[Cancelled 11/16 due to weather] In an attempt to solve our persistent Winter Observing Blues, a few of us took a trial run out to the The Oregon Raceway Park in Grass Valley for a practice overnight observing session. We had previously met with the owner and manager and they had been very welcoming and receptive and were delighted to have us out there. Here are my impressions after one successful night:
What's Good About It
- Easy drive to get there: I-84 east to Biggs, Hwy 97 south 30 miles to Grass Valley, turn left on North Street, two miles to the Raceway. Turn left at the only anything you will see along that road.
- Huge, flat parking lot to set up on: no tripping over sage brush, no stumbling on gravel, and there’s plenty of room for set up.
- Amazing 360° flat unobstructed horizon. I’ve never seen a landscape so full of Not Much at a viewing site before.
- No urban lights or obtrusive farm lights or any lights of any sort at all.
- The bathrooms are simply terrific. They are clean, modern and large. They look like hotel bathrooms. They even have showers.
- The $5 gate fee is manageable to most of us.
- The Milky Way was splendid.
- There wasn’t a breath of wind.
Based on the successful night, we reserved the Raceway for an RCA club star party on Friday and Saturday nights, Nov. 17th and 18th. I hope a good number of us can go out there to give it a try. If all goes well, we’ll try to build a relationship with the Raceway that will stand us in good stead.
Now for the Reality Check
- Expect to be cold: dress for skiing, bring extra. And it might be windy.
- Dew conditions were not especially good and by morning, everything was soaked. Bring your dew shield.
- There is . . . .
• No electricity, except a few outlets, but it’s $20 to plug in
• No running water, except in the bathrooms
• No Wifi
• Only Verizon cell phone service, maybe.
- It’s a half hour drive back to Biggs for gas, restaurant, motel.
- We have to sign an Oregon Raceway waiver when we pay the $5 gate fee.
- Weather conditions rule. There’s always the chance of cancellation.
If our November experiment goes well, we’ll schedule another one for next February, to try the same location under different seasonal conditions. Even if we have to cancel, we’ll schedule for February.
Let me know if you are interested in being part of the inaugural team at this location. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
p.s. For the moment, this is not like Stub. We do not have permission to show up at will, or call and make personal arrangements. This is a next step in an organic process. Who knows what good things can come of it?