I left off my last entry as I was leaving to see the eclipse in Wyoming. My traveling partner, Jeran, had just been dropped off at my house. We left around 6pm. Our projected route took us south to I-90 and from there west to Rapid City. At Rapid City we would turn south and make our way into Wyoming.
The trip was uneventful. Jeran and I listened to some audio stories, talked and took turns driving. As we neared Rapid City in the middle of the night, we stopped at a rest stop. We took a couple hour break and snoozed in the car. When it was time to get moving again I used my phone to set up a mobile hotspot. That let me use my chromebook to check my weather sites one last time. They still showed no cloud cover in our target area.
We drove around Rapid City and continued into Wyoming. The traffic steadily built as we progressed. It was never what I would consider heavy. Although, I’m sure it was unusually high for those roads. We made it to Lusk around 8 in the morning. We decided to get some breakfast in town. Jeran used his smartphone to look for restaurants. There was a Subway in the middle of town and a truck stop on the southern end. The truck stop sounded better for breakfast.
Lusk’s population is about 1,600 people. The Outpost Cafe was packed full and there was a line that was close to being out the door. We had nothing to do until the eclipse, so the wait didn’t bother us. The food and service were good.
Afterwards, we got in the car and drove. In two blocks we were out of town and on our way to find a viewing spot. Traffic was still about the same, steady but not slow. We started passing people pulled over and stopped to view the eclipse. We wanted to go further south as the time of totality was longer the further south we got. The line of maximum totality was about 22 miles south of Lusk.
A bit further on we saw a turnoff with a sign that said, “Eclipse Parking $25”. We both laughed and wondered who would pay that much when there were free spots all along this highway. (We actually saw quite a few cars parked there on our way back.)
Jeran was looking at his satellite map and the path of the eclipse and found a road that led off the highway that he thought would offer a good view. We turned off onto that road. We passed a couple groups that had set up their spots to watch and kept going. Eventually we found a good spot.
We had time to spare, so Jeran decided to hike a bit. He headed for some nearby hills. I walked up and down the road. There were two cars nearby. I went to the first one I walked up to and tapped on the window. They rolled down their window.
“I’m just up the road from you, thought I would say hello.”
“OK, thanks.” And they went back to talking to each other.
The other car was friendlier, and we talked for a bit.
I went back to the car as Jeran was returning from his hike. He had been to the top of a nearby hill and thought it would be a good spot to watch. We hiked up the hill and waited for the eclipse to begin.
A little before 10:30 it began. Using our eclipse glasses, we could see a small piece of the sun was blocked by the moon. We still had over an hour to wait for totality. We looked off the west in the direction that the shadow of the moon would be coming from. In the distance on another hill we could see a small white object. Maybe it was a water tower; maybe some other building. We figured that based on the speed of the moon’s shadow we probably had about 30 seconds from the time that the shadow was on the building until it got to us.
We also discussed that it didn’t seem to be getting darker even though the moon was covering more and more of the sun. Were our eyes adjusting to the reduced light? I took some pictures as we waited. A few of them are at the end of this post. I had decided in advance that I wouldn't photograph the eclipse itself. I wanted to savor the moment and not be worried about the camera.
And then the time of totality was close. We watched to the west. The white building went dark. It was coming.
I didn’t really see a clear-cut shadow approach. There wasn’t a distinct edge and it was too large to see it all. But, there was darkness approaching across the plain towards our hill.
As the darkness arrived I looked up at the sun and saw the diamond ring effect. That happens just as totality begins. The last bit of sunlight shining through a valley on the moon makes it look like a ring with a bright spot at one point. Then it winked out and totality had begun.
For the next about 2 and a half minutes in the middle of the day there was no sun. All around the horizon appeared as if at sunset. As you look further up the sky darkens. There is a bright star shining. It is Venus. Then you look at the sun. There is a round dark area, not surprisingly, it is the size of a full moon. It is surrounded by streams of light coming out. You are seeing the sun’s corona. Usually it is invisible, overshadowed by the sun’s brightness. The temperature has fallen. Eventually, you look back and see the white building is again visible. The eclipse is drawing to a close. The diamond ring appears again, and it is time again to use glasses to look at the sun.
I wrote that last paragraph in the second person point of view hoping to give you the feeling that you were there. But, I can’t really do it justice in words. It was absolutely amazing to be there in person.
It was worth the drive there. And the traffic jam afterwards as all the people who had been filtering in during the morning all left at the same time. And the drive back. It was all worth it.
Time to start planning. There’s another total eclipse coming to the US on April 8, 2024.
Tim Kane's memories, musings and updates.