Saturday, June 07, 2008

at the CAO (Blue Mountains)

I finally talked myself into going... The journey to the Blue Mountains was uneventful (thank goodness!). I met Ian W. and Tim H. at the CAO. Small crowd, this time! And then the thunderstorm rolled in... Alas, I'm here for a little R&R. Tomorrow (Saturday) night looks promising.


Last year, I wanted to get up to the Toronto Centre's observatory more, use one of my significant "benefits of membership." I also wanted to partake of a "regular" weekend, as opposed to a work weekend. Increasingly, I wanted to observe at a dark site. And for various reasons, this just did not happen in 2007.

Over the winter, I bought the inexpensive annual pass to the CAO. This was the beginning of the plan to visit more often. To treat the CAO as my personal "cottage."

Recently, I have begun to pay closer attention to the New Moon occasions and to consider booking weekends at the CAO near these dates.

So, this weekend represented my first non-working, pre-paid, near-the-New-Moon visit to the CAO. I had planned it some time ago, this visit. In that respect, I was anxious to go.

All that said, I was getting discouraged by the weather predictions for the weekend and thusly started seriously asking the question, "Why would you drive north for 2 hours to sit under cloudy skies?" It did seem wasteful. It would prove expensive (at rapidly rising gas prices). I had lots I could do in the city...

Then again, I could get a bit of work done, in quiet, with fewer distractions. I could gather the missing measurements from the picnic table. I could, perhaps, repair things at the site. Drop off the donor propane BBQ tank. Shoot a panorama. See if my red solar lights had been run over, crushed, smashed, or otherwise destroyed...

While at a client location in the late afternoon, I quickly checked the clear sky clock for the Collingwood area. Huh! Maybe it wouldn't be all bad on Friday night. And Saturday was looking better and better. Still, if I ended up getting one night of observing it, would it be worth it?

As I arrived home from my client meeting, a new thought filtered into my brain: "You will kick yourself if you stayed in the city, craving dark skies, and the weather turned out to be decent." That's it, then!

This triggered a new set of worries. I was anxious about my car. I've been hearing a noise in the drive line. I don't know if I'm getting thrown off by harmonics from the new (ish) tires. Or if there is something more serious going on. Having spotted an oily patch in the garage, I was starting to wonder if my differential had dropped its oil. I checked the fluid level of the transmission a weekend or two ago—seemed OK. But I have yet to check the diff. What if it is bone dry? I don't want to blow it up!

A new, last-minute worry arose regarding the cooling system. A week or so ago, my radiator broke. I had since installed a new replacement and assumed everything was fine. But, this morning, while doing some quick errands, I noticed the water temperature gauge spiking! Damn, what now?! When I got home, I tested that the auxiliary electric fan. The A/C switch in the cabin seemed to be working fine, the blue light was coming on. But the fan was not spinning! Now that's broken! What the hell? I spent an hour or so hacking it but was not able to get it going. Looks like a need a new fan...

Now, while doing the aux. fan checks, I checked the tightness of the hose clamps on the new rad. Hmmm, not super tight. Maybe, there were small leaks and the system was not pressurising. I felt a bit better about that.

"Should I drive the car a long distance?" I wondered. This felt like a catch-22. Highway travel should be OK for a front-mounted, liquid-cooled engine. But if traffic was bad, stop and go, I'd overheat, in this +30° weather. I had witnessed many retirements during the day... I didn't feel like getting stranded, like them. I didn't want to stress the S14 motor. I was very torn.

I decided to try! I'd listen carefully to the traffic reports. I'd avoid the 427 and 27 highways aiming boldly for the 410. And I'd closely watch the temp gauge. If things got dicey, I'd pull over, cool off, go home, and phone the CAO with an update...


On regional Road 2, the Moon's thin crescent caught my eye. A pretty visage among the clouds. Damn clouds!

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