Anatomy of an Eclipse Trip – DAY THREE – August 15, 2017
Peter K. Detterline
As we started the last leg of our westward journey, Gary and I received a phone call from radio station WAEB (790 AM) in Allentown, Pennsylvania. And I have to say it is quite interesting to give an interview over a car phone in a moving vehicle. They will play the 20 minute interview on the day of the eclipse. We have also been in the newspapers, and Gary was on Channel 69 news in Allentown before we left. It’s definitely eclipse week.
Under overcast skies we arrived at our destination, the town of Guernsey Wyoming, with a population of just over 1,100 people. For the eclipse they are expecting perhaps 30x that number (and much higher depending on who you talk to), with the majority going to nearby Guernsey State Park. I talked earlier about some of the preparations we made for this event, but how does a town prepare for such a huge influx of people? Since no one has experienced a total solar eclipse passing through their town, it can be hard for City Council to know what to expect. Guernsey has 5 hotels, 5 restaurants, 2 grocery stores and 2 gas stations for some 30,000 people on eclipse day. Everyone will need to stock up on food, fuel and services; how do you guarantee that there will be enough supplies? There is expected to be a shortage of cash in ATM’s, and they are expecting that Internet service will be overloaded and either incredibly slow or shutdown entirely. The Banner Health Clinic has expanded their hours, and the Police Department is working double shifts, but there still is a concern for trespassing and crime. Wyoming emergency responders are preparing for the event across the state and warn that the “solar eclipse could create once-in-a-lifetime road hazards”. There is also talk that the entire population of Wyoming could double on eclipse day. No wonder we overheard someone last night at dinner talk about the eclipse and end with the phrase “%$#@ astronomers”.
So you have two choices you can either be “eclipse friendly” or “eclipse unfriendly”.
It’s really not much of a choice since people will arrive regardless of your decision so you might as well embrace it. Besides this is a small town in Wyoming where friendly is part of their nature. The gas station is not concerned about running out of fuel, however they are raising gas prices from $2.39/gallon to $4/gallon after midnight tonight. There is talk that you should get your groceries a week early; however the supermarket is very well stocked, has a full load of supplies in the back, and is getting two truckloads in this week before the eclipse. Talking with our waitress at Twisters during lunch we discovered that on eclipse day they will limit their menu to only a few items, and serve on paper products so they can serve the greatest number of people. Their prices will not go up on eclipse day. However, one hotel in town was asking $400 per room for the evening before the eclipse. The bottom line is that whether your prices increase or not, it is going to be spectacular for business.
The town is celebrating the event and having days of activities leading up to totality including a Holding Tank trail hike, stargazing parties, movie night in the park, a 5K Duck Daze trail run, sunrise yoga, duck race, ice cream floats and chili nachos night, live music and dancing, salsa contest, street dancing, Farmer’s Market, Brew Fest, Float the North Platte River, and experience the Oregon Trail. And that’s just leading up to the day of the eclipse. On that day there will be viewing opportunities in any of the city parks led by 100 cadets from the US Air Force Academy, and they will be giving out 700 pairs of eclipse glasses.
We arrived in town well before any of these celebrations are to start, and it reminds me of the calm before the storm. Well accept that the weather is anything but calm. As the clouds darken and thunder rumbles, Accuweather still claims we are in a ”Fair” zone to see the eclipse with good viewing occurring now west of us instead of east. It is still too early to make that determination. Our professional meteorologist, Adam Jones, still keeps us at an 80% chance of success at this point.
My prediction? By next Tuesday, the City Council will say the eclipse was so good for business that they would like to have one pass through their town EVERY year.
Wouldn’t we all!