Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Driving 13 hours to see 2 minutes of totality - Totality worth it!

August 21, 2017, I checked off something I had always wanted to do.  I have seen multiple partial solar eclipses, but I have never been able to attend a total eclipse before.  It wasn't well planned.  If you recall, we just relocated, driving from Florida to Washington, corner to corner.  We have new digs and are still trying to get unpacked and reorganized.  This place is much bigger, so we're also taking all of our stuff out of storage.  Since we have room to store it here, why spend the money on a storage unit, ya' know?!  We'll still keep traveling, but we'll have more of a home base now.

Anyway, with all the unpacking and such, I had almost resigned myself to only seeing the 94% of the eclipse that was going to be up here, in Puyallup, Washington.  Still more than I'd ever experienced before, but not enough to go out and get the proper lenses and such for the camera.  A couple of days before Monday, after realizing that the path of totality was only about a 3-1/2-mile drive south, we decided to see about driving down Sunday night and coming back Monday.  I WAS FLOORED!  The closest reasonably priced hotel was less than an hour south of here.  Two-star hotels in Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, were going for $400 a night, and the only thing available around Salem was an off-name place with consistent reviews (and many recent pictures) of a really bad mold problem and bugs (roaches, not bedbugs).  Even that was running over $100!  On the coast?  Forget it!  The low rate there was over $1K!

So, an early morning it is!  I chose that night to not properly set my alarm.  I just reset an old alarm on my phone that I hadn't deleted.  I forgot to change the day, though.  Thankfully, Bruce has a tendency to automatically wake up at the time he wanted to get up, so we weren't too far behind.  We planned to give ourselves an extra hour and a half to get there.  I had picked out a spot inside the 2-minute window where there was supposed to be little to no cloud cover.  Bruce wanted an address for the GPS, so I found an address in that general area.  The website of the place said they were charging $50/car on the date of the eclipse.  The weekend before, they were charging $150/night for RV parking with no hookups or services.  It was a dog boarding facility with a huge field where the dogs got to go out and play.

So, we loaded up the chairs in a bag, woke up the Geezermobile, and set out all bleary-eyed at 5:30 in the morning, hoping we left early enough.

The radio said Seattle traffic was worse than normal, but we were headed south, hoping most folks who wanted to be in the path of totality were already there.  I kept checking traffic reports in Oregon, but didn't say anything.  Portland was reporting heavy traffic and already talking about delays beyond normal.  I was hoping it would break.  Initially, I thought we may end up just pulling over on the side of the interstate if we didn't make it all the way down.  Then, I saw this:

But, the reports were saying Portland traffic had cleared up, so I was getting hopeful.  Portland was going to get just over 99%, so if that's as far as we could make it, I would be okay with that, though it wouldn't satisfy my desire to see a total eclipse.  Those reports were right.  Rolling into Portland, there was hardly any traffic.  I was beginning to get excited!

Just south of Portland, my hopes were dashed!

Portland radio was talking about a 2-hour delay to get to Salem and how those who hadn't made it to Wilsonville or within a couple of miles of it probably wouldn't make it to the path of totality.  They were alternately being sympathetic of us poor slobs and laughing at our plight.  We were within 7 miles of Wilsonville.  I was crossing my fingers.  WE MADE IT!!  Just after passing Wilsonville, traffic broke, and it was clear.  Most of that traffic got off somewhere around here.

All parking lots were full, and people were pulled into the grassy areas of the interstate entrance and exit ramps.  Every potential spot was filled from Wilsonville to Salem, and there were officers keeping anyone from stopping on the shoulder of the road.  By the time we passed Salem, the intial contact had started, but there was another hour until totality.  We decided to keep going.  It was only about another 20 miles to where I actually wanted to be, and traffic was clear.  South of Salem, there were plenty of frontage roads, and people were pulled off there and camped at the side of the road.  There was a rest area just a bit further, and we could pull in there.

Yeah, right!  We saw the "Exit Closed" signs first.  Then, the police officers stationed at the outer limits of where they were letting cars park on the ramp and a little bit into the interstate.

So, we went to the next exit.  We crossed the interstate and decided to park along the frontage road heading back north.  Turns out, we found a little dead end road by someone's vineyard.  We made sure to stay out of the vineyard and honor the "No Trespassing" sign that was posted on the edge.

We got settled in early enough that Bruce could sit in the shade of the car and read a little bit while we were waiting for totality to hit.

As totality got nearer, you could feel the temperature dropping.  It wasn't a gradual drop.  It would be stable for a few seconds, and then BOOM! Suddenly, it's colder.  I found myself wishing I had a coat.  The sky was darkening, and sunset was on the horizon in all directions!

This is the vineyard.  You can barely see the white post in the corner of one field.  Much different than the picture when we first pulled in.

Remember that I didn't have any filters for the camera, but when totality hit, I took a few to see what I could get.  It turned out better than I expected.  You can see the dark side of the moon.

Bruce shot a neat video with his Kindle tablet that shows a ghosted image of the eclipse over the sun's rays.  If you watch the ghosted image, you can see the moon starting to move away from the sun before the burst of light obscures everything.

Once it was over, the sky lightened up and the temperature rose.  The little bee came back and started gathering nectar again.  We put the chairs back in the bags and loaded them up, and hit the road.  I was so cold, we had to turn the heater on.  When we got to the exit with the rest area, that's where we became traffic.  We weren't just in traffic.  We were traffic.  Obviously, the northbound rest area was just as packed as the southbound one had been.  The officers were busily getting everybody off the interstate, out of the rest area, and on the road.  It was a madhouse.

After a couple of hours, and not making it the few miles back to Wilsonville, we stopped for lunch.  Even the men's room had a line!  By mid afternoon, we had finally made it to the 45th parallel, just north of Salem.

We finally got home to Puyallup around 6:00 p.m.  We sat for about 30 minutes with the eclipse and about 30 minutes for lunch.  We were out for about 13 hours.  So, it took us 12 hours to drive 424 miles.  Worth every bit of it!!  We're looking forward to 2024.  That gives me plenty of time to get the right filters, maybe a better camera, and learn how to shoot the sun.  Just have to decide whether to go to Mazatlan or Niagra Falls!  Bruce is lobbying hard for Mazatlan!  He has fond memories of that place!

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