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.

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

My Septoplasty Adventure Part 2: Surgery and Recovery

Read Part 1 here for more background on Septoplasty!

If you’ve had surgery before, then Septoplasty surgery itself will be easy peasy. Pay attention to your instructions about eating and drinking before surgery (typically eat dinner no later than 12 hours before surgery and nothing to drink after midnight). Try to see about getting your prescriptions for pain meds and antibiotics filled before your surgery so you don’t have to worry about that after surgery. Trust me – you’ll want to go straight home and rest. My doctor did get this taken care of and I thank him immensely. Yes, he did want me on antibiotics after surgery. I watched some YouTube videos where some people did come down with sinus infections so he believes in giving them as you’ll have a lot of gunk in your sinuses afterwards. DO talk with your doc if he does not prescribe them.

Plan to buy protein drinks or other soft foods to have for the first few days. My surgery was at 10 am and by 5 pm that same day I was hungry. But I just ate little bits every few hours. You will be intubated and more than likely your throat will hurt afterwards.

One of the important things you will need to do is purchase a saline flush kit. My doctor does not recommend a Neti pot. You need one with a squeeze bottle as shown below. Do practice beforehand. I did not, but after a day I finally got better. I’m used to nasal sprays, including saline ones, but with this you really need to master the technique of flushing out your nose. My doc wanted me doing it at least 4 times a day. I bought a kit with 30 packets of saline but ended up buying more because I came to really like doing this. I could feel the junk in my nose and since you can’t blow your nose, this is the only way to get it out. I got my splints out a week ago and I’m still doing it, although not as much — typically in the morning and at night.

As for the surgery, it’s like any other surgery. You go under and then a minute later you wake up! No, not really, but that’s what it feels like. Mine took just over an hour. The funny thing was when I finally woke up from the anesthesia, I started talking in Spanish. While I do not consider myself a true bilingual person I do spend time on WhatsApp every day chatting with friends in Costa Rica so I’m fairly proficient in Spanish. It’s so bizarre that this happened.

Anyhow, as expected my throat hurt like hell and I was thirsty. They gave me some Percocet and water and that did help, but my nose was still mighty uncomfortable. Here’s a pic of me later that day with my awful little nose sling thingy.  No makeup. Rare that I would even post a picture like this, but I don’t want to sugar coat this. This is surgery and you won’t feel wonderful afterwards.

post op–feeling miserable

Sleeping that night was awful. I tried sleeping in my recliner but my cat wanted to sleep with me. Somehow I got a few winks in, but it wasn’t easy. I took a Vicodin at bedtime and then another at 3 am. By morning the throat pain was gone. I was able to drink a little coffee but it tasted awful. I pretty much slept as much as I could all day. Like the day before I just ate soft food. The good news was that the bleeding was subsiding and I was able to sleep in my bed with an extra pillow. By the next morning the bleeding had stopped and I just kept tissue with me at all times. I detested the nose sling anyhow.

The next few days I saw steady improvement with less swelling and increased appetite, although I could not smell or taste anything! Also the front part of my mouth behind my incisors was numb. On the last two nights before I got the splints taken out my throat started to feel sore again. Not sure why. Perhaps some post-nasal drip down my throat at night.

On the seventh day I got my splints out! I was so happy to have this over, but let me tell you that this for me was the worst part. Although they sprayed numbing spray in my nose (some of which got in my throat) I could still feel the doc slowing take them out.  They were huge! Probably a good 2.5 inches long.

Nasal splints

He then suctioned out my nasal passages. That was uncomfortable, too. You know how they say to imagine yourself on a sunny beach when you’re having an uncomfortable medical procedure? Well, I tried that and it did help some but I was still anxious for it to be all over.

The next few days I continued to take Advil because my nose felt a little uncomfortable. It’s been almost a week and I almost feel back to normal. My nasal passages still feel just a tad bit swollen but no more blood when I flush out my nose. Yesterday I went running for the first time and being able to breathe through both nostrils was wonderful. And yes, my sense of smell and taste came back right after the splints came out.

In the end I’m glad I went through with this procedure. It actually was an easier recovery than I expected and I already am sleeping better.

back to normal! After my first run

Road Tripping to Black Hills, South Dakota: Bismarck Lake Campground

Back over a decade ago when we first moved to Colorado, we took an epic road trip up to the Wyoming national parks (Grand Teton and Yellowstone) and then finished out our trip by driving over to South Dakota and visiting Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands (which, contrary to their name, are pretty awesome). On our way home we passed through the Black Hills National Forest. At the time we were road weary and ready to get home, but we made a mental note to return as it was so green and beautiful. It took us a while but my husband and I finally made it back this summer. And we weren’t disappointed by our stay at Bismarck Lake Campground.

Getting there

From Denver it’s a good 5-6 hour drive, especially on a busy holiday weekend. However, that’s nothing for many folks. We talked to a couple who drove from Michigan and it was a 20-hour journey for them. If you prefer to fly, the nearest major city is Rapid City, just about an hour away. Since the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, as well as some other major attractions such Crazy Horse Monument and Wind Cave National Park, are nearby, it’s very easy to spend a week here visiting all the sites.

Info for campers

There are cabins and hotels in and around the town of Custer, but we decided to tent camp. We don’t have an RV and every year I regret it a bit more as I get older as it just is not comfortable. Another reason is that in Colorado and throughout the Mountain West (and I stretch to include South Dakota within that region) summer thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence. All three days we were there we had them. Now, fortunately none were as torrential as we experienced in Colorado, but I think we just got lucky. Only one happened during the night and that passed by us just to the north. However, it woke up me (I was thinking it was another fireworks celebration as it was on the 4th of July) and I was unable to get back to sleep for over an hour as I was concerned it would come our direction as it appeared to be doing on the radar.

Now when it comes to picking a campground I always feel a bit torn. Usually I prefer a state park when staying 3 nights or longer, as they have shower facilities, but I didn’t really like the look of the campgrounds within Custer State Park.  The most central ones had a generic feel to them and were better suited it seems to RVs. So we decided to just stay right outside the boundary of the state park at a Black Hills National Forest Camp, Bismarck Lake Campground, a small 21-site campground next to a scenic lake. Like forest camps everywhere, it only had vault toilets but it did have water.  But it was high enough up that we felt it wouldn’t be too mosquito infested.

The campground itself was great. The location of our site (#3) was also very nice with lots of trees and plenty of space between us and our neighbors. However, it was indicated as a tent site and I just don’t agree with that.  We ended up pitched our large-ish tent at the end of the long gravel driveway. At least it was flat but the ground was very hard, difficult to drive the spikes into.

However, #3 was on the quieter end of the campground with better spacing than the small loop and we felt the mosquitoes were minimal. Close to the toilet but not too close and a short walk to the lake. The lake is smaller than the very popular Sylvan Lake and nearby Stockade Lake but very pretty, with a boat launch (for canoes, kayaks, small fishing boats, paddle boards as this is a no-wake lake).

Because of its proximity to Custer, we actually drove into town for breakfast 2 mornings and donuts on our final day. (I especially recommend Baker’s Bakery and Cafe – great breakfast and killer Apple fritters) We ate our dinner once, as well. For me, it was a nice balance as I’m not a hardcore camper

Overall, I’d give this a 4 out of 5 for its beautiful location and quiet surroundings.

Links to our favorite places:

The Begging Burro for killer Mexican food in Custer.

Baker’s Bakery & Cafe for homestyle breakfasts and donuts.

Plan now for your rental car for summer vacation!

When it comes to vacations, securing flights and accommodations comes first. Typically, if I find a cheap fare to my destination (direct is preferred!) then I will work quickly to find a suitable accommodation that fits my needs. The last thing that I think about is a rental car.  I may even put it off in hopes that the rates will be cheaper if I book closer to my vacation.

I’ve taken several trips this last year during the pandemic – Knoxville, Tennessee; St. Augustine, Florida; and Sedona, Arizona (via Phoenix). On none of these trips did I have problems securing a rental car.

However, I recently heard that the rental car market was going crazy with sky high rates and no availability in some destinations. Way back in January I had booked accommodations and a flight to Kalispell, Montana for a visit to Glacier National Park.  I realized that I had not booked my rental car. I started looking around and kept on coming up with no availability. I was in a bit of a panic. Finally, I was able to book one through Enterprise. But I had to book the whole week instead of just the 4 days I was there. I’m not happy about it and am still worried that there won’t even be a car when I show up. However, we’re not canceling yet. I noticed that my daily rate was actually pretty cheap – $100. But when I looked at changing my flight to fly into Missoula and drive 2 hours north, everything turned out to be the same. The airfare was now higher and the daily rate out of Missoula (where there was availability) was $250 a day.

My husband and I did a little research and found out that this rental car crisis is due to the rental car fleets selling off a lot of cars during the pandemic in order to stay afloat. And now there is a chip shortage in the US so they can’t replace the cars that they sold off.

So, my advice to travelers is to now check rental car rates and availability before booking flights. Don’t wait like I did!

Back from camping but exhausted

I really think I am too old for camping. I enjoy it but I never sleep well.  The first night there was a lot of noise from dispersed campers (another post on that later), the second night we slept well, but last night a camper came in late at night (her dad and brother were already there but she came in separate car with canoe). We went to bed at 9:30 but they yacked by the campfire until 12 at least. If I hadn’t been in bed already I might have gone over and asked them to keep in down. Most campgrounds request quiet by 10 pm.

Anyhow, we had a good time catching up with my brother who is hiking the Colorado Trail. I am so happy to be sleeping in a regular bed tonight. The scenery was spectacular, but the weather was really unpredictable in the afternoon. That is typical for Colorado, however.

The picture is the view from our campsite, Lakeview Campground near Twin Lakes, Colorado.

I am getting my EasyJet refund!

Back in June I got notification from Norwegian Airlines that my round trip flight to London from Denver in the fall had been canceled. While they were encouraging people to apply for credits for future travel, I opted for a refund (it was buried in the e-mail at the bottom). They refunded me within a week.

Once I got notification about my flight cancellation with Norwegian, I immediately started working on getting a refund on an EasyJet flight I had booked for Barcelona to London. This proved to be a difficult task but after a lot of searching I found they had a Covid-19 Help Hub. Like Norwegian, they were pushing vouchers and discouraging refunds. But with some digging I found a refund request form. I filled it out and waited. After two weeks I had no response, so I filled out another one. Still no response. I knew calling EasyJet would be a difficult task. I had done that once in the past and it meant getting up super early as it wasn’t a 24-7 operation. So I decided to contact my credit card company. They told me they would give a conditional credit, but it was not guaranteed since it was a non-refundable flight. I pointed out that there was no way I could use this ticket (yes, this route is still being flown) and given the circumstances I felt it was a legitimate request due to pandemic.

Two days ago I finally got an e-mail from EasyJet saying they were processing my refund. I don’t know if this was because of my refund request or because of the action taken by my credit card company.

I have heard that other airlines such as British Airways are using shady tactics just like EasyJet to make it difficult to obtain a refund for American citizens, instead offering vouchers. Don’t give up! Since I first applied for my refund with EasyJet I noticed that they have changed the form and no longer have it up in the help hub. However, you might try this contact form.  Explain to them that as a US citizen you can no longer fly to Europe and request a refund. I believe they took the refund request form down because they probably got hit with a ton of requests and want to discourage people from asking for them. Don’t let that deter you.

On the trail again

Last Thursday, July 16, my oldest brother started hiking the 485 mile Colorado Trail. It’s part of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), but not many people hike the entire CDT in one shot. It’s considered the most difficult of the 3 thru hikes in the US, which also include the Pacific Crest (PCT) and the Appalachian Trail (AT).

My brother did the PCT when he was 19 and 40 years later he did the AT. He had planned to hike the PCT again this year but then Covid-19 hit. (Hikers need to resupply and clean up at small towns along the route, and with the virus, many were closed down to hikers) So he decided on the CT instead. Colorado towns are open now so he’s keeping his fingers crossed than our numbers stay down and we don’t have any more closures. It should take him about 6 weeks. Younger hikers can easily hike it 4 weeks, but my brother is now north of 60.

He flew into Denver on Wednesday and we took him to the Waterton Canyon trailhead southwest of Denver on Thursday morning. He’s starting slow – 10ish miles a day – until he gets used to the altitude. We’ll see him in 2 weeks when we go camping at Twin Lakes. I had planned that camping trip back in January before I knew he was hiking. When he told me he was doing the CT, I remembered that the trail passed right by our campground. So we’ll bring him a resupply box and treat him to a beer and burger in Twin Lakes Village.

I’m following his progress on Garmin GPS upload. In Colorado cell service is pretty poor in the mountains so this is an essential tool for hikers. So far he appears to be on schedule.

Here are some pics from the sendoff:

My mourning dove family

A few weeks ago I noticed a mourning dove had moved into the empty robin’s nest on the second floor window ledge outside my son’s bedroom (he’s currently not living at home.) This nest was not used by the robins this year, but it was in great shape, only being a year old. It looks like the doves added a few pieces of straw to make it their own.

Anyhow, I never noticed any eggs as a dove is always sitting on the nest. That is quite different from finches and robins. I’ve had the chance to observe both of those birds and they usually spend some time away from the nest, unless it’s really cold.  Once the eggs hatch, the parents are busy getting food for the young birds.

So yesterday, I was surprised to catch a glimpse of the babies nestled safely under one of the parents. Another dove landed on the outside window ledge, started their characteristic dove cooing sound. The dove on the nest flew off and the other one hopped on. I counted about 3 babies before the parent fluffed up and covered them.

I can’t wait to see the babies once they’re a bit older. Their nesting habits are very interesting.