Anatomy of an Eclipse Trip – DAY SEVEN – August 19, 2017
Do we go or do we stay? That’s the tune for the day as we reach our weather decision deadline. We had a teleconference with Adam Jones, our Colorado meteorologist. Galveston, Tennessee he says has a 100% chance and western Idaho and eastern Oregon have 95%. His prediction for our site include some high clouds which may or may not block totality. The weather wouldn’t be any different until we get at least 300 miles away. However, the odds are still in our favor, and he gives us a 75% chance of seeing totality. We are happy to not have to pack up all our gear and go, but if we did- go to where? Idaho most likely, but it’s still a bit too early to make that decision. As the day went on, Tennessee suddenly dropped from its 100% status. After looking at our options, the bottom line is that we’re going to stay put and take our chances at Guernsey State Park.
Gary and I had our discussion in a very empty hotel breakfast suite.
The time was 8:30 AM. The town has still not seen the crowds increase as of this morning, but by afternoon the numbers increased, well, a little. We brought in six more members of our group, and they told us Interstate 25 from Denver was a clear shot with no traffic. Tomorrow and especially Monday should be a different story. I’ve learned that the longest traffic jam in history lasted 12 days and was 62 miles long. We’re trying not to beat that record.
Joining our ranks today include Dean Bauer, a student in my very first astronomy class at the junior high school some 36 years ago. His daughter Lauren accompanies him, who was a student in my senior high school astronomy class a handful of years ago. She is now a professional photographer, and also my goddaughter. Teresa Pena, Dean’s significant other, completes the Pennsylvania crew who flew out to Colorado to meet with Teresa’s sister Leslie and her husband Alan who has an interest in all things astronomical. Dean and I have been friends for a very long time, and have shared a couple of total solar eclipses together; the last one in China in 2009. The rest of the group have never experienced totality, and aren’t really certain what to expect only that when the Moon crosses the Sun it will be “cool”.
Ginger Fiore was a student in my astronomy class that I taught at Penn State University Allentown Campus in 1996. For several years she has traveled out to be part of our Astronomy refit crew at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah which is where she first met Gary. The three of us are good friends, and we are happy to have her share her first glimpse of totality with us as well. She accompanied us to our 4 PM presentation to a packed audience at the Park Museum.
Gary and I have been teaching astronomy in our respective planetariums for many years, but it is only in retirement that we get to “team teach” various presentations. It’s a lot of fun as we feed off of each other, and get our information across in an entertaining format. The audience was well informed, and wanted to know about such things as imaging shadow bands, the length of the eclipse across the state of Wyoming, how do I film with my point and shoot camera, and when is it safe to see the diamond ring effect.
Dinner in town was outside Crazy Tony’s where you can get a NY strip steak, baked potato and salad for $19.99. There is no glassware or flatware involved. Keep it simple and keep it safe. It’s a wise plan, but at dinnertime the crowds were not there, and the place was only moderately filled.
A star party at Guernsey State Park finished the evening, and we had the benefit of Alex’s knowledge to help out with the instruments. Green lasers were firing across the sky pointing out various constellations, while four telescopes kept people busy with everything the universe had to offer from planets to galaxies. The Park Superintendent, Todd Stevenson, said that our programs today were the best attended event the Park has ever had. It’s a beautiful clear night, and I decided to try some star trails thanks to a reminder from my goddaughter of the things she had to do for my class in high school. It’s a beautifully clear night, and Adam contacted us to say that our clear sky percent for Monday just dropped to 70%.