August 21, 2017

Solar Totality

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 wasn't going over Arizona. K and I hadn't really thought much about it when we learned of its path while vacationing in North Carolina a few months ago.

Time ticked by and K's birthday approached. We were trying to decide on something to do and I realized the solar eclipse fell on her birthday. Maybe we could fly to somewhere close to the path of totality for the weekend and check it out? I began looking into flights for various cities about two weeks ahead of the event. Flying standby status has both its advantages and disadvantages. This seemed to be the latter of the two. Kansas City, Omaha, Denver, Boise, Salt Lake City, Portland and Spokane..all booked solid. Just for fun I decided to see what Google suggested a drive time to Idaho Falls would be. That was the closest the path would be to Phoenix. 14 hours. Hmmm, that's doable I thought. I presented a plan to K and she was on board.

We'd drive to Cedar City, UT the first day via Zion National Park and get a B&B for the night. We've always talked about staying in one  Hotel rates around the path of totality were outright absurd. A normal room at a Best Western type of place was advertised at $1595 for Sunday night!! Regular rate was $129. Who's paying that?? K didn't really feel like camping, but then I remembered my riding friends, Denny & Alexis, live in northern UT only a couple hours from Idaho Falls. They were more than willing to have us stay for the night, even after Alexis was scheduled to fly home from Paris that morning!! She runs a little high on the energy scale though.

We'd then make the long drive home in one push and hope for the best. Time to hit the road!!
We ended up just doing a quick drive through, no hiking this time.
Archway in the making.
Zion, the cul-de-sac of National Parks.

We pushed on to Cedar City where we'd spend the night at the Iron Gate Inn. We wanted to arrive in daylight, which we did. The owners also run a winery, but it had outgrown it's space at the Inn and relocated downtown. We got a quick tour of the place before the owner left for dinner. She suggested we try a wine tasting before we ate, since it was closing soon. We're glad we did as we were very surprised by the quality of the wines produced.
All of the guests for the night.
One of the common areas.
Beautiful home right in the middle of Cedar City.
Only a few blocks away...
Our room for the night.
We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast on the patio.
Another common area.
It was easy to feel relaxed here.

Nice to have parking in the rear of the property.
We didn't have a long drive to reach Logan, so we looked for a side trip on our way north. We found Parowan Gap was nearby and offered a short hike to view petroglyphs.

The signature glyph at the site.

Most of the petroglyphs are to the right of the gap.

Raised relief dinosaur tracks.
We were soon traveling north once again and arrived in Logan around dinner. It was great to hang out with Denny & Alexis. They are usually down in AZ when we cross paths, it was nice to be up on their turf for a change. We can't thank them enough for putting us up for the night.

We were moving early the next morning to avoid any potential traffic issues leading into Idaho. Overall, the traffic was fine. It was a bit heavy, but moved well coming into Idaho Falls.
Only a few high clouds at sunrise. They would be gone by 8am.
It was interesting to watch 95% of the traffic take the exit towards the Grand Tetons & Yellowstone. While it would've be cool to have that as the backdrop, the astral show would be directly overhead. We stayed on I-15 for a few more miles. We wanted to be as close to the center of totality as possible. Route 33 did the trick. It was quite a sight seeing every pullout, spare piece of dirt occupied by eclipse seekers. There wasn't much else out there, just open fields of lava rock. We found a dirt road about 2 miles off the interstate and set up our watch party of two.
K all set to go!!
See? Not much out here.
Our dirt road filled up with onlookers.

I wanted to get a couple test shots in before the eclipse started. I borrowed a tripod from a coworker and was getting things organized when I noticed I couldn't find my adapter clip to secure the DSLR to the tripod!! I dug through everything I had, two..three times. Nada. I was a bit upset at myself for not double checking that simple piece of equipment. The tripod was essentially useless at this point. How steady can I hold my hand?? I'd have to take hand held shots if I wanted anything. Ugh.
Not too bad, you can see sunspots!!
 I played around with the settings while snapping a few shots. Here are a few that don't look too bad.
First sliver of the eclipse.

Sometime around this stage a few of us noticed the temperature dropping.
The next series of pictures were taken within a 15 minute time window.



11:32a. The shadow of totality approaches!!
 That's K's new Prius and first roadtrip. That car drives really well and we averaged over 50mpg even with 80mph speed limits in Utah & Idaho.

11:33a Totality starts!! It looked like this in every direction.

11:35a My best shot. Not too bad all things considered.

11:37a Show is about to end.

11:37a And just like that it's daylight again.
It was such a surreal experience. The two and a half minutes of totality went by incredibly fast. I didn't waste much time trying to get a good picture, since that wasn't happening anyway. I only took 5. The first 10-15 seconds were neat, hoots & hollers could be heard all over the countryside, then it went eerily silent as folks took it all in. The temperature dropped a good 15ยบ almost instantly, like stepping into the shade on a warm summer's day. Venus made an appearance as did a few bright stars. We didn't notice any wildlife near us, but we heard stories from friends who witnessed animals getting ready for a night's rest. We're looking forward to seeing the next one in 2024 when another solar eclipse crosses the U.S.A. San Antonio is the nearest location for that one.

Thankfully I have a few friends who were also up in Idaho and had all the fancy camera gear to capture amazing pictures. Here are a few from Kathleen, who happened to tie the knot on her eclipse roadtrip. Congrats Kathleen & Doug!!
Bailey's beads at C2


Timelapse of the entire event. So cool!!
 As soon as daylight regained its presence the crowd began dispersing. We hung around for about 15 minutes or so, but knew we had to get going.

The first task? Get off the short dirt road we had found. That took 25 minutes, then another 20 minutes to reach I-15. So, 45 minutes to move 2 miles. I-15 turned into a parking lot a couple miles south and we resorted to Google maps to see if there were any workarounds. We found a few here and there, but in the end, traffic. It took us 6 hours to reach the Utah line which would normally be a two hour drive. By the time we made our way through Salt Lake City and into Provo it was nearing 8p!! We still had a long way to go and I had to work. I-15 opened up after Provo, we were at least doing the speed limit but the traffic was thick, nothing but tail lights leading into the distance.
Near Ogden, UT.
We kept the pedal down late into the night arriving in Page, AZ just after midnight. K took over the driving duties while I caught some much needed zzz's. Next thing I knew we were in Flagstaff, 3:15a. I guess I'm going to be late for work!! We pulled into our driveway at 6:15a, 19 hours after leaving our viewing location in Idaho. I ate breakfast, took a shower and went to work. Of course I was now in rush hour and my typical 30 minute commute turned into 1 1/2 hours thanks to an accident. I was only good for a half day before heading back home to rest up. Oof. We both agreed it was worth it. Looking forward to the next one.