Four of us drove from Seattle to a desolate area in Oregon just north of John Day in a 15 year old Honda Element. Here are some of the more memorable moments:
- Leaving Seattle at 8:00 Sunday evening
- Joking about how the predictions for bumper to bumper traffic were incorrect (the roads were virtually deserted)
- Arriving at a scenic overview at 2:30am Monday morning that turned out to be very close to the path of maximum totality
- Seeing the night sky like I haven’t seen it since I was a child camping in the backwoods of Arkansas
- Using the chemical toilets at the rest stop a mile away that hadn’t been serviced in three days
- Making friends with the folks around us (much like you would if you camped out for tickets to a high demand concert in the 80s)
- Using the cardboard and plastic glasses to see the slow progression of the moon over the sun
- Me making jokes about being on team moon. I HATE YOU SUN! MOON RULEZ! GO MOON! EAT SUN 4EVER!
- Seeing our shadows do truly strange things a few moments before the total eclipse
Insert eclipse experience here…
Our 14 hour journey home:
- Driving for 4 hours with no cell signal on T-Mobile
- Stopping for lunch at the Austin House Café and Country Store which it turns out is for sale (and costs less than the house we bought in Lakeland, TN in 2002)
- Being stuck in a 5 hour traffic jam to cross the Columbia River bridge because the department of transportation decided to close one of the two northbound lanes of the bridge (even though they knew about the ONE MILLION people that would be traveling back to Washington state on Monday)
- The last stage of the trip, driving down Snoqualmie mountain through a barrel lined construction zone that made me think I was in a Mario Cart video game (while everyone else in the car was asleep)
The trip lasted a total of 40 hours, during which I had only 1 hour of sleep and, other than a 30 minute period when my wife drove, was the designated driver for 22 hours. I slept for 15 hours the next day.
A few seconds before the eclipse entered totality I said aloud “I feel weird.” Simultaneously around me I heard “Wow”, “What’s happening?”, “I feel strange”, “What’s going on?”, “What?”, “Hey!” and others expressing surprise. We all forgot about the bizarre shadows and the silly glasses we were holding. Something other, something new, something totally unexpected was happening.
I looked up and met the eyes of one of the guys in the group next to us. He asked “Do you feel it?” I raised my left arm parallel to my chest and ran the fingers of my right hand down the top of it (making the universal gesture of goose bumps) and said “Yeah, I feel it too”.
In those few seconds, something changed. Even now, remembering it as I write this down, I feel that moment cross my life again. As the hairs on my arm stand up again, I wish I could put a name to this feeling. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before. It wasn’t a good feeling. It wasn’t a bad feeling. It was something new and amazingly powerful.
Then the total eclipse occurred. Tears started streaming down my face. Looking at it was… was… sublime. The next two minutes lasted forever and were also too short.
I want to go back. I want to look into everyone’s eyes and see that moment when they realize something new is happening. Something they didn’t expect. Something that can’t be explained.