Friday, December 28, 2018

Road Trip!

No sooner did I arrive at "Ketelsen East" that things fell in place for me to hit the road again for road trip to the east coast! Last Spring I visited Betty, my mother-in-law in South Carolina, and another friend in Virginia. This time, I ordered some telescope parts from a manufacturer in North Carolina, and shipping was going to be $320 to Arizona! That would pay for a lot of gas, so repeated last Spring's trip with a side stop near Raleigh, NC. The call from Raleigh came right after landing in Illinois, so pretty much hit the road 2 days later!

First up was a visit with Betty - at 94 you want to take every opportunity to visit, but I'm convinced that she is going to outlive us all! She is doing a daily exercise class! Not that she NEEDS to exercise, but seems more of a social thing for her and to get her out of the house as a friend picks her up. At left she is shown in front of her Christmas tree. I ended up staying 3 nights, visiting, doing a little shopping and generally hanging out!

On Tuesday, the afternoon I arrived, I happened to check to see what nights the State Museum was open for telescope viewing. Turns out it was Tuesday, and it was clear enough that they were going to be open! Centerpiece of the Bob Ariel antique telescope collection is the observatory built around the Clark 12 3/8" refractor telescope. Shown at right, it is a very nice facility - shown here is a young astronomer on the step ladder with dad behind him, observing the planet Mars. Look here in a few days for a post about the State Museum...

Eventually I pointed the car north and headed towards North Carolina. Interestingly, most of the central - to south sides of both the Carolinas are pretty flat, but rarely do you get a view out from the interstate system! They have trees growing along both sides and between the roads too! You can get a peek when in the northern areas where it is hillier or downright mountainous, but strange they have planted trees along hundreds of miles of roads, assumingly to minimize road noise for locals...

Thanks to my maps app on my iPhone, navigation was easy and I followed directions to the home of the head of Parallax Instruments, Joe Nastasi, outside of Raleigh. He had rolled an aluminum tube out of sheet, then welded it, and painted the interior black. While you can get commercial tubing to 12", I needed 16" tubing for this project! He then made the rings that hold the tube firmly to the telescope mounting. It was the high price of shipping the bulky tube that motivated the trip. I wished I'd had a chance to see his main shop, but wasn't possible that day. Shown here is Joe carrying the tube to my car at left and besides the rings at right. The tube is for a new project - a 14.25" mirror that also made up the trip from Tucson with me and is getting coated while I'm here to bring back. It will go on my AP 1200 mount and mostly anticipated to do astronomical imaging with a focal length of 1300mm and a speed of F/3.6.

After visiting Joe's place briefly, the goal was to find my way to friend Elaine's place in Virginia before dark! On the last weekday before Christmas, the roads got busier and more crowded as the weather turned worse as well. Heading up the mountains of northern North Carolina and Virginia the cold rain started, and literally it turned to snow just a few miles from Elaine's!

I seem to have known Elaine forever - she started coming to the Grand Canyon Star Party last century, and she was a friendly smile there for many years. Her beloved husband Tommy died a couple years ago, and she has been staying closer to home in recent years. In the Spring she was recovering from a broken leg in a wheelchair - she looks much more normal moving about afoot! One of our excursions took us to Tommy's gravesite where there was a pretty view of snow-or-frost covered trees to the north, shown at right.

Mostly we hung out at their beautiful home located in the foothills or rolling hills near local mountains. She organized a pasta dinner for me to meet some of the local amateur astronomers to eat and talk shop, and also gave the chance to sing carols around her Christmas tree! And of course, out there in the country we also watched for the local white tail deer population and see who came to the bird feeders. The photos at left and right show a panorama of late afternoon light at left, and a bit later, some nice colors as sunset came... Some of the highest mountains in the state are just a few miles to the south shown here. Also, below at left is a view of the mountains just north of Elaine's house showing the snow/frost covered trees from her front yard.

Finally Sunday arrived and it was time to transition back to "Ketelsen East" again. At 650 miles from Elaine's it is a long, but doable drive in one day. For some reason, the maps app took me on a northerly route and for the first time that I know of got to travel in West Virginia! Mostly interstate all the way, there were still surprising vistas of multi-lane highways going thru tunnels in mountains, and the wide valley of the Ohio River. Finally through north central Indiana I crossed a huge windmill farm (hundreds!) just before sunset. Even after stopping at the store for groceries, I was home before 9pm. It was nice to get out from behind the wheel! More soon, I promise!

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