I’ve been a meteor watching enthusiast since at least the early 1980s. I had the good fortune back then of getting to know Paul Martsching when we both lived in Ames, Iowa, and few people in the world have logged more hours in the name of meteor science than he. We have been close friends ever since.
We’ve learned that here in the U.S. Midwest, for any given astronomical event you wish to observe, there is between a 2/3 and 3/4 chance that it will be clouded out—unless you are willing to travel. Weather forecasting has gotten much better over the years, and nowadays you can vastly improve your chances of not missing that important astronomical event, such as the Perseid meteor shower in August or the Geminid meteor shower in December.
Paul and I have traveled from Ames, Iowa to Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois over the years to escape cloudy skies. Just last year, we had to travel to north of Jamestown, North Dakota to see the Perseids, and this year it appears we will need to travel to southern Kansas, Oklahoma, or Arkansas to get a clear view of the Geminids.
Weather forecasts don’t begin to get really accurate until about 48 hours out, so we often have to decide at nearly the last minute where to travel. Therein lies the problem. Where can we find a safe observing spot to put down our lawn chairs where there are no terrestrial lights visible brighter than the brightest stars, and no objectionable skyglow from sources or cities over the horizon? It is a tall challenge.
What we need to develop is a nationwide network of folks who know of good places to watch meteors. This would include astronomy clubs, individual astronomy enthusiasts, managers of parks and other natural areas, rural land owners who would allow meteor watchers on their land, rural B&Bs, cabins, lodges, ranches, and so on. Once you know where you need to go to get out from under the clouds, there would be someone you could call in that area of the country to make expeditious observing arrangements for that night or the following night. And perhaps lodging as well, if available.
If you would like to work with me to build a meteor watcher’s network or have ideas to share, please post comments here or contact me directly.