Eclipse Musings

I've been off for a bit while I took (and caught up from) a long overdue vacation. My beloved Mrs. H and I ventured into the rurals of South Carolina in the hopes of catching the total solar eclipse on August 21. (Spoiler alert: We did.)

Miss it, and wanted to see it? You can try again in 2024, when another one will cross from Texas to Maine. I know we'll be trying again for the sheer spectacle. 

A word to the wise: It's not something you plan for on the fly. I made lodging reservations in March. The places we went to were booked solid long before August, even very rural areas outside the totality zone You would have likely had to stay in your car if you didn't plan ahead.  

Getting to see the spectacle was an involved dance of factors. I reserved us a lodging just a few miles outside the totality zone, in Walterboro SC. It's a town so small that the fireworks store is abut the most exciting place to visit.  The plan was that if it turned out cloudy, we would wind our way up back roads and get into the totality zone that way. That turned out to be what we had to do. The weather in Walterboro and the surrounding area was seriously overcast. A local told us it had rained there during the eclipse. when we stopped on the way back. 

I had an iPad with me open to multiple websites: The time and path of the eclipse; a weather radar page, a traffic report, and a few other things. The rural route strategy was more successful than I hoped. We met almost no traffic as we made our way up the state to find a clearer spot. In the end, we couldn't do any better than a 50% cloudy sky, so we stopped at an abandoned gas station with about a half dozen other eclipse chasers, just outside a place called Joanna in the SC foothills. Among the gawkers near us was a road construction crew that pulled over, as well as a pretty serious onlooker who had one of those professional-looking telescopes that was as thick around as an industrial-sized can of baked beans.

By this time I had opened a website that marked the time in second, so that I knew exactly when it was going to be time to witness the totality event at around 2:40 PM. The clouds were still heavy, but they cleared for us just in time. 

I could see immediately why the spectacle had inspired such wonder and fear in ancient people. The TV cameras simply cannot capture the depth and richness of it. The sky literally looked like someone had shot a hole in it, and the sun had gone down the hole. The colors stood in such a sharp relief that no camera could have done it justice. Only the human eye.

Yes, it was like night. Crickets started chirping. Across the street, the automatic lights at a local volunteer fire station snapped on. 

All too soon -- two and a half minutes -- it was over. The clouds came back just as it ended.

It wasn't hard for me to decide we'd do it again in 2024. And hopefully again in 2045. I'll be 78 if I live that long, but at least that one will be going right over my backyard here in Florida!



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