Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tammy and Kevin's Big Adventure

Bucket List: view a total solar eclipse.


What a fun adventure and experience that was! I first made mention in my blog of wanting to view the eclipse from a position of totality back in March and then proceeded to cement our plans to make it happen by booking a room in Lincoln, Nebraska.

We left late Sunday morning and joined the steady flow of traffic on 35W as we made our way south. Traffic was heavy but it was moving along at a good clip. Eclipse fever was building!

We chose Lincoln for its proximity to where totality would be occurring, knowing that we'd likely be viewing it from some other city nearer to totality based on cloud cover. All of the forecasts indicated we'd need to drive west in the morning to improve our chances of a cloud free sky. We didn't mind. The extra hours spent on the road to make it happen were all worth it to us. We chose to drive toward Grand Island, Nebraska and possibly a little beyond. We eventually settled on Ravenna, Nebraska, about 33 miles west of Grand Island.

Tammy noticed a hillside off to our left as we arrived in Raveena with people gathering on it to view the eclipse. She wondered if it would maybe be a good spot for us. We drove into town, refueled then went back and navigated the field in Tammy's Crosstrek, finding the ideal setting for what I'd had in my mind's eye for setting up my video camera. My intention was not to video the eclipse, or even photograph it for that matter. I merely wanted to have a shot of the horizon or of a field of sorts and watch how the light changed during the eclipse from daylight to darkness and back to daylight. This was that spot.

We mingled with the others there, exchanging where we had traveled from and how we decided on Raveena, and other small talk. It was a fun crowd, united in our common focus at a time when unity is in short supply here.

We would occasionally don our glasses and watch as the eclipse slowly devoured the sun over the next 45 minutes or so while taking note of a steadily falling temperature and a shifting tint to the ambient light that was moving toward an aqua-amber hue.

Excitement was in the air.

As I was saying, my intent wasn't to photograph the eclipse. I was more focused on living in the moment and taking it in. And what a sight it was! I get a little excited as I write this just thinking back to it and the thought of that breathtakingly unreal image in my head that is indelibly imprinted in my brain. A light, wispy cloud moved in as the moon fully enveloped the sun but it didn't effect our view of the sun's corona. Tammy became choked up by the experience. It was profound. But that moment when the sun's light broke through the darkness is what really stands out for me -- what's referred to as the diamond ring effect. That was such an awe-inspiring and dramatic moment. Here's a video I found of it.

I have to see it again!

When the orbs in the sky had resumed normalcy and after daylight had fully returned we packed up our things for the drive home. Before leaving we thanked the family that was gracious enough to welcome us onto their land and share the experience with them.

The ride home was a long one but we didn't mind. We spent our time together listening to satellite radio and the bevy of music on my Nano while chatting our time away. The only hurry we had was in getting home before the pups were unattended for too long. Rachel and Drew had stayed with them the night before and into the late afternoon. What should've been an 8 hour drive turned into 10.5 hours as we found ourselves in stop-and-go traffic many times along the way where we were crawling along at less than 5 mph for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. My friend Lenny was about 2 hours ahead of us on the way to his home in Prior Lake and he gave me some suggestions to consider to help us avoid some growing congestion due to recent crashes that were slowing his progress. So with that we took the road less traveled through parts of Iowa which gave me a chance to drive through some small cities that I used to work air traffic into and out of during my career; cities like Dennison, Sac City and Fort Dodge. Familiar cities on one level but not at all on another.

We arrived home a few minutes past midnight after more than 700 miles (1125 km) since leaving our hotel that morning, tired but happy for having made the trek to totality. And we plan to do it again in another 7 years. You should plan to, too!


Beth said...

We took 3 of our grandchildren to Charleston, MO which was in the 98-99% area. Only a little farther, across the river and into Illinois, we would have been in the totality range. But, I was a little concerned about traffic with an oxygen patient, so we settled. It was fantastic even at 98% and the kids were amazed. The next one is predicted to cover most of the state of Arkansas...come on down!

Kevin Gilmore said...

Hi Beth -- It's probably a good thing that you didn't opt for the 100% coverage and added drive-time given your situation. I've never seen traffic like that for that long of a stretch.

We'll definitely be on the road in another 7 years and possibly to a city near you!