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"Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty... Stinging clear. And I can't help but ask myself how much I let the fear... Take the wheel and steer. It's driven me before... And it seems to have a vague... Haunting mass appeal. And lately I'm... Beginning to find that I... Should be the one behind the wheel.

Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there. With open arms and open eyes. Whatever tomorrow brings? I'll be there. I'll be there."

Hey, ya'll... I'm outta' here! It's time for ~T to hit the road again and off on a new adventure. Stay tuned and I'll report at every opportunity.

See you in Pennsylvania!

And, unfortunately, the motel I chose didn't have internet access. Oh, well! My goal was to totally relax for a few days and the least of my worries was whether or not I was "connected". It was still an awesome weekend... So, kick back, relax, and I'll take you there!

September 1- 4, 2005 - The "Black Forest Star Party"...

Comments: It's September 1 and I'm excited. I know a lot of my friends have already left for Pennsylvania and the "Black Forest Star Party", but I have to work that day. Actually, I've worked the last 12 days straight and between my formal occupation and the many other things I do, I haven't even had time to think about packing a bag, much less wash the clothes that go in them. So, when I get home from work, I finish doing what I have to do to keep business running while I am gone and try my best to concentrate on what I might need for the next few days.

By early evening, I'm checking things off my "stupid list" and arranging nice, neat little bags in the trunk of my car. I stand there watching Venus and Jupiter on the horizon with an idiot grin on my face and simply praying that I can make it through the next couple of days without being blonde...

S'yeah. Riiiiiiite.

Although I had a hard time sleeping, I was up at 3:00 a.m. on September 2 and ready to roll. I remembered all too well the stress of driving last year and figured and early start was my best bet. Do you remember last year? I sure do. There was fog so thick that you couldn't see 20 feet ahead of you and when I walked out the door the same met my eye. Rather than a repeat performance, I simply curled up in my chair with a cup of coffee and decided to wait it out. Around 5:00 a.m., I figured if nothing else I would head out on roads that I was familiar with, so filling my thermal mug, I headed towards the Observatory to pick up 71 north. Of course, the roads were incredibly foggy, but at least I know when and where to turn on them. At one point I got to the top of a hill and down low on the eastern horizon was the most heartbreakingly slim crescent of orange Moon that I have ever seen. Hanging like a promise and loaded with earthshine, it looked like the day was going to be alright!

Grabbing another cup of coffee before I hit the expressway, I readied three sets of driving instructions on the seat beside me along with a road atlas. Each one talkes a slightly different route and although I have driven it before, I always have these doubts that I can do it.

"Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty... Stinging clear. And I can't help but ask myself how much I let the fear - take the wheel and steer. It's driven me before and it seems to be the way, that everyone else gets around. And lately I'm beginning to find that when I drive myself my light is found."

Stressed? No. I know that I will make a wrong turn here and there. That's just who I am. I usually know the second that I make the wrong decision that it is wrong, but at least I'm not the type to cut back across 3 lanes of traffic to correct it. All in all, I only lost about 20 minutes due to stupidity and oddly enough, found myself in the right place at the right time.

First order of business? Check into the motel. Now, please... I mean no disrespect for everything was admirably clean... but the sign should have read "Bate's Motel". Again, an error on my part for not having booked sooner, but I knew the second I walked in the door that this was a new experience. Paranoid? No. Thankfully this is not a problem with me, because I've learned if I stay in the light so people can see me that I've nothing to fear. But, hey! "Mom and Pop" is the backbone of American business, right? Right. I've got a bed. I've got a shower. And I've got a room.

Leaving my suitcase, I head off in familiarity towards the Star Party to set up the equipment tent and leave scopes and such there. I don't know if Mike and Terry have esp or not, but they are right there just as soon as I walk in the gate and pick up my weekend package. Mike leads me to the site (i dunno'. what do you think? were the clues to who we were too subtle? ;) and within minutes the car is there and even though I haven't set up a tent in years everything went just fine. Robert and Carl have also set up and it looks to be a fine weekend when Joe and Scott arrive. Equipment stowed and ready for the weekend, I head back towards my room to catch a much needed nap and a meal.

When I awoke a couple of hours later, I was ready for a shower and to dress a bit more appropriately for chilly temperatures. Happily digging through my clothes, I laid out heavy jeans, long sleeved shirts and a hoody. Ready, I cleaned up and dressed. Grabbing my heavy workboots, I realized to my horror that I had forgotten one very important article of clothing -- socks! While my sandals were fine for the warm afternoons, going barefoot at night is a different story. If I wear them without? I know my feet will be in such bad shape after walking all night that I won't make it through the weekend.

Yeah. It sounds simple enough to drive to town to buy another pair, but you've got to realize there isn't a "town" here. There are no malls, no stores, and I am not familiar enough with the countryside to find one. I had left me door open and I could see a gentleman just outside also readying himself for the evening. Well, if anything, I am not shy... So I walked out barefoot and probably made the strangest request that anyone had ever asked him. "Can I buy a pair of socks from you?". The moment he spoke, I realized that we had met before the previous year. Omicron Cygnii 2! And name that Messier... His name was Thom Beamis and Victor had introduced us. I called him Tim and he called me Marsha, eh? Grinning at the recollection of our previous banter, Thom laid out a variety to chose from and I was incredibly thankful. He saved my feet! While I'm sure I could have gotten a pair back at camp, the walk up the Hill would have toasted me. Thom? These will forever be considered my "lucky socks"...

When I return, Joe catches me coming up the Hill carrying my gear and makes sure to tell me that some guy named "Victor" had stopped by to tell me that he was here. Now, I'm definately smiling, because it's no secret that Vic is one of my favourite people in the whole wide world. Setting up the Celestron NexStar 102, I get out my notes, my chair, and everything is a go for dark. While, waiting, I look up where Vic and friends are camped and it is so good to see him again. We might be another year older, but at least we're still playing around in the dark! Heading back for my scope, I can't help but notice something pretty wonderful through the trees and stop to take a picture.

Venus and Jupiter are simply blazing and while other scopes are turned their direction, I am just happy to see them in such a lovely setting. Cherry Springs, Pennsylvania is a very beautiful State Park located in the heart of the Susquehannock Forest. The drive and view here are just stupendous and everything has a magical quality to it. Who cannot see those planets through the trees and not believe? Even though there has been some fear of clouds, everything looks like it's going to be just fine and I sit and relax while I watch the stars come out.

When darkness arrives, I call Terry over to play with this cool, little scope. While I am far from saavy with GoTo systems, I have at least practiced enough to align it with a fair amount of ease and I hand the keypad over to him and tell him to drive. And so the "tour" begains... M4, M80, M6, M7, M19, M14, M8, M17, M22, M24, M17... It's all there at the push of a button. We stopped to watch a magnificent pass of the ISS and everyone was talking about the pale blue aurora. When Terry went back to the keypad, the NexStar 102 turned into the "Exorcist Scope". Pulling its plugs, I looked up to see Terry running. Dude! Don't worry. We'll just set it up again. I don't know why it went nutz, but I know that you didn't do anything to it.

When he came back, I pointed out that we were good to go again and we both yelled out loud as a brilliant meteor split Cygus. Let the games begin, and we headed off towards M16, M11, M10, M12, M13, M92... Stopping to walk back to Mike, we had an awesome view of the "Double Dark" nebula in Aquila and then back to the little one for more... M59, M70, M69, M75 and M18. The Aurigid meteor shower was doing itself proud and as Cygnus came off the zenith, I happily enjoyed the NGC catalog.

For awhile, I could do nothing more than just sit and enjoy the skies. GoTo makes everything so fast that you have plenty of time to do this. Terry kicks back in the chair beside me and we just talk and enjoy the night. When we get back up, it's time to fly to many other wonderful things. He goes off to use Mike's 15" Obsession and I head on towards M2, the "Saturn Nebula", the "Helix" nebula, the "Crab", the Plieades, and all the beauty in Cassiopeia. By now, I'm realizing the slew controls are slowing way down. The Celestron PowerPlant has performed wonderfully and I have gotten at least a full 6 hours of juice to play with. Now? Now I'm just happy to sit again with Terry as we discuss the complexity and distribution of galaxy clusters. Terry is a cartographer and we enjoy the night as he points out Draco to me, and we speak of Camelopardalis and how George Abell's studies fit into the grand scheme.

Around 3:30 or so, I find myself beginning to very much tire. Beside me, Terry has long since gone to sleep and it is time for me to head back down that mountain as well. I walk around for a bit, and realize that most folks have also tuckered out, so I take my leave to head back to my room. Besides... I'm hungry and there's my pre-packaged food there!

September 3 begins cool and cloudy. I was in no great hurry, so I sat for a long time and had coffee while I folded brochures for Hidden Hollow. There's really no place for breakfast, and I'm glad I brought some cookies along to fill the void. I happily munched and when my hands had tired, I packed up realizing that I might not make it back until very late this evening. Heading out, it's time to rejoin the "Star Party" and be with my friends.

Yep. They are also up and moving about. Taking a bundle of brochures, I caught a little good natured teasing and we had quite a few laughs as we readied ourselves to head amoungst the other campers and spread the word about Hidden Hollow. So many terrific people to meet and talk to! Many of the folks I had met before and the real beauty of Black Forest sunk home again... It's the people and the place that make this all so great. Familiar faces and familiar spaces. We're all here to have a good time. As Joe, Terry and I split up the campgrounds, I am also delighted to trip across Vic. He's one of those people I simply can't miss. We get our raffle tickets and as the afternoon goes late, stop to listen to the guest speakers and sit on the edge of our seats hoping to be the one to win, eh? It's all great fun...

Of course, everyone here is tired from the night before, but who needs sleep? Joe had caught "Mike The Tireless One" in a rather candid moment, and all I can say is I envy him. I know the night is going to go quite late and what we all wouldn't give to be catching a few zzzz's! Of course, this probably constitutes some type of blackmail scenario, but Mike would just flash me that big PR grin and I know exactly the words behind it... And I'm still laughing!

As we head back for camp, I also had an opportunity to visit with Tim Morey again. He's a great young man and we really share a lot in common. I admire him greatly, and he also introduces me to others who reach towards the same goal... Let's take it to the people. Getting my marker for this evening's public viewing, I head back to camp to join the others in heading out for a big meal. After a little Surf and Turf and a cold, draft Ylingling, it's time to head back up because those skies have gone very dark.

While others head their own way, I set the NexStar 102 up in front of our tents for the public to view. Others like to take their astronomy a little more privately, and the space by the path is fine with me. A handful of people come along and enjoy the M17, but the riches a Saggitarius are quickly hiding behind the tent, so I make the ultimate mistake... I moved it. A bit more out in the open and capable of tracking a single object for a longer time was my goal... But folks? I screwed something up. As soon as I hit alignment and asked it to go? It started spinning on it's little mount and as I watched in horror the OTA moved up and jammed against it. Pull the plugs! That's all I could think of before it stripped the gears and pull them I did. Moving my marker back to the front of the tent, I laid my binoculars out for public and immediately disassembled the daggone thing. One lesson I have definately learned is not to work on a scope in the dark.

Joe came along and offered his scope for the public, but it's not a good idea to have folks walking through camp in the dark, my friend. As I finished breaking down, he pointed out there was a crimp in one line and that's what probably caused it to act the way it did. Yeah. I do get spooked too easily, but this weekend was all about leaving stress way over west, and when that feeling came around? Eliminate it. Folks are happy with a look through the binos and when they have trickled down, I head off to visit with other friends and have a look at what they are viewing.

Cup of coffee in hand, Terry and I draw chairs together again and simply enjoy. I have looked through many, many scopes tonight and I am happiest right here with Terry -- talking and enjoying these incredible skies. The binoculars are right here, and as something takes my fancy? I enjoy it. The Aurigid meteors are still flying and Mars looks like a beacon. What can I say? The Andromeda Galaxy hummed it was so glowing and huge in the night. Terry took us there in the Obsession and we traced it and its clusters all the way out. And lookey there! Here's more to explore...

Sitting once again, I found my blanket. A cold, wet dew had fallen and we laughed at the sound of the "communist" hairdryers - wishing for one to dry our clothes. Cold and wet doesn't seem to matter too awfully much when you can see the M33 with just your eyes. It's all so beautiful... The evening is growing later and I find myself beginning to get sleepy, yet the talk is stimulating and I have no desire to leave. We munch for awhile and watch as Orion rises, talking of the many things there and how the galaxies are distributed. As I feel my eyes beginning to get heavy again, Robert takes his leave and I do as well. I've got to navigate "deer alley" yet.

Back at "Bates", a party was going on. Guess what? No place to park. Praying that I wouldn't get a ticket, I kept it within line of site, but had to stay up to wait it out. You don't leave an out-of-state car abandoned, folks... No matter how tired you are. When a space opened up in the motel lot, my pyjamas and I ran out to make the switch, lock the door and cut the lights. There's a long drive ahead tomorrow and I gotta' get some rest.

It's September 4, and cloudy and cold. After I checked out, I headed back up to camp to re-load my gear and break down the tent. It didn't take long to stow everything in its place and I had the opportunity to visit with Vic for awhile again. It's almost sad to leave, and many folks are staying on. Me? Well, Mike and Terry are heading back the same general direction and they can count on a "trailer" at least part of the way. It's much more relaxing to know that I only have to keep them in site until we hit the major highway. Sleepy? Yeah. By the time we made Jamestown, New York, I had the windows down and the tunes loud, but it wasn't long until it had passed. Once we made the Ohio border, I lost them, but I am sure they are safe. I think I'm the only one who gets a wee bit confused from time to time, but at least I always find my way back home.

And by sunset, I was there. Back on familiar ground and ready to enjoy my own cooking again. Surprisingly enough, the skies were beautiful here as well. The Milky Way did not shine quite as brightly, but I am content to sit on the deck with H and my feet and unwind. It's been a wonderful weekend...

But there's no place like home.

"Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there. With open arms and open eyes, yeah. Whatever tommorrow brings, I'll be there. I'll be there."

Rock on! ~T