fire, flu, flood and bloat


The Last Carefree Days Of Wandering In December 2017

For 3 months we drifted across the heartland of Canada and down through the midwestern states of America. We visited many new places, ate some unusual and delicious foods and met some super friendly people. 2017 had been a great year for us.

It wasn’t until late December as we crossed the Arizona / California border that we began to realize the difficult times that lay ahead.

The Calm Before The Storm

It is amazing how fast life can change and present unexpected challenges and life threatening situations.

Courtesy of SF Gate

For several important reasons we spent the next month and a half camped in my mom’s backyard dealing with life in a less carefree manner.

Taken Near The Origin Of The Thomas Fire

Instead of the normal Southern California winter where 2-4 inches of rain typically falls, it again had been an extremely hot year setting temperature records that created a tinderbox of dry in the southland.

At this time last winter, rains had turned the world green and supposedly ended the drought in California.  See our post “All It Takes Is Water” here.

Burned vehicles from the Thomas Fire on Wheeler Canyon Road in Santa Paula, CA. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

But this winter even though it was now late December the fire season had just begun. 

As we drove the last few hundred miles to the coast several large fires had already flared up and one was within sight of mom’s house causing understandable angst within the family.

The Thomas Fire

Smoke filled the air and there was confusion regarding evacuations.

Scorched Paradise

The Thomas fire came within a block of my brother’s wife’s sister’s home in Ventura. Needless to say this was a very tense time for everyone.

In Some Areas The Thomas Fire Burned Right To The Pacfic Ocean

Christmas with my family was one of the few events in December that was joyful, fun and uneventful. Then we celebrated the New Year, big mistake.

Family Camped Along The Rincon Just Before The Flu Showed Up

In very early January as the Thomas and other fires raged on the flu season began. Most everyone in my family in Ventura County got some version of the flu.

It was like living in a convalescent home for more then 2 weeks.

Hospital Staff

Unfortunately mom also got the flu and at the age of 96 it went straight into pneumonia and she ended up in the hospital. When we arrived at the ER it was complete chaos.  Every bed was filled with flu victims, they eventually had to re-open a closed section of the hospital to accommodate everyone.

Mom waited over 12 hours before being moved out of the ER and into a room. This is where I most likely contacted the flu, walking past dozens of sick people waiting for treatment in the ER.

Mom is very strong and responded quickly to treatment. Unfortunately some people were not so lucky. Headlines from the Ventura County Star read:

"Flu season ranks as Ventura County's deadliest in at least a decade" 
"Flu Death Count Reaches 30" 
(the number is now at 150 deaths in Southern California)

It was a very odd sight in the streets, some people were wearing face masks to prevent getting the flu and others wore them to keep smoke particles out of their lungs.

I had not been sick for at least 5 years, not even a slight cold, but I can tell you this strain of flu was exceptionally aggressive and hard hitting. Luckily we all survived, mom is recovering nicely.

Highway 101 In Santa Barbra

Then on January 9th a short but very intense storm approached California from the Pacfic and hit the coast directly.  At the same time the Thomas fire continued to burn on the hillsides above Santa Barbara de-nudeing thousands of acres of all vegetation.

Amtrak Tracks In Montecito (Amtrack Photo)

During a 24 hour period the storm dumped 4-5″ of rain on the now naked hills above Santa Barbara and other local communities.

In a short period of time water was cascading down the local canyons washing away homes and killing over 20 people. This was a very sad time.

Flood Damage Near Montecito (LA Times)

This hard hitting storm closed many of our local roads including Hwy 101 now for the second time. Road closures caused massive traffic jams re-routing traffic hundreds of miles out of the way. What a mess.

Many people consider Alaska to be the land of weather extremes but in my opinion this past year in Southern California easily qualifies in that category and maybe even tops the list.

Tuks Tummy After Surgery

Then one evening in late January we were visiting with friends in the Zefyr when all of a sudden Tuks jumps into my lap crying in pain. After a short diagnosis we determine he is most likely bloating.

Tuks Recovering On The Coast

For those wondering what bloating is, it can happen to big dogs with deep chest cavities. Gases expand within the stomach cavity and can sometimes twist or rotate the stomach shutting off the blood supply and in many cases causing death.

We rushed him to a local 24 hour emergency vet and luckily his stomach had not twisted, but he was in pain. After much discussion and consultation we elected to have his stomach tacked or tied in place so to speak. This is a very common surgery in big dogs.

The surgeons and staff at the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Thousand Oaks were a fantastic team. The operation went smoothly and he is now already back to normal.

New Vegetation Already Growing In Burn Areas

So that was our start to 2018, a completely unpredictable, unimaginable and unforgettable month and one we hope to not soon repeat.

Not much else to say except keep on trucking, stay active and stay young.

Luling Barbecue Texas

One final comment regarding 2017. We are very lucky people, we enjoy our health, have a supportive family and wonderful friends and live in a country that allows the lifestyle we choose…it just doesn’t get any better!

Slip in the ear buds, put on the headphones or crank up the stereo, but don’t miss our latest video “2017” a recap of all the fun we had with family and friends throughout this past year.

Here is hoping 2018 continues to be a hoot! 

Don’t forget to subscribe if you want follow the big dogs!

18 thoughts on “fire, flu, flood and bloat

  1. Martin Luther King Jr. once said …”The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Gotta say that 2017 has provided many of us some trials…and you both rose to the challenge. And as I recall after we polished that bottle of Justin up on the hill at Washburn (or maybe I was hallucinating), we all agreed “life can’t get any better than that.” We can appreciate those moments even more when we experience and confront all our life challenges head on. Well I am getting ready for another shot of 46 to get me through the next round of tribulations and it would be perfect to have our hardy Alaskan buds to share it with. Safe travels…look forward to connecting with you soon!


    1. Thanks for the inspiring words, its friends like you two that help encourage us to maintain a positve outlook and treat each new day as gift. Of course 46 does also help with that journey. You guys are always in our thoughts as you work through your tribulations and we look forward to our next rendezvous together.


  2. Tim and Denise….
    Absolutely LOVED your video! My friends STILL* talk about how the highlight of our trip to Alaska (*18 months ago) was the afternoon and evening we spent with you seeing the backroads and “backstage” of Denali and your wonderful hospitality at your home. It was literally our favorite part of the trip.
    I admire the way you travel and enjoy seeing your photos. They inspire me.
    You mentioned the mudslides of Montecito. I am very proud of my niece’s husband, Daniel, who is a fire fighter for Montecito and saved a number of lives that fateful night of January 9 and 10. But a friend of mine (from Kindegarten!) sent it to me. (In fact he introduce my niece to him!)

    Thanks for the wonderful words and photos.
    God bless you all and Aunt Loey. I hope 2018 is healthy and full of adventure.
    PS. Get a Rx for Tamiflu BEFORE the second strain of flu hits in March. It’s supposed to be worse than the December strain. Fill the Rx and keep it on hand. It saved my life in December when I got the flu.


    1. Hi JoAnn, Thanks for the kind words it was great fun having you and your friends at basecamp that summer. Great story about Daniel, I can’t imagine what he and his colleagues went through during that event, we are lucky to have people who are willing to risk their lives for us. Also thanks for the tip on Tamiflu but we hope to be out of SoCal and somewhere in Canada by then. Hi to Jeff and family. Our base camp door is always open don’t hesitate to visit Denali again!


  3. You are absolutely right—it is amazing how fast life can change and present unexpected, even life-threatening challenges. We know that firsthand. Your positive outlook and your gratitude for this great gift of life come through in your posts and in the way you seem to handle the challenges. So glad to hear that everyone is doing well. Here’s to a peaceful, healthy, and joyful 2018!


  4. Oh gosh. What an awful series of events to have to deal with. I sure hope 2018 starts giving us all a break soon. What a crazy start to the year. Glad to hear everyone is well or on the path to wellness again. Hopefully things will smooth out going forward.


  5. Oh my … goosebumps!! Not only because I can so relate to all the difficulties that you write about but also because your post lifted me up in such a perfect way today. Yes there are some challenges among the 365 days that make up a year, but so many moments worth celebrating as well. Honored and happy to be part of those moments! P.S. Love your Mom’s smile
    Hugs to you all and all our healing, light-filled thoughts are always with you – Imkelina


    1. 2017 was a kick in the pants and you guys were a big part of it, thanks for the great fun!
      In 2018 you have been a big part of our “recovery” and we thank you for all your support and understanding. We are sending positive vibes to you and Michael’s families for this new year, you are always in our thoughts.


  6. So sorry for all of your misadventures. Here is hoping that the rest of 2018 is better and even wonderful. We just moved out of our house and will be getting our new motorhome on Wednesday. Hope to meet up with you sometime this year.


    1. Hopfully its all behind us now, congrats on the life style change, the Blanics were telling about your new accommodations it sounds very comfortable. Yes it would be great to get together and finally meet.


  7. Sorry to hear about all the illness and CA devastation. 2018 certainly has gotten off to a rough start for many of us. Due to Al and I being sick in January, that month was pretty much a bust for us and we weren’t well enough to do anything. Fortunately, we found a great place to stay on private land and recuperate. Here’s to better times ahead and hope your mom keeps on trucking and staying strong. My 91 year old dad in the Chicago burbs has managed to stay healthy this winter … knock on wood!


    1. Thanks for the kind words Ingrid, it sounds like you guys also had a rough start to the new year, glad your back to normal. Glad to hear your dad stayed healthy!
      I try and visualize the future as if the sun is coming up and its a new day rather then it going down (although the sunsets can be very enlightening 🙂 , its all positive thoughts and high fives from here!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My heart goes out to you, you had a lot of storms to weather, figuratively and literally. Take time to realize just how bad things were and give yourselves a lot of understanding as you recover from all the bad luck…Annabelle…


    1. Thanks Annabelle as quickly as it all came about it all seemed to disappear, California is like that always something new around the corner. Luckily we are still here and healthy. Hope your winter is a happy and healthy one, see you in the spring?


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