Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Three weeks ago, I sent a text off to the Machine. "Want to go watch the eclipse with me?"

His answer was immediate and straightforward: "Yes."

Being me, this wasn't the first time I'd thought about it. I'd been half-planning for months what I might do for The Day, based on where I thought I might be living at that point. As far as I could tell, I'd be close to the path of totality no matter what -- the question was more about how much free time I might have.

As it turned out, I didn't have to worry about the time. Even better, as Monday neared, my crowd grew.

First was the Machine. Then, Ashli realized she was starting work here on the 22nd. Finally, I met Mikah Meyer, a record-setting traveler who happened to be in the area with no firm eclipse plans as of nine days ago.

The team now assembled, we started debating our options.

Rapid City happened to lie two to three hours from the path of totality, with many options for where you might choose to land. Heck, the town itself was at 95%, which wasn't so bad, either. So we discussed ... Nebraska made the most sense. The Badlands would provide excellent photos. Wyoming was a pretty okay option.

That is, until Saturday night. With storms or clouds forecast for much of the area we'd considered, we realized Lusk, Wyoming, was our best bet.

And so it was that we assembled in a parking lot on Monday morning and headed southwest.

We were ... not alone in this decision.

This road has never seen this many cars at once.

Traffic was slow at times but kept moving, and we reached our destination a little after 10AM. Lusk was busy but didn't seem swamped -- we shared a field on the south side of town with only about twenty people. 

We pulled out food, settled in ... and waited.

We didn't have to wait long for things to start.

We started to notice things after 11. It was almost smoky outside, the strange effect of the sun setting above us instead of on the horizon. Things took on a green haze, then a blueish one. The temperature noticeably dropped.

And around 11:48, we hit totality.

I still don't fully have the words. It was incredible. It was two surreal minutes in an ocean of time as the world went dark and all the birds in the area abruptly decided to fly south. We had 360 degrees of sunset and a strange chill.

And after all too brief a time, it was over.

There are so many other descriptions out there that are so much better, but I can still say -- easily -- that this was one of those experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I understand why people hundreds of years ago would have thought the world was ending. I [mostly] understand why there are eclipse chasers.

And it's possible I looked at the map for the 2024 eclipse and thought, "Maybe I could make that work."

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