click here for the '04 narrative..
and here for the '05 story!
The seeds of this trip were actually sown in the previous trip, when I promised to watch for an appropriate telescope for Ana and the class. That promise was not an idle one, but the possible need for a return trip wasn't seriously contemplated. When I visited a local telescope shop just after Christmas, the ideal telescope presented itself: a decent six-inch mirror but with a 30-inch focal length that just fit within carryon-luggage guidelines! I had originally hoped for an 8-inch mirror, but the larger tube would need to be something that broke into pieces; this would show a great deal of detail in the sky with far less de- and re-construction. I told Ana the good news, and she knew of no one else heading her way that could carry the thing -- so here I am again, in late January, with tickets to fly south!
I now had a very good reason to return to Oaxaca (and a less-good one, having used the last of the mocha mescal on New Years Eve!) - but I would need next to find time and money! A quick check of the airfares brought good news: if I acted soon, flights were available for about $200 less than last year, and I could even skip the long layover in Mexico City by flying Continental! After a few e-mails to Ana and consultation on work-schedules at the office, we all agreed to the first week in April for the trip. This would supposedly be further from the start of the (relatively!) wet season; my late-May trip in '04 had a few thundershowers before turning dry and hazy. I would see a slightly different sky, although the large Magellanic Cloud would be setting with the sun; by staying up later the same sights from the previous year would be accessible again. When I returned to the website to finalize my tickets, I found I had lost $30 in about a week; still, it was a very good deal and I locked myself into a 31-March flight to Houston and Oaxaca, returning a week later by the same route.
27 January - I am hard at work on the telescope assembly. All I bought was the optical assembly and tube, so the wooden mount is entirely up to me! Once assembled and tested, the base will be disassembled and put into a suitcase, while the tube and other fragile items will be packed with my soft clothes and carried on the plane. So far, so good.
As of early February the 'scope is still plodding along. Of more relevance is my skirmish with Celiac disease that will presumably be won before this trip. In any case, traveling to a land where corn / maize is more prevalent than wheat will be a good thing!
Now late February, and the base is coming together! I will probably carve some circles out of the side boards to save weight. I plan to have it ready for a mid-March star party for thorough testing, before I unscrew it and pack it into a suitcase for the journey south.
March 2nd, and the telescope is nearly ready for use! The various parts have been stained or painted, and most of the base has now been screwed together to form a single unit. Large circles were cut out of the long sides, both to save weight and to act as handles - it's much easier to move around now! We are having some cloudy weather now, but next weekend (or sooner) it will receive a full test. After that I will improve what needs improving, then tear it apart and prepare it for travel. When it reaches its destination, glue will be added to the joints before the screws are set for the last time.
With just over two weeks to go, the scope is in its final stages of preparation. It spent last weekend stargazing in central Oregon, and doing everything well. Motion in all directions was smooth and easy, and images were crisp. One of the formica strips began to peel off, though, so it retired early and was fixed as soon as it reached the garage late in the weekend. A few other reinforcements hadn't happened yet either, so those were taken care of. The sharp corner closest to the finder-scope was sanded to a rounded shape, lessening the odds of putting one's eye out, and a little more painting and staining finished off the new parts. It's looking and working like a fine telescope!
Ana/Annie has her own website now!
20 March - springtime, and just ten more days to prepare! Today I took apart the telescope and began to gently cram it into a suitcase.. maybe a hard-sided one would be a good thing to borrow? I shall look into that! My schedule is beginning to free up so that more attention can be paid to this trip. Other than the Easter weekend and its many services and family events, of course! My dietician has been to Oaxaca at least once, that was a fun common thread to share at our meeting! In fact we've both dined at la Olla, which indeed has estupendo meals!
[Clearly I'm still practicing my spanish..]
DRAT! I have deferred the trip for a month while I fight off a bug that resides in my sinuses. It hit me just three days before my flight, so with great reluctance I shifted the trip to early May. A fee for changing my reservation is somewhat countered by a slightly lower fare, but I hated to change my plans. No major damage done, though, and I would hate to fly and vacate while feeling lousy so it was the right thing to do.
I am nearly well again, though weak. The plane tickets have been locked down, so if I screw up again another fee will be imposed. Although I have had very little strength, I still have not used the extra time on sick-leave to regain my previous (and limited) knowledge of Spanish, so if I do not get to it my vocabulary will be worse than last year - hard to believe, but entirely possible!