Weekend!

First off, I need to point out that I was told that there was a non-zero chance that the eclipse would set off the Yellowstone Caldera. I’m pleased to announce that it looks like that that didn’t happen.

Anyway, Sunday rolls around and here’s the plan: drive up to Fort Collins and stay at the hotel where we have a reservation. Get up at some horrible hour in the morning, drive north into Wyoming, then stop somewhere around the middle of totality. Do the eclipse, then turn around and go home.

Easy peasy, right?

Sunday rolls around and it’s noon and we get in the car and drive, drive, drive to Fort Collins, we already have a kick mat seat protector so driving feels great. We get there at, like, 3ish. The hotel tells us that our rooms are not quite ready yet (DANGER! DANGER!) and we can go get lunch and check in after they’re cleaned up. Okay, fine.

Anyway, when I was a kid going to college in Fort Collins, I didn’t have a whole lot of pocket cash. Occasionally I would go with friends out, but I couldn’t afford anything to eat. So I’d get water and sit there and enjoy their company. But, in the back of my head, I thought “Someday, when I have money, I’m going to eat here.”

So we went to Avogadro’s Number for lunch. It was okay. College fare. But I hadn’t realized that that was a ghost that was still haunting me and it was nice to exorcise it. Even if they put mayo on my cheesesteak despite being asked not to.

After lunch, we drive back to the hotel and ask if we can check in now and they say “sure, the room is ready now” and we all exhale.

I mean, seriously, we thought we’d have a 50/50 shot of just driving up to the middle of the path and sleeping in the car.

So Dark Knight is on one of the movie channels and Summerslam is on the WWE network and the television allows for USB transfer of data so we are sitting pretty. 20 minutes after the PPV, everyone is fast asleep and awake FAR TOO SOON. We wake up at 4 and are showered and in the car by 4:30.

We hit a Burger King about 90 minutes north of Fort Collins right as it opens and THEY HAD NO IDEA. There were amateur astronomers in line out the door and the people behind the counter were running around frantically and calling in every extra worker they had. Who, of course, had to drive through the thick amateur astronomer traffic to get to Burger King. A half hour later, we got our breakfast sandwiches and got back in the car.

I tried to think of when the busiest time for that Burger King was likely to be up to that point. Friday night after the football game at the high school? The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving? I’m sure that the people in charge of scheduling didn’t even think about the eclipse and just thought “hey, it’s Monday morning… Earl and Becca will be coming in to get their pancakes and coffee and we’ll slowly get ready for the lunch rush the way we always do” and, next thing you know, there are 10 cars in the drive-thru, 50 people standing in line inside, and the chairs in the dining area are still flipped over and sitting on the tables.

And then Tuesday hits and there’s *NOBODY* there. Well, Earl and Becca.

Anyway, with nutrition in hand, we get back in the car and make our way to the Orin Junction Rest Area. We were there with approximately one kajillion other people there. We managed to find a decent parking spot across the bridge from the rest area itself and settled ourselves in.

When we got there, the place was exceptionally crowded for a rest stop in Wyoming, but not particularly crowded for a rest stop in the path of a total eclipse. I took a nap in the shade of the car, sat pleasantly, and basically enjoyed waiting. I walked across the bridge to visit the rest stop and passed people arguing with the Wyoming Rest Stop people about whether they could do anything about the solar-triggered rest stop lights that were likely to ruin the eclipse. “Isn’t there a power switch to just turn them off entirely?”, the guy asked the lady behind the counter.

The guy drove 1200 miles to be here. He didn’t want to drive 1200 and then have to walk .5, I guess.

Anyway, the main thing that I thought as the morning progressed and more and more and more and more cars packed themselves into the rest area parking lot overflow was “I should have rented a shaved ice truck and driven it here.”

I figured that the second the eclipse would start, I’d hear a clamor and, golly, was there. “It’s started!”, several people yelled and everybody put on their glasses and looked up and, yep, there was a tiny nibble taken out of the edge. Time passed and the dark disk started covering more and more and more of the bright disk and I had the most banal observation:

Golly, the sun is really, really, really bright.

I mean, it hit 50% coverage and you couldn’t even tell. Around 60% coverage, there was enough light missing for me to say “yeah, it looks like a cloudy day instead of one where there isn’t a cloud in the sky.” Even when there was 90% coverage and everyone was making pinhole cameras with their thumbs and forefingers, it looked like sunrise/sunset.

Now, totality… that was a trip. Boom, midnight at noon. A corona around a black disk in the sky. People cheered. I looked around the horizon and everything was dark. We lost about 20 degrees in a matter of seconds. The sun looked like one of the scary moments in The Ring. I thought about how this was the sort of thing that got written down by ancients. Two-minutes and twenty-some seconds flew past and we went from totality to 1% and the brightness returning felt like the sun was sprinting back. Night and day.

We didn’t stick around to watch the moon leave for the second half of the eclipse and just got in the car and discussed going home by way of Nebraska and looping back around to Fort Collins to miss out on most of the traffic. Of course, we were stuck in a very large crowd of people who did stuff like “drive to Wyoming for an eclipse” and so we were stuck in the middle of a state where we were surrounded by people with a similar bright idea but we somehow managed to make it home 11 hours later.

On the drive home, one of my friends talked about the old man in his astronomy club back home and how he had almost an hour of total eclipse time under his belt.

Colorado Springs has a total eclipse coming in 2045. Fingers crossed, I’ll be here. Get close to 5 minutes.

All in all, a wonderful moment of primal terror and awe and wonder.

I was skeptical beforehand but now I am delighted to have been part of that, even if only for two-minutes-twenty-something.

So… what did you do for the eclipse?

(Image is “Play” by Clare Briggs. Used with permission of the Briggs estate.)


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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34 thoughts on “Weekend!

  1. We had 96% in Louisville, so I watched it from the parking lot at work. This is the second one in my living memory. What I also learned is that the difference between 96% and 100% is pretty big. It was still cool to watch, but not the OMG-life-changing experience so many of my friends on Facebook seemed to have had. One friend said, “I don’t care if you have to walk to a totality location for the next one, do it.” We have another one here in 7 years. Hopefully i will also still be around for that and can do something more exciting.

    I also thought a lot about what ancients must have been thinking during these. The stories they would come up with to explain it are the foundations of a lot of theology I suspect [no religion!]

    As for this weekend, oldest daughter turned 23 last week and we’re combining her party with one of the nieces. They have requested tacos. Daughter is also trying veganism these days, so that will be fun for me to navigate. In all the years she was a run-of-the-mill vegetarian I never mastered cooking fake meat products. But as long as I saute up lots of veggies for her, I will be forgiven. I’m going to cook an enormous pile of onions, peppers and assorted other items until they are translucent. I expect them to be devoured in 10.3 seconds.

    Also, McGregor vs. Mayweather tomorrow night. We’ll probably want our money back afterwards, but we just have to see it anyway. Oh, and this little indie show called Game of Thrones has their finale on Sunday. All-in-all, a busy weekend.

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    • Yeah, the difference between 99% and 100% is huge.

      A co-worker who went told me that he felt his circle expand during the eclipse. Before, he was aware of everything more or less within his day-to-day. The house, the office, the grocery store, and so on.

      During the eclipse he told me that he finally understood “holy crap, I’m on a rock circling a ball of fire.”

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  2. Went out to my driveway, and watched the world end. Just kidding, as you know. I had never seen a full eclipse before, just a partial as a yute in CA. The temp dropped, midnight at noon, funky shadows on the lead up (seriously, look them up), the street lights going on made no difference and apparently traffic going out of town was a zoo.

    Good times and really neat. Nothing planned for this weekend except working on the new house.

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  3. We had ~94% here at home. All the things JB noted short of totality, less the travel-related things. That he didn’t mention: for 20 minutes before and after the peak, shadows from deciduous trees went from the usual splotchy to thousands of overlapping bright arcs (pinhole effect through the gaps between leaves) which was cool; I had to go out shortly after the peak and the traffic lights seemed very bright.

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  4. So about two weeks ago I was looking at a map of the path of totality and that it was only about an hours drive to the north and looking at my calendar I realized “Holy Cow, I could do this!”

    So I requested three days hometime starting Sunday and… it all worked out! Got home Sunday evening, Monday morning we signed the kiddo out of school for the day — they gave us zero grief over what amounted to an impromptu science field trip — and headed for Nebraska. We got there a couple hours early, found a spot in a nice little park, and settled in for the show. I was so excited I was embarrassed for myself; felt like a little kid again.

    Seriously, it was awesome! I saw a partial when I was a kid but it’s mighty weak sauce compared to a total. The clouds cooperated by staying out of the way and it was gorgeous. The corona… Venus popping into view off to the side… the 360° sunset. Then something I hadn’t anticipated… when the first shaft of sunlight re-appeared the lighting effect around us was seriously… weird. It felt like standing in a dark stadium or something with a spotlight shining directly down from above. It only lasted a few seconds but it was the oddest effect. Then the super-sharp shadows and the little crescents on the ground under the trees.

    So a plan hastily assembled actually came together and it was SO worth the effort.

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  5. We flew into Oregon the day before, got up at the crack of the middle of night and drove to the middle of nowhere Oregon. Worked very well. Totally worth it. No observations other than what others have noted: totality is substantively different from partial and very cool. The odd light was really interesting. It is amazing how bright just the light of the diamond ring can be. That was blinding on it’s own even though just a tiny smidgen of the suns light.

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  6. I stood outside with all the NASA geeks and saw our 75%-ish eclipse. (We’ve a better one coming in a few years).

    This weekend, I’m going to be mostly underwater. Harvey seems like the “hold my beer” response to Allison.

    Still better than Ike.

    I swear, I’m gonna invest in one of those natural gas, whole house generators next year.

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  7. We had somewhere between 80-85%. It got dimmer but not as dark as I thought it would. (Lesson: the sun is really, really bright).

    It was still fun. One of my colleagues scored some of the (authentic) eclipse glasses so we stood out in the back parking lot and passed ’em around and looked at the eclipse. We also did the pinhole-camera-with-your-finger thing at peak eclipse, and saw the crescent shapes in the leaf shadows.

    There’s a near-totality one (like 99.7%) IN THE TOWN WHERE I LIVE in 2024, and given that my university’s enrollment is up a good bit this year and our finances are far better, I am much more sanguine about still being here (rather than living in a van down by some unspecified river) in 2024, so I am already looking forward to that. (I will only be, what? 55? So I won’t even have retired yet).

    This weekend’s plans are to mow the lawn (first), do some grocery shopping, and probably come in here and work on a volunteer editing job (mostly checking species names and authorities) for a small regional journal….if we get any of the storm bands from Harvey (unlikely, probably too far north), I’ll just stay home.

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  8. I’m in LA for the weekend. I was stressing out about breast milk storage and transportation but I’m feeling much better now. I’ve got a solid plan for getting most of it home safely and I found someone through my surrogacy connections to donate the extra to. Now I can enjoy the trip!

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  9. Got an early start to go to Nebraska to camp on the centerline of totality….got 12 miles into Kansas and Suburban just stopped running. 1.5 hours waiting on a tow to Wellington KS where we were saved by Randy and friends at O’Reillys and special thanks to mechanic Beau who helped us troubleshoot. One replaced distributor cap and rotor later and we are back on the road.

    Got to the Moffett Place, a 100 some odd acre farm in Ravenna Nebraska $35 a night for camping. They had a fire pit, porta johns, and cooked three squares for a little cash to the kitty.

    Hubby had his 800mm lens with solar filter and got some incredible shots (one below) I’ve seen partial eclipse but this was a whole ‘nother ball of wax. We are already talking about making reservations for the next eclipse as it will pass thru the SE corner of the state

    https://scontent.ftul1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t31.0-8/21015910_10210171140181559_694094313529526023_o.jpg?oh=29b36ac26031aad97d587567e6b825c2&oe=5A1434C9

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  10. Watched the eclipse in Andrews, NC. Flew into Raleigh from Houston, and we drove with friends Sunday into Cherokee NC (which is not in Cherokee county, but Andrews is). The hotel and the Mexican restaurant was packed, but they were ready for it.

    Andrews was the site within NC with the longest totality (2:38), just next to the Nantahala forest (which I had visited years ago). The community had set up three parking and viewing areas with food vendors, clean bathrooms, traffic directions, free shuttles, and emergency teams. Even open wifi. All for $30 dollars per car, which went in full to the local school district. Excellent organization altogether (they even had a web page giving all the information ahead of time).There were licenses plates from places as far away as Ontario, and we sat next to a very happy family from Louisiana

    The eclipse was literally “out of this world”. I was looking forward to the diamond ring, but cameras can’t really catch the true effect because the filters dim the ring part. I hadn’t expect it to be so awesome.

    As good as the drive in had been, the drive back to Raleigh took all of 10 hours, compared to five.

    Is it April 8, 2024 already?

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  11. Me and the wife drove from North Denver to the rest stop just outside Fort Laramie to get the total eclipse it was totally worth it although the Wyoming state patrol could have done themselves a favor and not been stopped on the side of the highway every two miles forcing everybody to go one lane.

    As punishment for this when I come to power Wyoming will be dissolved as a state and handed out is equal protectorate territories to the neighboring states largely Montana and Colorado because they’re the most chill.

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  12. Planning for weekends future… I have lost track of whether owes me two beers or none, but I will be in the Springs (well, nearly so) on Sep 26th to observe part of a fencing tournament at the Air Force Academy. Invitation to provide a small “this is what you’re seeing” trip around the tournament still stands.

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  13. Well, after Thursday doing the whole sand bag brigade* for six hours at work, I was hoping to evac out west. Friday morning woke to achy muscles and a stiff back. As it turns out Aims work decided to call her in, on her Friday off. So the achy muscles commenced to build a cinder block shelter around a steel reinforced closet in the interior of the house.

    Friday had three plans going on simultaneously:
    a.)Worst case, shelter in place in a interior freezer at Aims work.
    b.)Slightly better, shelter in place at home closet.
    c.)Get the hell out of Dodge.

    Aims work finally shutdown at 3:00pm Friday, so for about five minutes and watching the direction of the eye, I was humming a version of Should I Stay or Should I Go. Aims wanted to stay really bad, but I had to consider that we would probably get a near miss of the eye, and would take several hours of sustained 100mph+ winds from a unknown direction. So it was to be plan c.

    The thing about getting out of dodge during hurricane evac time, is to never get out of dodge the same way that everyone else is getting out of dodge. Corpus usually evacs northwest to San Antonio. My guess is that 100,000 to 200,000 Corpus Christi folk had headed north or northwest. I headed south for approx. 20 miles then headed further inland to the west.

    Over nighted in small-town-out-west. Early morning updates showed the eye arrived more north than predicted, so headed back early Saturday morning before the roads could become flooded.

    Sunday was spent taking apart the cinder block shelter and getting things back to normalish. Considering last weekend was a memorial for my father as he passed on the 16th, I’m starting to think this August was a rough one, except for some cooler weather and rain this weekend. Really can’t complain, Aims, Rigs and I are unharmed and only a little road weary.

    *you know, for a guy who isn’t a big believer in altruism, I sure do a lot of altruistic flavored stuff

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