Joe and Tracey Timerman left Colorado Springs and headed to Nebraska shortly after being evacuated from their Manitou Springs home in June 2012.
Getting bumped from their home during the Waldo Canyon fire was another hiccup in a tough journey that would get even tougher. The Timermans had lost their business to the faltering economy. The fire forced them to seek refuge in Nebraska, a place they didn't want to be. And a string of family deaths, including that of Joe's mother, in late 2012 and 2013 left the couple feeling hopeless.
Then, in late October, Joe and Tracey received a call that briefly flooded an otherwise dark chapter of their lives with a shining light.
The Timermans - lifelong and self-proclaimed rabid Broncos fans - had a dream come true. A spokesperson from their cellphone company, Viaero Wireless, told the couple they had won Super Bowl tickets and a trip to New York in early February.
"This is a bucket list opportunity," said Joe Timerman, who sat with his wife in a northern Colorado Springs hotel lobby Nov. 8, where they sought refuge from an ice storm that left their northwestern Nebraska home without power.
The storm gave the Timermans one more thing to worry about, Joe said. But he praised his insurance company, which told them to head back to Colorado Springs, spend time with family and forget about the travel bills that were being paid by USAA.
Joe Timerman described an ordeal that began in early 2012.
He said his successful company Alley Cat Recycling fell upon hard times when the price of scrap metal took a dive. The Timermans ended up selling their home in Colorado Springs and rented the furnished place in Manitou Springs shortly before the Waldo Canyon fire erupted and burned more than 18,000 acres in the mountains west of Colorado Springs.
There appeared to be a break from the slippery slope shortly after Joe and Tracey had to evacuate their rental. Tracey Timerman's mother knew a man who wanted to sell a hotel and restaurant in Harrison, Neb., near the Wyoming and South Dakota borders.
So, the Timermans gave it a go in the town of about 250 people, and they had some early success.
"For the first three or four months, the restaurant and hotel were phenomenal" Joe said, noting that the area offered great horseback riding and fossil hunting.
But as winter drew near in 2012, the hotel and restaurant, called the Village Barn and Sage Motel, tanked.
"I couldn't support the restaurant on coffee drinkers alone," Joe Timerman said.
The Timermans' journey took another unexpected turn. They left Harrison and became caretakers of a remote ranch that Joe said was "79 miles from the nearest civilization." Then in June, Joe's mother, Patricia Timerman, 68, and stepdad, Jimmie Skinner, 69, were on their way to visit the couple when tragedy struck.
The car Joe's parents were in was struck by another vehicle at a remote intersection west of Scottsbluff, Neb.
Joe said he lost phone contact with Patricia and Jimmie and went to make sure they were all right. He arrived to find the two vehicles battered and far from the highway.
"We don't know the exact story," Joe Timerman said, noting that he was told his parents ran a stop sign and were struck in the area with its treeless, flat landscape.
"I don't know how either (of the drivers) didn't see each other."
Patricia Timerman was dead when Joe and Tracey arrived, and Jimmie Skinner died a few minutes later "in flight" on a helicopter to the hospital.
The couple struggled through the next few months, grieving in their remote ranch house, Tracey Timerman said. They hadn't been married, although they were together for years. So, Joe and Tracey got married in August in a modest courthouse ceremony.
The Timermans regularly made the 79-mile trip to Scottsbluff to shop, run errands and pay bills. On one trip, they stopped in at Viaero Wireless where the clerk and the couple's friend Sabrina told Tracey she needed to enter the Super Bowl contest in an effort to cheer them up.
Then when they got the call announcing they had won, the couple decided to use the three-day trip as their honeymoon. Joe and Tracey also hope that the Broncos will be in the big game. The Broncos finished the regular season 13-3 and are the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
"We are huge Broncos fans," Joe Timerman said. "Whether they do or do not make the Super Bowl, we'll be decked out in our Broncos gear."