Starry, starry night

The skies of Weirdcliffe, as seen from the Walter ranch. Photo courtesy Hal Walter

The skies of Weirdcliffe, as seen from the Walter ranch. Photo courtesy Hal Walter

The old hometown came in for a little press yesterday as city folk tried to catch a glimpse of the Perseid meteor shower through all that neon.

The Dark Sky movement is serious business in Weirdcliffe, as well it should be. It’s one of the area’s natural resources, and thus a natural draw. Sayeth The Old Gray Lady, “Four out of five Americans live in places where they can no longer see the Milky Way.” This, frankly, is a national tragedy.

When we lived east of town, Herself and I spent an evening stretched out on the deck, marveling at the Perseids. It was like getting caught in a celestial hailstorm, or maybe standing on the bridge of the starship Enterprise, boldly going where plenty of folks can’t go no mo’.

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17 Responses to “Starry, starry night”

  1. md anderson Says:

    Five will get you twenty that 4 out of 5 Americans don’t know what the Milky Way even is.

    Up here in the hinterlands betwixt Fanta Se and Bombtown, near the shores of the big muddy Rio Grande, we get quite a star show. Now if I can just stay awake long enough after dark to go out and watch. Maybe I’ll set an alarm.

  2. Larry T Says:

    Here in Iowa if you want to look at stars either a) you freeze your a__off b) get eaten by mosquitos. But stars or not, I’d be happy if my knucklehead neighbors would dial down their lighting a bit. It’s so bright I sometimes wake up at night and think I need to confess to something!

  3. Libby Says:

    I spent 20 years working evenings and nights. It was my habit to purposely look at the sky when I was on a break outside and then every night when I arrived home. I made it into a “benefit” of working those hours. I was grateful. The act of observing the sky was very beneficial to my psyche and my blood pressure.

    In Olympic news, the US and GBritain women’s teams have set world records qualifying for the medal round in the sprint. Another record to be set later today, I suppose. Hats off!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The best shooting star I ever saw was in Bibleburg, when I was a teenage paperboy. Sucker was a big ol’ green boy that flat ripped across the sky. I thought sure the aliens were landing, or maybe the Rooskies had finally pulled the trigger.

  4. Dale Says:

    My wife and I watched the Perseids on Assateague Island. We were facing SE, as the light pollution from Ocean City was inhibiting the northern view. It was was not spectacular in the east, but quite decent. As I grow older, I want to see as many of these phenomena as I can.

  5. Pat O'Brien Says:

    MD, I think you are right that 4 out of 5 Americans can’t see the Milky Way at their home. Sierra Vista and Cochise County enacted dark skies lighting ordinances and zoning restrictions a few years ago. Even our previous goofball governor, Brewer, stopped “smart” billboards on the rural highways that are close to observatories and parks such as Kartchner Caverns State Park. Arizona learned that dark skies are a tourism draw, and Oracle State Park, outside of Tucson, was certified as an International Dark Sky Park in 2014. Sierra Vista is still bright enough that we only saw 28 meteors in one hour on our back patio. You can see the Milky Way easily at Kartchner Caverns State Park, which is 25 miles from Sierra Vista. Come on down and bring your telescope and bike. The riding, both mountain and road, around the park is wonderful. And, the park is right off Highway 90 which is part of the U. S. Bicycle Route System. It is 25 miles from Sierra Vista.

    http://azstateparks.com/Parks/KACA/index.html

    This commercial break is now over and we return to our regular programming.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I only saw a handful of meteors during the big show, but I went to bed too early and got up too late. No celestial worms for late birds.

    • md anderson Says:

      I can see the Milky Way here, providing there’s no clouds. I have no close neighbors with floodlights and we use very little outdoor lighting. But I do love your area. Have done lots of riding all over Tucson, Sonoita, Sierra Vista, Tombstone, Bisbee, Wilcox, Chiricahua. I will hopefully be down there this coming March with PAC Tour’s Desert Camps. They are floating the idea of a mixed gravel/road week and I am excited about that.

      We have an old friend in Flagstaff who is very active in the Dark Skies movement. As a retired astronomer he had a lot to say about it, as you can imagine.

  6. Pat O'Brien Says:

    If I may change the subject for just a second here, I read your review of the Joe Appaloosa in Adventure Cycling Magazine. Nice work, and I agree with the fellow at Rivendell. The Schwalbe Smart Sam is a good all around tire. I have had them on the Niner for over a year. Roll easy on pavement, fair traction off road with 40 PSI, and NO flats. And, yes, I have pulled goat heads out of them with no flat. Running regular tubes.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I was gonna buy a pair of those, Pat, but the Rivendell site is flat out of ’em. Them Schwalbes is some tough hombres.

      Speaking of which, I swapped the Joe’s stock tires for some 29×2.1 WTB Nanos for a quick dash around the Elena Gallegos Open Space and came home with a front flat. Gah.

      Meanwhile, you ever find a suitable space for that mirror? I have it on the swept-back bars on the Clem Smith Jr., but frankly I find it more annoyance than assistance. I still look over my damn shoulder, hoping to make eye contact and forestall any velocidal urges.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        I sent you an E mail, with some pix, on my trial of the mirror a week or two ago. I was also disappointed. I put it below the brake hood on the Saga. The main problem was the vertical orientation, the only way to mount it on a drop bar with bar end shifters, limits the view. And the convex mirror doesn’t allow you to see traffic behind you in time. And when you do see it, it’s closer than it appears. I put the Blackburn mirror back on that straps around the brake hood. The flat mirror lets you see far enough behind you to do some good. I will save the other for a flat bar bike and give it one more try.

        I use the Smart Sam Plus tire in 29×2.1 and ordered them straight off the Schwalbe web site. LBS couldn’t get them for some reason.

      • psobrien Says:

        PS: I used the gmail address I think. I keep forgetting to keep track of the previous recipients list in the Apple E mail app.

  7. Carl Duellman Says:

    we went camping back in the early spring at a primitive site up in the state forest. it was in an oak hammock and there was no moon and the air was dry enough that there wasn’t any light pollution getting carried by the humidity. we headed out to the road and i was blown away being able to see the milky way. and the number of satellites. jeez. my neck was sore all the next day. i wonder what the natives thought the first time they saw a star moving across the sky that wasn’t a shooting star.

  8. ryansubike Says:

    I was fortunate enough to be on Orcas Island in the San Juans (Washington State) last weekend and caught sight of a few of those Meteors streaking across the Sky like Cav in the final 50 meters of a sprint finish. Thank goodness for rural spaces with very little light pollution.

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