The Great American Eclipse
The Wednesday before the eclipse my library was giving away glasses. I pulled in the parking lot that morning to a line out the door and suddenly I realized that I really wanted to watch the eclipse. And I wanted to do it where I would be in the path of totality. By some chance of luck, I hadn't been scheduled to work that Monday so I immediately had Logan ask for the day off so we could drive up to Casper, Wyoming.
We waited too long to have a place to stay (everything booked up weeks ago), so our plan was simple: drive up Sunday night, sleep in Logan's car in the Walmart parking lot, and head to the viewing location early Monday morning. We got on the road around 6:30 and were excited about our 4.5 hour drive. It's been a while since we've had a good road trip, so we were having a great time in the car. Logan let me drive once we got to Longmont (since I had gotten a nap during the day), and I ended up driving the rest of the way while Logan took a much needed nap. We got into Casper around 10:45, but we were both anxious about sleeping in the Walmart parking lot. But when we got to the Walmart, we both started laughing uncontrollably. THE PARKING LOT WAS ALMOST FULL! People had everything, from decked out RVs to camper vans to tents next to their cars to simply sleeping with the seats reclined as far back as possible. I was worried we wouldn't be able to find a spot, but we got lucky (as usual) and snagged a good spot. We ran into Walmart for some extra window screens and instant ice packs (it was hot), and then got all settled down.
By the time we were ready for bed it was midnight. Neither of us were sure how well we would sleep; there was a drum circle going on in the parking lot, people were revving their engines, and more cars arrived about every 10 minutes. It turns out we actually slept pretty well. I woke up at 2:30 and 3:30, but slept like a rock in between and by the time my alarm went off at 5:45 I felt pretty good.
We knew we wanted to watch the eclipse from the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds - it had free entry, indoor bathrooms, and food for sale. The gates opened at 7:30, so we got there right at 7:00 to be sure we'd get a parking spot. We got a perfect spot, and once it was 7:30, we walked in. Lots of people headed straight to the grandstands, but we could tell that you wouldn't be able to see the sun from those seats - so instead we plopped down on the asphalt right in the middle of the RV campground. I immediately made friends with some people from North Carolina, and Logan went back to the car to get his sleeping pad so we would have something soft to sit/lean on.
From then, it was just a waiting game. The first part of the eclipse didn't start until 10:22am, so we had just about 3 hours to kill. I had brought my book and Logan had the latest episode of Game of Thrones to watch, so we were able to entertain ourselves pretty well.
As soon as it was 10:22, I put my glasses on and looked up. The top of the sun had a tiny, almost indiscernible blip. I geeked. I turned to Logan and basically yelled at him to see if he could see it. I had to make a diagram with my hands, but as soon as he knew where to look, it was obvious. I don't know what it was about that tiny blip, but I got emotional. My heart was pounding and I felt like I was going to cry - it was just so amazing to me that the universe could align so perfectly at this exact moment. I was feeling overwhelmed and grateful and tiny, and this was just the beginning.
I kept my book out, reading in between glances up at the sun to watch the moon's progress. Totality was going to happen at 11:43am, so I knew I went to the bathroom and got settled in to wait. As the time crept closer to totality, my excitement kept growing and growing. I had seen videos and read blog posts about what totality was like, and I could not wait to experience it for myself.
Suddenly, it was 11:40 and the crowd was making collective gasps and squeals of excitement (My heart is pounding right now just thinking about what an incredible moment this was). And then, suddenly, it was totality. The temperature had dropped about 20 degrees and there was an eerie calmness in the air. As soon as we could see the corona I started gasped - this was, unequivocally, the most incredible moment of my life. I didn't know what do to. I kissed Logan and laughed uncontrollably and just stared in awe at the moon. I took a few pictures, but I didn't want to waste my 2 minutes and 30 seconds with camera settings and, most importantly, I didn't want to walk away feeling disappointed if my pictures didn't turn out. I think I said "holy shit" 75 times, because I didn't have any other words to explain what I was feeling. And then, just as quickly as it came, it was over. The diamond ring showed up and we all applauded and cheered and all of the sudden it was light again.
I didn't know what to do with myself afterwards. I started crying and laughing and immediately thought "I don't know how anything in the world could top that." Because the eclipse was coming west to east, I simply texted my family that I had cried, and left them to experience it for themselves.
We hung around a little bit longer, I bought a t-shirt and some buttons, and then we hit the road. Our GPS said we were going to get home in normal time - at 5:15 that evening. We were stoked! And then...it just kept creeping up and up and up. At one point, we were totally stopped, the car was turned off, and we had all the windows down. I made up a bed in the back of the car with our camping stuff and took a 45 minute nap. When I woke up, I think the traffic was getting to people, because we looked around and weird things were happening (I made a list in the car to share).
- 2 people get on the roof of their truck to smoke cigarettes
- There's two children on the right shoulder and we don't know what car they came from or where their parents are
- A lady ran across our stopped lanes and the two lanes going north and disappeared over the side of the hill
- An old man with a pony tail is doing stretches outside of his car
- That lady came back! Now lots of other people are doing it - which kind of defeats the purpose of privacy
- The cigarette smoker is now just running alongside her pickup truck because we moved about 100 yards
- A minivan with 4 teenage girls and their parents - their dad is the only one singing
- A man is eating with a plate and silverwear in his van
- The teenage girls are out of their car with their mom. They're running up the road, but their destination is unknown
FINALLY we started moving again, and we eventually reached a town where I made Logan to pull off to get gas - we had half a tank but I didn't want to go any further without filling up. When we got to the gas station, I ran inside to pee...only to find out the line was winding throughout the entire store. I waited for 30(!!!!) minutes to even get inside the bathroom! Logan came and found me in line and then informed me that they were SOLD OUT of regular and mid grade gas. We tried to get Subway, but the line was out the door, and then we tried to get Arby's, but the drive-thru was closed because they didn't have enough staff. I just felt like we were in the middle of the apocalypse. We bailed and got on the road. Logan ate a peanut butter sandwich and I ate a beef jerky and moon cheese tortilla (two of them), and then just a moon cheese tortilla.
It took us 10 hours to even get out of Wyoming, and then another 2 to our apartment. This 243 mile drive took us TWELVE HOURS to complete. It would have been frustrating if it weren't for the fact that every single one of those cars had travelled to see the eclipse. How incredible! I can't think of anything else that would generate such a response. And everyone was so nice and respectful. I just now know to never try to take your car if the apocalypse actually does happen - you'll just get stuck and die on the interstate.
Overall, this was one of the best adventures we've ever been on and by far the most incredible thing I have ever experienced. I don't know how anything in the universe could compete with that. The cosmic perfection required for this to happen is hard to fathom, and how incredible is it that I get to be part of this universe?