Preparing for the Great American Solar Eclipse

The Great American Solar Eclipse – five years in the making

I planned to see the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse for over five years. I studied the course of the totality, and selected two prime locations: An out of the way town in Tennessee next to a body of water and a park, and a small town in Missouri. Both locations were perfectly positioned to experience the totality.   All I had to do was wait four years and then make my hotel reservations. Exactly one year before the eclipse, I made my hotel reservations for both locations.  Then I began the process of waiting impatiently.

Wild Weather

As the years passed by, I filled the time with planning other activities and places to visit around my two chosen eclipse locations. There was so much in the regions we would visit! National parks, historic locations, parks, caves, and mounds.  The week after the eclipse would be filled with excitement and fun.

The years passed and 2017 quickly arrived.  As August approached, the weather of 2017 turned out to be news worthy by itself – and for all the wrong reasons. Two hurricanes brutalized the Caribbean and gulf regions. It looked as if the entire east coast – and much of the path of totality – would be under dense clouds. This was an extremely minor inconvenience when weighed against the destruction and death this weather wrought. But for my goals, the weather tossed a giant, inconvenient wrench into all of my plans.

Cancer

On a personal and sobering note, my mother had a resurgence of her cancer mere weeks prior to our road trip. It scared me to my core. For several weeks, the diagnosis and severity of the cancer was hovering over our plans like Damocles sword. Was it terminal? Was it treatable? A million fears crawled through my existence.

To make matters much, much worse, my mother\’s doctor appeared to be in a state of panic. Stories of him calling in personal favors to get my mother scheduled for surgery very quickly were shared with us. My mother assured us it was because he treasured her as a person and patient. But the specter of fear and \”Dr\’s Panic\” filled my nights. Was the rush due to the medical severity? Could is be true altruism and not fear of the cancer\’s progress?

There wasn\’t an hour in the day or night that didn\’t occupy my fears.

The week prior to our scheduled road trip, my mother had surgery and was in recovery. Luckily the surgery wasn\’t extreme, but it was still surgery.  We wouldn\’t know the diagnosis of the cancer until the following week, and we weren\’t sure she could make the trip until the 17th, and we had planned to leave the 19th.  I was filled with uncertainty. Should we cancel? If not, would this road trip be our last shared road trip?

Mission Statement

My mother\’s only statement during this entire process was: I want to see THIS eclipse.

This declaration only added severity to this planned trip.  Suddenly nothing was ridiculous or unreasonable.  If I had to drive to the moon and back – it would be fine by me.

Bad weather was growing more certain at both of my planned locations.  Tennessee and Missouri were going to be overcast and possibly suffering bad weather. I couldn\’t risk this once-in-a-lifetime event to the fickle of weather.

I had to take drastic action. During the week prior to the eclipse – the MOST popular eclipse to span the United States! – I researched other locations in the Path of Totality.

Path of Totality

\"NASA

I checked the weather sites and the map.

  • Illinois? Nope. Cloudy.
  • Kansas? Ha. There\’s a rinky motel that isn\’t even up to the level of Motel 6 asking for nearky 1k per might for a room. But no, the clouds would be present during the eclipse.
  • Iowa? Nope.
  • Missouri? No, bad weather.
  • Illinois? No – clouds.
  • Nebraska? Unbelievably – they had bad weather as well! Thunderstorms.
  • Wyoming? …. Wyoming is clear!

I had to go as far as Casper, Wyoming to find clear skies.

Casper, Wyoming

From Philadelphia to Wyoming in two days? This would not be possible for a single driver.  Would my mother be able to handle such a long drive so shortly after having surgery? I wouldn\’t know if she could even attempt the drive until the Wednesday before the Eclipse weekend.

I couldn\’t imagine a more last-minute agenda. This eclipse was important prior to the medical scare, and somehow it grew it importance during it.  Yet there wasn\’t a single region within a days drive that had clear skies. This was about to become a very big road trip. And I had zero plans for this region of the United States.

All Clear!

On Wednesday afternoon we received word that my mother was safe to travel! We still didn\’t know the diagnosis of the cancer, but her surgery was a success and she could go on her road trip.

On late Wednesday I asked my boss if I could take off Thursday. I was scheduled to be off Friday – but considering that it looked like we were heading out to Wyoming – I needed all the time I could get for our road trip.

My boss was gracious and let me take the unplanned vacation day. So on Wednesday evening I picked my mother up and she stayed at my house for the night. Although I don\’t think either of us slept at all!  I packed the car, thought of last minute items we would need, and tried very hard to relax.

At 4am Thursday we were up and putting the food into the coolers and packing the car. By 5am we were getting coffee and hot tea at my local Dunkin Donuts and preparing to drive to Casper, Wyoming without a single hotel reservation or any idea of how we would make this trip happen. But it was going to happen!

Destination: the Path of Totality for the Solar Eclipse.