I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a blog post about the solar eclipse, because it’s not really travel related; however I DID technically travel to see it- from California to Illinois, and with a 9-month-old baby… no easy feat- so let’s do this. Also, the eclipse was just so gosh darn cool, that by golly, it deserves its own post.
If you ever get the opportunity to see a full solar eclipse, DO NOT PASS IT UP. You WILL live to regret it. Take it from me, someone who passed up a trip to Australia when I was 15 years old. That is one of my biggest life regrets, which still makes me ill to my stomach. I almost passed up *this* chance, because the thought of flying with an infant was so daunting (I had to do it when we went to Colorado, and it was hell), but luckily some clear-thinking individuals convinced me I was being stupid.
My dads’ fiancé, my 9-month-old daughter and I set out for Illinois on a red-eye flight, which we both thought would be a good idea since my daughter should sleep the whole way. Well, THAT didn’t happen. She was so confused with the situation and all the bright lights of the airport that it kept her awake. This is a warning for parents with infants who plan to travel. I know babies are all different, but I was absolutely positive my daughter would sleep since she has slept through the night since she was 5 weeks old. Boy, was I wrong.
Back to the eclipse part (the good stuff). I was lucky to have family in a town where the eclipse’s total trajectory line would pass right through. That means we were going to see the eclipse with 100% coverage of the sun. Californians, for example, were getting only about 40%-50% total coverage. They were going to see a partial eclipse, while we were seeing a total eclipse. BIG difference.
One of my younger brothers is a student at a Chicago-area university (the native Californian), so he came down on the train to visit, as well as to experience the awesomeness of nature. Here’s the part where I think this blog can come in handy for people who are planning on witnessing a full, total eclipse in the future: plan ahead.
I cannot repeat it enough, plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead. All the decent hotels and motels, as well as all the seedy, cockroach-infested motels, were booked for miles. People were having to book hotels hours away and drive into the area the day of the event. Unless you personally know someone with a house in the area, last-minute planning for one of these isn’t going to cut it. On our last flight to Illinois, we met two people from England, as well as four others (small plane) from other areas of the country who were flying in to view the eclipse.
Not only were the hotels and motels booked, all the plane tickets were gone, as well as any train tickets. My brother, while exceptionally intelligent, is amazingly slow at getting off his butt and doing things. He waited until a few days ahead to book his train ticket. He ended up getting the last seat on a train that wouldn’t roll into his destination (Carbondale, Illinois) until around 2 am. We had no choice but to go with it. Don’t be a Travis.
Carbondale was one of the cities in the line-up on NASA’s website, and they had even set up their own base at the university, Southern Illinois University (go Salukis!). Carbondale is only about a 55-minute drive from my hometown, so luckily we were still close enough to be in the total trajectory path and not have to go to the mob-infested Dirty Dale. Instead, we headed to my grandmother’s house and had our own private viewing of one of nature’s most fabulous natural phenomena.
Unfortunately, eclipses don’t last forever. We were supposed to have about 2 minutes and 38 seconds of total and complete darkness (which turned out to be an exaggeration, in my opinion), more than anywhere else in the country, and it still didn’t feel like enough. It honestly felt like 20 seconds, if not less. While it did get much darker than it had been, I was expecting it to feel like 1 am, and instead it felt more like 7 pm. However, taking off our protective glasses and being able to view a TOTAL eclipse with our bare, naked eyes is a sight I will never forget. It’s as if it’s burned into my mind (probably is) and I can replay it over and over. It was *that* magical, odd, beautiful, surreal, and otherworldly.
As I wrote this blog, I realized I wanted to convince other people to never, ever pass up the opportunity to witness with their own eyes a total solar eclipse of the sun. Some people can’t – or won’t – justify traveling and spending money to view a total eclipse, and I think they’re dummies. Seriously, how many days in your life are you going to be able to look up at the sun with zero harm to your eyes, and witness a giant black mass covering it with striking rays of light shooting out all around it? The answer is very few, since total solar eclipses aren’t exactly a weekly thing, ya know.