Fired Up


The West is on fire this summer.  South of us, the 2nd largest fire in Colorado history was 70% contained yesterday.  Called the Spring Creek Fire, it has burned at least 107,000 acres as of Monday, July 9.

Above El Jebel northwest of us, the Lake Christine Fire, despite rain, is only 39% contained as of Monday afternoon with more than 6,000 acres burned and 7,000 residents  out of their homes, according to the Aspen Daily News.   Highway 82, the main route in this area, was threatened with closure over the past weekend.  We were lucky to get to use it. The Lake Christine Fire was started by a couple firing tracer bullets.

The situation changes rapidly with only a 30% chance of rain today.  The photo below is attributed to Craig Turpin.











A Shocking Prediction

Ruth and I went to Shoshone Falls on July 4. It was a very crowded attraction at 6 pm. Called “The Niagara of the West”, these mighty cascades near Twin Falls, ID, will change today if Chadd Cripe’s prediction comes true.

The water flow on July 5 will be reduced by more than half if this reporter for the Idaho Statesman is correct. Traditionally 1000 cubic feet per second, Shoshone Falls’ flow will drop to 400 cfs today. Less water will flow through the Milner Dam, according to Idaho Power, because it is needed for agriculture.



Shopping: Australian-Style


Australians still love to shop in malls and arcades.   Three of its eastern cities have elegant, stylish shopping centers that double as tourist attractions.  The star of them is Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building.  Almost across the street from it is the also worth-seeing Strand Arcade that ends at the ever-crowded Pitt Street Mall, which gives access to Westfield Sydney.  Westfield contains many upscale shops and inexpensive-for-Sydney restaurants.   Melbourne has the Block Arcade and the Bourke Street Mall that Where Magazine calls this city’s “true retail heart”.    Brisbane, another city where public shopping seems to be a daily, required habit, has the Queen Street Mall and the baroque Brisbane Arcade.

Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building has seen its 100th birthday, fills an entire downtown block, and has 5 floors.  The lady it is named for would be comfortable shopping there now because it remains elegantly Victorian.  The only store she might not understand is The Art of Dr. Seuss.  She would certainly appreciate its clocks, especially Chris Cook’s Great Australian.  It features 138 figures and 33 scenes from Australian history.  Captain Cook’s 1770 landing is to the left of the map of Australia.  My favorite figure is a boy dangling a chain.  A sailing ship continuously circles this clock’s exterior and passes just above him.   The other exceptional clock is  Neil Glasser’s Royal Clock that shows scenes of English royalty like King Charles I’s execution.  You can see the Queen Victoria Building for free unless you buy some souvenirs and have cake and coffee in style.   Pierre Cardin called the Queen Victoria Building  “The most beautiful shopping Centre in the world”.  He would know.

Melbourne’s Block Arcade opened in 1892 on Collins Street. It contains more than 30 great shops, but its longest lines are waiting to get into the Hopetoun Tea Rooms, one of this arcade’s original businesses.  You can have an English tart with your tea (there are 20 to choose from) in a classic Victorian setting.

We walked through but didn’t shop in the Brisbane Arcade when we took a walking tour of this Queensland city.


Jump In

I mentioned an article by Chris Reynolds who advised travelers to step out of their comfort zones on trips.  This is often rewarding. Some of his suggestions are common sense, like “Make eye contact and start conversations”.  Others are not:  “Go to church…or temple…or mosque” and “Make ear contact”.    They got me to thinking of what I personally would add, and I quickly came up with 5 to add to his list.

Talk to the hotel concierge or the person who checked you in.  This has gotten us upgrades, advice on what to do locally, cultural enrichment, etc.  Always talk to your seat mate on any flight too.   One time the woman sitting next to me was taking home a rescued cat that had been gassed in a local riot in Istanbul.   On our recent trip to Australia our seat mate turned out to be a successful writer of teenage fiction and an actor.   He gave us one of his books, which both Ruth and I liked a lot.  You won’t know anything about that traveler who is going where you are unless you introduce yourself and/or start talking.  If they aren’t interested in conversation, you’ll quickly know, and such exchanges have a way of stopping naturally, often after a brief exchange.

Go to the local visitor center and ask about attractions that aren’t in guide books or the local literature.  If nothing else, you’ll get some local perspective and/or learn about an interesting, perhaps temporary event that is gong on in their town and welcomes outsider participation.

People at an attraction that you have chosen to see might have interests like you, so talk to them.  I was looking at a painting one time and the man standing net to me asked if I could estimate its worth.  As it turned out, he had a Picasso that he had bought many years before and was seeking advice on selling it.

Talk to people in restaurants.   Good conversation openers are the weather, that old conversation starter, and where they live.  We had lunch in a museum cafe in Athens at a communal table and learned a lot about what it was like to be living in Greece now with all the financial difficulties and migrant issues.  People are often willing to talk about what is happening in their country from their perspective, and I marvel at how many people in foreign countries speak English well.


A Sculpted Sunset

In an LA Tmes article a couple of years ago Christopher Reynolds recommended in a travel article that people step out of their comfort zone on trips to enhance their experience.  Going to Broken Hill was Ruth & my recent “stepping out” experience.  One of Chris’ 9 recommendations was to hire a local guide without a big bus.  We did this in Broken Hill with very mixed results.

We had spent the day in town walking around.  We didn’t have a car.  It was hot, we were tired, but we still had time for more.  The other attractions we were interested in required renting a car.  We had tried to do this earlier that day, but all cars were booked.  Then we remembered the Sunset Sculptures.  The folks at the visitor center had told us earlier that we could hire a local guide to take us there.  We walked back to it and booked Milton to take us there.  Except for 2 things, it wasn’t worth $90.

Milton picked us up at the visitor center at 4:30.  He didn’t say much either driving the 7½ miles west of town to the sculptures or returning.  He only became chatty and animated when he told us about the hail storm the previous November that did a lot of damage.  He answered my questions curtly and sat in his van while we looked at the works that 12 sculptors had created.  In general, he seemed distracted and indifferent.   Maybe Milton was just tired of taking customers to the sunset experience.  He was, however, honest.  He told us bluntly that the town needed more tourist attractions, so the high altitude sculpture park opened in 1993.

The Sculpture Symposium sits atop a rise in the lower Great Basin Range.  It’s part of the Living Desert Sanctuary.  Milton’s brochure

for the Sunset Sculpture Symposium Tour beckons, “see the stunning sunset and its colors it throws over the country side”.  The view is of Outback wasteland beyond the hilltop sculptures.  The symposium that brought the sculptures to Broken Hill occurred between April 2 and May 23, 1993.  The most popular one is Antonio Nava Tirado’s “Bajo El Sol Jaguar”  (Under the Jaguar Sun).  Antonio is an Aztec Indian from Mexico City.  Based on a song, this sculpture imagines a big cat taking the sun into its mouth at night to protect it.  Day is represented by the open circle.  Two of the other 11 sculptors invited to participate were from Syria and Georgia.  Five of them are Australian with only one having been crafted by a Broken Hill artist.  They are somewhat similar.

Two things made this unexpected journey worthwhile.  The sculptures were surrounded by an animal reserve.   I didn’t know this until we got there and saw kangaroos.  When baby roos are found with a deceased mother they are released here to mature.  There are currently 30 of them.  One ranger acts as custodian to make sure they are not harmed.  Milton mentioned that dingos can be a menace.   We met Grant and Sherril from Geelong who had also come to see how sunset played on the sculptures.  A delightful couple, Grant and Sherril were on their way to Adelaide in their car and invited Ruth and me to go to Silverton with them tomorrow.   Silverton, where Mad Max 2 was partially filmed, was not far from the sunset sculptures.