Since I have two NexStar SLT telescope mounts, I decided to pull one apart and see what I could do about the problem with the cable-wrapping. I thought maybe if I could pull the port panel from the side and have it face down, I could mount it on a piece of PVC pipe and the cables would simply twist vertically rather than wrap around the tripod. But due to the internal design of the mount, that's not going to be possible. Time to look at other options.
I know extension cables will be part of the plan, giving the power and USB to hand control cables more leeway, but this weekend I'm going to attempt using the hand control to align and calibrate the scope before connecting the cable to the hand port to see if the alignment will stay or if it will delete itself once the hand control is connected to the computer.
I'm also going to use AAVSO's list of easy-to-observe variable stars to practice using the variable star plotter tool and data collection forms. Once I've figured out how to use these tools better I can move on to planning my observing program.