I had finally nodded off for a little sleep when the persistent ringing of the telephone jarred me back to consciousness. Ever since that last trip to Upham I had not been sleeping much; in fact, hardly at all. Fortunately, Dr. George mixed me up a sleeping medication of peanut butter and gerbil feet and it seemed to be doing the trick - at least until the phone started ringing.
"Yes, this is Kirbini," I drowsily mumbled.
"Wake up Kid and get your stuff packed," Mystic Bob shouted, "we're heading out to Blue Mesa. This is the only night of the year that we can image the Rat's Foot Nebula and besides, you need to learn how to carry my battery and G-11 mount from the car in one trip. Otherwise, how will you ever get to be any good at imaging?"
I knew that if I turned down this opportunity I would never hear the end of it and besides, it would be another chance to learn something that I had never heard of before and probably never would again. I wasn't sure I had built up enough wife equity to pull this off on such short notice but decided the risk was worth it.
"Besides," he continued, "I invited the whole crew out tonight and I want to get there in time to get the highest place on the mesa. You can setup down in the dip behind those big rocks where you won't bother anyone. Snicker, snicker."
I decided to ignore the implications of this last statement because Mystic Bob can be a great kidder and anyway if I showed any fear it would go on my record with the Masters and it would another year or two before I could get a promotion to "Newbie-advanced".
"OK, Mystic Bob, see you in about an hour." I gushed, putting as much enthusiasm into my voice as possible during my sleep addled state.
"Oh, and one other thing Kid….I'll get to your place a little early so you'll have time to load my stuff into your truck," he finished.
I scrambled around, packed my things up and had just finished loading them into the truck when Mystic Bob pulled into the driveway. He found a cool place to rest while I got his equipment transferred to the truck and pretty soon we were off and on the road to Blue Mesa.
"Where are meeting everyone Mystic Bob?" I timidly enquired, "maybe it would be a good idea to meet at Wendy's."
"WENDY'S! Are you nuts! If they stopped there we would never get to do any imaging tonight. Haven't you seen those people eat? They don't stop at seconds or even thirds. I told them to meet us at the turn off next to the freeway. Now don't have any more bright ideas."
Well, we drove the rest of the way to the county road turn off in silence which gave me the opportunity to once again consider how fortunate I was to be able to go on these outings and learn imaging from the ASLC Imaging Masters. I also recalled that the word disciple came from the concept of discipline and realized that these little corrections of my fuzzy thinking would one day bear fruit and my stars would also shine brightly on computer screens. Not to mention that I would not use the 'W' word again - at least not in Mystic Bob's presence.
As we pulled up to the turn off I spotted several members of the ASLC standing around rolling eye pieces into a hole in the road ten feet away to pass the time while waiting for us to show them to way to the site.
Satellite Willie sauntered over to us. "Where have you guys been? We've been waiting here for at least 3.5544 milliseconds to the 10th power. You know, if I ran satellites like this you people would never have any TV."
Ignoring this slight we roared on through the group, scattering eye pieces and bodies around, and Mystic Bob yelled out the window, "Follow us to Blue Mesa or be square!"
"Uhh…Mystic Bob, I think it's 'be there or be square', like, you know, it rhymes, sort of…." I trailed off.
This observation was met by stone cold silence and not even a glance my direction. I was now aware I had probably screwed up again and would have to endure the rest of the drive being lectured on image scale or some other confusing and frightening subject like drift alignment.
Well, it was not as bad as I had imagined and I think I did actually learn something…do not contradict one of the Masters.
As we began the last climb up the hill toward our turn off I suddenly began to shake uncontrollably and I could feel the tears begin to run down my cheeks.
Mystic Bob turned toward me with a look of genuine concern on his face. "Why Kid, what's the matter? You look horrible. Are you going to pass out?"
Through chattering teeth I responded, "it's Sheriff Rich. I just know he'll be waiting for us up there. If he recognizes me I'm a goner. I won't get into the DSO site. I'll never learn anything and never get to be a 'Newbie-advanced'."
"Now, now, just take it easy. I've got some Mars bars in my pocket. I'll give him a couple and he'll never know what hit him. He loves the things. Piece of cake Kid."
Well, as we rounded the next turn there he was and all my fears had come to pass. He was standing next to the entrance to the DSO site and was holding a large wolverine on a chain. The wolverine was standing in the middle of the road and was wearing a large sign around its neck that proclaimed:
THIS IS REALITY SO GET USED TO IT
There was no way I could turn around in road because it was too narrow so the only option was to proceed slowly up to Sheriff Rich and the wolverine. As I pulled up to stop, the wolverine jumped up onto the hood, stared into the windshield and barred its teeth.
"Well, well. If it ain't my little friend from down yonder at the TSP and Upham. You really think you're gonna get some imaging in tonight? Heh, heh," drawled Sheriff Rich.
About that time the wolverine started clawing at my windshield, frothing at the mouth, chewing up the windshield wipers and spitting the pieces on the ground.
"See that Sonny? That's what's gonna happen to you if there's any funny business out here tonight."
I felt Mystic Bob nudging me and he slipped four or five Mars bars into my hand. I thrust them out the window to Sheriff Rich. "Here Sheriff Rich," I mumbled, "take these as an expression of my good will and desire to create a happier experience for everyone concerned. Then and only then may we live in a world of harmony and peace."
"Use any more of that crap around here Sonny and Tantalizing Tanya here gets a good meal for a change. Now, gimmie them candy bars and get on up the road!"
I felt a rush of excitement knowing we had made it into the DSO site and would soon be imaging the stars.
Later, after my blood pressure had returned to some semblance of normal and I had gotten Mystic Bob's telescope set up and polar aligned I began to take stock of the surroundings. About then Brother Chuck came chugging up. "I just came up to look around," he ventured, "thought it would be a good time to set some things straight around here."
"Oh? And what is that Brother Chuck?" I responded, always eager to learn something new.
"Well, for starters this shouldn't be called 'Blue Mesa'. It should be called 'Blue Ridge'. Now, if you just walk over this way you can see why it needs to Blue Rid………….Yiiiiiiiiiiii!!!"
I heard some crashing and thumping but knowing Brother Chuck I was sure he would be able to find his way out of the canyon. And who knows? Maybe we will call it 'Blue Ridge' someday.
As I turned my attention back to getting my own telescope set up the ground suddenly began to shake and I had to grab my tripod to keep from falling over.
"What is that? What is that?" I yelled.
Master Dave, in full lotus position, floated over about 3 feet off the ground. "What is all this commotion Grasshopper? One cannot achieve inner peace or rounder stars by running around like a hamster with its foot cut off."
Knowing by now the great wisdom that Master Dave imparts I quickly calmed down and cleared my head. "It's the shaking and pitching of the ground Master Dave. What is going on? What is it?"
"Ah, Leafhopper. It is but the disturbance in the force of Master Nils eighteen wheeler as he brings his large assembly up the mountain. It's sort of an obsession with him, chuckle, chuckle."
"You mean his telescope is so big he needs a semi truck to carry it?"
"NO YOU DOLT! He sells trucks for a living and carries telescopes around on them to show astronomers the benefits of owning one - a truck, that is," he proclaimed with a withering look.
Now I knew I was on Master Dave's dummy list again and would probably have to memorize the position of all the Chinese satellites for 2008 to get back into his good graces. But I was actually not that upset by his outburst as I knew by now it was his way showing concern for my progress as a neophyte ASLC imager. As he floated back to his telescope I turned my attention once again to getting my camera set up; even with all the rumbling and shaking as Master Nils made his way up the last little bit of road to the site. I continued to get my computer up and running and begin the process of alignment when I glanced over and noticed Master Steve (not to be confused with the other Master Steve), who was set up only a few feet away from me, began packing up his gear. This was a bit confusing since I had not even started imaging yet.
"Master Steve, Master Steve," I whispered, "why are you packing up?"
"It's 3 AM Kid. Time to go home. Hope you got some good stuff tonight."
Well, not really, I thought, but I had learned a lot from the ASLC Imaging Masters once again and maybe next time I'll even get to take some pictures.