Couple puts setbacks behind them, moves on with new B&B project |

Couple puts setbacks behind them, moves on with new B&B project

There would be no blaming Stan Rachesky if he chose to sit and brood after the hand he was dealt in 2002.First he had to recover from having a leg intentionally broken to correct an orthopedic problem.Then he and his wife, Carole, lost their home and bed-and-breakfast up Mitchell Creek to the Coal Seam Fire June 8.Just after that, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had to undergo surgery.But Rachesky and his wife aren’t much for feeling sorry for themselves.”They don’t mourn. They don’t look back, they just drive on,” their son Peter, a Glenwood Springs attorney, said just after the fire.His parents have lived up to his words. While the couple briefly relocated to a home in town after the fire, they now can be found renting an old log lodge just below the state fish hatchery on Mitchell Creek. They’re renovating the building and turning it into another bed-and-breakfast.A recent weekday found Carole with a staple gun in hand, helping Stan with a bathroom tiling project.The owner of the building, Ann McKinley Gianinetti of Carbondale, had left a message with the Racheskys shortly after the fire, asking them if they’d like to relocate their B&B to the property.The Racheskys didn’t immediately give her an answer. But it only took about a month of living in town, and missing life up Mitchell Creek, to decide to move back.”We just wanted to be up here. We just wanted to be back on the creek and back in the wilderness,” said Carole, who then recounted with delight having recently seen some 30 turkeys by the lodge.The B&B project also has been good for the Racheskys.”It gives you something to strive for and move toward, and not think of what you don’t have,” said Carole.”I think it’s good for us to get going again.””I call this our fourth life,” Stan says later, after having hiked up the hillside overlooking where his home once stood.Amid burnt-out oak brush, he took in the view from a bench that somehow was largely unscathed by the fire.He lived his first life prior to meeting his wife, he said. In his second, they met at Kansas State University, married and raised a family. In their third, they retired and moved to Colorado and Mitchell Creek, where Carole’s family once had a vacation home just upstream of the Racheskys’ property. The home now belongs to Kenny Cline, and survived the fire.”My fourth life is after the fire, starting all over again,” Stan said.He muses that when he and Carole started out together, all they had was each other, an old car and a German shepherd. After the fire, they again had only each other, along with a different old car and a different German shepherd.”We’re right back down to that again,” Stan said.”You can’t believe how something like this changes you,” he said of the fire.Carole said when she first went up to where her home had been, “It was just overwhelming.”Trees were down everywhere, where once a beautiful, shaded lot had been.The home they had worked on for 16 years was gone, as well as the guest B&B.Like so many others who lost all they owned to the fire, the Racheskys went through the process of having to reacquire basic necessities.It was during this time of need that the Racheskys learned how charitable others could be.”I didn’t realize people were so nice. I’ve never had a disaster like this happen,” said Stan.He said he and his wife have written down the names of all who have come to their aid, and plan to have a party for them.This has been a year in which the Racheskys have come to find out how much more important health, family and friends are than material possessions. Stan said he has enjoyed a sense of liberation from many of those possessions.”You don’t feel like you want to buy anything,” he said. “Stuff. Everybody has stuff.”Not the Racheskys – not after the fire. They’re starting fresh.”It’s like you’re free,” he said. “All this stuff you bought over the years – some of the stuff you never used – it’s just gone.”Some of what Stan had amassed in his previous lives would be difficult to replace. A retired entomologist, he had collected approximately 400,000 insects, and another 10,000 or so specimens on microscope slides, along with lecture notes he has used for college classes. His insurance paid him a nickel apiece for the insects, or a total of $20,000.Stan said that one lesson he learned from the fire is to insure everything “to the max.” He also considers it best to have a policy that provides for up to two years of living expenses following a fire, to allow a couple plenty of time to make decisions and get their lives back together.For the Racheskys, that will ultimately mean rebuilding where they once lived further up Mitchell Creek. Even the bucolic site of the rental lodge won’t do for them.”We kind of want to be back up the creek. It feels more isolated up there,” Carole said.Stan envisions building a simple home. It won’t be log, like the old one, although he notes that even more fire-resistant techniques aren’t foolproof. His house had a metal roof. His neighbors, Ralph and Renae Besler, had created defensible-space landscaping around their house but it still burned.Fire came within 20 feet or so of the log lodge the Racheskys are now renting but it didn’t burn.Stan expressed frustration over the difficulty he has had trying to obtain renter’s insurance where he now lives, and homeowner’s insurance once he rebuilds.”I didn’t start any fire. I didn’t fall asleep at night with a cigarette,” he said.The Mitchell Creek area nearly burned in the 1994 Storm King Fire and did burn this summer, but as a result, “It’s not a risk anymore,” said Stan.”I mean, what’s going to burn? Seriously, look around,” he gestured to the vegetation-bare landscape.Mudflows have been the bigger concern to the Racheskys. With the flows that occurred this summer, they’re waiting it out a year before rebuilding.Carole said she dealt with the danger of tornadoes in Kansas, and she isn’t worried about the possibility of future disasters up Mitchell Creek.”You kind of choose where you want to live and take whatever nature throws at you,” she said.

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