Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Eclipse trip report

The eclipse trip was a success!

It seemed the Universe was pulling out all the stops to prevent the trip from happening. From a probably dishonest AirBnB-er who suddenly "discovered" the property was "double-booked" two months ago so the rental was no longer available (even though we had booked it a year ago!) and couldn't be bothered to actually CONTACT us about the problem, to sudden problems surrounding the cat-sitting arrangements. 

I have my suspicions about what really happened with the rental property owner, especially because of the treatment we got when we simply tried to call the number provided. came through and found us another place on short notice (a 2-star motel!), and covered the additional expense (or, at least, they assured us it would be covered, but it hasn't been reimbursed yet).

The cat-sitting was taken care of, even though the cat-sitter had some work scheduling problems to work around.

On our way to Waco-- which I chose because it was in the path of totality, it was the closest that path came to where I live now, and because I lived in Waco long ago-- I drove by the house I lived in during second grade (about halfway to Waco). I'm sure my daughter was so impressed.

Farther down the road I saw my first Cybertruck in the wild, parked at a post office. Many people wouldn't find this very exciting, but I did. 


I then stopped by and took a look at the SpaceX Rocket Development Facility near McGregor. They had "We don't care if you die!" signs and a guard shack, which worked to keep me away. I wish I could have waited around to see an engine test.

We then got to Waco and stopped by to see the Waco Suspension Bridge. This was an annual field trip for my class when I was in elementary school in Waco. It's still kinda cool.

Then, before going to the motel, we went to see the Branch Davidian compound. That was interesting. They were closed to visitors that day (but lots of people were walking in the open gate anyway).

We went by my old house in Waco, went to some of my old stomping grounds, and then went out to the lake for a little while. I even got in a small hike (and didn't get chiggers!).

The 2-star motel was fine. Not the greatest, but better than sleeping in an alley. Looking out the window there was an LED billboard.

The next morning it had updated.

That morning we left Waco to get closer to the center line of the path of totality. I chose Gatesville- partly because they were having an eclipse festival, and it would put us 30 miles closer to home when we left.

Lots of happy people with cameras, telescopes, and eclipse glasses. We had to wait about 45 minutes before they'd let us in because they had pre-sold tickets online and those people got in first. Gave me a chance to rest and relax before the main attraction.

There are no words to describe how awesome the eclipse was. I thought I knew what to expect from photos and videos I've seen over the years, but there's no substitute for seeing it-- for experiencing it in person. I've experienced several partial eclipses, but the moment the warm Sun is replaced by a cold, white ring around a jet-black disc in the sky is something I'll never forget. 

There were tiny orange sparks visible around the black disc, too. I believe they were solar prominences poking above the surface of the Sun. So incredible to see!

Even my too-cool-to-be-impressed teenage daughter was in awe (which is an amazing thing to have witnessed). A total eclipse isn't the same as a partial eclipse, no matter how close it gets.

The video at the top of the post gives a false impression that it was lighter than it was during totality- the phone camera is too good at taking video in just about any light. Stars were visible in the sky and crickets started chirping. It got suddenly cooler and it was just like nighttime for four and a half minutes right in the middle of the day- just minutes after solar noon.

It would have been nice if my vision were better than it has been since my retina surgery, but I still had one eye to see things through, and that was enough. I'm going to need to get that fixed.

We made it all the way home in one day. Through hail storms that I thought were going to take out the windshield a time or two. Traffic wasn't as bad as I had feared, except one spot where there was construction going on and, maybe, a wreck. Got home at 11pm to some cats who were very happy to see us.

It was a successful trip. I'm so glad I went. I'm very happy to be home.

Thanks so much to those who helped make this trip possible!

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