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Travel: Ballooning Means Rising Above One’s Fear

   There are people who seem to be born with a thirst for a thrill. They take every chance to leap off bridges, tethered only by elastic Bungee cords. They jump out of planes, trusting one yank of the cord will release the parachute that will lower them gently to the ground. They paddle kayaks over waterfalls and drop out of helicopters wearing skis.


    I am not one of these people.


    I don’t have that kind of confident trust. Cords snap, parachutes fail, waterfalls tumble and break the things that ride them. Why would I tempt fate?


    But edging out of middle age, I seem to be shedding some of the extreme caution that has kept my feet on the ground most of my life. I’m still not a thrill-seeker, but I just don’t seem to be bound by so many “What Ifs.”
    A recent trip to Elko, Nevada coincided with the annual Balloon Fest and I was offered a chance to take a hot air balloon ride. I didn’t stop to think once, much less twice. I hopped up into the basket and listened to the instructions about where I could and should not put my hands. (“Never touch the rope. If you touch the rope we will fall and die.” Check.)


    It was only as the blasts of flaming gas right over my head lifted the balloon away from the ground that I began to ask myself what on earth I’d been thinking. The list of hazards—power lines, rogue winds, murderous sharp-shooters (Hey, what if?) and even fabric fatigue (I imagined seams fraying and opening and, well…)—played through my head like a bad movie.


    But I was in. And we rose swiftly and silently, immediately catching the current of air and moving toward the horizon.


    We moved steadily across the city. Dogs, startled by the sights and sounds of the balloons, there were 30 more behind us, barked and danced as we flew over. School children waved from the yellow bus that looked like a child’s toy. Birds flew beneath us, darting in and out of the trees lining neighborhood streets.


    I’d wrapped my fingers tightly around one of the bars at the side of the wicker balloon the moment we’d lifted off and I didn’t seem to be able to let go. But, a few minutes in, still holding on, I felt myself relax enough to really think about what I was seeing and experiencing.


    I looked out toward the Ruby Mountains, somewhat obscured by smoke from wildfires further north, across the high Nevada desert and the rough, dry landscape so many crossed on foot and by wagon train 150 years ago as they made their way over the California Trail to conquer the wide-open West and start new lives in California.


    It really is a beautiful way to travel. In a balloon you do not fight the wind, you ride it. You surrender to the currents and ribbons of air that stream over the planet and let them take you where they are going. There are tools: hot air, vents, ballast, and so on, but ultimately, you are a guest of the wind.


    At the end of the ride we began our descent. The landing was not smooth. A breeze came from out of nowhere and fought us, but we stuck it. Then, when the pilot realized we'd come down on railroad property—not cool—we lifted up just high enough to find a more accessible spot. The chase crew found us and we were done.


    When I finally climbed out of the basket, back on the ground at last, a surge of adrenaline made me tremble.
 “Anxious Annie” as a friend once dubbed me, had taken a chance. And I had one more thing I could check off my list.


    We helped roll and fold the balloon, storing it and the basket in the trailer behind the chase van, and I was baptized with cheap champagne to mark my first flight. Later, I messaged a photo taken mid-flight to my children and their confused responses made me laugh. This was not what they expected to see.


    That’s the beauty of aging. Not only do we surprise others when we take a chance, occasionally we even surprise ourselves.
    
    


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

AM: Boisean Captures Gold

Kristin Armstrong of the United States, passes through the gates at Hampton Court Palace on her way to winning the gold medal in the Women's Olympic Cycling Time Trial in London today. Story below. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Coeur d’Alene mine to return to full production earlier than planned

Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation’s Kensington gold mine in Alaska will resume full production ahead of schedule, the Coeur d’Alene-based company announced today.

The company in November announced a temporary reduction in mining and milling activities to allow for completion of several underground and surface projects at Kensington, 45 miles north of Juneau.

The majority of these projects have been completed or are scheduled to be completed by the end of July, Coeur said.

The mine contains 1.3 million ounces of gold in proven and probable reserves, and is expected to produce 82,600 to 86,500 ounces of gold this year.

Coeur d'Alene Mines is the largest U.S.-based primary silver producer and a growing gold producer.

Riley: Hart Gold Standard For Lunacy

Not only is Idaho State Rep. Phil Hart not in jail for tax evasion (yet), he’s still introducing legislation in Boise. Hart’s latest endeavor is House Bill 430, which “recognizes the liberty of Idahoans to conductbusiness in gold and silver coin uninhibited at their own discretion as a right never delegated by the People of Idaho to any governmental institution.” Yep, Phil wants the good people of Idaho to be able to use gold and silver coins instead of paper money. Not only that, Phil wants the use of these coins to be free of any taxation. OK, look, we all know this bill isn’t going to go anywhere, even in this land of rabid Libertarians and militia members/Sean Riley, iSightonline via Potato Understanding. More here.

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Hart Wants Gold, Silver Untaxed

Rep. Phil Hart (R– Athol) wants gold and silver coin to be an alternative to paper money, formally known as Federal Reserve Notes.  Hart, who is currently being sued by the federal government for unpaid taxes, wants gold and silver currency exempt from tax.  He’s titled the bill the ‘Idaho Constitutional Money Act of 2012′/Emilie Ritter Saunders, StateImpact. Hart's Statement here.

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Burglary spree earns $197k restitution

Four young men who burglarized homes in Spokane County last year have been ordered to pay nearly $200,000 in restitution.

George A. Denison, 21; Patrick Hayes Wellman, 20; Joseph S. Denison and Anthony Fuerte are to split the $197,200 imposed in Superior Court after pleading guilty to residential burglary, theft and gun charges.

The burglary spree occurred between between April and September, including a burglary on Sept. 7 in the 32000 block of North Rimrose Drive in which seven firearms, 85 ounces of gold coins and 1,500 ounces of silver was stolen.

George Denison was sentenced to 39 months in prison recently; Wellman, who already is headed to federal prison for drug and gun convictions, was sentenced to 43 months. Fuerte was given an alternative drug offender sentencing program. Joseph Denison is awaiting trial but was listed in court documents as being required to pay the restitution.
  

$100k in jewelry found after safe heist

About $100,000 in stolen jewelry was recovered Thursday after police arrested a burglary suspect who claimed to be addicted to OxyContin.

Cody Michael Sutton, 20, is accused of burglarizing a home in Veradale after the owner's 12-year-old son allowed him inside about 4 p.m. thinking he knew his father, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Sutton left the home in a Jeep while carrying a resident's pink gym bag after the boy saw him going through kitchen cabinets, the Sheriff's Office said. The boy discovered his parents' safe containing the jewelry missing, and his mother called a family friend who said the suspect description sounded like Sutton.

A sheriff's deputy spotted the bag inside the Jeep outside Sutton's apartment in the 1700 block of North Union. Deputy Darrell Rohde and other deputies saw gold jewelry spread out on a table when another man responded to a knock on at Sutton's apartment door.

"The man was standing as if to hide something behind him," according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan. "When Rohde told him to show his hands, the man dropped a handgun to the floor."

Deputies handcuffed the apartment's six occupants for safety purposes and seized the pistol, which was loaded an had an obliterated serial number.

Nearly all stolen items were recovered "with the notable exception of a three carat diamond ring," Reagan said.

Rohde believes the safe was dumped along Saltese Road, but it has not been located.

Sutton was booked into jail for residential burglary and possession of a controlled substance  for Suboxone found in his backpack, Reagan said.

Bryan Students Find Tiles w/Asbestos

Two Bryan Elementary students possibly digging for "leprechaun gold" in the northwest corner of the playground (near the old oak tree) found broken, asbestos-laden tiles instead. Huckleberries has received a copy of a letter sent out by Bryan Elementary Principal Joel Palmer this afternoon assures parents that the type of asbestos found in the tiles, according to a lab report, doesn't "contain the type of asbestos that becomes airborne when disturbed and causes serious health dangers." The Coeur d'Alene school, which is located on Harrison between 7th & 10th streets, took the following measures to ensure student safety today: The area was covered with a plastic tarp, filled with soil, covered with sod and then fenced off." Huckleberries has learned from Bryan sources that younger students believe that a leprechaun lives in the old oak tree and has buried gold somewhere nearby. That's why some of them dig in the area. You can read Principal Palmer's letter to parents here. (SR file photo for illustrative purposes)

Question: Is the school taking the right steps to handle the problem?

Jewelry store owner tracks theft suspect

A jewelry store owner tracked down a theft suspect and Idaho fugitive Monday by warning nearby pawn and jewelry shops to be on the lookout for someone selling a gold wedding band.

Donald Jack Seed, 23, of Liberty Lake, was arrested on a misdemeanor third-degree theft charge after trying to sell the stolen ring at Pawn One, according to the Spokane Valley Police Department.

Seed is accused of stealing the ring from Artistry in Gold, 13817 E Sprague Ave., after looking at a pair of rings but only returning one, police said. Seed ignored an employee's command to stop and drove away in a gray Saturn, police say.

The owner described the Saturn to nearby businesses when calling to warn them that a thief may soon be trying to sell a gold ring.

Shortly after the warning, Seed allegedly tried to sell the ring at the pawn shop. Employees called police, and Officer Ken Dodge arrested Seed without incident.

Seed also was booked into jail on a felony fugitive charge related to a probation violation for a drug conviction in Idaho.

Police: Teens stole $123k in silver, gold

An accidental shooting last summer was linked to a suspected burglary ring involving $123,000 in stolen gold and silver coins, court documents allege.

Joseph S. Denison, 19, brought the Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver to a party in Deer Park on Aug. 21, where it accidental discharged and caused a non-life threatening injury to a young woman, according to court documents.

The gun was one of 10 stolen from a home at 5501 E. Handy Road in August, detectives say.

Denison pleaded not guilty to 31 felony charges Wednesday that include several counts of burglary and theft of a firearm. He is not in custody.

Patrick Hayes Wellman, who is in federal custody on Ecstasy and gun charges, is charged with 10 felonies related to the case.

The alleged burglary spree between April and September, including a burglary on Sept. 7 in the 32000 block of North Rimrose Drive in which seven firearms, 85 ounces of gold coins and 1,500 ounces of silver was stolen.

The home belongs to Denison's ex-girlfriend's father, who told police Denison knew of the valuables and knew how to access them.

Detectives believe Wellman also participated in that burglary, along with Anthony D. Fuerte, 18, and Denison's brother, George A. Denison, 20, who also face felony charges.

Gold Standard

When I talk to people who don’t understand the lure of prowling estate sales, flea markets and antique malls searching for that one special something, I don’t try to sell them on the idea by telling sentimental stories.  I don’t go all sappy about the appeal of hand-embroidered linens or the pleasure of drinking a cup of tea from a vintage china cup. I don’t even try to sway them with the concept of recycling by repurposing old things and creating new uses for castaways.

Instead, I go straight to what I consider to be the gold standard. I show them the little charm I wear on a chain around my neck.

Years ago, I was poking around an estate sale. I picked up a bracelet that had one tiny crystal on one of the links and the little lock as a clasp. The piece was lightweight and made a distinctive “pink” sound when I shook my hand.

“I think this might be a nice piece,” I told the woman holding the sale, someone I’d met before. I wanted to be honest. She walked over and looked at the bracelet. “Nah, I don’t think so,” she told me.

“I don’t know,” I said again. “I think it might be.”

She’d already lost interest and walked away.  I gathered my finds and paid for my purchases, including the bracelet. I don’t remember the exact price, but I’m pretty sure it was under $5. I took it home, cleaned it up and let my jeweller look at it.

 Dated 1897, the little charm was gold. As was the bracelet. And the tiny little crystal was a diamond. All worth far more than I paid.

So, when someone asks my why I spend so much time chasing good finds, I have the answer on the tip of my fingers. No need to tell the truth. To say I would go out treasure hunting even if I knew I would never find a real treasure. No need to tell them I love the idea of bringing home something that has had a previous life, perhaps in another woman’s home. No need for all that.

I tell them exactly what they want to hear. That sometimes, when you’re panning for a good time, you find solid gold.

 

Valentine’s Day advice and budding eco-bromances

You may have a hard time believing this, but DTE loves Valentine’s Day. It’s the time of year when we go all out showing our love for the woman of our dreams (we’re talking about Mother Nature of course). And what’s better than that, how about a double-dose of Earth loving. But we’re not the only ones teaming and being doubly committed to the cause. Our other love, Grist.org, recently ran a list of 14 other couples who are pairing up for the planet. And wait – did they just coin the phrase eco-bromance? Check out the article and list HERE.  And tell us in the comments below – which new eco-bromance is cooler? Eddie Vedder and Kelly Slater or Bill Nye and Ed Begley?
eoc-bromance







But now something serious about Valentine’s Day and greenwashing. Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest gold jewelry retailer. Not surprising as Wal-Mart is also the largest music retailer, largest sporting goods retailer, largest grocery seller and largest apparel retailer amongst others. And let’s not forget the largest real-estate developer, energy consumer, and private truck-fleet operator. So to say that Wal-Mart can’t drive the market on smart, sustainable business is an error in conclusion – despite what we all may think of their community destructive business practices, their precarious labor issues, and their colossal carbon footprint. But what if the driver is going off a cliff – will the rest of the caravan follow?

Spokesman-Review story roundup

Indefensible. That’s the immediate word that comes to mind when describing the Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation battle in the U.S. Supreme Court to dump waste into an Alaskan lake at Tongass National Forest.

A horrific practice of the past, the mining company believes the Kensington location near Juneau should be able to pump 210,000 gallons of tailings into a waterway during the mine’s projected 10-year life, killing fish and creating a toxic legacy. Oh yeah, it’s actually a gold mine. Only in the last frontier. More.



Image courtesy of Kensington Gold.



Also, last night the Spokane City Council overrode Mayor Mary Verner’s veto for shoreline regulations on a 900-foot section in Latah Creek owned by former Spokane CEO John Pilcher. But as councilman Richard Rush said, changes to the property may not stand because the plan must ultimately be approved by state Department of Ecology officials. More.