Thanks to Jerry, Susan and Sylvia for checking in with me. It makes me feel like someone cares about me, although I know that all of my other friends and relatives care, too. Susan has written me a few letters, but I may not have gotten the last one as it could be in Tucson. I haven't gone back there to get my mail, and probably won't take the trouble to do it even when it is time to go back to Wyoming. My most direct shot will be to go east to Las Cruces and then north to Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
I haven't gone anywhere since Jerry left except to Animas a few times for water and groceries. I thought about driving to Deming or Douglas, but decided that the 3 or 4 hours and gasoline it would take wasn't worth having fresh produce. I am getting by with rice and beans, potatoes and onions, and some of my dry goods like flour and sunflower seeds. I still have enough for breakfast and I make waffles for supper. (New Improved Waffle Recipe!) I figure I can hold out for a while this way and still have enough to eat.
I am thinking about heading back to Wyoming in a couple of weeks, once the dark cycle is over. The weather might be getting decent up there in three weeks or so and I would like to start working around on my place, cleaning it up and finishing a few projects, like the cottage and root cellar. I also want to spend a few days in Laramie on my way back to visit Jason and a few friends.
The weather has been pretty severe in the last week or so, with a couple of bad wind storms, some rain, and cold temperatures. Lets just say the wind was something to get through, and not at all a good time. It was hard on my tent and astronomy equipment, and even knocked my tripod and telescope over during a particularly hard gust. Luckily the counterweight and outer rim of the telescope tube took most of the impact, and I don't think it actually fell that far. One of the tripod legs telescoped back in under the extreme pressure and it overbalanced the system. Now I crank those telescope leg screws down as tight as I can get them.
So far it looks like everything still works, although there is a 3 inch diameter shallow dent in the side of the telescope tube where it impacted the tripod head. Amazingly, the telescope seems to still be collimated. I am really impressed with this scope. It is built like a tank and is completely trouble free. Other than that there are no signs of other damage. The mount still works flawlessly (with occasional RA dropouts) and the camera and focuser are fine.
The tent is definitely taking a beating. The rain fly has duct tape in three places where rips were starting to form. One of them is about two feet long, where there was a seam over the control room side of the tent. One of the tent poles snapped when the telescope went over and I stuck it back together with a spike and some duct tape. There are several new holes in the yellow inner tent from rubbing on stuff during wind gusts and the zippers are difficult to work, even after lubricating them with soap. (The spray lube didn't work, and wasn't really dry like it said. It attracted dust and discolored the fabric on the tent. Also, the spray nozzle was broken and it leaks like crazy at the can. I think I will take it back when I get to another Wal Mart.)
At one point during the storm the tent was almost flattened, and all I could do was slouch way back in my chair with my feet under the table. The tent ceiling was pressing down on my head and I felt like a giant was stepping on me. There wasn't anything to do but read my Designing Sound book and listen to the deafening wind noise and flapping of my tent. The wind even continued through the night, calming sometime in the early morning, only to begin again when the Sun came up. I am definitely out here with the elements. That is one of the "benefits" of tent camping versus being in a motor home.
So I am fine out here and I still am enjoying it when the weather is good. Last night was clear but I was busy finishing a music class assignment, so I didn't do any observing. The night before I did my own double star marathon, and logged maybe 20 or so observations. It seems I can just barely see two image circles when they are about 8 or 9 arc seconds apart. Some of them are challenging, in that there is a wide magnitude difference. I got one pair that was about a mag 7 and mag 15. The dim one was just a ghost of a star and the bright one completely overexposed, but I at least got it. I didn't bother saving the images, but I did record my observations in my AstroPlanner program.
I am contemplating my next observing run, perhaps tonight if the weather holds. I might do more star clusters, or perhaps some asteroids. I need a good goal with some science behind it. I did set up a rudimentary variable star observing plan a week ago and got one set of observations, but most are long period variables and probably don't need another set of observations right away. I'll have to wait until my data usage counter resets on the 4th before I can do any more research on candidates for another variable star run. Right now I am trying to squeak under the wire at 5 GB, and I only have about 100 MB left for today and tomorrow, when it will reset.
What I really need to do is get my system so it will run unattended, or at least while I am in my sleeping bag staying warm. Night before last I got so cold that even when I did go to bed at 1:30 AM I couldn't sleep. My feet and legs didn't warm up until morning when I got up and cooked breakfast. Last night was better, as I bundled up and the weather wasn't so cold. Still, I was tired at midnight when I finally finished my assignment and I decided to turn in while I at least had the chance for some sleep.
I am getting cold feet on driving out to New York for Keely's graduation, and doubt I would want to fly. Devona will be there to watch the commencement, so Keely will have some family even if I don't go. I had thought of stopping in St. Louis for the AAVSO annual meeting in early May, but I don't think I would want to haul my equipment all the way out there and back if I went directly from New Mexico, and once I am back in Wyoming I know I won't want to go anywhere for a while, unless it is for a camping trip to the Red Desert. I am anxious to see what the dark sky is like down there. Even here in New Mexico there is a definite sky glow. I guess there is no escaping it, unless I go to Chile or Africa. (Now the Kalahari Desert in Botswana has me interested.)