Hubby and I are currently living in a farmhouse that used to belong to a professional astronomer, which may not mean much to most but to us, it means we have a giant telescope in our backyard.  And I do mean giant.  It has it’s own building that can be opened up for night sky viewings.  After two years, we finally learned how to use the bloody thing, and let me say, it’s pretty darn awesome.  The building, on the other hand, is a bit difficult to manipulate.  Getting it open isn’t too bad, but trying to put it back together can be tricky.  And by “tricky,” of course I mean “damn near impossible.”

Last night, hubby decides that it would be a perfect night to go look at the moon through the telescope, since it was full enough to see some pretty awesome detail but not too full to blind you looking at it.  Never mind that I’m on call and he has a biology test, it’s a good night for moon viewing.  Plus, we start at about 7:00pm, so in theory, we were planning on being in bed around 10pm after getting a good look at Saturn.  Obviously, my use of the word “theory” should tell you that something didn’t quite go as planned.

Backing up a bit, I will try to explain how the building comes apart.  See, the roof and 4 corner beams are on tracks and can be pulled out away from the walls to open up the ceiling, creating the appearance of 4 walls next to a giant carport.  There are 4 wheels, each on the corner of the beams, and then one on the top of the roof for a track going down the middle.  Then, the top half of the walls are on hinges and can be folded down, allowing a relatively unobstructed view of the sky.  So to recap, giant carport on wheels next to 4 folding walls.  If you are able to picture this, good on ya.  I’m also sure you can imagine how this can all go horribly wrong.

The first thing we notice is that we can push the carport back about 2 feet before hitting what feels like a giant rock on the left side.  We discover the problem — one of the metal support brackets is too tall to allow the wheel track to pass over.  This happens several times, all in the same spot.  Thinking, “this isn’t right, we got it open and never had this problem,” further investigation reveals that the top wheel in the center of the roof has come off the track.  (By track, I mean “single beam.”)  At this point, we are trying to figure out how to get a 10ft (or higher) roof wheel back on the beam.  We realize that the only way to make that happen is to somehow figure out how to raise the roof up enough to replace the wheel.  This is where tire jack #1 comes in handy.  We manage to use a jack to get the roof up enough to push the wheel back on the track.  (We wind up having to do this twice, but I’ll spare the details.)

Once we get the top wheel aligned, the next step is to try to raise the left corner wheel up enough to get it over the bracket.  Tire jack #1 is used again, and we get the frame over the support beam, but in doing so, the bottom left wheel leaves its track.  It’s now about 11:15pm and we have made a solid 6 inches of progress.  Hubby runs to get tire jack #2 and tries to figure out a way to lift up the wheel to get it back on track.  Placing the jack was difficult due to all the metal framework, but eventually we get it set and lift the wheel up enough to put the frame back on the track.  Celebrating our victory, we continue pushing the roof frame back onto the 4 walls — and get about another 1.5ft before hitting obstacle #5,792.

Great.  At least this one is on the top, so no tire jacks should be required.  After removing a piece of weather stripping, hubby realizes that the problem is one piece of metal is literally splitting another in half.  The part that is split has also buckled into the track, making it impossible for the wheel to pass through.  Now hubby is ready to just leave one wall panel down, which would be perfectly fine except for the storms we are supposed to be getting soon.  And given the cost of the telescope (unknown, but probably more than my salary) and our inability to simply move it inside for the time being (ground bolts and all), I refuse.  So now we are using any possible long straight tools we have to try and straighten out that buckle.  The little tool used to remove the bolts from car tires came in handy for this part.  So finally after much straining and cursing, we get it flat enough to push the wheel over.  And make it about another 3 feet before hitting yet ANOTHER problem.  This was a minor snag on the right side and was fixed in no time.

We finally, around midnight, get the building closed up, hitting two more snags on the left side thanks to the fact that the top track has a bent corner and is snagging on everything, and just as we are ready to fold the final walls up, we find we are about an inch too short.  The roof won’t move, and after inspection, find that the chain that holds the base to the cement slab has gotten caught in the track.  This is like getting your zipper stuck on your shirt, except with metal.  More banging and swearing, we get the chain loose, close everything up, lock the building, and crawl into bed around 12:45-1:00am.

At 1:15am, the first of 3 early morning emergency calls comes.

And that?  Is why I ate 3 donuts for breakfast.

The upside to this whole fiasco?  The two photos below, taken with my iPhone through the telescope.


Some things are just worth the hassle.