The Solar Eclipse Road Trip begins
This Solar Eclipse Road Trip (SERT) was originally planned five years ago for Tennessee or Missouri. I researched the Path of Totality and picked two locations that were ideal for viewing, and possibly less crowded that the traditional locations. I held two sets of hotel reservations as well as heavily researched and planned road-trip worthy excursions. I invited everyone to join me, one-by-one people canceled and backed out of the trip as the Eclipse deadline approached. Towards the end, it was my mother and I on a Mom-Daughter road trip of a life time! We couldn\’t wait to go! Smokey Mountains, or the mounds near Missouri. There were too many exciting things available to us – and we couldn\’t wait.
Despite my best planning, dramatic weather jeopardized everything. Eventually I was forced to cancel every plan I made and throw caution to the wind. The week prior to the eclipse I lived on weather.com\’s website. Imagine a crazed woman staring at the monitor pressing F5 repeatedly. That was me. Every reasonable location near my home was projected to be cloudy the day of the Eclipse. There was no where to go that was projected to have clear skies.
It was time to find unreasonable locations! The nearest city projected to have perfectly clear skies during the Eclipse was Casper, Wyoming.
How is that for unreasonable?? That is nearly 1,900 miles from my house. 1.9k! Plus, we have zero hotel reservations or any plans. This wasn\’t on my research list! And over half of the road trip was going to be passing through the Zone of Totality which meant that there wouldn\’t be a single hotel for us to stay in during the Eclipse weekend. This was going to be one epic \’wing-it\’ road trip. Our only goal was to safely make it to Casper by Monday so that we can experience the Totality as the Solar Eclipse passes over our heads. Everything else was fluff.
Awake at 4am, I packed Nimbus (my trusty SUV) with air mattresses, pillows, blankets, and various emergency gear. It was very likely that my mother and I would be camping in the back of the car over the next three to four days.
Despite the daunting distance before us, we were both charged with excitement and eagerness. It was silly to be awake so early! We laughed and talked for hours as the miles rolled away. On route 76 we passed through the Blue Mountain and Kittatinny Mountain tunnels just as the first of the sun\’s rays crested behind us. We watched the sun rise and melt the mountain mists as we approached the Altoona exit. By 830am, we stopped at a Turnpike rest stop near Pittsburgh for a short cat nap. I will always be grateful that I can take cat-naps. They made this SERT possible.
When I woke up and prepared to leave, I saw another car pull in hauling a plane (or glider). I never saw a plane/glider in tow. Naturally we took pictures.
After a short break it was time to put some more miles behind us. Nearing the western edge of Pennsylvania and passed several classical iron bridges and overpasses that mark the old iron works days of our region. We slipped into West Virginia for a short distance, and then happily crossed into Ohio.
It was time for another stop for fuel and to stretch my legs. Our trip was already 8 hours old. By random selection I chose St. Clairville, OH as our next stop. After fueling up Nimbus, I used my Geocaching app to find a nearby geocache that might be interesting and quick. I use this app as an excuse to stretch my legs and to find interesting places. That was how I find the historic Belmont County Courthouse.
The courthouse was under construction when I arrived, but it was still a nice distraction from driving. I got out and explored, checking out the historical markers. There was a bicentennial commemorative bell (1803-2003) placed on September 29, 2001. The building was beautiful, despite the scaffolding surrounding the building. Plus, while I was reading, I found a marker explaining that the route I was following was called the Historic National Road. I wasn\’t aware of this road or the phrasing. If I tried to remember very hard, I\’m sure I remember seeing signs along the road when traveling with my parents. But adult-me wasn\’t familiar with the route or the history of the route. I learned something today! #DayofDiscovery
I found my cache and took a photo of the 1827 141 St. Clairsville, OH Milestone with my Nimbus sitting in the background. It was back to the road again, stopping to eat and stretching our legs only briefly.
Our next goal was to make it to Indianapolis, Indiana before 5pm. I wanted to visit Monument Circle. There was a Solders\’ and Sailors\’ Monument that had an observation deck which allowed you to overlook Monument circle in downtown Indianapolis. Unfortunately, we just made before the scheduled closing time, but found that the ticket office was already closed. I guess they didn\’t want anyone going up for fifteen minutes only.
Mom and I settled for exploring the circle and taking photos of the monument and fountains on a beautiful day. The Monument is massive and impressive in layout. It has mirrored sides with large fountains, with a dominating spire structure that rises up above the surrounding buildings. When we arrived, blooming flowers festooned the entire monument. We spent well over an hour in the circle, strolling the monument, finding a geocache, and grabbing an overpriced fufu tea at the local coffee shop. (Me? I love the fufu drinks – bring it on!)
Several hours later we were in Champaign, IL eating dinner and finding available hotel rooms. Luckily we found one very quickly. I took advantage of the WIFI to search for our next possible hotel destination – which was growing more complicated as we neared the Path of Totality.
As you can imagine, after driving several hundreds of miles, I was tired. I called it a night and planned to start my search again the next morning.