Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pointless rambling on a Tuesday night

I just spent a few minutes with my spotting scope and tripod checking out the moon and Jupiter. Both were rising over my neighbors' house and I hope they didn't think I was looking at them.

The scope is a Tasco 18-36 power that's terrific for terrestrial and moon viewing, but only if you stay down at the lower magnification. The resolution deteriorates as you zoom up toward 36x, so things actually look sharper at 18x. Consequently, I could only make out one of Jupiter's moons.

I built a 3" reflector telescope from parts I ordered from the Edmund Scientific Co. catalog back in 1956. It gave me pretty spectacular view of the planets, especially Jupiter, but it's long gone now. Our wooded subdivision offers very limited views of the sky, so I have no plans to waste money or time on astronomy. While I like the seclusion the woods provide, I miss being able to see anything farther than 150 yards away.

I see that summer officially ends at 9:09 p.m. CDT tomorrow. I can't say that I'm sad to see it go. This has been a beastly hot summer here in the Mid-South with temperatures continuing in the mid-90s this week. We got our all-time high electric bill last month of $270, and that was with what I thought was judicious use of the air conditioning. This month's bill should be less than half that figure since I'm able to turn off the a/c for extended periods.

The change in the seasons also has me thinking about motorcycle rallies again. The Return to Shiloh Rally at Pickwick Dam State Park just north of the Tennessee-Mississippi border is the last weekend in September and the Falling Leaf Rally at Potosi, Mo. is the weekend after that. I could conceivably make both of them or one of them or none of them depending on the weather and whether any of my Indianapolis BMW Club friends plan to attend.

I am, however, losing some of my enthusiasm for camping. Specifically, I'm not crazy about sleeping in a tent and those late night struggles with zippers and boots to answer nature's call are a real annoyance. That said, I did sleep remarkably well - for being in a tent and on the ground - at the BMW MOA rally in Redmond, Ore. in July. I think it was because I had a decent pillow setup, having left my lightweight sleeping bag in its stuff sack for pillow duty and acquired a $50 heavy weight car camping bag for the chilly nights. I need two pillows - one under my head and the other clutched to my chest - to sleep comfortably. My Thermarest luxury camp air mattress that my son Steve got me for Christmas a couple of years ago continues to be the best I've used.

My Eureka special edition two-person tent that I bought just before Galyan's went out of business is in its sixth year. It's still pretty much like new, pitches and strikes easily, has kept me dry through several serious downpours, has door zippers that don't hang up, and has short pole segments that let it pack down smaller than any tent I've ever owned. But with me and all of my gear in it, it feels a bit cramped. Some of my friends who rally and camp with their wives have invested in Big Agnes tents, which come in some pretty outrageous sizes. I suppose I could buy a larger waterproof bag to carry my sleeping bag, Thermarest, tent and pillows and step up to a Big Agnes or some such circus tent, but that's a thought for another evening.

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