Sun, Stars and Snow

Has it been a month already? Unbelievable. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our friends and followers. We had a great time with family over the holidays and a couple weeks of downtime afterward at Parkview Riverside RV Park near Concan, TX. It was a bit colder than expected, but we did get to ride the Twisted Sisters (FM335, 336 and 337) at the bottom of Texas’ Hill Country. Great roads and rides and memories from our time there.

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Last weekend, we moved to Fort Davis, TX in the Davis Mountains of west Texas. We visited this area 10 years ago on our very first motorcycle trip together. That trip was in September and included a ride around the scenic loop by Fort Davis. When we arrived here, we were treated to two gorgeous days at or near 70 degrees with lots of sun and no clouds. We took advantage of the gift and rode the loop again, both directions. It looks quite a bit different in the winter (almost no green). The loop is sorta the tale of three roads- Hwy 118 winds up and through the mountains on the North side past the McDonald Observatory (more about that later). FM 166 South of 118 to county road 505 is a little, narrow, two lane, no shoulder, windy (and a bit bumpy) road around the second highest point in Texas, Baldy Peak (8378′). FM 166 East of CR505 heading back toward Hwy 17 is wider and flatter with wide open vistas. We found great climbing rocks and climbing trees we are sure some kids we know would love to climb.

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In addition to riding this loop, we came to this area for some “Special Viewing Nights” at the McDonald Observatory. This is one of the darkest spots in the continental US and the clear skies and new moon made our viewing night through their 36″ telescope pretty phenomenal. This telescope has a mirror at the bottom to collect starlight that is 3′ in diameter. This big light collector made it possible for us to view a star cluster that was 61 million light years away. The light we viewed Tuesday night left those stars when the dinosaurs roamed the earth! Very cool. We were with a group of 8 other participants, so it was a pretty unique experience. The telescope was computer controlled, but each of us got to take a turn moving the dome to make the slit line up with the telescope for viewing. As you may guess, getting pictures of this experience, was difficult due to the dark conditions required for optimal viewing. However, we were able to attempt pictures of both Uranus and Jupiter through the telescope viewing lens. Very tricky!
Here’s the open dome from the inside:

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This is Uranus (with and without the camera zoom):

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This is Jupiter (without zoom you can see its Europa and Io moons below and with zoom you can see the stripes):

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We have another viewing night scheduled on Groundhog Day on their largest single mirror research telescope – 107″ or 8′ 11″ diameter. This is the fifth largest telescope of its kind in the world and the largest that is made available to public viewings. The program is evidently quite different, so we are really looking forward to that opportunity.

Finally, yesterday we got about 2″ of snow courtesy of winter storm Iola. Our first snow in the coach. We’ve been in it when it was cold, but no snow. It was pretty to watch it falling. This made it a movie day inside for us, but our house stayed nice and warm despite the below freezing temperatures and bitter wind chill.

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We are looking forward to some great adventures this year. As we work our way out of hibernation, we will try to keep you included as much as possible! Happy 2015!

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2 thoughts on “Sun, Stars and Snow

  1. Bob, Beverley and I went out there early in 2014 and had a great time. If you get a chance get over to Ft. Davis and visit it. Beverley really enjoyed walking around and viewing the displays. We did not get up to the Telescopes at night but viewed them during the day. We heard about the snow all the way up to Van Horn. Glad you guys are having a great time.

    Liked by 1 person

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