Category: DesertCamping
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Another beautiful sunset in the desert

There must be some law that says the longer you stay in one place the harder it is to move.  Call it a modification of Newton's second law, which states that an object's momentum will stay constant unless acted upon by an exterior force.  Newton would say that when you stop moving, you tend to stay that way unless something pushes you.  I would add the "rooting" effect, that the longer you stay in one place the more force it takes to get you moving again.  Putting down roots is only part of the reason.  The other part is that you tend to collect mass when you stay in one place, an so you have more of it to get moving again.

My campsite is a great example.  I have been in this one spot north of Quartzsite for over three weeks (yes, beyond the 14 day limit) and seem to be putting down roots.  (Lord knows I have fertilized the ground enough with my bodily wastes!)  Paths are starting to form where I cross the wash.  The ground is turning to powder around my sleeping tent, where I have to kneel to enter and exit.  A few days ago during a trip to Parker and then to Bouse to check out the Swansea Mine road, I started thinking of getting home before dusk.  Home, mind you.

So it takes more force to get me moving again.  Nature and my neighbors are supplying it.  Nature is waking up here, or at least the desert creatures are.  There are spiders now and lizards, seemingly where you least expect them.  There are other tracks besides just mine.  Something is starting to dig up one of my tent stakes.  The bees are back and attracted to any standing water (as in my diswater bucket).  The weather is warming up, making it uncomfortable in my office/observatory tent during the day and in my sleeping tent at night.  My vegetables aren't staying fresh as long since they don't cool sufficiently at night.

Oh, the neighbors.  They run their generator about four hours per day.  Maybe they cook with a microwave.  At night I think they like to watch TV.  Their dogs have been over to check me out.  Sometimes they start a fire in the evening and let it smoulder into the night, filling my camp with a smell of burning trash.  It's the equivalent of suburban living.

As for accumulated mass, that has been mostly food.  Last time I was in Parker at the Walmart, I stocked up on rice, lentils, gluten free flour, sunflower seeds, and oatmeal.  Oh, and Earl gave me some of his paperback novels and some AAA trip books.  Not much added mass really, but yu get my point.  It is more stuff to pack and cart around.

Along with the push by neighbors and nature is the pull of meeting my brother in an RV park east of Portal, close to the New Mexico border.  He will be there on Friday the 4th of March, and I will meet him there for a week of astronomy together.  That should be a lot of fun.  He rented a cabin and I will pitch my observing tent next to it and sleep on the floor inside the cabin.  It will be deluxe compared to my usual setup.

So before I tear down my observatory I want to check which way the counterweight is pointing when the laser beam is dead on Polaris.  That will help me with rough polar alignment when I get to the RV park.  I also need to look at the current logs on the motors and try to figure out why the sidereal tracking keeps shutting down after about an hour of use.  I think it is a balance issue, plus the need to better tune the three parameters that control the motor current, acceleration, and dampening.  There is an optimal setting where the mount can move swiftly to a new object without overshooting it, hold it in the camera as it moves across the sky, and resist any pressure to move it, such as wind gusts on the telescope tube.  I would like to have all that figured out before I set up again in Portal.

So I am looking forward to a change of scenery and some higher elevations.  Maybe the desert creatures will still be asleep where I am going and the nights will be colder, making my food keep longer and my sleeping more comfortable.  It might also be darker, since there are fewer light-polluting towns in that area of Arizona.  We shall see in just a few days.