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The 2018 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

I do not always report on the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show but this year I am. The show began for Paul and me when I left my house in my Jeep to pick him up on Wednesday. We were driving this year as we did last year. I had five boxes of my new book Drilling for Meteorites to take. There were five dealers interested in having the book in their room for sell as I left for the show. By the end of our visit, a few more dealers had asked for books. I had ordered 150 books for the show and I hoped that was going to be enough. I had just enough left when I got home to fill two additional orders of ten books each.

Drilling For Meteorites by James P. Tobin
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Traffic was terrible leaving LA. It is about 15 miles of freeway for me to get to the LAX offramp at Century Blvd. It took me over an hour to go that far. Another half hour and I got to where the accident was. Then it was fair sailing the rest of the trip to Paul’s house a hundred miles more away.

I arrived at Paul’s house in the late morning and got a tour of the progress the builder’s had made since I was there last in October. There had been good progress inside but it was still not stuccoed yet. He had his stuff with him and put it in the car and it was off to the gas station to fill up for the trip across California. We had decided to break up the drive and stay overnight in Blyth. Then head into Tucson the next morning. I had appointments to drop off books in the afternoon on Thursday the day before the official first day of the show. I was expecting that parking at the TCC Hotel (which will always be the Inn Suites to us oldtimers) would be bad all show because of the construction being done at what had always been the dirt overflow parking area.

Our hotel in Blyth served a breakfast so we got a quick bite there and headed to the gas station again to fill up for the second half of the trip. We do the Buckeye Phoenix bypass route to stay out of all the heavy morning traffic and come back onto the I-10 at Casa Grande. Then it is just a little less than an hour into our hotel in Tucson. But we were going on down to the Inn Suites to drop off books and would check in later at the hotel. As expected there was no parking at the Inn Suites so I found a spot in the residential neighborhood down the street. I had brought a handcart and the parking attendant at the hotel had let me unload the books there. With only an hour of time, before I would be ticketed, we had to run through all the dealer rooms fast dropping off their books. We would be back of course in the next several days to chat more relaxed.

As we were finishing up at the Inn Suites Paul got a call that there were some meteorites we could look at across town at the residence of friends. So we were off to there after checking in at our hotel. The meteorites were very nice and the price very good so our work was starting after only being in town a couple hours. We went through all the material for sale and chatted, told stories and then went to dinner with them. We had skipped lunch driving and dropping off books. Breakfast had been small and fast so we were ready to sit down and enjoy a meal.

Friday morning we had a little more of my book stuff to do at the Riverpark and Days Inn also called something else now. Two more dealers wanted books and it was our chance to stop by and see Lisa Marie and Pablo and Bud behind the Days Inn. We had a great visit with them and I had one stop to get some beads and look at meteorites for myself on the way back to the Riverpark. So Paul headed off on his on to see Erich and Silvia and I would catch up with him in a few minutes after seeing if any unclassified meteorites called my name. Of course, about a dozen did and I left there with a couple kilograms of nice stones. I also found two beautiful large pieces of Bassikounou for a fantastic price per gram. I could have done even better if I had taken all the Bassikounou but it was more than I needed personally. I did get 115 grams.

I caught up with Paul at Cosmic Highway in time to just say hello and goodbye to Erich and Silvia. I had dropped off books at Dustin Dicken’s room and K & D’s room. It was nice to be carrying a bag that was much lighter especially since I had added a few pounds of space rocks to it. It was time to figure out what we were going to do for lunch and where we would spend the afternoon until our dinner with more friends in the evening. We decided to head down to the Ramada for a while even though we would be there later for a longer visit to do work. We ate at the Denny’s next to the hotel, then made a fast walk around the hotel. Blaine Reed was busy with a room full of people so we just poked our heads in really and said hello. We went around the building and did the same with Mike Miller. We did not take much time at all that visit. It was a weekday still and traffic would be bad going up to our hotel and we had been on the run since early. A rest for a while at the hotel before heading out for dinner sounded pretty good to us.

Friday night dinner was with Mike Bandli, Rob Wesel, and Jason Phillips at La Parrilla Suiza and I knew just where that was having been there years ago. We really look forward to seeing these guys every year. For several years we had schedules that prevented us connecting at the show. But now we try to arrange things before we make our plans. It was great fun, I gave the guys each a book to enjoy. Jason and I had been sending rocks back and forth for a while so that had been fun during the year but it was great to see him in person. We stayed pretty late at the restaurant which is often what happens to Paul and me.

Saturday morning we were off to the Mirror Making Lab at the University of Arizona for a tour that had been graciously arranged by Bob Holmes. What a great time that was for two astronomy nuts like Paul and myself. The mirror that was in the spin casting machine had reached the ambient temperature at about 5:30 that morning so the spinning oven was stopped and cool. That made it possible for us to get under the giant machine and even to go into the center where the huge copper brushes for conducting the tremendous electrical power are housed. It was amazing to see them polishing the 8-meter mirror that is almost done and see another across the room in the grinding area. It is definitely a tour that anyone interested in telescopes should take when in Tucson. We finished up there in time to go and get some lunch.

We headed to Carl’s Jr. and got a simple burger and drink each. I think Paul was concerned a little that I have plenty of energy. At 2 in the afternoon, I had been invited by Geoff Notkin of Aerolite Meteorites to do a book signing at his wonderful venue at the 22nd Street Show in the Showcase Building. I was a little nervous but Geoff is always the greatest of hosts and a dear friend and we know most of his team. So it was pretty easy to relax. There was a good crowd even being the first weekend day of the show. The parking lot was full but they let me into a close-up area because I was an author doing a signing. That was neat. We got there early and chatted with Geoff as he did his work. Then a few minutes before 2 PM I set up my table and chair and spread out my outer space theme tablecloth and a pile of books. Over the course of the next couple hours, I signed some books and chatted with old friends that came by and new ones I made. The surprise was that Geoff wanted to include me and the story of the book in a live Facebook feed. My kids say that I did great and appeared not nervous at all. But I never really know and don’t even like to watch myself. My boxes of books were disappearing from the back of the car and that was nice. I had not given any to the family yet because I did not want to run out at the show. Geoff wanted to have some at his location and another dealer wanted some after the show if I had some left. I was doing OK with the book launch.

My work was done for the most part and we could focus on fun and the little work we had to do for the Meteorite Exchange. Sunday I had arranged with some friends to go Saffordite hunting. We had talked about it for years but always been too busy to take a full day off and go. I had contacted Twink Monrad near the end of the year to get directions and invite her to join us. She sent me perfect directions. She had friends who would be in town that were going to be out hunting at the same time already. We met up with them at the site very close to on time at 9 AM on Sunday morning. We needed gas and a stretch during the trip to Safford so we stopped at “The Thing” trading post/curio store. I took a few pictures of The Thing. It was a good running joke for Paul and I as we drove. What horrors would we find when we got there and gazed upon “The Thing”.

Twink had found some Saffordites by the time we arrived and gave us each a couple to know what we were looking for. It took a few minutes to get my eyes tuned in on the blackest thing on the ground and then it was very rewarding hunting all the rest of the day. Paul and I both did really well. I found a good number that were especially beautiful. Perfect ovoid shaped and clear gemmy lavender colored when held to a light. Of course, we found a bunch that were banded and some that were chipped but that is always the case with rock hounding. I left the field really happy. I always enjoy hunting meteorites but after a few days of finding nothing, it is harder to be joyful. There was something satisfying about going home with a bag full of the prey we went hunting. Course I would trade all of those Saffordites for one meteorite found there by accident.

We decided days earlier that we would make no dinner arrangements for Sunday night. In case we wanted to stay longer Saffordite hunting then we could. We hunted until about 4 in the afternoon. I was the slow one returning to the car. I just kept finding them on the way back so I kept going slow and methodical. Paul looked up restaurants as we drove on the way back to Tucson and found a pizza place in Bisbee that had a great rating. As it turned out it was wonderful. They could use another waitress. She was really working hard it was as if the whole town was in the place. The pizza was very good a great change from anything delivered you could ever find. Nothing beats a real Italian restaurant pizza. I could have had a couple more refills on my drink I had not stopped to eat at all while hunting and had drunk very little of the water I was carrying.

Even with the long stop for pizza we got back to Tucson in the early evening. Paul cleaned his Saffordites at our hotel room. I would clean mine at home in the ultrasonic cleaner. We watched Armageddon on the TV and called our wives.

Monday was our last day at the show so it was time to do whatever business we needed to finish and then visit with everyone and chat and have fun until we had to say goodbye in the late afternoon. We started the day at the Ramada with Mike Miller. I ran into Frank Cressy and while we writers were chatting Marvin Kilgore came by and wanted books from both of us. Frank had books in his car and I, of course, was still carrying what was left of mine. I was down to about 30 or so at this point. I told Marvin I would sign them and drop them at his suite. He and Kitty were sharing a suite with Bruno and Carine again this year. After leaving the Ramada the plan was to be at the Inn Suites for the rest of the day.

I had dropped the books off at the Inn Suites on Thursday but we had not been back really since then. I lucked out with a great parking spot right on the side near ET’s suite. I had only waved at Pani so we went into his room first and said hello. I had given him a book really quickly on Thursday but it had occurred to me that I should sign and give him a book to take back to Vienna for Harald Stehlik who I never seem to chat with as often as I should online. We made our way to Bruno and Carine’s Le Memoire de La Terre suite and left the books for Marvin and I talked a moment with Bruno and Carine. Then I needed to go and spend a much longer time with Pieter and Debra Heidelaar at Global Treasures. They had been the providers of the documents I had used to write the book. I had given them books on Thursday and spent some time there but I wanted to have a much longer nicer visit. As I walked into the room they were talking with a gentleman and had my book in hand. I heard Pieter or Debra say “I am sure he would be happy to sign one for you.” I said as a way of announcing my presence that “I would be delighted to sign one.” It tuned out he was the man that had sold the collection of Mr. Holland’s papers to Pieter and Debra a few years ago. The circle was complete everyone responsible for custody of the documents had a signed book. We had a nice visit and then, unfortunately, I had to move on again. It was upstairs to Anne Black’s suite next. She had taken some books for her room and I was going to trade books for specimens. I found several meteorites there and spent a little money beyond the cost of the books.

I always go over and see if there are any Chelyabinsk I cannot resist from one dealer. And as always I found about thirty very small stones. I was interested in mostly crusted meteorites that would make great photographic subjects in the future. The total weight was not very much and the price was just $6 per gram with is quite good and actually far less than even two years ago. So I would say that demand is down and supply is still good so a lower price.

Met back up with Paul and we headed toward Edwin Thompson’s suite to spend most of the rest of the day. On the first day, I had taken even with the rushing enough time to pick out about a kilo of Sericho pallasite pieces. ET had put them aside in a bag for me. I paid for them and unfortunately sat in the chair next to the pile and found a couple more in the next hour or so. I got those also. Pallasites have always been too expensive for me to learn to work on. It was just going to be too costly a thing if I screwed up cutting and preparing them. But at $2-$3 dollars a gram Sericho was going to be my chance to have some fun trying my hand at preparing pallasites. I have done thousands of stone surfaces but never a pallasite. I did OK and it has been fine not a bit of rust in over a month as of this writing.

One of the pieces had a nice patch of fusion crust on it which I thought was pretty cool. But upon getting home and looking at it closer I find that it is not a fragment but a whole individual with many small areas of fusion crust on the back and other sides as well. This is very special I have never had a whole pallasite individual before.

It was great to have some time to chat with ET and tell some stories. It was good to have my book done and to hear that he had been working on his next one. I cannot wait to see what he has written. Now that my newest historical work is done it may be time for me to do that sci-fi book that I can sense is in me somewhere. I have begun the first note taking of another book even though I had only a few days ago said I was done writing books for a while. Hard to stop sometimes. In the late afternoon, it was time to make our goodbyes to everyone and head back to the hotel to get ready for our last dinner at the show. It was with Rob Wesel and Jason Phillips at a sushi restaurant. Mike Bandli had gone home the day before. I don’t care for sushi but they had other things on the menu. I had the teriyaki steak and rice. We caught up a lot more on what we had all been doing during the last year. And we made a deal or two. The last deals of the show for Paul and I or so I thought.

The drive home was uneventful and though long not too tiring to prevent me from driving the rest of the way home to my house after dropping Paul off. Its another two hours at least. The plan had been for me to stay overnight but I wanted to get home I had work to do. I put 1831 miles on the car this trip. Got in some offroad time and found meteorites at the show and Saffordites in the field. I sold a bunch of books and had a great launch for that two-year project. But it was not over really. I had brought home meteorites to cut for the business and three persons from the show. I had to cut their stones the first days back. Then get them to the Post Office and on their way to their owners. That was going to be a nervous time for me. One was a nice size (20+ gram) martian that I split in half. The other the largest piece of Aiquile I had ever seen that needed to be cut in two also but right on a pencil line and without damaging the perfect fusion crust. It all went well with the cutting but the shipping took about twice as long on each as expected. The Aiquile was shipped with high-value insurance. So much, in fact, the Post Office people wanted it to go registered mail. I said OK. Little did I know that the box would spend a week going back and forth between three LA zipcodes and sit for 4 days in one post office without moving. I was tearing my hair out and checking tracking several times a day. Finally after eight days in LA and already five days past the expected delivery day it was actually going toward its destination. The martian also heavily insured took a similar troubled course home as a priority package. With delays in customs and getting going it too finally arrived. The third box of rock I brought home was cut the day after the others. It was three carbonaceous chondrite stones to be made into halves, slices, and endpieces for a dealer and great friend. But the stones were quite fractured so cutting was difficult. But they got on their way too. Then it was time to cut for Paul and I. We had a big batch of Allende that we had gotten at the show. It was a mix of broken stones, complete stone, and fragments. I actually only cut a portion for now. There were plenty of slices, endpieces and windowed fragments both big and small in the part I cut to last us a couple years. I left the three big complete stones with partly damaged fusion crust to cut later. They are actually really nice stones at this point in time with Allende getting scarce.

I had a few days of rest then I received a request for one more cutting job. Just slicing in half two different meteorites that a friend had gotten at the show. That was OK I can usually make one additional cut to create a slice for my collection when I cut for him. Both meteorites turned out to be something much more special than originally thought. One got a further additional slice to become the type specimen. Both are now off for classification. I sent them home to their owner and almost immediately got interest in a Facebook image I posted. One of the stones was a perfect fit for the needs of a researcher. I decided to see if I could buy the main mass from the friend. He had intended to sell the large portion and keep for himself just the thinner endpiece I had sliced off. He was willing to sell it and instead of sending it off to be classified agreed to let the interested researcher do both the classification and the research. So I would send the quite amazing LL3 off myself to be classified. First I would have to get it back and take one more slice to be the type specimen. I ended up getting two smaller slices to send for classification and I took off some very thin less than millimeter thick slices for making thin sections. I made a batch of seven thin sections. One of the slides I sent with the type specimen for use in the classification if it was good enough. For me, this was finally the end of the work from the show.

The 2018 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show was very different for Paul and I we had chosen to do less work and have more fun. To spend some time away from the hotels and do less hanging around going from room to room over and over again. We did not see everyone we might have if we had been around more but the trade off was some great fun.

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