Sep, 2013 Blog Posts

Enjoying the Black Forest Star Party

Sep 10, 2013

Over the weekend of September 7/8, 2013, Renee and I traveled by van to Cherry Springs, Pennsylvania, to attend the Black Forest Star Party.  With the 20" bouncing in the back, we scaled the mountains to make our first visit to this observing Mecca in north-central PA.  The drive was both beautiful and challenging, given we spent the previous night observing and we were both sleep deprived.  The entire six-hour journey is just something of a foggy memory, now, but it was certainly worth the effort!

The best memory of the star party was certainly all the friendly people we met.  At the registration tent we chatted with everybody, and they helped us find the vendor tent and parking and such.  The members were celebrating their 15th anniversary and they gave us both cool little flashlights.  The lights were actually quite nice, very small with red LED lights and red anodized bodies.

Once we made it to the vendor tent we were fortunate to meet Gary Hand, from Hands on Optics.  He helped us find space to display the Renegade, and we made plans to work together on a nice optical project in the future.  We appreciated Gary's generousity, and his good humor, especially after our long drive.

A crowd formed around us as soon as we started carrying the Renegade pieces from the car to the display area.  We set up the "shorty" Renegade 20" literally in the shadow of a huge 18" F4.5 Obsession telescope that was holding up the center of the tent.  I think folks were immediately curious about this 20" telescope that didn't have any boxes or sharp corners, with a focuser that came to about chin height on everybody!  It was certainly an interesting contrast.

After I put the Renegade together, we had a VERY cool little telescope experience.  Our Renegade breaks down into four parts: a base, our curvy bearing/mirror cell assembly, the mirror, and the truss/UTA assembly.  We had been observing the night before, and had basically just tossed the pieces into the back of the van.  The six-hour drive included plenty of bumpy, curvy mountain roads.  And at the star party, I just grabbed the parts and put them back together in front of a few of the curious.  The heaviest part is the mirror at 36 pounds, so it only takes a couple of minutes to assemble the whole scope.

So when it's all together, somebody asked how hard it is to collimate.  I grabbed the laser and stuck it in the focuser.  It popped on automatically, and, BEHOLD, the laser beam was sitting dead center in the little ring marking the center of the telescope mirror!  I have to admit, I wasn't really expecting that, but it does show that there are advantages to having a short, well-built telescope!

Renee and I spent the rest of our time at the Black Forest Star Party demonstrating the Renegade, and answering questions the folks had.  We were very happy that so many people liked the design, finding it more elegant than traditional Dob designs, and yet more stable and functional.  Several people labeled the design as "European" in flavor, or "Swedish" which sort of got us going on about our "Ikea" telescope!

Everybody was very supportive and generous in their comments, and there were a lot of smiles when people checked out the movement of the scope.  The relatively large bearing diameter on the Renegade completely eliminates balance problems.  With this 'scope, you can take out one big eyepiece, and replace it with a Paracorr and a 31mm "pineapple" and you'll still have your target sitting in the center of the field of view.  Unlike others I have owned and used, the Renegade won't become unbalanced when you take the heavy eyepieces out of the focuser.

Several times on Sunday afternoon, we had visitors come by who explained that their friend had told them they just had to go over and see the new Renegade.  Many thanks to all those kind people!   We enjoyed talking with everybody, and most of all we appreciated all of your comments and ideas.  All are taken to heart!

Sunday saw the afternoon end with a rain shower and promises of thunderstorms.  We tossed the Renegade back into the van, and ran over to the food tent to enjoy the BBQ chicken dinner under the little awning there.  It was a great meal, including the choco-mint ice cream afterwards.  Their menu was just amazing and everything was delicious.

After the feast, we jumped back into the van, and beat the traffic by not waiting for the announcements on the door prizes.  I just didn't want to be in a 200-vehicle caravan going back down that little mountain road!  On the way down, though, Renee saw a bear, and we both caught sight of a mother turkey with three little turkeys in tow. 

I was also glad to be first to stop at the gas station on the way down.  I can't imagine the line there when all those cars hit the little four-nozzle self-service general store.  BTW, this was a GREAT little store.  They had $800 fly rods and about a million trout flies that they tie right in the shop.  I love these little stores where you can buy Oreos, leather moccasins, roast beef sandwiches, Royal Coachman dry flies and 35-cent ice cream bars!  If they had Tele Vue 22mm Naglers, it would have been perfect!


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