In the interest in do-ing instead of watching, I passed on watching NCAA conference playoff basketball this weekend. Yeah, I know. Sacrilege, and all.
See, Jake’s been taking this “Mad Science” class after school, kind of like the Discovery Channel, ‘cept live – they get a science-y toy each week. Two weeks ago – model rockets. Life size and everything. Having been a rocket buff as a boy myself, and with Saturday being one of the beautiful early spring days that should be etched in every child’s mind as perfection itself, so we slapped together some sammiches, and I trundled the kids into the SuperWagon. Told the wife not to miss us too much (She said “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out”), and heighed us ho to the local hobby shop.
Groton’s got probably the last remaining actual, honest-to-god Hobby Shop I’ve seen in a long time. Electric trains in at least three scales (Lionel, HO, and really small), every kind of plastic model you might want with paint of every shade from North Africa kacki to Bright Metallic Cherry, RC planes boats and automobiles, and rocket engines from 1/2A2T’s to ginormous D-14 boosters. We snagged an upgraded launch pad, and a package of my favorite C6-3 engines (plenty big to put a rocket on the edge of vision).
Zipped down to Haley Farms (Bluff Point’s sister park), and found a decent clearing mostly aligned with the ground winds. Set up in the corner to give us a long fetch to recover the rocket. Set up the pad, put in the engine, backed up, counted down, and …
10 minutes later, I figured out that I’d put half the batteries in backwards. Managed not to swear.
Counted down. Pushed the button and
WOW! I’d forgotten exactly how cool it is to play with explosives and to shoot things way, way high into the air. The rocket arced majestically into the blue, heading back over the forest to compensate for the wind. At its apogee, the ejection charge popped a little white puff of smoke, the nose cone came off, and the parachute opened just as pretty as a picture.
And I started to panic ’cause I’d forgotten the standard rocket hack of cutting the center out of the parachute. See, model rockets are usually pretty light, and cutting the center out of the parachute means that they come down a little quicker, and don’t blow into the next county.
The rocket floated beautifully, parachute blown up like a pillow, drifting on the wind, shiny and perfect. Floated down on a warm spring breeze as I sprinted across the field, hoping beyond hope that I’d be able to catch the rocket before it touched down. However, it was not to be. After running about 200 yards, I realized that Jake was about to learn lesson #1 of model rocketry – that building rockets beats the snot out of losing them in trees, or in his case, watching it splash down and drift gently out to sea.
Yep – first rocket my son builds, I splash down in 35 degree water on an outgoing tide. D’oh.
Jake wasn’t far behind me, and when I turned to him, he knew something was up. I picked him up and pointed to the rocket sinking under the water, 50 yards offshore.
“Can’t we go get someone with a boat to go get it? Can’t you go wade out to it” Tears welled up in his beautiful blue eyes.
No, I explained, and he asked “Why?” ‘Cause daddy’s got a weakness for buying engines too big for a new field and new rockets. But we learned something, right? “What?” That sometimes things go wrong even when we try to make them right – I’d explained to him about why we set up where we did, etc.
His tears were dry by the time we made it back to the launch pad and his younger brother, and we were making plans to build and launch another kit I’ve got at the house. Live and learn.
I suppose I should feel guiltier than I do, but, MAN, was that one shot cool. I’d forgotten how high they’d go…