It's All About the Stick

"Hey!  What are you kids doing out there?!"
"Don't lie to me - I can smell smoke!"
"Aw mom, we're just making thermite...."
"Not again!  I told you kids that was the last Etch-a-Sketch I was going to buy you and I meant it!"

The first thing I did Saturday morning was attend a seminar on dangerous household chemicals.  The instructor walked us through all sorts of dire things you can find at the grocery or hardware store.  The one that scared me most is a rust stain remover that's made of hydrofluoric acid.  You know, the kind of acid that dissolves your bones once it soaks through your skin.  Use with caution - death or serious injury may occur, but your sink will look TERRIFIC!
After the lecture, we went out onto a nice flat gravel area, upwind, and watched some live demos.  They were all really cool, but my favorite was seeing thermite burn.  I've seen it on You-Tube before, but never in person.  It was way too bright to look at, vaporized the stainless steel beaker that the reagents were poured into and left a hard metal smoking cookie in the clay saucer (see above).  Cool.

After witnessing the unleashing of all sorts of toxic clouds into the crisp desert air, I moved on to the next seminar: black powder rockets.  I've taken this class before at the PGI conference in Gilette and I absolutely loved both the class and the teachers (Kurt Medlin and Steve Majdali), so there was no question  whether I'd be attending or not.  Those guys are so knowledgeable that I could sit through that course 20 times and still learn something new.  Plus they're really nice and funny.

I knocked my rocket out in no time flat and walked out to the magazine on the rocket range with a wonderful fellow named Antonio that I met in class.  He's a Vegas performer that uses colored fire, so I talked his ear off in the 15 minutes it took to walk out to the range and back.  One of the things I really enjoyed this year was how many wonderful folks I met.  Everyone is so nice and most seem to feel really comfortable being themselves, knowing like-minded individuals are about.

Later in the afternoon, I walked back out to the rocket range to watch some firings up close as dusk was falling.  I absolutely LOVE it out there.  I've decided I'm a rocket geek.  I didn't know what kind of geek I would end up being for a while, but I think I'm definitely starting to lean toward rocketry.  There were, as usual, all sorts of interesting experimental rockets on the launch pad (making the risk of malfunction pretty high).  It was fascinating to watch all the different effects that had been packed onto sticks.  I really love how beautifully simple the concept of a rocket is.  Just good old fashion physics at work.

After while, the range shut down for the Saturday night public display - always a high falutin' show and we all headed back to sit in the middle of it.   And it really was beautiful.  The choreography was well done and there were SO MANY gas and methanol mines (big fire balls)!  There were several times that they set off three closely timed blasts consisting of about six mines at once, each blast a different color: red, green, pink/blue  Wahoo!!! A bunch of us old timers were comparing notes and none of us had ever seen so many in one show.  Awesome.

I went back out on the rocket line after the public demonstration had concluded and worked safety there for the remainder of the evening.  It was late in the shooting schedule when we were finally cleared to launch and for a heady, dazzling, exciting 5 minutes there was a barrage of well over 50 rockets going up.  Several exploded right out of the tube, giving the sensation of standing right in the middle of the burst.  It is so incredibly cool, I can't tell you.

I dropped into bed, exhausted, when I finally got back to my hotel room around midnight.  Having fun can sure take a lot of energy, but man is it ever worth it!

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