After an unfortunate year off broke my consecutive-OSP attendance at twelve, I was back in action for the 2002 event. I had just come from our family campout, so for the first time ever I would be early! I was again without a large-aperture telescope (by 2002 standards, not even a 'medium'!); my stubby 8-inch had been hastily reassembled for the trip, complete with no finder and a helical focuser that I greatly disliked. My supplies had been hastily restocked in Prineville, but even before I reached the site I remembered a few overlooked items that I would need soon (especially cash for food and the swap meet). I arrived on Tuesday, late in the morning, having spent the previous night in Bend to wash off accumulated dirt from the campout. People were surprised at my arrival time, since most people show up after long drives from the big cities. With heavy travel restriction in place this year from the extreme fire danger, no vehicles would be allowed to drive into the trees, so I picked up my full-size tent and wandered there in search of a good campsite. good thing I had recently returned from my big backpacking trip, or carrying that big tent at 5000 feet would have been tough; as it was I was not even winded! Thankfully, the portable toilets arrived soon after me, so one big issue was resolved early. The food wagon would not arrive, though, but I still had my campstove and spare food so that was not a problem. I was bit low on drink, though, so I was mentally preparing for the long drive back to Prineville in the near future. Others began arriving later that day, most notably two with bad tires; I would not be the only one on the road back to civilization!
The first night was supposed to be a minor-planet hunt, thanks to my clever packing of the document I had contributed to the OSP observers' packet; I was a bit too clever, though, and could not find it! No big deal, plenty to see from 5000 feet in pristine conditions, so I spent a few hours observing the summer highlights before turning in. Wednesday would be final-preparation day for the site, and I had agreed to help out. Instead I receive an offer to accompany one of the flat-tire owners into town, to help out in case something goes wrong. I accept, thinking it will be a fairly quick trip. [WRONG] His spare fails well short of town, and the emergency-inflation device fails after putting about 15 pounds of pressure in his original flat. We limp slowly into Prineville, we shop while the tires were fixed (we brought the other person's bad tire as well), then shop some more. Finally we return to the site in midafternoon, whereupon I quickly organize the newly-erected registration tent so it appears that I did something with my volunteer time. Another homemade meal ensues, and now with fresh supplies of pop I prepare for another fine night of 'gazing. I stayed up a little later this second night, wishing to save my strength for when the observers' packet is actually in my possession (after the reg-tent opens).
Thursday dawns, and the event begins for real! With over half the attendees already on site, the reg-tent is packed within minutes of its opening, and three hours of hard work ensues. It's in a good cause, though - actually two if you count the ticket that each volunteer gets for a special set of door prizes! Things finally settle down, and I do something else that I'd never done here before: take a shower. The shower truck has veen a crowd favorite for several years, but I had not made use of it for philosophical reasons. Since I had only taken one shower in the past eight days, I figured that everyone would appreciate my gesture. Soon after that, the chuckwagon dinner was ready, and I retreated to my car with food that I had not cooked - a welcome and tasty change! Later, I visited a few of the vendors and picked up several items including a green-LED flashlight. My aging eyes were not faring well under red lights, and I decided that the green light would be beneficial. With my registration packet in hand (WITH observers' guide!), I was finally ready to find some asteroids! I had promised a co-worker that I would seek her namesake stone in its orbit, which was at its best now; with a little work, (65)Cybele was captured (and verified the following night). Also caught in my eyepiece was (13)Elektra, followed by other fine deep-sky sights.
Friday brings more sunshine, and as usual more dust-devils. Door-prize distributor Gene was hit more than once this year, with his gear damaged or radically rearranged. I purchased a genuine rack & pinion focuser, but adding it radically changed first the focus point (mirror had to move up the tube), then the balance-point (a bag of rocks solved that problem). The day ends in as fine a night as I have experienced at Indian Trail Springs; as a veteran of nine previous events here that's saying a lot! I gave my evening sky-orientation talk, equipped with a laser pointer that the other speaker (Dr. Rick gives the Thu & Sat talks) had loaned me. This year the skies were not completely dark by talk-time, but when we ended the darkness was nearing perfection. The southern Milky Way appeared to glare like a streetlight was hidden in the trees, and Capricornus was etched sharply in the black sky. That's asking a lot of such a faint constellation, but I had never seen it so clearly before. The opportunity was there, and we took it clear to daybreak. I even broke down and visited the espresso shop for the first time, just to ensure my wakefulness. It was an amazing night.
Saturday found a groggy bunch staggering around the field, still talking about that exquisite night. The last few events were underway, including the swap meet and OSP Rover Race; that spare money came in handy when I picked up a great deal on a 15-inch plate-glass blank! (Take that, you slow-working 13" that should have been at this party!) After watching most of the rover race, I heard over the radio that the shower truck had some water left; I raced the short way to the reg-tent, bought a ticket and enjoyed a second shower with a loaner towel. I had now corrupted myself with both the shower and espresso amenities; my slide into decadance was now complete! My plans to savor the famous telescope walkabout was interrupted by a desperate call from Candace at the reg-tent: a devil was taking the tent!! Those of us with our radios on summoned other committee members and we raced to the tent. The fifty-gallon barrels had held the tent in place, but the devil had lifted the skirts and vacuumed out any paperwork not heavily weighed down. Residents and visitors were jumpy with adrenaline and jarred nerves, but no injuries came of the fearsome occurrence.
Finally we reached the photo shot and doorprizes. Gene survived the weekend and gave his usual entertaining rapport with the audience. I was the lucky recipient of a volunteer prize; while I would have chosen the observers' chair, I gleefully accepted the MegaStar 5.0 gift (even though I had recently upgraded to 4.0). After this came the final big meal, and soon the sun was down in the west, heralding another fine night. While most of us believed the Friday skies were a bit better than Saturday's, it was also clear that our heads were still fuzzy from Friday so a clear judgement was not available. I stayed up most of the night, supported by another midnight meal, but simply could not stay awake as long this night.
And so another Oregon Star Party came to a close. The breakdown team had less to do this year, as the main tents were to be taken down by the rental agency, but all the gear needed to be removed to the big trailer. As usual it was noonish when I finally was able to get away. Many stayed behind for another night of observing, but since I had arrived midday Tuesday it was high time for me to return home.