Russia 2019 – Day 5 – St. Petersburg

Today was an early departure as we checked out of the hotel as we’ll be transferring to the river boat tonight. We left the hotel at 7:45 headed southwest to the town and Palace & park of Peterhof. The drive was about an hour and twenty minutes so we arrived at the palace at ~9:00. The park opens to the general public at 10:30 but tour groups can arrange for earlier entry. This was really nice as by the time we left at ~noon the crowds were quite busy. We toured the palace and then walked the grounds which contain numerous fountains (>150), gardens, etc. This palace was also occupied by the Germans during the siege of Leningrad and destroyed as they left. It has been rebuilt in the years since.

Peterhof Palace

We then drove back to the city and were dropped off at the Faberge museum where we first had lunch (chicken sandwich) at the museum cafe. Took a spin through the museum which was interesting but not really my cup o’ tea. From there we walked to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and took some more pictures.

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

Then it was onto the bus for about a half hour drive to our ship MS Rostropovich. We settled into our cabins and then had a quick introduction to the ship prior to dinner. Had a turkey and potatoes dinner and chocolate lava cake and ice cream for desert.


Russia 2019 – Day 4 – St. Petersburg

After breakfast this morning our day began with a tour of the interior of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and a walk up the 276 steps to the top.

The interior space of the cathedral is simply breathtaking. Nearly all of the artwork consists of mosaics rather than murals or other painted artwork. This is due to the climate and the realization that other forms would not survive for long. The Cathedral was converted to a museum by the communists in 1931. During the siege of Leninigrad during WWII the basement was used as storage for other artwork from around the city. Thankfully there was little damage done to the structure. It was camouflaged by having the dome painted, but the Germans also used it as a landmark for aerial bombing and mortar fire.

From the roof, the 360 degree view of the city was spectacular – despite the cloudy weather.

As we departed the colonnade the rains of St Petersburg went from a drizzle to a downpour. The one block walk back to the hotel left us drenched. With only a few minutes to dry off we were on the bus to our first official tour of the day. We drove about an hour south to the town of Pushkin to visit Catherine’s summer palace.

The palace is on the southern edge of St Petersburg and at the time of WWII was really in the countryside. It was occupied by the Germans during the siege of Leningrad. When they were finally driven out they laid mines in the palace which were defused but virtually all of the palace had already been looted and burned. An ongoing restoration has been underway since shortly after war ended.

Upon returning to the hotel we had dinner around the corner from the hotel and then it was off to an evening show. We saw a Cossack dance and music show that was quite entertaining. Then back to the hotel to prepare for Saturday’s early departure from the hotel as we’ll be boarding the river boat tomorrow evening.

Russia 2019 – Day 3 – St. Petersburg

Today consisted of a bus tour around the city during the morning with several stops for photo opportunities. The last stop was at a former port situated across the Neva River from the Peterhof Fortress where at noon every day they fire a cannon round to mark the time.

Then it was back to the hotel. We walked around the block to a Georgian restaurant recommended by our guide Ivan.

At 3pm we departed for our afternoon tours. The first stop was at Yusopov Palace. This was owned by a relative of the last Czar and was the location of the murder of Rasputin. After that we took a boat ride around the city and then back to hotel about 6pm.

We then walked a few blocks to Stroganoff Steak House. I passed on their specialty since the stroganoff featured a mushroom base. I opted for a steamed perch out of nearby Lake Ladoga which was a good choice! We were back to the hotel about 10pm and lights out shortly after.

The Minneapolis Miracle

Are you kidding me?!?!?!?

EclipseTrip2017 – Day 3/4; homeward

Shortly after the total eclipse concluded it was time to hit the road.  Watching the moon continue its path across the sun is somewhat anti-climatic and not all that exciting.  My plan was to retrace my route and spend the night in Council Bluffs, IA where I had a reservation at a Hampton Inn.  I was in my car and queued up to leave at 12:10 p.m.

It would take an hour to travel about 100 yards out of the field that I had spent the night in.  It took another hour to complete the 1.2 miles out of Glendo.  There is only one path ultimately leading out of Glendo onto I-25 and all of the thousands of people in the area had to make it through this funnel.  To further exacerbate the issue the vast majority of the people were from the Denver area (or Colorado in general) and needed to head south.  The interstate was already moving at a crawl with people coming out of Casper so it was difficult for anyone to move.

My original plan was to take I-25 south back to I-80 to take me across Nebraska.  I would have actually joined up with US-26 which I had taken from Scotts Bluff yesterday.  That maybe 20 mile stretch could have taken hours based on this report.  When reaching the Interstate entrance I therefore decided to abandon that plan and would instead take I-25 North, then take Wyoming Highway 59 to Gillette where I could pick up I-90 and head east across South Dakota.  I think I made the right choice as I made my way north, the southbound lanes were bumper to bumper, stop and go, for 14 miles with steady traffic coming out of Casper for the 28 miles until I exited onto Hwy 59.  Yikes!

I was now completely winging it.  Should I stop somewhere and camp or get a hotel, or just keep driving.  I considered stopping in the Black Hills, but it was only about 6 p.m. and that would mean not getting home until late on Tuesday.  I kept driving.  Was going strong all the way to Sioux Falls which I reached about 1 a.m.  Made it another two hours, to Blue Earth, when I decided I had to stop and rest.  Pulled into a rest area and got settled into the back seat.  Didn’t sleep real well, but must have got a little bit as my alarm woke me at 6 a.m.  I felt considerably better and got behind the wheel again – only two hours to go.

Stopped in Faribault for some breakfast and to also make sure I didn’t end up in morning rush hour traffic.  After breakfast it was back on the road for the final hour.  Pulled into my driveway a little after 9 a.m.  What a trip!  Have to say I’d do it all over again!

EclipseTrip2017 – TOTALITY

The eclipse would play out as follows:

(C1) – Contact 1; Start of Partial Eclipse; 10:24 a.m.

(C2) – Contact 2;  Start of Total Eclipse;  11:45 a.m.

Max – 11:46 a.m.

(C3) – Contact 3;  End of Total Eclipse;  11:47 a.m.

(C4) – Contact 3; End of Partial Eclipse;  1:12 p.m.

The total event would therefore last for about 2 hours and 45 minutes with the main event, TOTALITY, lasting for nearly 2 and half minutes.

The eclipse started right on time – isn’t science cool!  The partial eclipse begins very slowly, taking a peek every five minutes or so, the motion of the moon is barely perceptible and takes about 20 minutes before a sizeable chunk of the sun becomes obscured.  Until the sun is about half covered there isn’t really anything noticeable to the naked eye.  But from this point on, it slowly starts to get darker.  As more of the sun is obscured the one really noticeable item is the shadows.  Normally, shadows are somewhat fuzzy as the light comes from all directions.  As the crescent sun narrows, the light comes from mainly one direction and the shadows become very crisp and makes the environment appear almost artificial.

As the crescent sun shrinks to nothing the speed becomes apparent and you can actually see the moon overtaking the sun.  The darkness begins to deepen and without the sun’s rays beating down the temperature drops noticeably.  And then…


Now it’s safe to remove the solar viewing glasses and look upon a view that is otherworldly.  This is not normal.  Stars appear.  Planets appear.  In daytime.  Turning around three hundred sixty degrees it is sunrise and sunset simultaneously all around.  In the sky there is a hole where the sun existed moments ago.  Extending from this hole is the glowing atmosphere of our life-supporting star.  It is absolutely beautiful and


While totality approaches the crowd was very excited.  Lots of cheering and hooting and hollering.  As totality occurred there was a tremendous cheer.  It takes a few moments to then remember it’s safe to look with the naked eye.  So as people take off the glasses there are gasps and oohs and ahhs followed by silence and then quiet whispers as if in a moment of reverence.  Then the voices return with the joy and excitement of the moment.

And then it’s over.  As suddenly as darkness overtook us the light reappears as the moon continues its path across the sun.  The world begins to return to normal.  The partial eclipse will continue for over an hour but we’ve seen this all before.  Time to pack it up and head for home.

I have seen a partial solar eclipse and an annular solar eclipse previously.  While these are fascinating in their own rights, they pale in comparison to totality.  If you should think seeing the sun obscured by 90% or 95% or 97% is good enough, I can tell you that you’re mistaken.  Someone recently put like this:  a 97% eclipse is like driving 300 miles to get to the beach and then turning around 6 miles from your destination because it’s “close enough”.  You must see Totality to truly experience an eclipse.

EclipseTrip2017 – Day 3

Today’s the day!

So there are two down sides to the location that I ended up at overnight.  One – there are train tracks just to the west of the town and there is a constant flow of trains coming out of the Thunder Basin (Coal Creek Mine).  My neighbor heard that they come through every 20 minutes – not sure if they were that frequent but whatever, they blow their horns coming through town.  All.  Night.  Long…  Two, there is only one route to the interstate and I’ve no idea how many thousands of people saw the great opportunity I did yesterday…

Of course, the most important points are that the path of the eclipse will go directly overhead and provide 2 minutes 28 seconds of totality and the weather is forecast as clear.  So I’ll accept the down sides happily!

Anyway, I rolled out of my tent shortly after sunrise at about 6.  The weather forecast had not failed me.  There were some light clouds visible to the east with the rising sun, but otherwise overhead and to the west was nothing but clear blue sky.  Made some coffee and oatmeal and got a little reading in while waiting for the event to begin.


Sunrise over Glendo, WY