Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Baby "Doe" Tabor, Leadville, Colorado

The story of Baby Doe is fascinating! She must have been an exceptional woman, full of courage and determination, and well ahead of her time. She went from rags to riches and then back to rags. Honestly, Baby Doe's life is so interesting, I couldn't make it up if I tried. There's simply not enough room here to do her justice, so I encourage readers to purchase a book on her life, and also visit the site.

At a recent trip to Leadville, I had the opportunity to go into Baby Doe's cabin and look around. It's tiny inside but contains many of Baby Doe's personal items. Wonderful photographs of her and her family line the walls, her rocking chair sits in the corner with a kerosene lamp on a table, and her black, threadbare parasol is in a basket by the door. It's all that's left of a once fabulously rich (and beautiful) woman who once owned a mine called the Matchless.

Years after Baby Doe's husband died, she held on to the property hoping it would fulfil her husband's dream of once more "striking it rich" but it was not to be and eventually she was put in foreclosure. In the end, she lived alone accepting the charity and kindness of the present day owners of the Matchless Mine. It's where she died on March 7, 1935.

For more information on the activities and events in Leadville, Colorado go to:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Arena de Verona

Photo and text courtesy: Theresa Francis.

On a warm July evening we join a few thousand others and stroll to the Arena de Verona. We climb the ancient stone steps to our unnumbered seats high above the stage set for Aida. As the seats are not numbered it is necessary to arrive well ahead of the performance. Along with almost everyone else we have a small picnic of cheese and wine. The atmosphere is amazing. Just before the performance begins at 9.15 the people in the plush seats down below start to arrive in their beautiful gowns and evening suits.

If you don't know this opera, it is the story of Aida, an Ethiopian princess enslaved in Egypt where she falls in love with Radames, a young warrior and captain of the guard, who feels the same way for her. When the Ethiopians, led by Aida's father King Amonasro invade Egypt, Radames is chosen to lead the Egyptians into battle.

The Ethiopians are defeated and Radames returns victorious. Among his captives is Aida's father. Out of his love for Aida, he asks the king to release the Ethiopian captives. The king agrees but refuses to release Aida and her father.

Aida's father persuades her to obtain information from Radames about how they can escape. Radames agrees to run away with Aida and tells her the position of the guards they must avoid. Aida and her father flee, but Radames is taken prisoner. He is sentenced to death and will be buried alive in a crypt. Aida returns and hides herself in the crypt to die with him. They accept their terrible fate, bid farewell to life's torment and sorrows and await their death.

Verdi's wonderful music and the voices of the performers fill the arena which is truly remarkable given that there are no microphones in use.

If you have never listened to the music, do try. I defy anyone to hear the 'Triumphal March' at the beginning of Act 2 and not feel their soul fly.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tour de France 2009

Photo and text: Derek Francis

Montélimar – Le Ventoux
17th edition – 170 km
July 20 2009

“The sun was already shining in the streets of Montélimar this morning at 7am for the start of the 17th edition of the l’Etape du Tour Mondovélo.

A record 8500 riders headed on to the roads of the Drôme and Vaucluse departments in their collective quest to climb the giant Mont Ventoux.

Numerous family members, friends and tourists were on hand at the refreshment points at Buis les Baronnies and Bédoin as well as the southern façade of the Mont Ventoux. The climb of the amateurs was achieved in an ambiance worthy of the Tour de France. A majority of those who rode will also line this same route when the professional take their turn this coming Saturday July 25th.

Recently crowned French road racing champion, Dimitri Champion won the event in 5 hours, 11 minutes after a stunning attack on the first inclines of the Mont Ventoux. Jean-Marc Bideau finished runner-up with junior rider Jimmy Turgis completing the podium.

In the ladies’ division, Magdalena De Saint Jean won and finished 74th overall in an incredible time of 5 hours, 47 minutes.

The 7396 riders who crossed the finish line were spoiled by the sweet aroma of lavender and extraordinary scenery along the roads lined with olive, apricot and cherry trees. It is with this pleasing image that we invite you to an all new Etape du Tour Mondovélo.”

The above was quoted from a press release for an annual event known as the "Etape du Tour" which this year boasted 8500 riders at the start.

Following Lance Armstrong's success in the Tour de France, many Americans now travel to watch the race, mainly in the mountain stages, and those fit enough enter the "Etape"(French for “a stage”) which is run on exactly the same route as the Tour itself.

This year it was particularly tough, consisting of 100 miles and finishing on the mountain of Mont Vontoux which is considered to be the hardest of all the mountain stages due to its severity of climbing, up to 6500 feet, coupled with the landscape which is often described as moonscape with no trees whatsoever.

It was the mountain that claimed the life of Tom Simpson, a British racing cyclist, in 1967 due to dehydration and drugs he had taken to combat dysentery. Today a memorial stands just two Kilometers from the finish, and is constantly being visited by cyclists of all nations

This year’s Etape was won in 5 hours by only a few riders with the majority taking up to nine and half hours. The slowest Tour rider was around five and a half hours, the winner achieving 4 hours 39 minutes.

An American Dave Ward, editor of Cycling Utah, travelled from his home in Salt Lake City to compete in the Etape and finished in nine hours, three of which was taken up by the climb. However, not to be deterred, the next day he climbed Mont Vontoux three times as a challenge.

Provence is the most spectacular of regions in southern France with high mountain ranges, wonderful vineyards and, of course the famous Cote d'Azur. No trip to France is complete without a visit.