What happens when a wordsmith attempts to view the eclipse at the last minute.
Too bad, he didn’t share that info. This left me waffling between Carbondale, Illinois and Hopkinsville, KY. What I thought would be a day event that would cost us the price of gas turned into much more. Available rooms were running from $300-$600 for a bare bones hotel room. This was so out of our price range. I was ready to give up with a heartfelt sigh knowing this might be my only chance to see a 100% percent totality when my daughter, who works for a large hotel chain, started contacting people she knew in the totality cities.
A cancellation occurred. Instead of going through a website or calling a hotel phone number. I was given a name and a phone number, which made me wonder if this was a little like making a black-market deal. After talking briefly to a charming stranger, I surrendered my credit card number. Yeah, it sounded sketchy and my husband wondered if we really had a reservation.
Sunday arrived and my husband wanted to sleep in on the one day of the week he could. I, on the other hand, wanted to get on the road. We did leave much sooner than anticipated and found I-65 slow going due to an increased traffic and road construction, then there were the wrecks. We made it to Bowling Green before the highway was closed. Yay for insisting on leaving early.
Bowling Green where our hotel was located appeared calm considering all the hype the media had predicted. Most of the hotel guests sported NASA or Eclipse shirts and huge grins. A few cars were even decorated with Totality or Bust signs. Since we were in central time zone, we didn’t expect the eclipse to start until after twelve, but that didn’t stop us from getting on the road to our viewing location at eight am. We soon realized we waited too late as we found ourselves in a lengthy line that wasn’t moving.
Instead of Hopkinsville and paying fifty dollars to stand in a parking lot to view the Eclipse, we opted for the Franklin Drive-In in Franklin, KY. The family owned business charged five dollars a person for entry. This gave us a parking space to set up our camp.
Most people had brought chairs, canopies, even camp tables. The mood among my fellow attendees was upbeat and excited. While waiting in line for a snow cone, I discovered the woman in front of me drove from Pittsburgh and the one behind me Texas. Franklin besides being one of the areas still available for viewing, also was probably the cheapest.
Children milled around the reflector telescopes set up for viewing the sun. The Drive-In had a live feed from NASA, that was sometimes hard to hear due to people talking, the truck next to us playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, dogs barking, and a parrot squawking. In other words, it was a circus under an intense sun with temperatures spiking to 96 degrees with heavy humidity.
Most everyone had their eclipse glasses pushed back on their head or tucked into their shirt to be ready for the moment. No one wanted to take a chance of missing anything while they waited in line for a cheeseburger or for the restrooms. The first announcement came that the moon was passing in front of the sun. The eclipse had started, which forced some people to give up their place in line and hurry back to their sites.
Back at Camp Eclipse, which is what I referred to our site as, my husband had pulled the chairs out from under the canopy and into the driving lane to get an unobstructed view of the eclipse. Blankets decorated the hoods and roofs of cars as people climbed onto their impromptu viewing platforms. Others rushed to get their expensive cameras focused. A few had telescopes they’d brought. Most though, had cheap cardboard and plastic glasses to view this cosmic phenomenon that was years in the making.
Since I wear prescription lenses, I had to attached the eclipse glasses to my regular ones with the result being I sometimes saw two eclipses happening if I turned my head a certain way. Without the glasses, All I saw was the late summer sun beaming down on us. (Not that I looked at it directly.)
A cloud drifted over the sun blocking it briefly causing the group to hold their collective breath until it moved on seconds later. Even though there were other clouds in the sky, none ever threatened the view again. It may have been group intention that kept the clouds at bay. The weather report leading up to the eclipse kept changing from possible thunder storms to cloudy. It an area known for rain, cloudy is a given. Instead, we had blue skies with some high wispy clouds.
The employees who had been busy selling ice cream and souvenir t-shirts came out from their buildings and donned their glasses to join the group. Amazingly, the babies stopped crying, the dogs ceased barking, and I didn’t even hear the parrot as the moon passed over the sun. When totality was reached, the cicadas and crickets broke into a full-throated chorus as if part of Mother Nature’s light show.
The temperature dropped as the sky darkened draping the watchers in twilight. At the edges of the horizon you could see light. It had a dawn-like appearance, but was instead the areas not in the slender band of totality.
A lovely sparkling crown showed around the moon, allowing watchers to remove their glasses for a brief two minutes and thirty-eight seconds. Once the moment ended, the guy next to us jumped in his car and was gone. Obviously, he knew there would be traffic issues with so many people trying to leave the area.
We stayed and enjoyed the rest of the eclipse while people packed up around us. The PA system announced that eclipse glasses were only a dollar for those who wanted a souvenir of the event. Eventually, we made the decision to leave deciding that most of the folks had left, which should make getting home easier. Think again.
Police directed us way from the road we were going to use. Country back roads were packed with baffled eclipse chasers trying to find their way home. Unfortunately, with so many people, accidents happened, highways were closed, even the bridge to Indiana closed briefly.
We found ourselves in a Wendy’s restaurant in Henderson, Kentucky talking to other stymied travelers who were trying to get home. We all agreed despite the resulting traffic chaos, that it was without a doubt totally worth it.