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The Solar System

October 10, 2012

Maine – Saturday, Oct. 6

I knew today would need to be my military donation – I realized last night that Monday is Columbus Day and since I often mail my military packages on a Monday, I knew I’d have to get it out today if I wanted to mail a package from Maine. To complicate matters, I was so close to Canada that my phone and iPad thought I was “abroad”, and I needed to email an address request. So I went to McDonald’s for breakfast (the oatmeal with apples was actually pretty good!) to take advantage of their wireless services. I emailed my address request and eventually got the response. The unit I’m mailing a care package to this week is a navy unit actually on an aircraft carrier somewhere. The request was from a female Navy person who said everyone liked to have something to read…some of the soldiers were on their first cruise and were a bit homesick…and the women would like some “girly” stuff like body washes and lotion. So I got magazines and puzzle books, body washes and lotions, deoderant and shaving cream; lip balm and gum. I can’t spend quite as much on my military donations because I have to remember there’s also a $13.45 shipping fee which has to be part of the $56 donation. I found a post office, and got the paper work done and got it mailed off 15 minutes before the post office closed.

Somehow that had taken a good chunk of the morning, and I was eager to get out walking because the skies were looking pretty gray again. My plan was to drive straight north along US 1, stopping to look at the largest scale model of the solar system too (thank you to Joe K for telling me about this!). The scale was 1 mile = 1 astronomical unit (which a brochure reminded me was 93 million miles which is the distance between the sun and the earth.) So in this case, the earth and sun were 1 mile apart, and Pluto and the sun were 40 miles apart. This really all helped to put the solar system in perspective in understandable terms. I started at the Pluto end and worked my way north. The Univ. of Maine students who made this also kept the size of the planets in scale, and Pluto was just a tiny little 1 inch ball, and the sun is so big by comparison that only a portion of its curve takes up the whole first floor in the science building at the university. Along the way on our trip through the solar system, Tula and I got out to walk a mile in a tiny little town, and then I found part of the rail trail that I knew was there somewhere, and we walked 4 miles – 2 miles straight out into the Maine wilderness, and 2 miles back. I was in good moose territory – passing by some marshy areas, but didn’t see any. This part of Maine is also potato country and on the drive north I passed countless potato fields, and there were stands alongside the road selling 50# of potatoes for $10.

As I got closer to Presque Isle, I was able to get a picture of Venus, but by the time I found Mercury, it was pouring rain. It was getting to be late afternoon anyway, and I stopped by a couple of the motels in town, but neither were quite in the budget range. I drove up to Caribou, but the town seemed almost deserted (I guess rain can do that though!). Even though I couldn’t make phone calls, I was able to check the weather on my phone, and it said the rain would begin to end during the night. I decided to do my other 3 miles of walking in the pretty-good-sized shopping mall in Presque Isle so I did 6 laps of the inside of the mall. By this time, it wasn’t raining quite so hard, so I picked up some Chinese food at the Food Court and headed just south of Presque Isle to Aroostook State Park (Maine’s first and oldest state park!). I drove there in the dark and light rain, and got myself registered, and set up in record time without getting too wet. It was cozy in the van with the light rain, and somewhere along the way I was woken up by bright moonlight shining in on me, and I knew the rain had passed.

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