Wed, 24 Mar 2021
On March 6th JY and I hitched up the Jayco toy hauler to our pickup and took off for California. It was our first trip back to California since we had left Irvine, small U-Haul in tow and JY pregnant, August 1983.
From Magdalena we headed west on US 60 past the VLA, Pie Town and Quemado, then northwest skirting Petrified Forest National Park and west on I-40 to the Las Vegas turn-off where we rested for the night.
Sunday morning we drove north, first by the beautiful Lake Meade National Recreation Area, then through the vast expanse of sin city and onward through an breathtaking panoply of mountain ranges along the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevadas, skirting Death Valley and then Walker Lake and the eerie metropolis of ordinance mounds just south. Arriving in Reno, we camped for the night and left for Grass Valley through snow flurries in Donner Pass.
There we met Tom Osypowski living with his wife in quiet seclusion at the end of a narrow gravel lane outside the old gold rush town. Inside his machine shop, a gleaming new Dobsonian telescope awaited us.
Asked how he came to astronomy and telescope making and about a beautiful lunar astrophotograph, Tom had this to say:
My astronomy adventure started when I was about 12 years old. It was like some kind of urge just turned on and told me to look at the night sky. I soon got a star atlas and learned the constellations and the names of the stars. Soon after I wanted to get a telescope to look at the planets. It quickly mushroomed from there and before long I was building my own telescopes from surplus parts. This was back in the mid-50's. I joined a local astronomy club, the Milwaukee Astronomical Society. They had an observatory out of town and I spent as much time as I could there using the 13" reflector mounted in a dome. It was with that telescope that I took the picture of Plato and the Alpine Mt range that you saw in my shop. I stayed with my astronomy proclivities until about '65 and then took a sort of sabbatical from that pursuit for 17 years until I moved to the area in CA I now live in. The dark skies here, and another of those "urges" had me building telescopes again and observing the night sky. In 1982 the Dobsonian revolution took hold and I had soon built a 16" dob that won some awards at RTMC. A year later it was equipped with my first Equatorial Platform, a device that was just beginning to take hold of the dob world. The Platform was a huge success and friends asked me to build one for them too. Soon I had a business that I am still working at, 35 years later. Since that first Platform, I have built about 700 more of them for customers. I also started offering complete metal telescopes about 22 years ago, and have built dozens since then. Yours is the latest, #42.
He also reminisced a little about the old days of film photography, dark rooms and enlargers. In passing he also mentioned having lived in Taos a spell, so I asked him for details, and this was his reply:
My time in the Taos area was during my 17 year haitus from astronomy. I was pretty much a hitchhiking vagabond (hippie) for many years, staying in various places, a lot of times alone like a hermit. In New Mexico I had a tiny adobe hut that I lived in. It was in a small town called Arroyo Hondo, outside of Taos. I would walk down a winding trail to the Rio Grande River Canyon that was close by and spend some time in hot springs that were situated right by the river. Also grew a lot of my own food in a great garden I tended. Standing in that garden I could see the snow capped peaks of the southern Rocky Mts. The Sangre de Christo, those peaks were called. The snow off them flowed down in carefully tended ditches to bring water to the towns nearby, and even via a local ditch to the very garden I stood in.
Having packed the new scope securely, we headed west to Sacramento and south through the Central Valley, California's agricultural heartland, then east through the Mojave and back to Magdalena where we rolled the prize into our new observatory.
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