more dark skies. sept 12th.

i don't know why.

maybe it's because i got sick. maybe it's because nothing is really sinking in.

my head is clear of thoughts. my mind is not racing.

and i don't know how.

starting with friday...

work was easy. i ended up driving to sucky store to collect paperwork and money. and back to the other stores to work for a bit. did the banking. whatever. no big deal.

kit was running behind with science, so we got a late start out of town.

when we finally got on the road, i had already been stressing on getting there in time.

they'll lock the gate so cars can't come in after dark, plus we had to pitch our tent before it got dark. because when it's dark at dark sky, it is DARK at dark sky. there are no lights to help.

in any case, we did get caught in some traffic, and i'm only writing about this to set the stage for the craziness a little further up the road.

so the last time we went here, i got that speeding ticket on the way home. and because i'm a worrier, i spent the entire drive up thinking that there were cops hiding in every clearing, just waiting to ticket me. add that to the fear that the gates were going to be locked when we got there. one makes me slow down, one makes me want to speed up. and then the gps was trying to take us the most direct route, which was on that insane busted up road we took to get there last time.

so we had a mini detour and had to go a little out of the way. the sun was setting quickly at that point, and kit had picked up on the tension in the driver's seat and was helping me to not panic, and coming up with a plan, in the case that there was a problem at the gate.

the other part of the stress was in regards to the weather. it had changed throughout the week, and constantly throughout that day. it said clear skies all weekend the whole week. but on friday, it said clear skies friday, rain on saturday. then switched to be cloudy friday and saturday, rain on sunday.

there was no point in worrying about it. whatever the weather did was what the weather would do. so as we were driving up into the mountains, there were clouds everywhere, and we were both trying to have faith that it would all clear out in time for good seeing that night.

add another part of minor stress to the weekend. it was more kit's concern than mine, but once we were there after dark, i was afraid that we wouldn't make any new friends in time to 'borrow' telescopes that night.

it's a funny thing, meeting people in the dark.

you get to know their voices, but you can't see any part of their faces. i guess you can kindof get profiles with starry skies as the background. but other than that, you really are having entire conversations and spending time with someone who could be anyone.

by some miracle, we got into the park while there was the slightest bit of light left. i shut off the headlights and rolled into the campground as people were already using their red flashlights to get around. we got registered and back into the car. the grounds were packed. packed, packed.

we drove to the back of the grounds, furthest from the bathrooms, and into a slot where the car and tent would fit.

and we hauled ass setting up the tent. it was quite impressive teamwork, and i think kit and i had the tent assembled and somewhat staked down in under 15 minutes. we were racing and somehow managing not to get snippy with each other.

we set up our stuff inside the tent and then started to walk around the grounds, trying to scope out a camp to invade. we hadn't lucked out with good neighbors. the guy next to us had two eight year old boys with him, and didn't seem too thrilled about it.

i don't know which point it was, but it was pretty early on, this guy had a guide on his telescope (a 20 inch, big enough to require a ladder for viewing), so it was making mechanical noises, and as we walked in front of it, kit said 'don't shoot, don't shoot', joking with the operator. he had said something about it following her that i didn't hear, and that ended up being our ticket in.

we were walking to the food tent, i guess. and came back by and stopped to talk to the guys at this camp. and within an hour or so, if i had to guess, we were walking back to our camp to get cake to share, and then another hour or two later, to get our camping chairs and 'move in'.

so there were two men, paul and pat. they were maybe 40 and 50 respectively (i'm awful at guessing ages), and paul had his 13 year old kid with him.

pat was hilarious. like last time, there were a few jokes that had us laughing to tears this trip. it was his awesome scope that we were stealing glances through. it was programmable, so he'd plug in an object and the thing would go directly to it. it was fast and spot on every time.

so this time, in addition to the things that we saw last time, we got to see some new objects.

and we saw some of the same objects with more clarity, which made them feel like new all over again. the veil nebula was just incredible. and it was pat's favorite, so we spent a lot of time there. we saw this beautiful blue nebula, and a blinking nebula. i don't know what the deal was with that, but it had a central star in it, so if you looked at the star, the nebula would disappear. and when you took your focus off, it would come back, hence the name. it was really cool.

we saw andromeda galaxy again, and a ton of other messier objects, m33, m31, m11. so many open clusters and globular clusters. we saw the crab nebula, which pat insisted on calling the smashed cockroach nebula, because it was just a blob, and didn't look like anything other than a smudge. we saw the cigar galaxy in the same view as another galaxy, but i forget which one.

the list was a mile long of things we saw.

but the thing that we knew we'd be waiting up all night for was the orion nebula. orion wasn't going to come up until 4 am, so we were in it for the long haul. saying as we'd both been up at that point for 21 hours, and had each only gotten 4 and 6 hours of sleep before that, we were exhausted. my throat was sore, and that was probably about the time that i got a nasty little surprise in the form of the dot. and what was funny is that now i'm synced up with kit, and that it explained my short fuse with chalk and attitude problem these last few days.

we were the first camp crashers. there were more. and all of them sucked. one guy was camped across the street, he was a photographer, and was taking pictures of the veil nebula over the course of an hour and a half. we called him moles-tache. his voice was annoying, and the only detail of his face either of us could pick up on was a big mustache. he was a creeper, and kept talking to us. i managed to ditch him, but kit couldn't seem to shake him, and when i finally attempted to get her away from him, they both informed me that the food vendor had shut down for the night. eventually, he showed us his setup, and then we were free of him.

there was a couple, the girl was from phila, and they were out of control, talking about getting off from what they were seeing in the scope. they were obnoxious and loud, and kit and i sat in our chairs while they were around.

and then there was this guy and his daughter. and i picture the brother in law from national lampoon's christmas vacation in my mind, because we couldn't see them at all. but this guy was talking and talking about his work. something to do with setting up radio towers i think. i don't know. he was super annoying and kept asking everyone where they were from and talking about things he worked on in specific neighborhoods where each of us lived. it was awful and lasted for what felt like forever. and then, i don't know how it came up, but he brought up the challenger explosion. and i was telling them where i was (in 3rd grade in florida, watching it go up, and not knowing what had just happened), and maybe pat or someone else said where they were. and radio tower guy of course was there, too. and then launched into all these challenger jokes. and we were all groaning and saying no, and he wouldn't take the hint and kept on with them. finally his daughter shut him up and took him away.

and that was when i made my funniest joke of the trip. i've never seen kit laugh so hard since i've known her. i said, 'you know what i call that?' and i did my best zach galifianakis impression and said, 'that was a buzzkill'. hysterics.

and maybe it was all the caffeine, we were on cups six and seven probably at that point, but things stayed funny until sleep. pat's best joke was about his scope's drive (the thing that makes it point at the objects you tell it to).

he got rid of the annoying couple by telling them that the battery was dying, because it was acting up a little. they left, and he gave it a few minutes, and then started plugging in more objects, and it was working fine. but he plugged something in, and the scope started doing its own thing, going to a different part of the sky than he thought he had told it to, and he was joking that it was going to glitch out and start going all over the place 'orion! crab! veil! orion! veil!'

and more giggling. it was mostly funny because he was moving his body around like a spastic robot while saying it. and probably, you had to be there.

but trust us. it was funny.

so we got a great night of viewing in. i went to sleep not being able to breathe out of my nose, and with a very sore throat. woke up just like last time, having to pee so badly that i didn't think i could get up out of the sleeping bag to go. i guess that was about 730, so i had only caught a 3 hour nap at that point. i was dreaming star party dreams, where you're talking to the people you've met and looking through telescopes in your sleep all night long, so i woke up cracked out and exhausted. i fell back asleep and had a dream about the writer, and got up at 1030.

not nearly enough sleep. as soon as the sun came up, the tent went from nose-numb cold (it was in the 30s that night) to sweating-rip-layers-off hot, making for a fitful rest period.

everyone was packing up, and by the time i got up, maybe a third of the people had already left. which is never a good sign.

we knew on friday night, once the clouds cleared out completely at about 9 pm, that saturday was supposed to be a wash.

and when we were up and getting coffee on saturday, another third of the people who hadn't left yet were breaking down their camps.

everyone was leaving.

there was a storm on the way, set to arrive at about 6 pm, a few hours before you can even start looking at the sky. the clouds were supposed to get in before that, and the rain was supposed to stick around overnight.

we were hoping for it to be delayed, but as time went on, everyone was less hopeful. we went over, in daylight, to see and say hi to paul and pat and chris (paul's kid). i'd had a pretty good idea of what they looked like somehow.

they were packing up at that point, because they knew there was no point in staying. there would be no windows of clarity.

we thought we'd try to take a nap and then decide what we were going to do. so we grabbed one of my sleeping bags and spread it out under a tree. just as i was drifting off, kit said that there was a tick.

and because i was sleep deprived and already a worrier, i couldn't sleep after that. i had felt something crawling on me right before she said it. and right after she said it, there was a tick on my arm. we shook everything out, and pulled ticks off the blanket and pillow and went back to camp.

and then we called it. we decided to leave as well. neither of us wanted to give up, but the majority of the scopes were leaving early, and the thought of getting home after 10 at night made us not want to wait any longer to declare the end of the trip.

so we packed up, exhausted, and threw everything into the care without being organized at all. said goodbye to the guys, and left.

as we were going to the bathroom before setting out, this guy was walking behind us and said that he remembered us. it was the guy who was married to that megabitch from the june party. pretty funny that he came alone this time. good for him. that was a nightmare.

so we left.

and i was tired at the outset, but as the sun started to set, fatigue set in. the last hour of the drive was really stressful, but not for any reason. i couldn't decide what i wanted to listen to, and my ipod was in the trunk anyway. i couldn't get comfortable, my eyes were bugging, and i was just stressed out.

as we rolled back into the city just before 9, the sky was lighting up.

and because it was 9-11, and because we were both sleep deprived and jumpy, i think kit and i both were having visions of the city being lit up, not from fireworks.

and i imagine that we were feeding off of each other's nervous energy and running with it in our heads. but i tried to convince us both that it was just fireworks. as little sense as that made.

and once i found parking at home, and left almost everything in the car to deal with today, there was a fireworks finale. i assume the phils won a game, because it was loud. and even though it didn't make sense, i think i was right about the fireworks lighting up the sky.

in any case, when we came over the hill and saw the skyline, it looked different to me, and there was a wall of traffic leaving the city, which added to the slight panic in my head. but by driving in, the skyline eventually looked normal, and we got home, and i parked and took out my contacts and got into bed.

there are a lot of things that could be considered disappointments from this weekend, but all in all, it was a success. just like last time, there was a good night of gazing on friday, and instead of camping in the pouring rain (this storm was going to be pretty bad), we just left ahead of it.

it meant that we spent 13 hours of 30 driving, which was less than awesome. and only a few sleeping. but it meant sleeping in a bed last night. with a bathroom and medicine and a warm comforter. it meant that when i woke up late today, i didn't have to drive for six hours.

i guess that i was expecting that first weekend all over again. and because it was the first, it will never be like that again.

the skies were incredible. but this trip, driving so far, made me want to go to a different place. different parties that aren't nearly as far away. skies that aren't that incredible will be okay. because we'll be able to enjoy them more.

and then, maybe next summer, we'll go back. see our old friends, and have fun. allow more time for driving, and maybe even get there a day early (for us) when the party starts.

increase the odds of two awesome nights of looking around.

if i'm even still here then.

which makes my stomach drop.

you know what was absent this weekend? thoughts of coffee (except for telling kit on the way there). thoughts of ever (until the ride home). my mind was just blank. it was really strange in contrast to the heady inspiration of the last trip here, when i sat up writing for two full hours.

we came home exhausted and defeated. but we had a good time, and despite the roughness of the drive last night, we came home happy. there's a star party in texas every may that we are now wanting to go to.

the winter party in the keys is no longer a possibility for 2011 because of the timing of the party and my two week vacation for christmas.

we'll see. i'm a little star partied out right now, because of the sleep i didn't get in preparation, and because of the cold i caught mostly due to that.

i'm just tired.

and a little sad. but mostly content.

and of the conversations we had while driving, i talked about being happy to be alone, and how new that is for me.

so today, i'll get a shower, because they don't have them at the campground, and i need one. i'll probably read a lot and lay around in bed, in an attempt to get caught up on rest and sleep. i might take a nap in an effort to get well, because i feel like ass and it's been a while since i was sick.

all told, i'm glad we went. and i know that, if we hadn't gotten our reservation, we'd have been pretty sad not to have gone at all. we got to see some pretty awesome stuff, through an incredible telescope, and we made some new friends who we may or may not ever see again.

one night under those dark skies was worth the drive. and when i recover from the exhaustion and cold, i'll be convinced of that.

1 comment:

  1. hope you are getting better… sore throat is not a lot of fun its just uncomfortable and difficult to swallow.

    usually, i would take the Nim Jiom Cough Syrup ( which has a thick consistency formulation. it coats the throat and includes herbs that are particularly good for that application.

    i hope it works on you as well.