Camera Play – 2

So, last week… was it last week?

*Checks*

So, last week, I put my camera on my telescope and pointed it at the sky, and put up the pictures.

A few days later, I did the same thing, because Saturn was at opposition. I actually put my telescope on Henry and rode down to the school and set up on the field, since the planets were in the trees, as seen from the backyard.

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Now, a little bit of storytime:

Mom and I both love the sky. Many nights were spent staring up, looking at stars, satellites, meteor showers, comets, and even the northern lights when they stretched down to Arizona once.

A long long time ago, my mom and I got a little telescope from Big 5, and we set it up, and looked through it pretty often. I still have it. Neither of us knew how to use it well, as evidenced by the first time looking through it, what I thought were planets was actually poorly focused glares OF the planets.

Yeah, go me.

Living in an area with no nearby trees, we had a wide open view of the sky, so we set up fairly often, and I started to get… passable at using it. Figured out the focusing, zeroed in the finder scope, learned how to use the fancy dancy equatorial mount that it came with, and we saw some cool stuff. Jupiter and its moons, the crescent of Venus, some nebulae, and of course, the moon.

Two things always eluded me, though, the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, and Saturn. The Great Red Spot, because it always was facing away from Earth every time I set up, and Saturn because… well, Saturn is hard to see. So far away and all, and our scope was not exactly a high powered scope. I either couldn’t resolve it beyond a dim yellow dot in the eyepiece, if I could even locate it in the field of vision at all at higher magnification.

Finally, a few years ago, I saw Saturn and its rings, through that same telescope. I got lucky, Saturn happened to be at opposition, there was no wind, and I saw it. A tiny golden dot with a yellow ribbon around it. I was happy, but I was at the limits of that scope’s abilities.

Then I got better lenses. A new telescope and better mount. Learned how to better use them.

I think that brings us up to current… Oh right, pictures of planets!

I saw Saturn through a telescope for the second time ever! I even took a picture of it! (Well, several….)

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After staring at Saturn for a long while, I turned to Jupiter.

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On the lower left of the disk, at the end of the band? That’s the Great Red Spot! I managed to see two of my favorite sky sights in one night!

The pictures do neither justice. I can zero in the focus perfectly for my eyes, but the camera is a lot more difficult. A dual speed focuser will help, as would setting up the mount with tracking motors to do long exposures, but we’ll see if I keep doing this. As it is now, I’m just dabbling, and I enjoy just looking just as much as taking pictures.

I’ll be doing this again, though, Mars is at opposition on the 27th!

Meet the Bikes: I’m Henry!

Most of my bikes have been through some sort of evolution throughout their lives. That is the nature of having a thing… you start off with it, then, over the course of time, you change things, add or remove bits, modifying it to make it suit your needs. My bikes… some start off serving a specific role, but maybe that role changes. Or they start off with one set of components, then get a completely different set. Sometimes, even whole new frames.

The question could be asked “Is it still the same bike if none of the parts are the same? I say… it depends. When I name a bike, I’m naming an idea, the personality, the soul that develops around the bike. Sometimes, the name is tied to the hardware that the bike is made out of. Sometimes… it is tied to something deeper, more personal.

Out of all my bikes, no bike has changed over time as much as Henry the Packmule.

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“I’m Henry!”

Henry has existed across three bike frames and countless changes in parts. I think the only original part is the kickstand. Henry even has a history that starts before there was a bicycle named Henry, but you’ll have to ask my sister about that, she knows the story better than I. Suffice to say, she named him.

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Henry the Packmule started out as a Trek 820 frame, built up with road components from another bike, and a Surly 1×1 fork. I built my own front and rear racks, because why not? I was on a budget, and it was cheaper to build them from scratch myself.

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Original Henry in the wild.

Eventually, Henry got moved to an aluminium Giant Boulder SE frame when I noticed that the steel Trek frame had a slight bend.

Then, one day, my dream frame went on sale.

I had long drooled over the Surly Big Dummy, but man they were pricey. Worth every penny, but it took a lot of pennies to buy one. So, when Surly updated the design of the Big Dummy frame, they put the previous model on firesale. I still really didn’t have the money, but I crossed my fingers and bought it anyways.

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I think it was one of my better choices.

I built the Big Dummy frame up with mountain bike parts, used the old wheels and brakes, and built my own rack for the back. Xtracycle was having a sale on their bags, so I picked up a set of those for cheap. Many adventures were had.

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From the doomed Grand Canyon ride attempt, overlooking the Babbitt Ranch.

Eventually, I built my own wheels, installed disc brakes, put a 29 inch wheel on the front, set Henry up with the Surly Dummy Cargo Kit, and have gone back and forth endlessly with front racks and baskets.

I’ve hauled a few hundred pounds of wood home with Henry, carried other bikes, some light bike touring and camping, gone mountain biking, ridden in parades, towed (pushed) a car, and had it in the air. I’ve even brought home groceries.

Even more impressive are the bike moves with the trailer I built.

Currently, Henry is the bike that gets the most miles, partly because the platform pedals let me ride in sandals, but mostly because, for the most part, Henry is set up just about perfect for me. With a 29 inch front wheel (helps smooth out bumps, and stabilizes the bike) a 26 inch rear wheel built around a Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 internally geared hub, (the Big Dummy frame was designed with this hub in mind.) Hydraulic disc brakes keep the speed in check. (Haha!) The Dummy Cargo Kit with a few mods is the ideal setup for my needs, the bags swallow whatever I throw at them, and a homemade wide loader bar helps me cary anything big or heavy. All this rolls around on Schwalbe Big Apple tires.

And I almost forgot… Henry has the coolest horn.

Henry looks big and unwieldy, but for a packmule, he’s surprisingly quick and nimble. Sure he’s heavy, but he rolls fast and smooth, even with a load. Once you’re moving, you don’t feel the weight. And once you get used to the long wheelbase, he’s a surprisingly capable mountain bike, too.

I feel like this is turning into a long term review…

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Henry and Two-Spot

So, what’s left to change on Henry? Well… not a whole lot. I like Henry, even after all these years, as he rolls now, Henry is still my dream bike. Getting on Henry is like putting on your favorite old jacket.

I guess that’s another part of having a thing. You make changes to it over time, and if you stick with it, eventually, you make it perfect for you.

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The Dummies, catching some sun.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Henry the Packmule. This took a while to write, as Henry has the most history behind him, even though he’s not the oldest bike in the garage. I know I had fun remembering, going back and reading and looking for old pictures, and re-living some of the old memories with Henry.

Take it easy.

That thing electric? ~ The majority of people who come up to me as I’m strapping down an impressive load to Henry