Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Friends, Travel and the Stars

Several people have wondered if I am still traveling with Lou and Davey. I am. I am finding that I am really enjoying the camaraderie. Originally when I started this trip, it was supposed to be about finding out if I could handle being totally by myself for three months. This was not going to happen exactly as I thought since the internet made it possible for me to be in contact with all my peeps back home. But, it was still going to be a trip of self-sufficiency – a trip to see if I could be self reliant.

The cool thing about this RV travel is that every day is a new opportunity to explore different things, different opportunities. Yes, I am not all on my own, but I am finding out more about my sociability, my ability to work with others, my being part of a team. It is interesting. I am finding that I don't mind being with others. Maybe I really can play nice with others. Who knew.

I am still traveling with Lou and Davey. From my viewpoint, it is working out well. They are such easy going people, they feed me, and even though I am the one with the “plan”, just because they are there, it makes me follow through, makes me much more active than I might be left to my own devices. Eventually we will part company, but as of now I am enjoying being with them and it seems to be a mutual feeling.

Today, we got up early and hit the road by 8:30. We took a different road out of Big Bend than we came into Big Bend on. Again, we passed the Chisos Mountains and then traveled through some hilly country. When we got to the west end of the park, all of a sudden it seemed to turn into more of a Bad Lands type of terrain. Round weathered hills, lots of sand color hills.

There was no official end of the park, it seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere and then we started going through little towns. Everything is so dusty looking. The word that comes to mind is hardscrabble. It makes me feel very fortunate in the way life has treated me. While I have had struggles and occasionally gone hungry, things have pretty much worked out for me. My impression is that these people have to struggle a lot more for the basics than I have ever had to.

At one point we had to pass through a border inspection point. You pull off the road a little bit and there is one guy with a big black German Shepard type dog who circles around behind your rig – the dog is sniffing all over (looking for drugs?). There is a guy that stands up in front of your rig just watching and then there is the chatty guy who talks to you and asks you questions.

“From Minnesota? “

“Yup. I'm trying to escape the cold.”

“Well watch out – it is going to snow here Friday.”

“No way. That is depressing”

“You a US citizen”


“Ok – have a good day.”

Part of me was a little disappointed they did not think I might have some nefarious plan and could be a “person of interest”. Oh well, maybe it was the gray hair that threw them off.

It took us about four hours to get to Davis Mountains State Park in Texas. Got to my site and it took me a long time to get the rig level. It is very hilly here. The good thing is that there is pretty good internet here – I can actually be in the coach and be online. Heaven. Of course I had to park super close to the bathrooms because that is where the wifi antenna is, but I'm so overjoyed at finally being able to be online. Still no Verizon phone service, I have to go up the mountain several thousand feet or go down the road into Fort Davis which is about three miles away to get phone service. But...I have internet.

The big draw here is the McDonald Observatory - . There is very little light pollution here in this area( because there are not many people) which makes it a perfect place to study the heavens. We had signed up for three tours at the observatory but after driving that long, we rescheduled the afternoon tour. The observatory is on top of several different mountain peaks – long windy roads with long ways down on the edge of the road.

First up was the Twilight tour which was titled Earth's Companion: The Moon. This is about an hour and a half talk. It was fascinating. First they talked about the phases of the moon, eclipses, and lunar surface features. There were some live demos and it was entertaining.

We had a half hour between the Twilight Program and the Star Party so we decided to eat in the little restaurant. I had Frito Pie. It is very similar to the Taco In a Bag that we have up north. There is a big layer of Fritos, topped by chili, cheese and salsa. It is one of those dishes where you think you are in heaven all the while knowing that this was probably going to hasten your future heart attack.

The Star Party. You start off in an outdoor amphitheater where there is a guy with a super powerful laser. Using the laser, he points out the different constellations and stars. It was the first time that I could really tell different stars/constellations (besides my favorite constellation Orion which everybody knows). The leader was very informative and also funny. He handled an audience of about a hundred people very well, making all of us interested and wanting to know more. It was pretty cold on the mountain and we were sitting on granite seats, but nobody seemed to mind.

After the talk, we had the opportunity to look through about six different telescopes. We saw
  1. a closeup of some craters on the moon which we had just learned about in the Twilight program
  2. a large vision of the moon where we could see a bunch of the Seas (Tranquility, Fertility)
  3. a comet that was very near to the moon
  4. Orion's Nebulus
  5. Pleiades
  6. One of the Gemini twins – can't remember if it was Pollux or Castor

This was such an exciting night. Although the universe has always made me feel rather small, this was such a mind-blowing experience – it really fuels the imagination and makes you want to know more about what is out there.

When we got back to the Rvs, we took Miko for a night walk and looked at all the stars and planets that we had learned about. While we were walking, Miko went on alert. On the side of the road, there were four Javalinas – collared peccaries, wild pigs. Miko started barking (she never barks) and trying to get at them. Evidently she irritated one of them because he started coming after Miko. I reeled her in and we headed back to the RV. Pig did not follow.

The skies here are so dark, it is easy to see maybe about a billion or so stars. Both Davey and I got out our binoculars and lay on our backs and checked out the moon. With binoculars, you can see an awful lot of the different features of the moon.

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