The Grand Goal: TOTALITY
The Lesser Goals:
1. Get as close to the center of totality as possible
2. Avoid traffic
3. Find a place with restrooms and shade
4. Avoid going blind
When my son, Joe, an attorney in Arlington and an avid photographer, suggested we travel to see the eclipse, it sounded fun. I mean, Totality! Within a four-hour drive from our house.
But then I read the Dire Predictions™ of gridlock on the freeways, of cities overwhelmed from a massive influx of people, of restaurants and gas stations out of supplies, and pretty much general apocalypse, well, that sounded about as fun as trying to get out of a parking lot after a big Fourth of July show. For an entire day.
But I don’t live in the “middle of freakin’ nowhere” (as my daughter puts it) for nothing. We know how to do rural. Joe had rented a 400 mm lens for the occasion and, keen to be as dead center as possible, he chose our destination: a city park in Pickens, SC, population about 3100. (“I picked Pickens,” he likes to say, sometimes adding, “Pickens was a good pick.”)
I booked the motel for the night before, the closest to Totality that I could find (about 90 miles away) in Forest City, NC, population about 7300. My son and his good friend Cathy arrived at our place in Virginia on Saturday.
Joe came armed with totality sunglasses he assured me weren’t fakes—checking off the “don’t go blind” goal (as long as we remembered to use them)—as well as 32 bottles of water. (Me to my son: “Do you plan for us to drink these or bath with them?”)
On Sunday, we stuffed our cars with extra toilet paper, snacks, ice bags, and, of course our cameras, and made the easy two and half hour trip to Forest City.
We got up early on the 21st and drove on empty country roads to Pickens, a scenic town. We found a charming local park complete with a shady picnic area and working restrooms. With our lesser goals completed, all we had to do was wait.
Gradually, the parking lot filled up with friendly, excited people, many with dogs, arriving in cars bearing license plates from Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Texas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, New Jersey and New York. People played cards and ate and chatted and dozed while waiting for the sun and the moon to do their dance, for the skies to darken.
And when Totality became, well, total, we all cheered.
After it was all over, and we’d made the long trip home, a friend asked me if the experience was really worth “all that driving.”
In a word, “Absolutely!”
Here are some of my photos as well a stunning composite of Totality by Joe.
And then. . .
the light faded . . .
No dogs howled, but crickets started chirping; people cheered as they stared at the wonder in the sky.
Before we knew it, it was over. Two minutes and seventeen seconds doesn’t last long.
(“They could have used more material,” Tom complained. “It was a little short.”)
Short, but oh . . . spectacular. Awesome in the pure meaning of the word.