“Or we could stare at an eclipse while screaming at it!” – Upright Citizens Brigade
This picture of the Sun’s corona is courtesy of The Boy, the number 8, and the letter W.
Like millions of other Americans within a short drive, The Boy, Pugsley and I piled into the Wildermobile and headed for destiny. (For the record, millions of Americans didn’t pile into my car. They got into their own cars.)
Actually, it was a Marriott© instead of destiny, but I hear those things can be related. This was no ordinary Marriott®, rather it was one strategically placed within 90 minutes or so of the Path of the Great American Eclipse, which would snatch from us, momentarily, the Suns Life Giving Yet Deadly rays.
We had packed our Solar Viewing Glasses, which we had gotten for free a week earlier at our local library. “We” is really The Boy, who I had to threaten with the immediate torture of being pulled from the Matrix through restriction of his use of any device invented since 1907 should he not comply. “Later” seemed to be built into his answer. Take away his Tweeter® or his BookFace©? Yeah, that would be like amputating a limb.
A week out at the library? Plenty of eclipse glasses were freely available. Three days out? None. Again, people do NOT plan. It seems like that when it’s bright and sunny out, even when they know that winter’s coming, they don’t put up extra food or even minor emergency preparations. After you’re observed people long enough, you learn that most of them . . . don’t learn. (But not you, dear reader, who likely have an IQ high enough to give a normal person a nosebleed due to altitude sickness.)
The Mrs. was skeptical when I tried to get hotel reservations a scant week before, but Marriott gleefully set up the reservation. Originally, she was going to accompany us, but the day before we were to leave for the hotel, we took a nap, and she slept through the time when she was supposed to take the dogs to the kennel for boarding. The Mrs. sighed . . . happily. I’m not sure she was at all excited about an eight hour trip into the deepest uninhabited part of Upper-Lower Midwestia just to not see the Sun.
The Boy, Pugsley and I planned (prior to leaving) on when and how we were going to leave on our great adventure.
My plan was that I wanted to get there so I had about 90 minutes to eat dinner prior to Game of Thrones (spoiler – Ned gets decapitated at the end of season one). Pugsley, however, had configured some sort of alternate reality that involved us getting there at 3pm. The Boy bought into this alternate reality and stubbornly wore his backpack starting two hours before I started packing.
Keep in mind, The Boy is nearly 17.
I think both The Boy and Pugsley were excited. The Boy was even more excited when I tossed him the keys. He drove us from Stately Wilder Manor to dinner, and then to our hotel. My daughter, Alia S. Featherbottom (nee Wilder) was going to meet us, but forgot we were coming as she fell into a pit of Dungeons and Dragons®.
Now, as a general note, we don’t let Pugsley (12) watch Game of Thrones. The reason for this should be obvious to anyone who has watched the show. Tonight? Single hotel room? He sat and watched Galaxy Quest with headphones on. Although The Mrs. and I normally sit and watch the show together, in this case she and I texted back and forth during the episodes. Here is an example exchange:
The Mrs.: “There’s more walking in this episode than in The Lord of the Rings.”
Me: “At least they’re not singing.”
After that I poured my heart and soul into (yet another) post about how stupid NASA is (LINK), but even I am beginning to feel a bit guilty – picking on NASA is a lot like hitting a kitten. The Boy helped by doing my thermodynamics calculations.
I had carefully selected our site. It was about fifteen miles from the nearest town, and it was on a nice corner where the line of totality exactly passed over. It was perfect. The only problem?
Clouds. They were everywhere. I pulled out my cellphone and had the path of the totality map up. On another cellphone I had the cloud cover map. I reviewed first one phone and then the other, cross referencing one map to the other, sort of like Columbus if he was having trouble getting 3G on the Santa Maria like I was out in the cornfields. At least he had WIFI when the Pinta hit Hispaniola, right?
Plotting one map against the other while The Boy drove, I made a decision. The GPS said to turn right. I told The Boy, “Turn left.”
With that, we moved off plan. We had gone rogue, chasing bits of blue sky.
We navigated farther west, and soon, bluer patches of clear sky were NOT obscuring the Sun. We were getting closer . . . finally we stopped in a small town park.
We pulled into position about 40 minutes before the eclipse.
The park was filled with nice, friendly people. Which makes sense. These are the type of people who are intellectually curious, and were patient enough to drive hours to a small town for a two minute eclipse. These weren’t troublemakers.
The eclipse itself was sublime. The Sun was a fat crescent, a slim crescent, and then it was gone. There were some light clouds, but they weren’t a major eclipse of the eclipse. We had chosen our site very well.
My biggest personal surprise about the eclipse was that it didn’t go completely dark – I guess I had expected that. Venus was very visible in the sky, but the clouds surrounding us (35 miles away) were still lit by the Sun, and that lighting left me feeling like I was under the world’s largest sunshade, which I guess that I was.
My picture of the Sun’s Corona. I prefer Negra Modelo myself.
It had been an oppressively hot and humid day. The temperature dropped a bit during the eclipse, and that brought out thick clouds as the water vapor in the air condensed out. We got in The Wildermobile and The Boy started driving us towards home. The worst traffic jam we saw took place at a T intersection about 30 miles south of totality, and it was about a mile of politely and patiently driven cars that took us about ten extra minutes to get through. The traffic apocalypse foretold by Nostradamus did not emerge.
The above fiberglass squirrels were all over this town, and every squirrel I saw was painted differently, but all of them had eclipse glasses on. Who says Midwesterners don’t know how to party?
The Boy drove us back down to a Chili’s® restaurant 90 miles south of totality. It looked like it was closed, with zero cars in the parking lot. I jumped out to check the door, it was open, and they were open. We ordered food, and the waitress said that there had only been one table that had been there for lunch. Apparently, your willingness to eat at Chili’s™ is some sort of predictor for you to go to see an eclipse.
The Boy drove home, and I slept most of the way.
Most of the way.
On the way back I mused on the events of the day – we had seen a solar eclipse – our first total solar eclipse, and I was reminded of something I heard Tony Robbins say: “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy experience.”
I guess my takeaway is: “Being nice doesn’t get you Eclipse Viewing Glasses, but angry threats do.”