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…

Darkness!

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

AMAZING!  AWESOME!  STUNNING!  BREATH-TAKING!

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

Sunrise over Glendo, WY

 

EclipseTrip2017 – Day 2

Well it ended up raining a good bit overnight. The constant pattering on the tent made it hard to get to sleep. Woke up about 6:30, broke camp, showered and opted for the buffet breakfast at the camp kitchen vs. cooking something myself. Was on the road about 8:30.

Plan was to drive to Casper, WY and find someplace to stay. I planned a stop at Scotts Bluff which is a National Monument to the pioneers on the Oregon Trail. It was one of the best known landmarks in the area. I drove to the top and stretched my legs on the short trail. Then back in the car.

I had been mulling over what to do for the evening; park at a rest stop, or go to a late movie and perhaps park at a Wal-Mart when I passed Glendo, WY and saw a little tent city. I stopped at a rest area about 15 miles north where a bunch of people had already setup camp as well as another little tent city a short distance down the hill. I checked the map and the path of totality goes right over Glendo and the forecast looks good there as well. So I called another audible and abandoned the Casper option.

I drove back down the interstate to Glendo and got a spot for the night. 20 bucks to just sleep in the car, 50 bucks to pitch a tent. I’m sleeping in my tent. Was all settled in about 5 pm. Should be able to get some sleep tonight and be ready for the big event in the morning. And staying here means an hour less driving tomorrow!

Now time to make some dinner!

EclipseTrip2017 – Day 1

After monitoring the weather for the Great American Eclipse of 2017, I called an audible and decided to head towards Casper, WY. My original plan was to be near southern Illinois or southeast Missouri where the greatest duration of totality will occur, however the forecast for that area looks to be cloudy and/or rainy – less than ideal for eclipse viewing of course.

The weather in Casper looks to be perfect so this morning I loaded up the car, after returning from a business trip about midnight, and headed out about 10:30. I’m driving the Edge instead of the Solstice on this trip as I may be forced to sleep in the back tomorrow night. Hotels and campgrounds are booked for hundreds of miles around Casper. Such are the hazards of winging things for such an historic event. Only hope for a campsite is a forest service campground which is small and first come first served.

I made it is far as the Grand Island KOA in Nebraska where I last spent a night in 2012 on another eclipse related trip. The path of totality will actually pass directly over this campground, however the forecast calls for clouds – no good, so I’ll be moving on in the morning.

It’s a pleasant evening here with fireflies flickering around the campsite. There are some clouds moving in and a few flashes of lighting. Forecast calls for some overnight rain but I don’t think it will be too bad.

Another 500 miles to Casper tomorrow. Hope to be on the road fairly early so I can get there, scope out a viewing location for Monday and oh yeah, find a place to sleep that doesn’t involve the car…

 There are a lot of Canadians around.

Days 12 & 13: Driving Days

GOPR4527

The past two days have simply been driving days.  Yesterday was from Evanston, WY to Cheyenne and today took me to Omaha.  There was a bit of nice scenery coming through the mountains in WY yesterday but nothing like the sights driving I-70 through Colorado.  The only bit of mild excitement was when I ran over a chunk of tire just west of Lincoln this afternoon…

The passenger side wheel well was knocked loose and I found the marker light hanging buy it’s cabling.  I was able to pop those things back into place.  By the time I reached Omaha the tire was fairly flat.  I re-inflated it with the compressor and it seemed to be holding, but we’ll see in the morning.  If it’s low in the morning then I’ll use the sealant that I have and limp over to a tire store…

And for anyone whos ever wondered just what its like to drive across Nebraska, enjoy the following video.