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Category: DesertCamping
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I've been wanting to set up a blog with my experiences, but so far I have been busy with other things and have just gotten the basic website set up, with no content yet.  So here is a personal rundown of what has been happening:

  1. I stayed for about a week with my friend Dave in Tucson.  I got my solar panels and batteries, plus some camping gear.  While there we did some neat projects with his telescope:
    1. We looked at some double stars to test his resolution..
    2. We monitored some asteroids for several hours and got their rough light curves.
    3. We took some low-resolution spectra of some stars of various spectral types and looked for the hydrogen alpha and beta lines.
  2. I headed north to Phoenix to look at a motor home.  While there I bought a new solar charge controller.
    1. I camped in the desert in the Tonto National Forest.  There were some great cacti there.
    2. I visited Marshall and his wife Dawn for an afternoon.
  3. I headed southeast to a small town called Bowie and camped two nights in the desert there.  It was too cold for me (below freezing both nights) so I headed east to lower elevations.
  4. On the way I decided to make an offer on the motor home ($5500 for a 1993 diesel pusher).  They took it, so I headed up to Phoenix (actually Mesa).  Several things happened to make me reconsider
    1. A towing system for my car would cost almost $3000 and take almost two weeks to install.
    2. The sellers had to get the DMV to inspect the vehicle since it had an out of state title and it would take almost a week.
  5. I decided to withdraw my offer and think about it.  The motor home is mechanically sound, but the walls are trashed from water damage.  It would be a restoration project, and something I am not sure I want to be doing right now.
  6. I headed for Ajo, south of Interstate 8, and about 70 miles from the Mexico border.
  7. I ended up in a campground on BLM land 2 miles south of Why.  Camping has been quite an experience:
    1. The first day or so was nice, about 70 during the day and in the low 40's at night.
    2. I set up my observatory tent and mounted the telescope and camera, and did a preliminary check of the mount and camera for a few hours that night.
    3. A storm moved in with lots of wind, with gusts up to 45 mph.
    4. It was a trial keeping my observatory tent from uprooting, as my tent pegs were too small.  I wound up parking my car upwind and tying some guy lines to its wheels and putting my equipment boxes in the corners inside.
    5. Everything got coated with a fine layer of dust.  Not a huge deal, but annoying.
  8. I got my power panel put together for the telescope and computer, and opened up the observatory slot last night, since it was clear.
    1. It took several hours to get all the cables routed and tied down, plus all the voltages checked and power feeds connected.
    2. I fiddled with the eyepieces (a 40 mm and a 12 mm reticle) for almost an hour to get a good alignment with the optical tube and the finder scope.
    3. I messed with the mount control interface trying to get the drive motors calibrated and fix the pointing position.  I ran into numerous snags.
      1. It kept telling me the declination axis wasn't calibrated.
      2. It couldn't correctly compute the offset from the parking position to its internal home index marks.
      3. I could not get it to synchronize on a star, so its pointing was way off.
    4. I did get the game pad controller working, which is nice since I can control the telescope drive while standing next to it, without having to be near the computer.
    5. I finally manually found the Orion Nebula and took a few throwaway shots of it with my camera, but the mount kept dropping its tracking during the exposures.
  9. By the time I was ready to quit, it was 11:30 and already dipping toward freezing.  My feet were like blocks of ice.
  10. I went to bed and by the time I started to warm up (maybe 2:30 or so) I had to pee.  I toughed it out until 6:30 until I couldn't stand it anymore.

So, this is reality.  Actually, I am enjoying the heck out of it.  Every morning I cook up a good breakfast porridge, and take it with me on a two to three mile walk in the desert, each time in a different direction.  Every time I discover something different.  There are many different kinds of plants and landforms out here, and you can get an idea of what it is like to survive during the summer.  I actually love it out here.  The storm was a hassle, but the weather map showed everything was bad all around me, and my spot was actually the best place I could have been as far as cold weather and wind.  The dust wasn't as bad here as it is in other parts of the state, since the ground is pretty hard here.  There usually isn't a lot of wind, and the nights can be totally calm, without a sound anywhere, that is, until the coyotes start to howl in the early morning.

I am actually getting used to camping, although there are a few things I miss, like bathing and a real kitchen.  I currently have my stove set up on a camera case, and have to kneel in the dirt to do my cooking.  I might buy a portable kitchen countertop / shelving system from Sportsman's Warehouse, but frankly I am running out of room in my car.  It is so loaded down that I am afraid it will bottom out.  But sleeping is getting better.  My pad and air mattress make my bed comfy, and I don't have any of the usual aches and pains from camping when I wake up in the morning.