DAY TWO – August 14, 2017
As educators, Gary and I have talked glowingly about the wonders and beauty of the total solar eclipse. From first-hand experience we describe the changes that occur as the eclipse progresses through its various stages. We see the students following along, some eyes wide with wonder and hands raised with questions. And we both know that there is no description, no picture, no video that can adequately prepare them for the majesty of the event. And that’s alright, if we could succeed there would be no reason to see it at all.
So why do we watch an eclipse?
Watching a total solar eclipse is similar to asking someone why they climb a mountain. The standard response is because it’s there. Whether you are viewing the world from a high mountain summit or gazing at the Moon covering the Sun, the memories of succeeding at your goal are awe inspiring. But in reality only fleeting, and much like life, it’s the journey, the experiences and the changes that occur along the way that have the real lasting impact. And those changes can’t be anticipated, but only experienced at the time.
We have this trip well planned. We have been considering it for many years. We have secured a site and will arrive six days before the event, test our equipment extensively (yet again), and make any corrections as necessary. We have redundant equipment, provisions of food, water gas, and backup plans in place.
The polar explorer Amundson once said that
Adventure is just bad planning.
I like that, although there are some things that just can’t be planned.
The conversation on the car phone along the drive through Iowa was with David Fisherowski, an amateur meteorologist who makes some great weather predictions. Gary is also skilled in such matters with both of them using the latest weather models from various sources. We picked Guernsey State Park in Wyoming as our primary site based on our rubric. Weather was a huge factor in that rubric and although nothing in meteorology is ever guaranteed, Gary and Dave both agree that we need to base ourselves on statistics. And that’s all we can do when it comes to weather.
Our deadline to stay or leave is 36 hours in advance. And if we have to bug out, that’s when the adventure begins. And like Amundson, were not hoping to have that kind of adventure. If such a thing occurs we quickly go into “eclipse chase mode”. As we explained to Michael, food is not necessary. Seeing the eclipse is the top priority, imaging the eclipse is secondary, and afterwards we can take care of food and lodging needs.
Adam R. Jones, is a talented computer programmer, and professional meteorologist in Colorado. He will be arriving with an entourage of family and friends to Guernsey, although he plans to go closer to the centerline for the actual eclipse. Adam really hedges his bet. As a pilot, he even has a plane on standby in case he gets socked in by weather. His current forecast is that there is an 80% chance that we will see totality at Guernsey. And those odds are about as good as it gets at this point. The Accuweather forecast a week out calls for fair skies for Guernsey, and better skies in Nebraska.
So we continue our drive along Interstate 80 through Iowa and Nebraska passing alternately through showers and Sun as we approach our destination. Tonight we sleep at Paxton, Nebraska. Tomorrow the road trip comes to a close and we set up camp in Guernsey.