Living in the islands provides excellent observing for an amateur astronomer such as myself, but there are drawbacks. I do miss the large star parties, getting together with hundreds of other observers to see other telescope setups, to learn, and to share the sky.
Thus I have made a habit of traveling to the mainland once in a while to attend one of the larger star parties. This year I will again attend Oregon Star Party. It has been a while, the last time was 2017, the year of the total solar eclipse.
Traveling from the islands to a star party makes it a challenge to bring a large telescope. Last time I borrowed an 11”, not a bad solution, it worked, but it was not my ‘scope. This time I was determined to realize a long considered idea, to build a substantially sized travel telescope. Thus Holoholo was designed and built, a 10.1” f/4.5 travel ‘scope.
The zero line does not pass by unremarked. Local businesses have turned zero latitude into a tourist stop with large concrete zeroes either side of the road. Gift shops and a cafe greet travelers looking for an excuse to pause during the four hour journey from Kampala to Masaka.
At this point I know not to trust my sense of time or internal clock, I have traveled across far too many time zones. Entebbe to Portland required 27 hours of travel and crossed ten time zones. My body is simply not to be trusted.
The previous evening had consisted of little more than making it from the airport to my parent’s house, then directly to a long sought bed.
The clock reads nearly 7am.
How can this be? The time seems wrong and I have no confidence in the old LED alarm clock in the guest bedroom. Was it set properly? I fumble for the cell phone to double check the time. The phone confirms the seemingly inaccurate time.
My father is on the board of a Christian charity that runs schools in several countries across East Africa. To coordinate this effort they hold regular meetings with the local staff.
This year the meetings will be held in Uganda, ten days in Masaka. My father is also a bit over eighty, a spry and active eighty, but still. My mother made it quite clear… Dear, if you are going to Africa you need a travel companion.
It has been three years since the last voyage of the Nordic Quest. In the meantime the Quest has been sold and a pandemic raged. Three years is long enough, time for a return to the mainland and another fishing trip. My first visit to the mainland since the pandemic started.
My father and brother had not taken much of a pause, with the sale of the boat they have instead headed to a fishing lodge for their annual fishing. After some research my father decided on Yakutat for the abundance of halibut and more generous fishing regulations than found in SE Alaska.
For the last couple years they have used Yakutat Lodge, a choice I have to agree with. We had a great time with five days of fishing on Yakutat Bay.
As I sit here gazing at the stars through the window I realize it has been three years since I last set foot on the mainland. As usual I have booked a window seat, for much of this overnight flight there is little to see, this time the first sight of land seems particularly significant to me.
There is just enough moonlight to see the clouds sliding below, it is only imagination and memory of past views that allow seeing the expanse of waves I know are under those clouds. As I look into the darkness I am a little confused by the pattern of stars until I realize the bright, out of place star is not a star, rather Saturn high in the southern sky.
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park reopened to the public at the end of September. Reshaped by the eruptions the park has substantially changed since I was last there back in February. It was well past time I got myself out to the park to see the changes, it had been open almost two months!
I had resolved to go over the long holiday weekend. An additional idea occurred to me, if I was going, why not kidnap my young nephews along for the trip. We would leave the gals to whatever they will do, and go have an adventure.
Leaving Hilo I turn towards the shortest path home. It is also my favorite path by far. Not for me the twisting turns, small towns, and driving rains of the Hamakua coast road. I turn towards Saddle Road, to the pass between the enormous volcanoes of Hawaii.
The road is smooth and fast now. The Saddle of legend and rental car prohibition is mostly gone, only fragments remain. While you can still drive bits of the old Saddle, they are no longer the main road, bypassed by the new highway.
Even before the road was re-built this was my favorite route to cross the island. The traffic is far heavier now, the new road no longer offers the challenges and dangers of the old road. Drivers no longer deterred by those dangers now use the new road to cross the island rather than driving around the northern belt road.
Recently traveling with United Airlines for our Nicaragua trip I ran face first into their in-flight entertainment system. My choice of words is literally accurate here, as the system is in-your-face in a most unappreciated way.
The unit consists of a seven inch LCD screen in every seat back, and a small control pad on the arm rest. A selection of movies and shows can be purchased by running a credit card through the slot beside the screen. Content in this system is strictly paid for, there is very little free material, one channel with a sliced up documentary and other segments that are essentially long ads. A preview period is run at the start of the flight with payment required to continue your chosen show.
The unit is also used to replace the traditional cabin safety briefing with a video that runs before takeoff. Aside from the safety briefing you will need headphones with a standard stereo plug to hear the soundtrack.
Modern air travel is an extraordinary complex system. The endless series of arrivals and departures at any large airport is a carefully choreographed dance. Unfortunately this system can be easily snarled when the process is disturbed.
The first sign of trouble was our aircrew securing the cabin for arrival early. They stopped the last beverage service and hurriedly gathered the trash long before we began descent. The reason quickly became apparent as towering thunderheads appeared all around us and the aircraft began to bounce and shudder in the unstable winds. Despite the promise of worse our landing in Houston proceeded without issue. Rolling down a wet runway and noting the pools of water covering the grass between the taxiways, clearly the airport had been visited by the heavy rains of those thunderstorms.
Next problem? No gate was available and we spend 45 minutes sitting on a taxiway waiting our turn at a gate for disembarking. I have plenty of time to observe that puddled water and the low slung engines of a 737 can create fascinating little vortexes of swirling water just below the engine intake. We were not worried, we had a five hour layover in our schedule and being late to the gate was not an issue. Many of our fellow passengers were not quite so relaxed, fretting about tight connections and missed flights.