Friday, December 15, 2017

Hotel room eating

So, unless you are living under a rock, you've heard of the Thomas Fire currently raging (for over a week now) in the Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in Southern California.

It's now only 35% contained and is the 4th largest fire in CA history. 

And it's blowing up a crap ton of ash.

We are no novices to wildfires.  There have been many since we've lived here.  Generally they burn in the mountains, which are rugged, have a lot of fuel, and are hard to get to.  As we are in the midst of a many year drought, they are also dry.

A benefit to regular wildfires is that they slow, or stop, an existing one.  So the Thomas Fire has been virtually stopped in the back country, where it has come up against the 2007 Zaca Fire area (the 5th largest fire).

Unfortunately it is still burning on the east side and the west side.  On our side (the west), it still hasn't reached the burn area from the Tea Fire, so there's quite a bit more than can burn.  This is distressing for many reasons, including that I have friends in that area who have been evacuated.  Most of the time, these fires don't make it far into town (Painted Cave fire of 1990 being an exception).  It all depends on the winds.  The Santa Anas and Sundowners (strong winds out of the mountains towards the ocean) cause the fire to spread to populated areas.

Just yesterday, we had the first fatality of a fireman.  He leaves behind a pregnant wife and young daughter.  RIP.

So there's your little primer on So Cal wildfires.  As our house is nearer the ocean, we are reasonably safe.  A fire would either need to start in the city or burn through most of the city to get to us.

The ash and smoke is the major concern right now.  It's very hazardous, and officials have been giving out free N95 masks as protection.  People are told to stay indoors and wear masks when out of doors. Schools have been canceled since last Thursday - that's 7 days of school being cancelled completely, right before a two week + one day break.

That has left everyone scrambling. Scrambling for emergency childcare, scrambling for hotel rooms to get out of town, scrambling for "things to do" to get their kids to burn off energy indoors, scrambling for day trips to fresh air.

Last week's air quality was very very bad. I was home with the boys, working, on Thursday when they cancelled school on Friday.  My neighbor and I immediately made the decision to leave town.  She found an inn in Morro Bay (Morro Shores Inn and Suites).  I got the last room.  I texted the hubs, we packed the car with important papers, the computer hard drives, clothes, kids, and food.  And left.

I booked the weekend and then we played it by ear.  All told, we stayed away for 5 days.  We changed hotels on Sunday, and that day, unfortunately, the smoke and ash blew all the way to us up north (95 miles).  We had to spend much of the day indoors, in a hotel room.

For five nights and days, we ate out of hotel rooms, only eating out 5 times (which was plenty, my poor stomach just can't handle that). 

Eating out of hotel rooms can save money.  It can be healthier.  At first, it's like camping.  But eventually, it's a pain in the ass.

At the inn, we had a good sized mini fridge and microwave, and a small table with 2 chairs.  No free breakfast.  The table was great for food prep and letting the kids eat there.  We subsisted on bread with peanut butter, fruit, sandwiches, and leftovers from dinner (chicken fingers, pizza).  I took whatever we had in the fridge with us, so we also had some lettuce and carrots, fruit, peanut lime dip, leftover rice and broccoli, leftover chicken, avocados, and leftover roasted cauliflower.

We then made the move to a Hampton Inn.  There we had free breakfast.  There was a fridge but no microwave.  We had to use the microwave in the lobby.  There was ample desk space but only one chair.  That meant we prepped food and ate in shifts - giving the kids the chair. I pretty much ate on a bed all week (and worked on my laptop in bed one day too).

While this was a big money-saver - we spent about $55 on groceries that week but $280-300 eating out (a typical meal out for 4 was $60.  At least every meal had leftovers for lunch/ dinner the next day), it got old.  Washing dishes in a hotel room sucks.

We've done it enough to have it down to a science.  We have a picnic basket that we got as a wedding gift.  We filled it with plastic cups, silverware, our camping plates, and 3 plates and 2 bowls that are microwave safe.  We also had salt and pepper, paper towels, a wash cloth for washing dishes, dish soap, and 3 dish towels - one for letting the dishes drain on and the other 3 for drying.

We've been back home for a few days now.  My tummy is happier.  My sinuses are not.  The air quality is still bad (though not as bad as it was before).  The fire is getting closer.  We have child care for our little guy and the big kid is going to work with daddy or we are alternately working from home.  All in all, that little trip cost about $1000, so Merry Christmas to us.

I expect we will be making big use of the YMCA pool this week, and probably taking the kids to the trampoline place, the bowling alley, and the ice rink to burn off energy.

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