Chasing the moon | the journey

In 1970, my folks took me out of school to drive to the Delmarva Peninsula to see the total eclipse of the sun. I had no idea what to expect, but that day – March 7, 1970 – turned into one of the most significant visual experiences of my life. And here we are again – less than 24 hours away from hopefully viewing the second total eclipse of my life. August 21, 2017. Anticipation reigns.

So much has changed in the last 47 years, primarily the advent of the internet. In 1970, we viewed the eclipse from the perfect spot – a promontory that jutted out into the Atlantic Ocean topped by a flat grassy field 40 or 50 feet above the water. It was a spot people would fight for now, but back then, there were maybe 30 people there to view the eclipse – mostly scientific types with big telescopes. It was a time of no Google Maps, no cell phones, no global database of information. This time around, we’re using every resource available to try and guarantee a good view: the NASA/Google Interactive eclipse map, the National Weather Service site, the Naval Observatory’s sun altitude/azimuth charts, and many other references online.

With all this information in hand, we realized that we could determine exactly the path of totality and exactly the sun’s position in the sky at that moment of totality. But we couldn’t know the weather more than a few days ahead. So we set off to see the eclipse with no firm plans, willing to make last-minute changes in our ultimate viewing location. We decided to head away from the east coast where most of the crowds and traffic would be and aim toward Nebraska, the land of sparse population and wide open spaces. We’d monitor the weather as the day of the eclipse approached and adjust as need be. Since we were willing to make last minute changes to accommodate the weather, we wouldn’t be able to make hotel reservations that we couldn’t change and settled on a sleeping arrangement in the back of the SUV. We’d stay at truck stops or empty parking lots. Such adventurers we are!

We started out Friday heading toward Nebraska, spending Friday night outside South Bend, IN. Yesterday, we had planned on continuing west but the NWS site showed conditions were becoming iffy in Nebraska – a good chance of cloud cover and rain in the afternoon. So we looked along the path to find where the weather forecast was better. Eddyville, KY was the winner. Forecast: mostly sunny – bingo. So we abandoned the west and headed south, arriving in Eddyville yesterday evening. After a good catfish dinner at Eddyville’s Willow Grove restaurant, we retired to the back of our SUV in the parking lot of the Pilot Truck Stop.

Today has been spent scouting, sightseeing, and getting ready for tomorrow. Fingers crossed. I’ll post again after we return to Virginia – with the rest of the story and hopefully some good eclipse photos.

Good luck to everyone, and be safe. Don’t look at the partial eclipse without certified viewing glasses. You’ve only got one pair of eyes…

As always with us, the success won’t be measured by the result but rather by the journey. So far, so good.

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