Google Songs - a game for our time.

One morning I had a song going around in my head. I only knew a few disjointed lines. I had no idea of the song title or lyrics. Frustrated, by not knowing how the lines I knew, linked together I found myself thinking what phrases or words would I need to type into Google in order to find the exact song lyrics?

At the time I was traveling around the country. I didn't have immediate access to the internet so my mind kept pondering further over this question. The question is fairly straight forward. There's not much more to add. Thus, my mind extended the idea to thinking about the search results and what combination of phrases and words might result in the lyrics being returned in the number one search result spot?

Then I thought that getting exactly what you're looking for in the number one search spot could be quite a challenge. You could make a game out of this. I may not be the first person to think of 'Google Songs' as a game, since it's such a simple concept but I did create it independently of knowing about Google Games using similar rules.

Google Songs: The Rules.

A game for 1 or more players.

Players think of a song title or phrase from a song (that does not include the songs title). They enter the title or phrase into Google's search box. In addition they can add up to five seperate words (known as word modifiers) to help narrow their search and increase the chances of a link to the songs lyrics appearing in the number one search result position.

e.g. For the song title "Sympathy for the Devil" you might enter the title plus the words 'lyrics', 'song', 'Rolling', 'Stones' and 'music'. Each word modifier must be one word only i.e. 'Rolling Stones' would be two words.

You can use any of Googles search modifiers e.g. +, - etc.

Each Player can try their chosen song title or phrase up to three times with different modifiers. As soon as a link to the song lyrics appears in the top five search results (or the player has tried three times) the turn is over.

Scores for each turn is out of five and runs in decending order of where the song lyrics appeared in the top five results. e.g. position 1: 5 points, position 2: 4 points etc.

The winner is the first person to reach 20 points or greater. In the case of single player games the goal is to achieve 20 points or greater in as few a turns as possible (the perfect game should take four turns).

Game Variations
  • Make the game more strategic by having other players choose what song title or phrase you search for. Songs must be familiar to the person doing the search (no obscure songs).

  • Have everyone search for the same title or phrase each turn. See who can get the best result for a particular song title or phrase.

The Deadly Art of Dish Washing.

Thursday 21 June 2007...

Mother's everywhere worry about their children being out late at night. What do they get up to? Are they being safe? Will they make the right choices and stay out of trouble? Yet not a single concern is given, in fact, mothers often encourage, their children to participate in the deadly art of dish washing.

Yes, dish washing. After traveling, by road, more than half way across a country that contains more perils than a Batman movie, dish washing, the day after my return, is what floors me (quite literally). It is my number two most serious accident, in my life, right after breaking a leg skateboarding. Let me explain.

I was washing the dishes, around about midday. I had the dish cloth inside a glass, wiping around the inner rim when a piece of the glasses side breaks off. My right hand continued to turn in the glass, into the leading edge of the break, slicing deeply into the lower back of my thumb. Shi...ouch!

As you can imagine, blood starts pouring out. I'm thinking 'this isn't good', dropped the rest of the glass into the water, grabbed the dish cloth, covered the wound and applied pressure. Now what?

At that moment I hear my partner pull into the drive way, returning home from work. A minute or two later she walks into the dining area, sees me holding the dish cloth on my hand, over the sink and asks "are you okay?"

"No, I just sliced my hand open on a glass."

She rushes to get our first aid kit as my head starts to spin. Coming back, my partner has time to move me away from the sink to the serving bench, take away the dish cloth and bandage the wound (which appears to have stopped bleeding from what I saw). All the while my head is spinning and I'm trying to stay upright.

I've never fainted before. Not even when I broke my leg. I have a theory. When I broke my leg the pain was so great that my brain couldn't do anything but think 'oh my god that hurts, oh my god that hurts, did I mention that hurts?' etc. When I sliced my hand open, whilst the initial cut hurt, after that, there wasn't really any unbearable pain just blood pouring out where it shouldn't. Therefore, my brain had time to think, 'this looks really serious - if I tune out and live in denial maybe it will go away?'

I guess my partner helped me down to the kitchen floor, where I woke up, what I imagine to be seconds later, lying down. She had gone off to quickly lock up the house and phone the doctor. My head was still spinning but lying on the kitchen floor was really uncomfortable and probably very worrying. I got up walked myself into the lounge and flopped onto a couch.

By the time the doctor had been phoned, my head was starting to level out again and I was feeling a little better. From this point on I was able to walk to the car and into the doctors surgery where I had five stitches put in and a fairly impressive looking bandage applied to cover the damage. Afterwards my partner and I went out to lunch as planned.

As I'm writing this it is nearly two days after the accident. I still have my bandage on. It comes off this afternoon. In eight days the stitches will be removed. I'm okay really. Don't worry too much. I've kept the hand elevated and haven't really experienced much pain at all.

However, the trauma I experienced whilst washing dishes has scared me for life. I don't think I'll be able to go near a kitchen sink or wash another dish ever again. The memories of that fateful day are just too much to bare. Washing dishes is far too dangerous and life threatening... well that's my story anyway. Not that anyone believes me.

My partner bought one of those 'mop on a stick' type dish washing utensils so I would never have to stick my hand into a glass to clean it again. I guess she believes in the idea of 'if you fall off a horse you've just gotta dust yourself off and get right back up there and ride it again'.

The remaining days and flying home.

Road Trip Days 26, 27, 28 and 29: 17th to 20th June 2007

The remaining three days of my trip were mostly catching up with family again. Trying to spend as much time as possible with all of them before returning to Gawler on Wednesday.

There's not a lot that I did that can be related in a blog since you don't really want to know family conversations and I don't think it would be right telling you about the things we discussed.

However in between family stuff I had to prepare to go home. Monday morning I washed all my dirty clothes so there wouldn't be much to go in the wash when I arrived home.

Tuesday morning was my final chance to record video in my studio that I could use for my planned film for my Jac Leaps Again Painting. It was a bit of a rushed job to get all the footage shot before lunch time but I managed it. (Despite a dove that insisted on pecking the roof continuously every time I wanted to record).

Then Tuesday night, after having come home relatively late from my mother's house it was time to pack. By about 1:30am I was all done and tucked up in bed. My flight was at 9am, Wednesday morning so I'd arranged with my Dad for a lift to the airport - getting there by 8am.

All went to plan. My Dad and my Mother were the only ones to see me off at the airport. Everyone else had to work at that time. Once my seat number was called up for boarding it was hugs all round and then I was on my way.

My plane was delayed for someone who hadn't turned up (and didn't turn up in the end). My ticket said this was a four hour flight but the pilot informed us it was only two and a half hours. I guess it depends which way you go? Direct to Adelaide flights head out across the sea, past the Australian bite. My original flight, when I moved to Adelaide, went inland with a stop over in Kalgoorlie - so that took a little longer.

I had a window seat and, since I love flying, spent most of the time looking out the window. Not that there was a great deal to see once we left the land behind. Just ocean and cloud formations but still breath taking. I had my camera for once so I took quite a few cliched photos from my position behind the right wing.

As much as I like visiting Perth, home is definitely in Gawler, South Australia. Perth kind of feels like somewhere else these days (i.e. not like home).

It was great to finally see my partner at the gate when my plane arrived at Adelaide airport. After a month apart it was definitely a happy moment to be reunited. This trip was the longest we've ever spent apart in seven years.

So this is the last post about my road trip. If you've been following along, I hope you found it interesting. I certainly saw more of my own country than I ever had before and I got to retrace some of the journey my family made in 1978 as well as revisit some family history.

Normal blog posting about random stuff that interests me will now resume!

Painting Jac and West Side Story

Road Trip Day 25: 16th June 2007

After spending the morning grocery shopping with Rose I chose to spend my Saturday afternoon finishing the painting I started on Wednesday.

As before I filmed myself doing it, even wearing the same clothes so it looks like I painted the whole thing in one day. All up it took me seven hours over two days to get finished. I'm quite happy with the result. The painting is called 'Jac Leaps Again' and is an all acrylic work on plywood, 60 x 90cm approx.

Since, in my first post on this painting, I talked about my old studio I've decided to make that the theme of the video. This means that I'll need to take some time filming footage of me speaking to camera about... well... my old studio. Once I've done this I'll edit the whole thing together so you can watch me paint and talk about my studio at the same time.

Speaking of filming, that's a nice seg-way into talking about the DVD we watched tonight. Rose bought 'West Side Story', the 10 time Oscar winner made some time in the nineteen sixties (I think).

I'm not about to launch into a movie review but I will say, the standards for winning an Oscar must have been very different back then. I thought the whole movie was over choreographed to the point that even the non dance sequences seemed wooden and unnatural.

My biggest problem though was the opening dance number where the Jets (for those of you not familiar with the movie, the Jets are a teenage street gang) are running around trying to act all tough and heavy whilst doing light on your feet, gazelle like dance steps that could've been ripped from Swan Lake. Silly.

It's not a film I particularly enjoyed and I imagine it probably works better in the confines of a smaller stage. The film had way too much space and I feel they wasted time extending the dance numbers to make use of all the extra room the movie sets provided.

Trains, Perth and Fremantle.

Road Trip Day 24: 15th June 2007

The one thing I wanted to do whilst visiting Perth was spend a day on my own, riding the train to visit the Perth CBD and Fremantle. Today was that day.

When I head out on my own I don't really do much except walk and observe. I enjoy walking and I like to get out and see how places have changed from when I was there last.

My morning started with a fairly long walk to the train station. On the way I passed through , what I imagine, is one of the largest Westfield Shopping Malls in the country. It's nearly big enough to have its own postcode. The Westfield was built before I left Perth. Apart from looking a little more lived in, it looked pretty much the same. Maybe a different shop here and there but that's about all.

I was a little worried that the trains ticketing system might be all different and I'd have to spend some time relearning it, however the basic system was unchanged. Put your money in a machine on the platform to buy your ticket. There is a new system called 'Smart Cards' which I guess are prepaid, multi trip tickets. On every station there is a reminder for you to 'tag on' and 'tag off' if you have one of these and gates have been built with the machines to do this placed as conveniently as possible.

Checking of tickets has become much tighter too. With gates having been installed across all exits at major stations so that guards can ensure you're not trying to fare evade. There's still a few ways you can get through the cracks. Traveling in off peak times they tend not to watch the exits and you can walk straight through unchecked.

My train arrived in the Perth CBD around 11am and I spent about an hour walking around. I was going to climb the Bell Tower on the foreshore of the Swan river but it was $10 to get in. I'd seen the museum inside the tower and the view from the top on an earlier trip so $10 for a quick look seemed a tad expensive.

Not a lot has changed in Perth. One very large building that used to be the home of the Myer shopping centre had been leveled to make way for Perth's new below ground railway station however it was early stages so really all you could see was the gap where the building used to be.

I reboarded the train and headed for the port city of Fremantle, a place I one day may choose to live should the opportunity arise. I like Fremantle because it is a very historical city with a great number of heritage buildings, plus it is by the beach. Whilst I'm not much of a swimmer I do like living right next to the coast where the sea disappears to the horizon. It has a feeling of possibility and opportunity about it that appeals to me.

Fremantle is very much a working port so you can see everything from cargo ships to ocean liners and naval ships coming and going. Heading out and disappearing over the horizon.

There is one particular spot in Fremantle that I always visit, a lookout located next to the Round House (an old convict prison). From here you can see out over the boat marina and the waders beach. It's a fantastic view at sunset and one that I once started to paint. You can observe so much activity. People doing all sorts of things. On this particular day I observed a girl taking photographs.

Not your usual holiday snaps. I first noticed her because she was fully dressed in jeans but wading up to just above her knees in the water on the beach below. Her camera was pointed straight down in such a way that she could only be taking a photo of the surface of the water and whatever could be seen below.

When she had done that she moved out onto the beach and started holding dried sea weed up to her lense and taking extreme close ups of that. I figured she had to be some kind of 'arty' type person.

She eventually made her way up to the look out where I was, taking some photos of the view before heading off. I last saw her when I left, laying flat out on the steps I had to use, taking photos of the ground. Strange but only at this look out are your chances of seeing this kind of odd activity greatly increased.

Fremantle hasn't changed a great deal. In my walking I went through the famous Fremantle Markets - busy as always - and the not so famous, E-Shed markets - not so busy as the stall holders would like. I was going to have some lunch at the E-Shed but all the outdoor tables were in full sunlight and I didn't particularly like the atmosphere in the indoor section of the food hall.

In the end, I boarded the train back to Perth CBD and had a late lunch in the Foodhall at the Carillion Centre. Nothing special just a roast meat roll with chips. During my meal a girl sat at a table directly opposite me. She was eating chips and gravy with a boost juice... I guess you'd call that a balanced meal, healthy and unhealthy!

That was pretty much my day. I caught the train home shortly after I'd eaten because by the time I got home it would be starting to get dark. Not exactly thrill a minute but it is nice to get out on your own sometimes.

Has Perth become prefabricated?

Road Trip Day 23: 14th June 2007

Today I accompanied my Dad as he drove around the suburbs, just south of the Perth CBD, between jobs as a general home maintanance person. Through the course of the day we covered a fair bit of ground.

Something I noticed is that Perth seems to have really embraced 'prefabricated architecture'. Designing all shapes of building variations from your basic concrete box i.e. all the walls are made from prefabricated concrete slabs made to order. Everything from multi-storey apartments to huge commercial premises, all with unique styling, just to break up the expanse of concrete wall slabs.

Some buildings actually looked quite good whilst others displayed limited imagination beyond four walls. The only thing that lets these buildings down is that they are so obviously prefabricated. Which says something about the building not being quite so 'hand made' as they used to be, where a brickie would literally build a house brick by brick.

Perhaps it's just a sign of the times. Everything these days is mass produced. Why should buildings be any different. If they can be built quicker back at the factory with less time actually on site then why not? Cookie cutter buildings.

I guess the question is, where these days we try to preserve our heritage buildings, will these prefabricated buildings ever last that long? Will we try to preserve them or will we not care? Will modern, prefabricated architecture be forgotten except in photos?

My Old Studio.

Road Trip Day 22: 13th June 2007

My old studio at Roses house is a four car, double door garage with power and water (well almost - there's a tap right next to the door). It's not the last studio I had before I moved but it is the one that has all the art equipment and paintings that I left behind.

I've created a nice, panoramic photo of the studio, not quite how I left it as everything has been pushed to the edges to make room for at least one car. However if you look closely you can make out my old easel, signage from my old shop as well as various other bits and pieces.


This was the best studio I've ever had to date. It even tops my current studio but only because it has double the space (given that my current studio is a two car garage). The studio I had just prior to moving to South Australia was barely a one car garage with no power but it was cool in its own way too.

Whilst I was in Perth I thought I'd take the opportunity to use this studio, perhaps one last time, to make some art and to film myself doing it. It took a little bit of time to dust a few things off and to find something suitable to paint on but I managed it.

The hardest thing has been finding paints. There's a lot of acrylic paints left over from years ago but they're quite old and there is a distinct lack of yellow acrylic (because I use a lot of yellow in my art). This artwork may not be the best in terms of quality materials but hopefully it'll look good on video. Maybe it'll be good enough for a framed print too.

If all goes well the video will be featured on my site next month. For now enjoy this sneak peak still frame (see photo) of the art in progress.

Gosnells, Murals and the Agonis.

Road Trip Day 21: 12th June 2007

My Mum wanted to show me around the town centre of Gosnells (the main suburb of Perth that I grew up in) so Rose and I spent the day with her, walking around the shopping precinct.

I was last here in 2004. Back then there was a lot of development work getting under way. Three years later much of the work has been finished for some time.

There is a brand new railway/bus station right in the middle of town - much less out of the way than the old platform. One of the old shopping complexes, where we used to buy groceries, looks nothing like it used to. It's been renovated to the point where you wouldn't even know that the underlying base structure was built more than forty years ago. You'd swear the whole thing was built within the last couple of years. The changes are a real improvement too.

The centre piece of the town is the 'Agonis' centre. This was being built in 2003. Now it is open and is home to the 'Knowledge Centre' (library to us less posh types), a very affordable but trendy cafe, hall space to hire, a history of Gosnells interpretive centre and a very striking tower clock.

Surrounding the Agonis is a massively upgraded town square (where art markets are held in the summer) as well as highly cared for park lands that were just a step above bushland when I left seven years ago. There's even a 'tree top walk' that was officially opened a few months ago but strangely remains closed whilst they finish it.

Gosnells has also recognised the value of public art in enhancing the city environment. There are several specially commissioned sculptures that aren't some abstract notion that no one understands. Instead they represent links to themes that represent Gosnells either past, present or future. The sculpture you see in my photo (right) is a spinners spool. Although I'm not entirely sure of how this links to Gosnells I can say it does make for a visually interesting piece of public art.

Speaking of Art, one thing I happened to notice was still there, after seven years, is this mural at 'Pages Park'. Murals tend to have a short life span due to graffiti bandits but I noticed that this mural has been continually touched up to cover any graffiti damage.

You might wonder why I care about this mural until you look at the bigger version of the photo and notice that it was designed and painted by me with assistance from Rose. I've painted a few public murals around Gosnells when I lived there. As far as I know this is the only one that has survived time. Not particularly because it's great but because it links Pages Park to the history of the people who used to live at that very spot.

The Pages Park Mural links me to Gosnells through my art. I kind of like that.

Black Cockatoos and Driving in Perth.

Road Trip Day 20: 11th June 2007

Cockatoos.

This morning, at Rose's house, I was just about to start organising my breakfast when I heard a commotion in the backyard that was familiar and clearly a flock of Cockatoos (a species of parrot) feasting on the larger trees. Familiar because I've heard this sound many times in my home town of Gawler with the white cockatoos we get there.

I wouldn't even mention it except that when I went out to have a look (because watching all the debris rain down from the tree tops being stripped by cockatoos is quite a sight) I saw this was a flock of black cockatoos with yellow patches on each side of their heads (roughly where their ears might be if you could see bird ears). I've never seen black cockatoos doing this, not in my home town, nor have I ever seen it in Western Australia.

I tried to take a few photos but the birds were too high up to get a good shot. The photo shown here is about the best I managed.

Perth Driving.

Since being back in Perth I've done just a little bit more driving in traffic than I'm used to. In seven years since I moved, the areas I used to drive quite a bit have become far busier. The concentration of roads seems to have doubled and people seem to drive much faster and more aggressively.

Maybe I'm just not used to driving in this much traffic anymore. I don't remember it ever being this busy with this many cars - even in times when you'd expect it to be less busy. Roads are everywhere, built like ribbons across the city, going over and under yet more roads as well as railway lines. In some places you can't even see the buildings for the roads.

Perth is a rapidly growing city. It seems to have become much faster. I'm not enjoying driving here. Everybody tailgates if you don't accelerate fast enough, or even if you do. There are so many cars, so many roads. It's supposed to be much better to get to places. I'm sure it is. However, to me, a landscape dominated by roads is ugly.

It's not over until I go home.

Road Trip Day 19: 10th June 2007

I guess, at this point my road trip is officially over. The big drive from Gawler, via Broken Hill then across to Perth is finished. It's been quite an interesting journey - well for me it has been anyway. I've seen a lot more of the country I live in than at any other time in my life.

That said, the trip its self isn't over until I jump on a plane and fly back to Gawler, Adelaide in about a weeks time. So I'll continue to post articles about my experiences until then, after which this blog will resume it's eclectic mix of whatever happens to be interesting me at the time.

At the moment I'm catching up with relatives. Today my younger brother came for a visit. Then I went to visit my Dad and after that my Mother. All of them live independent lives from each other which means you rarely see my family all in the one place at the same time.

I'm not doing a great deal of tourist type things whilst in Perth because I lived here for just over twenty years. I'm sure there is plenty I haven't seen but really I'm just here to catch up with family and maybe take a bit of time to see how the places I used to visit frequently have changed in seven years.

Memories. The Museum of My Life.

Road Trip Day 18: 9th June 2007

For many people a visit to their parents home, years after having left for an independent life, brings back many childhood memories, artifacts and a history of growing up. Coming from, what is usually described as a 'broken home', the history of my early years and previous lives can be found not so much in my parents homes but in my sisters home.

The way my family split to eventually go their separate ways has gradually turned Rose's home (where I'm staying whilst in Perth) into a living family archive - though I'm sure it doesn't feel that way to her.

There is so much of my families history either still in use or stored in Rose's house that for me it's like coming back to a personal museum of our life. For example, Roses kitchen table and chairs are older than me. I think they were the very first table and chairs my parents bought when they arrived in Australia from the U.K. The chairs have been recovered once in nearly 50 years and are looking like they could use new covers again.

There are examples like this all throughout, from the coffee table in the lounge (probably as old as the kitchen table) to the cutlery in the kitchen draws (knives, forks and spoons as old as the table and still in use).

The earliest family photo albums are here. Almost as soon as I arrived I had to look through these because I knew they had pictures of Rose and I at the beach in Whyalla before we moved. I wanted to see if the beach was how I remembered it.

It's funny how, when you look at old photos you generally don't notice the detail in the backgrounds however, when you're looking specifically at the background it's surprising what you see. Here is a photo of Rose and I at the beach in 1974. If you can peel your eyes off my stunning sun hat, take a look in the background. Notice the steam train? Until now, I never knew we had a photo with the steam train in it - which is why I was never quite sure about if it had been on the Whyalla foreshore or some other beach. This photo proves my memory to be correct. There is my steam train.

Rose's house has so many artifacts that connect us with Whyalla but it isn't just that period of our lives you can see. Her shelves feature one or two examples of my art from my High School days. She also has most of my furniture, LP records, books, computers and more that I left behind when I departed, bound for a new life in South Australia.

In the backyard is a four car garage that use to be my studio. This is where all my paintings pre the year 2000 are stored. More of my stuff that I couldn't take with me is here too.

I'm generally not one to live in the past but it's nice to be surrounded by memories and to retrace your family history. Remembering where you grew up and how you became who you are.

Coolgardie and the Road to Perth.

Road Trip Day 17: 8th June 2007

West of Coolgardie is the Eastern end of the Great Eastern Highway. The road to Perth, Western Australia. When Rose and I turned into our motel last night the car headlights had picked out some curious characters across the road. Before heading off the next morning we just had to investigate.

Rose and I have been sticking with Central Standard Time (rather than change to Western Standard Time) in order to get earlier starts. This meant we had plenty of time to have a quick wander around, what turned out to be 'Ben Prior's Park', an outdoor museum featuring many historical machines and characters from the early gold rush days of the Coolgardie region.

One such character was this prospector, A.P. Brophy and his camel 'Misery'. Brophy is remembered for claiming the world record for riding his camel 600 miles without giving it a single drink back in 1895.

There are other characters in this museum but the majority of the display is old steam engines, wagons, farming tools, cars and more. All of which form a part of a collection owned by the late Ben Prior who was a long time resident of the town.

One particular character, who must surely be out of place, is this likeness of 'Ned Kelly' the famous Australian Bush ranger (unless Coolgardie had a copy cat bush ranger?). I suspect (though I'm only speculating) that this Ned Kelly may have been used at the BP service station across the road before being replaced by the Ned Kelly that is proudly displayed on the roof (see photo below) - there is something of a likeness in their construction.

The rest of our day was taken with driving. We had somewhere around 590 kilometres to get through so the only stop we made was to have lunch at a roadhouse in Merredin.

Since this is my last post about driving there are one or two things I like to rant about:

1. If you're a truck driver being over taken by a car using a lane specifically designated as an overtaking lane. If that car is more than two thirds past you and the overtaking lane is running out, try easing up on the accelerator just a bit. Seriously. Would it kill you to slow down just a touch so the car can finish passing safely? I know it's not that hard to slow down vehicle's that large. I should 'cause I've followed behind road trains long enough to know exactly how much time is needed to slow down just a few kilometres per hour. It's not that long at all.

2. If you're a truck driver being over taken by a car, where there is no overtaking lane and the road is narrow and has rough edges, would it kill you to slow down a bit? Especially if your rig is being bumped around by strong cross winds, would it kill you?

3. If you're a truck driver stop pushing car drivers into unsafe practices simply because you have to travel at the maximum speed for trucks at all times regardless when hauling goods long distances. Would it kill you to slow down a bit?

4. If you're a truck driver, don't go commenting on my above rants. All car drivers are reckless, dangerous and should be banned from driving. I know - you don't need to list all the stupid things we do. Just slow down a bit and maybe next time I won't nearly crash into the side of your damn truck!

The only other thing I wanted to mention was that there is a heck of a lot of 'roadkill' on the WA side of Eyre Highway. Maybe it's just because it's such a large stretch of natural wilderness? Dead kangaroos were most common but I also saw a dingo and maybe a few other animals too (couldn't tell what they were after they'd been hit. Too small to be roos though).

The sea gulls of the desert (crows) were a bit of a worry too. All along the highway there were crows on the side of the road waiting for free lunch.

Rose and I finally got to Perth and pulled into her home just as the sun was going down. It was definitely good to finally be finished travelling for a while. I'll be staying in Perth for about a week before catching a plane back to South Australia.

The trip isn't quite over yet.

Australia's longest straight and Skylab.

Road Trip Day 16: 7th June 2007

There comes a point in some road trips where you want to make a certain distance by nightfall and the only way you can do it is to just drive. Rose wanted to make the town of Coolgardie by nightfall, a distance of more than 600 kilometres from Madura.

After driving the first 157 kilometres a sign at a place called 'Cocklebiddy' (don't ask how it got that name, I don't know) informed us that we were about to embark on Australia's longest straight piece of road. 155 kilometres of straight, flat road. I didn't really need to know that.

When you're driving these sort of distances 'speedo creep' can be a problem. The foot gets heavier and before you know it you're 20 kilometres over the speed limit - and it doesn't even feel like you're going fast.

Today was the day for over taking Road Trains. I did more over taking than I've done on any other day since we begun. One thing I've noticed is that if trucks are a the bane of car drivers then Winnebagoes (kind of like small truck with a mobile home on the back) must be the bane of truck drivers.

Winnebagoes are usually owned by early retires, still young enough to live their dream of travelling around the country side. Where trucks have a top speed (by law in Australia) of 100 kilometres per hour (cars can travel at the max speed of 110 kilometres per hour), Winnebago drivers insist on travelling at about 85 - 90 kilometres an hour. This means that big Road Trains are forced to change lanes. If you think over taking a road train in a car at speeds of 120 kilometres per hour can be a little hairy then imagine what it must be like if you're a road train driver over taking a Winnebago.

155 kilometres later a curious thing happens. Not only do you come to a bend but the road starts to go down hill. Not that curious except that it keeps going down hill for more than 100 kilometres. I didn't ever remember going up hill? It is quite disorientating. We went down hill for so long that I swear we should've been at least 200 metres below sea level!

Part way down this hill we stopped at the Ballidonia roadhouse and motel for lunch. Ballidonia is famous for having a piece of the ill fated space station, Skylab, crash in the region. What do you do when you recover a piece of a NASA space station?

You bolt it to the roof of your roadhouse and create a museum around it for the tourists of course. The museum wasn't open when we passed through but the restaurant did make me a very nice hot dog for lunch.

For once we did make our planned destination, the town of Coolgardie. Rose and I have been running on South Australian time, which is one and a half hours ahead of WA - giving us more light as we chase the sun. We arrived in Coolgardie just as the last rays of sunlight disappeared over the horizon. We're staying at the Coolgardie Motel in a twin share room that has a bunk bed. I get the top bunk - cool!! Last time I slept in a bunk bed I think I was fifteen years old.

Tommorrow we should make it to Perth if all goes to plan. Lets hope so.

The Eyre Highway and The Great Aussie Bight.

Road Trip Day 15: 6th June 2007

The last time I travelled along the Eyre Highway from South Australia to Western Australia there was no such thing as ipods. In fact Music CD's were still years away from taking over from LP records and audio cassettes. There was no such thing as a digital camera and even video recorders were just starting to hit the markets as a home consumer item. That was May of 1978 and I'd just turned eight years old.

I don't remember much of the sights coming over because our families trip, back in 1978, was all about getting to Perth as quickly as possible. I think I spent a lot of the trip asleep in the back seat of the car. Most of my recollections of the journey relate to places we stopped for the night or for food on the way.

This time, Rose and I are taking a little longer so we can see a few of the breath taking views we missed the first time.

The Eyre Highway runs right along side the Great Australian Bight - the cliff top, bottom edge of Australia. Sometimes the highway is only a few hundred metres away from the edge. Travelling from SA to WA the first view of the bight you can experience is at 'The Head of the Bight'. This is the eastern most end of the Australian Bite and is a 14 kilometre detour off the Eyre highway.

What the sign doesn't tell you is that once you get to the visitor centre you can't get anywhere near to the view you're looking for without paying a AU$10 admission fee (adults). That's $10 each to see one end of the bite. All along the rest of the highway you can see the bight for free.

During the months between June and October you may also spot a whale or two all along the bite so maybe the admission fee relates to that? However there are no guarantees of seeing a whale. Rose and I weren't willing to pay $10 each to see a view. There are so many better ways they could raise money for maintaining the park and facilities without blocking access to the view.

Our next brief stop was to get petrol at the Nullabor Road House. This was one place my family stopped in 1978 due to a broken water pump (I think). We had to head around to a private residents home on a back road behind the Road House in order to get the car fixed. It is here that a photo of my family was taken with us all standing in the middle of a dirt airstrip, looking like we're really in the middle of nowhere.

Whilst at the road house I noticed a sign advising people not to feed the wild life on the Nullabor Plains (which is a huge, treeless, national park). I was surprised to see a picture of a dingo. I didn't think dingoes were this far south. As if to confirm that dingoes are indeed this far south we saw one running around in the bushland just off the side of the road.

There are some road signs you can only see in Australia. Ones like this (see photo) are common along the Eyre highway. I'm sure this sign means that somewhere within the next 96km you may have to watch for a camel chasing a wombat and a kangaroo.

As you travel along the Eyre Highway there are several lookout stops along the way where you can view the Australian Bight close up (like one more step and you'll fall off the country close up). Rose and I stopped at the first two.

On the first lookout we met a British Couple travelling in the opposite direction. They advised us that the next lookout gave the most spectacular views of the ones they'd visited so far. They even showed us some digital pictures of the Bight they'd snapped along the way.

Rose and I were well behind our travel schedule so we decided that we'd stop at the second lookout with the best views and then skip the rest.

The British couple were not wrong about the second lookout. You really can see all along the Bight - as you can see in the photo (with me looking like I've just returned from a South Pole expedition - well it was really cold!)

If you're wondering about the cliffs, you don't have to climb any hills to get to the top of them. Australia, at this point sits on a huge plateau that is several hundred feet above sea level. Once you get past the Eucla road house and motel the highway drops back down a lot closer to sea level. You feel like you're driving out of some hills with no memory of ever having gone up hill in the first place.

Speaking of the Eucla Road House and Motel, Rose and I stopped here for lunch. The roadhouse has one really memorable feature - a giant concrete whale in their playground. I remembered stopping here back in 1978 because Rose and I played on that whale. I think we even stayed in the motel here.

I do remember our family pulling in to this road house along with a small green truck (kind of thing) with some people in that we'd been over taking and they'd been overtaking us unwittingly at various points on the road.

Rose decided we should check the cars oil and water before setting off - both were fine but Rose noticed that the bolt that holds the engine in had vibrated loose and was falling out. Well okay that's an exaggeration... it was one bolt that helps to hold the alternator in place. It had lost the nut off one end and was well on its way to falling out. We had to borrow a spanner and get a nut from the motel manager who was very helpful despite being very busy with other customers.

One of the more unusual things that Rose and I encountered was the 'bottle man'. Rose had seen him on the way over and said she wanted to get a photo on the way back. I have no idea who made the bottle man, what he is about, or why bottles and other containers hang from the tree around him? If you live somewhere near Madura and know about the bottle man - leave a comment and tell me about him.

By the end of the day we didn't get as far as we had hoped. Tonight we're staying at the Madura Pass Oasis Motel. Ballidonia is still about three hours up the road. No doubt we'll pass through there tomorrow.

Elliston Sculptures on the Cliffs Streaky Bay, Eyre Highway.

Road Trip Day 14: 5th June 2007

Before leaving Elliston, Rose decided we should take a drive around the Elliston Cliff Top Tourist Drive which also happens to be the location of the Biennial Elliston Sculptures on the Cliff Event. Unlike the sculpture parks at Broken Hill and in the Barossa Valley these cliff top sculptures aren't all permanent so the ones you see on this drive are the few permanent sculptures that have remained after each event.

The tourist drive takes you along a dirt track that overlooks Anxious Bay. I wasn't entirely sure of what to expect but after seeing the view I was glad we decided to take this drive. I've lived in Australia all my life and seen these kind of 'edge of the continent' kind of views in brochures all the time but it's not often you actually get to see these views in person when you live in the cities. Just had to have my photo taken with this view to prove I was there.

Along the drive you come across various sculptures left behind from the 2002, 2004 and 2006 Sculptures on the Cliff events. The first one we came across was a pair of giant thongs (the Aussie kind you wear on your feet - otherwise known a 'flip flops' in other countries). Upon seeing the thongs I knew these sculptures were coming from a different place to those of Broken Hill and Barossa. A sculpture event with a sense of humor.

Not all the sculptures are humorous, though it's hard to tell how much humor is involved given that many of the less permanent sculptures have been removed. It's also disappointing that the permanent sculptures feature no plaques that credit the artists. If you're lucky you may still be able to read the temporary info sheets left to rot in their plastic envelopes. Something really needs to be done to rectify this.

One highly impressive sculpture was a face carved into a wall of brick. From a distance this face really stands out on the landscape and looks like some kind of mysterious monument that draws you to take a closer look. As you can see from the Photo Rose even climbed up the back of it.

The last sculpture I wanted to mention, though certainly I haven't mentioned all of them, was one that could actually be two separate artworks. I'm not exactly sure?

In the photo you can see a boat suspended on wires from a wooden roof structure. Then you can see me, apparently working at an art table, painting the boat sculpture. In actual fact the art table, complete with partly finished boat painting, paint tin and brushes is a sculpture in it's own right. Whether it's part of the boat sculpture is hard to say since the plaque for the boat doesn't give any clues. It simply says the boat artwork's title is 'Every person is a boat person' by Artist John Turpie. It is from the 2002 event.

If the art table is a separate sculpture then it again demonstrates the humor that some of the artists inject into this event.

Once again too, I'd like to compare this with Barossa's Sculpture park because even though these sculptures are spread out and only remnants of several events they still make better use of the spectacular backdrop. Their positioning has helped make them features of the landscape complimented by the view - giving them more presence and power. I think it would be amazing to see this event in full swing in 2008 (presumably that is the year of the next Sculptures on the Cliffs event).


Streaky Bay.

The tourist drive at Elliston delayed us a couple of hours so by the time we got to Streaky Bay we decided to stop for lunch. I didn't take a lot of photos here because our stop was so brief but I kind of liked this photo of the jetty that captures the glittery sparkle of the water in the midday sun.

We had lunch in a beautiful restaurant just up from the jetty called 'Mocean' that offers wonderful views of the bay to compliment your dining experience. If your in town look them up.

The Eyre Highway.

After Streaky bay our journey returned to the Eyre Highway after passing through the town of Ceduna. From this point we are once again following in my families footsteps from the same journey by car in 1978. The journey that changed all our lives so that 'home' from then on would be 'Perth' rather than 'Whyalla'.

The Eyre Highway is one of the longest and straightest highways you're ever likely to travel. Rose and I made it as far as the Nundroo Hotel/Motel/Caravan park where we've stopped for the night.

Tomorrow we hope to cross the border into WA and make it as far as Balladonia. The town whose claim to fame is having a piece of the ill fated Skylab space station fall down onto it.

One Steel Tour and Leaving Whyalla.

Road Trip Day 13: 4th June 2007

Whyalla is, and always has been, a mining and steel making town. No visit would be complete without a tour of the steel works that was built and run by BHP until 2000 when it was sold off, by public float, to OneSteel.

Rose and I have a personal interest in the steel works in that our Dad used to be employed there by BHP pre 1978. I never really knew what he did or what part of the plant he worked in though I remember him one time, when I was kid, saying he worked in the coke ovens. That's about all I know about what he did and I'm not entirely sure if that's correct.

I'm not even going to try and describe the tour of the steelworks in great detail. There's a lot to see in the two hour bus ride around the plant. Our guide, Trish, explained a great deal about the production of steel and pointed out as many of the more spectacular processes as she could based on which areas were actually operating.

We did get a very good, close up look at the coke oven in operation. Coke (not the soft drink) is made from coal and is burnt in a blast furnace in order to produce enough heat to separate the iron content from the mined, raw materials (iron ore). The coke oven is a huge oven that bakes the coal at extremely high temperatures in order to turn it into coke.

OneSteel produces 'long form' steel products such as structural beams and railway lines. In fact it is the only company producing railway lines in Australia. Whilst OneSteel is the biggest steel producer in Australia, Trish said that in comparison to China (the biggest producer of steel in the world) they produce a quantity of steel in one day that OneSteel would produce in a year.

The OneSteel tour is quite long and I must admit the bus seats were starting to feel a little hard towards the end but it's not everyday you get to see equipment and machinery on this scale in action. Whyalla exists because of the mines and steel works and is central to the South Australian story. If you're looking into the history of mining around this region then a tour of One Steel's plant should definitly be on your list.


Leaving Whyalla.

After the One Steel Tour Rose and I headed out of Whyalla bound for Perth. When Rose drove over from Perth she followed the shorter route at this end along the Eyre Highway (which by passes Whyalla and takes you directly to Port Augusta. One the way back she wanted to take the coastal route down the Lincoln highway (to Port Lincoln) and up the Flinders highway before getting back to the Eyre highway.

The whole reason for this longer route was because it might be a nicer drive with coastal views.

Tonight we've made it as far as the fishing town of Elliston (part way up the Flinders Highway). Rose did the lions share of the driving so I had plenty of time to evaluate the scenery. If I was doing this again, I wouldn't take this detour just for the views.

Granted a few spots do have nice coastal views but to this point, most of the road has been far enough inland to not get a view of the coast. Not enough of it looks sufficiently different to the usual route to go quite so far out of the way.

If I came this way again it would be because I wanted to spend more time in the various towns along the way. Like the drive from Laura to Port Augusta there are many small towns with a lot of interesting history to be explored. Another time perhaps. Tomorrow we will be heading over the WA border. If we make good time my next post will be from Balladonia.

Whyalla Foreshore Steam Train Found!

Road Trip Day 12: 3rd June 2007

Whist visiting the Mt Laura Homestead Museum, Rose and I spotted this Steam Locomotive - the only one in the museum - and thought just maybe it was the one I remember playing on at the foreshore as a child.

On closer inspection of the information board we were amazed to learn that it is in fact the very same steam engine! I was even more surprised to learn that this locomotive is more than 100 years old (I bet it didn't get a certificate from the Queen).

Bought new by BHP in 1891 it was used to cart ore along the tramway between Iron Knob and Whyalla. It has a fairly busy history but the key dates for me are that it was placed on the Whyalla foreshore in 1962 where it remained until 1983 when it was moved to the museum. Back then it was all painted black rather than green as you see in the photo. In fact it was the green paint that made me think it couldn't be the same train at first.

Not being able to find any trace of where this train stood on the foreshore during my current visit to Whyalla made me half wonder if I was just imagining a train there based on some other memory. Having found my child hood 'play equipment' (Rose and I used to climb all over this train) it's kind of good to know it now has a good home. It didn't rust away and get sold for scrap.

Whether we like it or not connecting and catching up with fond memories of the past has something of a comforting feeling. It's kind of like catching up with friends you haven't seen in a long time and learning that they're doing okay.

HMAS Whyalla and The Mt Laura Homestead Museum.

Road Trip Day 12: 3rd June 2007

In 1978 my Dad took me along to see the last of the large Carrier ships built at the BHP shipyards being launched. Two more smaller vessels were launched that year but 'The Iron Curtis' was the ship that signaled the end of production and closure of the shipyards.

The HMS Whyalla was the first ship built at the shipyards. Completed back in 1941 (almost a year in the making), it was one of several warships built for the Navy as part of the war effort. Back when Whyalla was simply known as 'SMC 47' to protect it from strategic attack by the Japanese.

As part of our trip to the Whyalla Maritime museum Rose and I went on a guided tour of 'The Whyalla' (formerly the HMS Whyalla), which proudly sits landlocked two kilometres away from the Shipyards where it was built, as centre piece of a very interesting history.

The Whyalla has been lovingly restored back to its former glory days as a mine sweeper and escort corvette after spending a number of years renamed as the 'RIP' working for the Victorian Ports and Harbours. The story of how it was brought back on land is fascinating in its self. The boat was bought by the Whyalla Council for a bargain $5000 and cost somewhere in the vicinity of $500,000 to shift onto land and a further $500,000 to restore. Whilst at the museum you can watch a ten minute video detailing every stage of the event.

There is a lot of history to learn about The Whyalla but of particular interest to me was the fact that it served a lot of time with the HMAS Gawler, a similar type of vessel that was also built in Whyalla.

Whilst the tour of the Whyalla is detailed and interesting there's much more to see at the Maritime Museum. Our war history is covered with interesting facts like which sea battles occured in our region during World War II (including an attack on Sydney Harbour by a Japanese Submarine - I'd never heard of that).

There is a section dedicated to the BHP Shipyards with information about every ship built there. A section looks at the history of Mathew Flinders and his mapping of the Australian Coastline. You can find out about some of the marine life in Spencer Gulf. Finally the link between the South Australian railways and the Shipyards is explored through one of the largest, working HO model railways you're ever likely to see.

Rose and I easily spent two hours wandering around the ship and the various other exhibits before heading to our next stop, the Mt Laura Homestead Museum.

The Mt Laura Homestead Museum is a community run museum typical of many National Trust Museums. It is a collection of old stuff going back as far as the early days of settlement in Australia. What sets this museum apart is that the collection is so large - covering several buildings and sheds, including a fully restored Historic Cottage.

Collections range from living implements to farm equipment, engines, telecommunications, printing presses, carriages and more. They're even developing and area dedicated to the railways.

A real highlight is a fully operational blacksmiths shed complete with old style forge. Rose and I talked to the blacksmith who not only demonstrated his craft but gave us a couple of his demonstration pieces to take away as souvenirs.

If you want to see a lot of history in one place then the Mt Laura Homestead Museum will not disappoint. You can learn a lot about Whyalla including how it is thought the name 'Whyalla' came about (contrary to what some people think the name is not related to any indigenous tribe or language and is not named after any known European settler).

Point Lowly, Fitzgerald Bay, Ada Ryan Gardens.

Road Trip Day 11: 2nd June 2007

Point Lowly is the location of a historic lighthouse that is no longer used for its original purpose but is kept functional by the Whyalla Council as a tourist attraction. It's a 20 minute drive from Whyalla and once you get there you can see... well... a lighthouse.

I can see on a warm summers day that Point Lowly would be a great family outing location. It has nice beaches, playground, picnic and toilet facilities. It's a paradise for shell collectors like Rose is.

On a cold winters day (though thankfully not raining or icy cold) you can walk on the beach and look at the lighthouse - and if you're up for a hike follow the walking trails that include information boards at key locations.

Rose and I weren't up for a hike (as most were more than 1 kilometre long) however we noted you could follow one of the walking trails by car for impressive views of the bay. The trail lead to Fitzgerald Bay, for which we had seen a sign on the road in and thought we might take a look on the way back. By following the trail we could do a kind of loop and head for home from Fitzgerald Bay.

The coastal trail doubles as the emergency exit for the local oil and gas storage facility that you pass on your way to Point Lowly. It's a very winding dirt road both up and down hills and left and right bends. You wouldn't want to have to follow it quickly in an emergency or you could find your vehicle in the bay.

We followed the trail, mostly in second gear for the six kilometres between Point Lowly and Fitzgerald Bay. If you're into four wheel driving and want a fairly amateur track to get you started this would be one to follow. There were one or two fairly steep inclines that I thought our little Subaru 4WD may not have handled but did effortlessly.

The view was worth the drive. Looking out over the bay you can see boats and the many enclosures that form part of a commercial fish farm all framed with the backdrop of the southern Flinders Ranges in the distance.

Fitzgerald Bay is really just a name on a map. We couldn't see a lot there (beyond of course the magnificent views) so we followed the road back to Whyalla.

Once back in town Rose and I stopped for some lunch then made our way to the only Art Gallery in town (well the only one mentioned in the tourist brochures). The Whyalla Art Group has a gallery that exhibits it's members work. Whilst the work was all very good it was fairly typical of your local community art group with a varying array of themes and subjects.

For the rest of our day Rose and I walked around the Ada Ryan Gardens - and old haunt of our family back in the days when we lived here. On many occasions we'd come to the gardens for a picnic before heading down to the beach.

The gardens themselves are not much different from any local park however what sets the Ada Ryan Gardens apart is something that I had forgotten. The Gardens feature several animal enclosures where you can see a range of Australian birds and a family of grey kangaroos.

When I saw these, I had immediate memories of walking around these cages as a child. I think both of my parents used to try and get the galahs and cockatoos to say 'hello cocky' (a mandatory thing to do whenever you see any kind of parrot). I don't think we had a lot of success back then with getting the birds to speak but this time around both the cockatoos and pink galahs came over and said 'hello cocky' without any prompting.

Ada Ryan Gardens isn't a very large park so Rose and I ventured back down to the beach and walked the length of it. Rose collected shells whilst I was kind of half looking out for the missing steam locomotive I used to play on as a child, perhaps it had been located further down the beach? I didn't find it.

That was pretty much our day. Tomorrow is our last full day in Whyalla then on Monday we'll do a tour of the One Steel factory in the morning before leaving for Perth. It will be good to get moving west again.

Whyalla. Where life began.

Road Trip Day 10: 1st June 2007 (Evening)

Life for me began in Whyalla. Rose wasn't born here (she was born in Elizabeth in Adelaide) however, since my family moved here when she was so young, she pretty much considers Whyalla to be her first home too.

I don't remember the first house we lived in here though I've seen photos of me playing in the yard there. Life for me begins on Noble Street, our second home in Whyalla where I lived until the age of eight years old. Then in 1978, when BHP closed the ship yards, our family moved to Perth, Western Australia.

Rose and I went for a drive around our old neighbourhood. Noble Street. The house we lived in is still there, though now it has two driveways and two carports and a garage - none of which were there in our day (well it only had the one driveway at least).

All the trees along our street are full grown and provide shade that wasn't there when we used to walk to school. I'm surprised that the reserves at each end of our block are still there. These were never properly cared for parks. Just bush land with a few well worn short cut trails. Only big enough to fit maybe two houses on these were a part of our playground when we got our first bicycles.

At the end of Noble street is the 'One Stop Shopping Centre'. Which is what is was called in our day though we referred to it as 'the brown shops' because the roof was painted brown and matched the bricks. This hasn't changed much. There is still a mini supermarket at one end and a deli at the other. No doubt owned by someone different but still the same.

A block or so over is our old primary school, Scott Street. It's no longer called Scott Street and in fact it was recently closed down. In our day the buildings were all shades of brown with rough, gravel like finish on the exterior walls. These days the buildings have been painted bright shades of yellow and blue. It's clear the school has been shut down. The gardens look over grown, the play grounds are looking worn and I noticed one or two window boarded up along with the first signs of graffiti. We didn't take any photos because it was kind of sad.

I've already mentioned the Westland Shopping Centre in a previous post. I used to think this was quite a distance from Noble street but on a previous trip back here I discovered you could actually walk there in under twenty minutes. Everything seems further away when you're eight or younger.

I have memories of the beach and Ada Ryan Gardens. Two places we used to visit for a day out as they are right next to each other. Sadly the beach, even though it is still there, looks nothing like I remember it. All but one of the huge metal shelters have been removed and the foreshore looks nothing like what I recall. There used to be an old steam locomotive that we played on which is now nowhere to be seen. I can't even remember exactly where it was. In fact I always thought the Ada Ryan Gardens (which is a popular park here still) was completely separate from the beach front but now they seem to kind of merge.

The biggest change to the beach is a boat marina and fishing jetty. Neither of which was there in 1978. No doubt these helped to shape the way this area looks today.

Other vague memories I have of Whyalla include watching the Christmas Pageant in the main street. I can't tell which road is the main street? I remember the pageant progressed through the 'city' part of Whyalla (because of the two storey buildings) though I'm not sure exactly which part of the 'city part' that was?

Rose and I have driven around Whyalla a bit and I've seen various buildings that I got a glimpse of pre 1978 and kind of recall. Whyalla seemed a much bigger place back when I was a kid. These days it seems much smaller and very, very different.

Whyalla. Hummock Hill and Flinders Lookouts.

Road Trip Day 10: 1st June 2007 (Afternoon)

Hummock Hill was here on the beach front in 1978, yet I don't remember it at all. In fact Whyalla used to be called 'Hummock Hill' before they changed the name to Whyalla for reasons no one really seems to be sure why?

I'm fairly certain the Hummock Hill lookout was built after 1978 as most of the dates on the commemorative plaques are dated long after my family left for Perth. This particular lookout provides some great views of the Iron Ore loading facility and the One Steel Steel works. It seems to have been built to celebrate the towns industrial history.

Second to that is the section of the look out dedicated to the soldiers that manned an anti aircraft gun on the site during world war 2. A similar gun to that which was used now stands as a monument to that time. It was thought that the Japanese could've attacked the BHP port which supplied Australias defence forces with steel during this period.

Of all the sights on our road trip to Perth, the only one I had on my list was the Flinders and Freycinet Lookout. The photo in the brochure showed two very contemporary looking sculptures of Mathew Flinders (who surveyed and named Spencer Gulf in 1802) and Louis Claude de Freycinet (who also charted the same coast line in 1803) that caught my eye and got me interested in wanting to see them up close.

Whilst the lookout offers fantastic views I found the two sculptures more interesting and thought them to be a fitting dedication to both the English and French expeditions to chart the coastline of South Australia.

As an artistic statement the two figures help to bring history into the minds of a modern audience by their non-classical design. They are intriguing to look at and you can't help but be interested in reading the information boards to find out more about the two historic men they represent. In my opinion this monument hits every mark in both purpose and design. The only let down is that I didn't see (or couldn't find) the name of the artist that created the figures.

Whilst I wouldn't like to see all monuments take this lead with 'puppet like' figures it does represent a new way of thinking about public sculptures dedicated to real people. For this particular lookout the figures work a treat. I'm glad I had this on my MUST SEE list.

Mining at Iron Knob.

Road Trip Day 10: 1st June 2007 (Morning)

The township of Iron Knob reminds me very much of Silverton in Broken Hill. It is a town that has been largely forgotten once the mines, that gave it life, were closed down in 1999. Like Silverton a few die hard locals still live there, doing what they can to breathe life into a town that truly is the Birth place of the steel industry in Australia.

The town no longer has a council, no one pays rates and consequently it is looking a little run down around the edges (and a bit in the middle too). However the town project committee is dedicated to building a tourist industry that will help build the town again. Either way, Iron Knob isn't destined to become a ghost town as the mines are being reopened. Property values in Whyalla have started to rise because of this and no doubt Iron Knob will follow.

Our tour of Iron Knob began at the Iron Knob Tourist Centre where our guide, Phil, showed us around the various exhibits and explained the history of the mine.

Broken Hill Proprietary Limited (or BHP as they came to be known) weren't the first to mine Iron Knob but were the first to get things going full steam and were largely responsible for building the Township. BHP came to the region in 1899 as it began developing its interests in the steel industry.

There is no definitive answer as to how the town got it's name. It is thought that the name comes from a very large piece of Iron Ore found protruding from the side of the hill (hence 'iron knob') however the actual name given was 'Iron Monarch' because the rock formation resembled a monarch sitting on his thrown (maybe the English monarch at the time was a bit of a 'knob'?). There are other mines in the region 'Iron Prince' and 'Iron Baron' the names of which were inspired by the royal theme begun with 'Iron Monarch'.

After watching a short video on the history of the mine the tour continues with a trip around the town and up into the original mine. You drive your own car with the guide in the back seat directing you to all the significant places.

The first part of the tour is the township. Phil says that he recently added this as part of the tour to create a more complete picture of the region's history. He points out many houses and talks about who used to live in them as well as injecting his own local knowledge of events - the kind of stuff that never makes it into tour brochures.

One of the more unusual sights is the town's public toilet facilities which Phil proudly announces is one of the most photographed toilets in Australia. Hardly surprising given that a local artist painted a very classy mural of the word 'Dunny' on the front wall. You can't get much more Aussie than that!

Next you head up to the only mine that you are able to view now that the lease is being reopened. It's a rather steep climb up a dirt road and on the way you pass an early 'digger' (electric shovel) which is kind of like a crane but with a shovel on the front.

At the top you look into one of the biggest 'hand dug' holes you're ever likely to see. This is one of the original mines and was worked by teams of men digging by hand, removing some 80-90 tons of ore (each) per day.

There is also a very spectacular view of the surrounding country side from here. After recent rain, Phil informed us that the view was about as green as you're ever likely to see it.

Once you've seen the mine, the tour is pretty much over as you head back to the tourist centre. Phil pointed out some final pieces of historic equipment within the grounds of the centre including one of the old electric trains used to haul ore.

Iron Knob is a town with a great potential for a thriving tourist trade. It could easily be as successful as Silverton. The surrounding country side at Iron Knob is every bit as inspiring for artists as Silverton. It is surprising that no local artists have set up a gallery (Phil said that the town's only recognised artist - who painted the Dunny mural - no longer lives in Iron Knob). There's a lot of history to be inspired by and a great opportunity to benefit from the initiatives of the town's project committee.

The tours are excellent value and comprehensive. Our guide, Phil, lives in the town and is part of the push to revive it. He's worked for BHP during the seventies and has many stories to tell. He believes enthusiastically in the townships future and really puts across a strong sense of community. Iron Knob is much more than a big hole in the ground.

Road to Whyalla.

Road Trip Day 9: 31st May 2007 (Afternoon)

Whyalla is our next major stop. The town where Rose and I grew up. The drive is about two and a half hours from Laura cutting through the Flinders Rangers and the town of Port Augusta.

During our journey, the drive between Laura and Port Augusta, has been one of the most scenic so far. Pretty country towns with the Flinders Ranges as a back drop then finally passing through the greenish blue hills of the Flinders Ranges themselves. Such a contrast to the long straight roads through the flat, dry country heading out to Broken Hill.

On this leg of the journey we only made a brief stop in Port Augusta just to stretch our legs after an hour and a half of driving. There's not much to say about the Port except that it is a fairly major town that is run by a fairly controversial local council. It probably has an important place in history given it's location but I've never really had the time to find out.

Between Port Augusta and Whyalla it's just over thirty minutes to drive. It's a long stretch of flat road that can get quite hairy when it comes to over taking.

I had particular difficulty trying to get past one road train. The first attempt failed due to on coming traffic (I got about half way past then had to drop back in behind). On stretches like this it's easy to think you'll have enough time, but at speeds of 110 kilometres per hour the on coming traffic approaches really quick. The second attempt I made it with out any problems.

We made it into Whyalla in time for a late lunch at the Westland Shopping Centre. My family used to shop here regularly. All the shops have changed and a food hall extension has been added since I was last here in 1978. The exterior supports a green roof instead of white. One thing that hasn't changed is the floor tiling in the old section. I'm fairly certain it's the same pattern I remember. The only other thing that is close to how it was in 1978 is the Doctors Surgery that my mum used to take me to is still operating as a surgery.

After a bit of a look around we headed to the Whyalla Tourist information centre to find out about tours of the Iron Knob mine and One Steel, Steel works as well as to find out as much information about local sites as possible.

One place on Roses list was Wilson Park which just happened to be up the road. The park is mentioned in the brochures mainly because it offers great views of the One Steel Factory. Which may not seem all that exciting but we're talking about THE FACTORY that is the whole reason for Whyalla's existence. However I'll go into that in a later post.

The other claim to fame that Wilson Park has is a giant ship rudder that was presented to the people of Whyalla in 1974 and serves as a monument to mark the jubilee naming of the township of Whyalla. The inverted rudder is 10 metres high and, these days has the towns logo emblazoned across it.

That was pretty much our first day in Whyalla. We ended the day by not being able to get a room in our chosen motel. Instead we headed over to the Alexander Motel which was a little more expensive than expected but the rooms come with free wireless internet access and dial up access too. A real bonus for us as this service wasn't mentioned in the accommodation guides.

Our room is nice too and is the first twin share we've been in that has two queen sized beds (usually rooms have one queen sized bed and a single bed).

Tomorrow is our first scheduled tour, which our motel staff kindly booked for us. The Iron knob mine.

Laura, C.J. Dennis, The Sentimental Bloke.

Road Trip Day 9: 31st May 2007 (Morning)

Rose and I managed to leave Peterborough in good time enroute to Laura and the C. J. Dennis Statue we'd tried to find in Auburn and Mintaro.

Peterborough is actually an important town in its own right with a strong history of the railway in South Australia. I know Rose wanted to look around more but we had a lot of ground to cover. As much as it would be nice to stop in every town we passed through (and there are many that look very interesting) you just have to hope you'll maybe get back another time.

We made our way down to the town of Laura (via Jamestown) in just under an hour. The town describes its self as the 'home of poet C. J. Dennis during his formative years', implying that he probably moved later in life. However C. J. Dennis is quoted describing his stay in Laura thus:

"Of all country places I know. Laura still remains for me the place of most pleasant memory..."

Hence, Laura can quite rightly claim C. J. Dennis as one of their own.

Had we entered the town from the main road we would've seen the statue straight away but, having followed an unsealed road that cut about 10-15 minutes off our travel time we arrived in the middle of the main street, turning in from a side road. A quick stop in the town's information centre and we were finally about to see the elusive C. J.

From the photo we had of the statue I had my suspicions that it was going to be small. It looked as if the statue had been photographed from a low angle in order to make it tower over a roof in the photos background. With no person in the photo to compare scale with, it just looked small.

The statue is located at the 'Dick Biles Gallery', home of the 'Big Bloke' sculpture. Big is an understatement. The statue, which is actually a sculpture made entirely from copper, is towering at four metres tall (that's gotta be close to 11 feet high!). Created by Adelaide artist David Griffiths it is certainly a fitting and some what imposing monument to C. J. Dennis, author of 'The Sentimental Bloke'.

Had the sculpture been small I think Rose and I would've been a little disappointed but, not expecting such a large structure, we both felt this had been worth the side trip to see.
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