by guest blogger Ken
I wasn’t originally planning to attend the SFF’s NewSpace Conference in Las Vegas. Since I’m on a cash-only diet this year I don’t have a lot of flexibility for frivolities. However, when I got invited to another Lunar Commerce Roundtable I had to go, so I might as well drop in on NewSpace and flog the ISDC 2007 a bit.
I set out on a beautiful Texas Saturday morning, with a waning gibbous Moon guiding me into the west. The drive up through Wichita Falls to Amarillo reinforces just how big a state is Texas. I-40 heading west is a death trap for small vehicles, as truckers get their jollies screwing with the little guys. A woman at work noted yesterday that it was primarily the independents that did that sort of thing, and upon reflection I do remember that some of the names I saw, like lots of Swift trucks, really weren’t doing that sort of thing. The miscreants tend to travel in packs of two or three.
I rolled into Albuquerque in the early evening and headed north to my Mom’s latest place. I was completely worn out from dealing with the congestion caused by the trucks. I had hoped to just put the cruise control on 85 and go with the flow. Which the cars were trying to do. But having to constantly brake and then manage the sub-speed-limit pass through the wakes of the trucks constantly threatening to whip over and crush my little bug in their “blind spot” is a high-stress drive that really didn’t have to be that way.
It didn’t get any better the next morning as the waning gibbous Moon again drew me westward, and in fact an idiot driver decided to block the left lane right at the start of the climb out of the west side of town. When the idiot did finally pull over to the right (at the crest, gee go figure!) the highway was clear to the horizon.
I had to take a break at Meteor Crater in Arizona. I’d missed my chance to see it my last time through that area in 2003, so made it a top priority. There are a number of things that really stand out about the place.
1) The color of the hill is different from the colors of all the other hills in the area. It’s whiter (for a reason), they’re redder.
2) The 5-6 mile drive up the access road highlights the debris field of the impact, with large rocks and boulders and hillocks on display.
3) It’s a big whompin’ hole. Really. Big.
4) From the rim there is still some evidence of a debris blanket in a generally lighter shade of soil immediately around the crater.
I was disappointed they didn’t have any meteorites for sale, only meteorite ‘oxides’. Crappy book selection, too. I’m glad I went though. Standing on the rim, looking down into that really deep and wide hole, really leads you to contemplate what ifs?
Back to the punishing drive on I-40. Darn near got killed coming down out of Seligman during the afternoon monsoon showers. I was passing an RV or big pick-up with big box trailer at about 80 (limit + 5) on a modestly wet roadway, working the curves, and I had an 18-wheeler less than 2 feet from my rear bumper. I became very familiar with that grille pattern in the few brief, terrified glances I took in the rear-view. (thank you very little Ewing Moving Service)
What was worse were the valleys. In one the wind would be going 60 mph north, rain pouring down, reducing visibility, and in the next would be blowing 60 mph south, driving inch-thick waves of water across the highway. The cars of course all slowed way down to a speed appropriate to the visibility and conditions, turned on hazards and all lights, etc. The trucks of course blew by at 75 with their high-tech water displacement tires throwing a sheets of water onto the windshield and reducing visibility to the inside of the car and their wakes threatening to induce hydroplaning in us poor little cars. They really need to redirect that water-displacement somewhere other than into the windshields of the lane next to them. Also makes it hard to tell who threw up the road debris that put a little crack in my windshield.
North of Kingman was the long drive up to Hoover Dam. No trucks, so it was a nice, peaceful hour with the occasional pass/passed, but very little because while everyone was going faster than the speed limit, everyone was at about the same speed. Hoover Dam is a marvel, and I hope we surpass it in our works on the Moon. The climb out sure gave my manual transmission a workout.
Arrived in Vegas in the early evening, so didn’t see the glow. Checked in at the Flamingo, ordered huevos rancheros and a mimosa, and passed out from exhaustion.
Things at the LCR didn’t start until Monday evening, so I decided to take my bug out to the local dealership in Henderson and have her looked over. She had been wheezing a bit in the last bit coming in to Vegas, so I gave her an oil change and had all the lights checked (one or more always go out on a road trip). She came out all shining and gleaming and I fell in love with her all over again. Put the top down and headed back into Vegas for the LCR reception.
Notes on the LCR/SFF RttM pt. II: What the @#%& is my boss doing here?