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No articles for week of September 21, 2017

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August 21, 2017

2017 Eclipse

Totality

Totality

   I had been planning for sometime to travel in order to see the eclipse from a location of totality.  Initially I was thinking around the St. Louis area which doesn't require a huge amount of travel.  As I watched the weather I became concerned their would be rain or cloud cover and started to look west.  And as the most recent weather reports came in I decided I would travel west—way west—to Casper, Wyoming.  My 8 hour trip would turn to 16 hours.
   Last minute a friend asked to join and so we planned for a long day.  I got up on Sunday morning at 8:00 am and would need to drive though the night.  The sun began to rise as we approached the Black Hills in South Dakota where we turned south to work our way into Wyoming.  As the morning progressed we started seeing more and more people gathered at rest stops and pull-over areas.  There was the question of if we would be able to find a place in Casper to view from.  In a strange twist of fate my friend's father happened to travel to Casper for the same reason we were going.  So a phone call confirmed that there was still room for us and we continued on.
   We ended up at Conwell Park with plenty of time before the eclipse was to begin.  The temperature was upper 70s, dry and very mild and I couldn't have asked for better.  While there were people at the park it wasn't crowded.  Introductions were made and it was clear we were not the only travelers.  A group from Delaware and another from New Jersey were among those we chatted with.  I got my camera setup and had a look at the sun though my viewing glasses.  Everything was ready and soon it was time for the big event.
   I remember looking at the clock and seeing it read the time the eclipse should start.  After that I was watching the sun and sure enough I started to see the moon begin to cross in front of the sun.  Although a slow process it was nonetheless exciting to know this was happening.  Our other viewing groups had setup two telescopes, one of which they were using as a projector on a white sheet of paper.  It was soon quite clear there was something crossing in front of the sun.
   Slowly the landscape started to transform.  Things started to look strange.  It wasn't like the dim one gets from a cloudy day—it was all together something else.  The brightness was wrong and the colors off.  This strangeness would continue. 
   Then the finial countdown to totality began.  The sun had a thin crescent of light left.  The shadows were now all strange and the would around me a strange place.  Then the sun's last bright spot disappeared behind the moon.  We took off our glasses and could view the total eclipse. 
   I knew the total eclipse was going to be something interesting, but nothing prepared me for what I saw.  No picture I had ever seen had ever captured what I was now viewing.  We were in another world.  I was completely awestruck.  The total eclipse was unlike anything I had ever seen.  I had traveled 16 hours for to watch the eclipse but what I experienced in those two minutes would have been worth another 10 hours of travel.  This had to be one of the most spectacular sites I had ever seen.  Tears rolled down my face almost the entire time.
   There was applause at the beginning and end of totality.  What a show.  After this event it is easy to see how ancient people might have believed the world was coming to an end.  This wasn't an end.  Rather a glorious demonstration of the beauty of nature.
   We ate lunch as the eclipse was waning.  Most people had left but we have traveled a long way for the eclipse and were going to see it though.  When the moon was fully out of the sun's path we packed up.  By this point we had both been awake for over 24 hours.  Just a few hours more and we would be in Chadron, Nebraska where sleep awaited us.  Traffic was thick.  I'm not sure how many people went out to view the eclipse but the little towns we were passing through were unable to cope with the numbers.  Watching the traffic map we avoided some of the worse spots but we still got stuck in one town.  However, we made it to Chadron where an old friend greeted us with food and beds.  I went to bed some 37 hours after setting out and passed out quickly.