Colorado fires continue!

It’s been a bad fire season for Colorado. 2020 did not see much summer rain (typically monsoonal thunderstorms.) In the last few years we’ve come to dread them because they have brought some damaging hail. But this year there was barely any rain, let alone hail.

As a result, it was tinder dry here in Colorado. Our forests are heavily pine, which tend to be dryer than forests with fir trees (less dense, less shade, dry brush underneath). Making matters worse in some areas are the dead trees known as Beetle kill (bark beetle infections.)

There were several large fires in August on the Western Slope that caused poor air quality here in the Denver area. In addition, a fire up north called the Cameron Peak Fire pumped in smoke as well. It started August 13 and was about 50% contained earlier this past week. But then the winds hit us and the fire flared up. It is now the largest fire Colorado every has had (over a quarter million acres.) The smoke blew down toward us and once again our clear skies were smoky and gray. And then another fire erupted on October 14 called the East Troublesome Fire (who names these fires?) The skies turned an eerie orange-gray yesterday afternoon.

Smoke from the East Troublesome Fire

But wait . . . it’s not over. This afternoon I went out to get the mail around 3 pm and saw another huge plume. This one looked to be close to Boulder, just northwest of me. Sure enough, I found out a fire was burning near Jamestown in the Boulder foothills. Jamestown has been evacuated. This fire is called the Cal-Wood Fire. Immediately a wave of sadness fell over me. Cal-Wood is the facility where my youngest son went to science camp in 5th grade. Most kids from around here have gone to science camp their if they attended BVSD schools. I haven’t heard yet about the fate of the camp, but it can’t be good if the fire was named after it. Here are some pictures from today’s smoke plume from the Cal-Wood fire. You can see air tankers in a couple of the pictures. We don’t live far from the airport they refuel/refill at. They’ve been working nonstop it seems for the last two months.

My first glimpse of the smoke from the Cal-Wood Fire
Looking NW from Superior toward Boulder
tanker plane flying back to Rocky Mountain Regional Airport after a drop
McCaslin interchange
Another tanker heading back to the airport

Moving day and getting ready for camping

Today my youngest son (22 years old) is moving back home. But don’t think badly of him. He graduated Cum Laude in Computer Science from University of Colorado in May and has been continuing to work on a research project with a prof there. Most leases in Boulder run from August to the end of July, so he was enjoying a few months of down time before moving back home. I’m looking forward to it. Not sure if he is. But he is a very goal oriented person and plans to apply to grad school so he can move out next summer. In the meantime, we have a pet sitter!

That’s a good thing, as we’re taking off tomorrow for a 3-day camping trip. All very coincidentally,  we will happen to meet up with my brother who is hiking the Colorado Trail. He’s 2 weeks in. I’ll be bring him more JetBoil Fuel which is in short supply this summer as the CT has increased traffic this year.

He requested his favorite hot dogs with sauerkraut, potato salad, and baked beans. While I won’t be making my mom’s recipe, I’m sure he’ll be happy. with Bush’s Baked Beans. I also found pre-mixed Bloody Mary’s for the next morning. He’s taking a zero day (no hiking) but perhaps we’ll go to Leadville which has quite a few geocaches. It’s the highest town in North America and just half an hour away.

In the meantime, I pray for everyone to make to make good choices. Wear a mask, don’t go to crowded events, and don’t be a whiny baby. Yes, many of us would rather be on a plane traveling to our vacation destination, but one summer of sacrifice is not asking a lot. My friend’s daughter is starting college next month. As much as I ‘d love to meet up with my friend for lunch, I’ve decided that’s not going to happen. It’s not worth the risk. We all need to make sacrifices to contain Covid-19.

Reopening: how’s it going for you?

My county in Colorado started a gradual reopening on May 8. That’s when hair and nail salons were allowed to reopen. Since then restaurants have opened but they are encouraging patio dining whenever possible, with inside capacity set at 50%. No worries for us. We’ve fallen into a take-out routine as we enjoy dining on our patio. My husband will be working from home until the end of July. I’m used to him being at home now. He was working from home about 50% of the time anyhow so it wasn’t a big adjustment.

So far so good in Colorado. We’re all holding our breath and praying that the protests don’t result in a spike again. The number of new cases yesterday was only 157.

Here in Boulder County mask usage in stores is mandatory. Outdoors is optional but suggested if you cannot maintain 6 feet of distance. They did close down one park by a creek that is popular for tubing because people were too close. But so far I think people are being cautious and smart about reopening.

Here are my experiences with reopenings so far.

Hair Salon – Grade: C

I had an appointment 4 weeks ago. My stylist (owner) and the other four woman who work there were all busy working, in some cases within just a few feet of each other. They all had masks except for my stylist. She had a cheap plastic face shield – no where as good as a hospital shield. She claimed she sanitized the station before I came in but it didn’t look like it. There was hair on the floor and it just felt unclean. With 5 clients and 5 stylists in a relatively small salon, I felt uncomfortable. People had to wait outside, which was good. But she had not informed clients so people kept on walking in and sitting down. I heard later that she should not have used a dryer but she did. The good news is I am still healthy.

Nail Salon – Grade: A

I was very impressed. They had installed shields everywhere. They are also not using stations next to each other to ensure social distancing. The technicians wore masks (not uncommon in nail salons anyhow). Just felt super clean.

Black lives do matter, but why is it taking so long? – Conclusion

In my final post in this three-part series, I want to first briefly recap why I feel the failure of busing in my home town, Portland, Oregon, set the tone for the decades to come. As mentioned, the program was strictly one-way. Black students from the east side of Portland were bused to white schools in predominantly white neighborhoods. Typically there were about 2 black students per class. For example, in my school we had 3 classes per grade level (K-8), with about 28-30 students per class. So we’re talking roughly 1 percent of the student population.

At the end of the day these African American students hopped on the bus back home. They weren’t invited over for play dates and didn’t participate in activities with the rest of us. The schools did what they were mandated to do, but generally speaking, most black students weren’t a part of the social structure of our school. The burden to fit in and succeed was placed upon their shoulders. A few somehow succeeded and actually decided to continue on to our high school instead of returning to their neighborhood high school.

One of those students was a girl in my grade. When Robin first started, she was a free spirit much like my black friend Monica from fourth grade. But as she continued she became more serious and conformed to “white standards” of behavior. I hate to say this, but as a track star who took home several state titles, acceptance by the white student population perhaps came a little bit easier for her as everyone loves a winner. She was elected our Rose Festival princess (this is a big thing in Portland) and went on to become the first black Rose Festival queen since the court’s inception 50 years earlier. After high school Robin went on to University of Arizona, continued with track, and even was the Fiesta Bowl queen one year.

People look at her and say, look, she did it, Robin benefited from desegregation and busing. But did she? Only she can answer that. My feeling is that her success made white people feel good because it helped erase some of their white guilt. It makes it easy to overlook all the other issues that busing failed to address. For example, why not spend more money in the schools black students attend to help give them access to the teachers and tools that white students have? Can you imagine if a white student would be told that he had to take a bus to the black community in order to get a good education? No, of course not. There’d be a riot.

And that is how we get back to Black Lives Matter. They are sick and tired of being treated different by law enforcement, especially the men. This has to stop. It’s been 7 years since the BLM movement started with the acquittal of George Zimmerman. What has happened in the meantime? Pretty much nothing. That is, until the death of George Floyd. This time we all saw on the internet and there was no denying it. But did it need to come to this? NO!

So, white people, pull your heads out of the sand and start walking the walk, not just talking the talk. The protests are a start. But we need to acknowledge the problem, and not be afraid to stand up and do what is right. Do not let this go away.

Watch your own behavior. Children learn from us. They’re like sponges. Do you say racist things without realizing it? Stop it. Do you avoid black people in public places? Again, check your behavior. Take your children to the “other side of town” and support black businesses. Advocate for black history as a year-around subject. One month is simply not enough.

Quit pretending you’re liberal and for equality when your behavior says otherwise. Case in point. I live in Colorado and the local college town, Boulder, is filled with Bernie Sanders supporters. The residents and college students are known for their liberal mindset and damn proud of it. But the reality is totally different Black students at University of Colorado have said many a time that the university is not inclusive. One student from another state told a reporter that she was excited to go to school in Boulder. The reality was far different that she expected. Not only was the campus environment not welcoming but residents treated her like an outsider when she was working in retail.

It’s very easy to join a protest with your white friends because it’s the trendy thing to do. But do it because you’re dedicated to cause. Learn and listen to black people on the Internet. I’ve heard so many raw and real stories. It may make you feel uncomfortable. You may be in denial. But until we admit that we’ve failed black people, nothing will change. Our discomfort is nothing compared to what they’ve put up with for hundreds of years.