I had the fortunate experience in college (in the 1970's) to take astronomy from Professor Karlis Kaufmanis who gave the famous Star of Bethlehem lecture. While taking the class I remember being very impressed seeing Saturn through the telescope on the roof of the Physics building at the U of MN, Minneapolis campus. It must have been about an 8 inch refractor and looked very old, I wonder if it is still there? I was also fortunate enough to take physics from Professor Alfred Nier. He talked about his work on the current Martian Lander program during his classes. His work on this program earned him his name on a Martian crater. Little did I know that he lived close to me in Roseville until his death in 1994.
That was the extent of my astronomy experiences short of reading articles in scientific magazines, etc. until 2006. It was in March when sitting in our family room with my wife Sue and our son Ryan and his wife Melissa discussing something about astronomy and my continued interest when Sue asked why I never used the telescope she bought me for Christmas. I was confused and for a moment didn't want to admit I forgot about a Christmas present from her. Then, since I really didn't remember it I asked what telescope? She then had a confused look on her face and quickly got up and went to our basement. A minute later she appeared with a sheepish smile and an 80mm refractor wrapped for the previous Christmas. Apparently in all the excitement of having Christmas with our sons Kevin and Shawn coming home for the holiday and watching our grandson Aidan enjoy his presents, she had forgotten to give me the telescope.
After putting it together and studying the manual I enjoyed a summer of astronomy and started combining it with my photography hobby. I took the scope to the field I used for the RC airplanes I fly. This was the first time I saw and photographed Saturn with this scope. In the spring of 2007 I went to one of the presentations that Mike Lynch (a local astronomer) gives. I was amazed at his big Dob and discussed telescopes with him. He recommended a Dob from Orion.
After doing an extensive amount of internet research I purchased an XT12i from Orion. I told Sue it was coming but when it arrived she was shocked at its size. I immediately assembled it and was amazed at what I could see from my driveway in Roseville. Since then I have been enjoying the scope in the driveway, and a few times to at the local astronomy club locations.