobby of Lake McDonald Lodge (PC: NPS)

And of course, campgrounds. But camping was out of the question for me since this is grizzly bear country. But please don’t let this scare you. I’m just prefer a roof over my head and quite honestly, we didn’t spot one bear while we were there. And my husband even hiked in the backcounty, although he did pack bear spray at my insistence.

Grizzly bear in Glacier (PC: NPS)

I found a nice cabin resort called the North Forty Resort just about 10 minutes from the airport on the outskirts of Columbia Falls. It does add about 25 minutes on your drive into the park but on the plus side, it is close to Columbia Falls dining and shops.

Our cabin at North Forty Resort

GOING TO THE SUN ROAD – Ticketed entry!!! Please read this

I did not realize until a few weeks before we left that the main road through the park has a ticketed entry system. No, this is not included in the entry fee. You must go online and get this either in the spring or the week before you go. This is the info from the website for 2021:

Going-to-the-Sun Road Entry tickets are available 60 days in advance on a rolling daily window for arrivals May 28 – September 6, 2021. Beginning May 26th, 2021, tickets will also available two days in advance at 8 a.m. MT on a rolling daily window. Entry tickets are good for 7 consecutive days including the reserved day of arrival. Only one GTSR entry ticket is required per vehicle/motorcycle.

Since I missed the window in the springtime I attempted to get our pass a week before. They sold out within minutes. They said do not have multiple windows or devices open in an attempt to get a pass, but the next day I said to hell with it and had 3 windows and my phone submitting requests for a pass the minute they opened it up. I got it on my fourth attempt.

My next post will include more pics of the park. But I wanted to leave you with a few today. It’s a glorious place, even with smoky skies.

Lake McDonald

5 weeks post Septoplasty: life is great!

It’s hard to believe that having a clear nose to breathe out of has made a huge change in my life. For those of you considering Septoplasty, I highly recommend it. I will include links below to my first two posts.

As for the recovery, I thought I’d go into a bit more detail. The first week after my splints were removed my nose still hurt a bit to the touch and I needed to flush my nose at least twice a day to clean out residual junk (blood and mucous). Granted it wasn’t much but I didn’t like to blow my nose and I sort of grew to enjoy saline flushes (yeah, weird, but true)

By two weeks post-op I was only doing nasal flushes once a day in the morning. I had started running again as well. I have had to “retrain” myself to become a nose breather when I run.

One week ago (or just about 4 weeks post-op) I no longer felt the need to flush my nose. But that’s how long it took for it to completely heal and drain out. Now at five weeks I feel pretty normal. The nose has no more discomfort if I touch it.

The thing that was most weird was the numbness directly behind my front teeth. That took almost 5 weeks. Today is the first day I feel no numbness there.

Many people have asked if I stopped snoring (yes, I did snore before!). I will say it did help. But don’t do this operation solely for the purpose of stopping snoring. It may/may not help. Sometimes I do a quick nap during the day and catch myself snoring (since I fall asleep in my recliner.) But at night I sleep mostly on my side and for the most part I’m not snoring anymore. I think I slept on my back a lot more prior to my surgery.

So for me, this surgery has been worth it! Please feel free to message me if you have any questions.

Part 1: What is Septoplasty and why I got it done

Part 2: Surgery