Total Eclipse Of The Heart
When it comes to vacations—any little weekend trip we take, even—my family accuses me of being an over-planner.
By “over-planner,” I can only assume they mean “a husband and father who cares so damn much that he is willing to sacrifice his own time and energy trying to make everything perfect for his family he loves so deeply.”
Guilty as charged!
Finally, though, my preplanning has paid off in a way that will allow me to yell “I told you so, family!” and “In your face, doubters!”
Because back in October, I saw a story, titled “You Need to Make Your Plans for the 2017 Solar Eclipse NOW!”
“Now,” when written in all caps, taps into a weakness of mine.
Instantly, I thought “Oh, no! I have not yet made my plans for this important event, and I need to make those plans NOW!”
Also, I thought, “There’s an eclipse in 2017?”
The answer is yes. On August 21, a new moon will completely block out the sun, throwing a 70-mile swath of shadow—made by the moon!—along a path starting in Oregon and sweeping across the country to South Carolina.
And it would be as close to Rochester as, say, St. Joseph, Missouri, just 350 or so miles away.
I immediately sent a family text—and tagged it “high importance”—that read: “Mark family calendar for August 21 to be in path of 2017 Solar Eclipse! Need to start planning NOW!”
Like it often is when I send these type of texts, their response was to ignore me, despite the fact that I kept sending follow up texts that read “Hello?” and then “Hello?” and then “Hello?”
We have not experienced a total eclipse in the U.S. since February 26, 1979, and that eclipse only touched a few Northwest states. Sure, you may have witnessed a partial eclipse. Which is cool. But there’s this: “Likening a partial eclipse to a total eclipse,” writes Michael Bakich of Astronomy magazine, “is like comparing almost dying to dying.”
A quick internet search describes a total eclipse as—and these are actual quotes from respected astronomers—“the most exciting thing people can see. There is a primal joy and fear in the sky darkening in the midst of the day.”
And “Totality will make you shiver, it will make you cry, and it will make you beg for more. Millions of ecliptomaniacs are coming to book all the hotels.”
And “It looks like the end of the world. It gets cold, animals do weird things, the color balance of everything you see shifts, almost like you’re in a dream. People cry and scream.”
Animals doing weird things! People crying and screaming! “Ecliptomaniacs”!
I’ve never been so jazzed about a road trip in my life.
To add fuel to my fire, a number of the eclipse websites feature countdown calendars showing the months, days, hours, minutes and seconds—seconds!—until Solar Eclipse 2017.
Whenever this happens—whenever I see a seconds-based countdown—my brain suddenly shifts into high alert. Eleven months normally seems like a long ways away. But 11 months, 8 days, 19 hours, 29 minutes and 47 seconds seems like it’s flying toward me, especially when now it’s “and 46 seconds! And now 45!”
When my family still hadn’t answered my text, I called Lindy at work.
LINDY: Hello, this is Lindy.
ME: Oh, so your phone is working. I was worried there was a problem since you still haven’t responded to my text.
LINDY: Are you talking about the thing you sent two minutes ago, about the meteor shower or something? I’m just walking in to a big work meeting and …
ME: Yeah, except we need to make a decision NOW! We have less than 11 months, 8 days, 19 hours, 27 minutes and 29 seconds! Now 28!
LINDY: Can we talk about it later?
Also, I had to decide on the type of location to experience “the most exciting thing people can see.”
Would we want someplace like Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park (which will experience a full 2 minutes and 22 seconds of total eclipse), in which we would be by ourselves?
Or somewhere like the Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Missouri (2 minutes and 39 seconds of total eclipse), where tens of thousands of people will be gathering?
If you, and everyone around you, will be crying and screaming, do you want to be by yourself or surrounded by 50,000 people?
I mean, that’s one of those questions that really defines you.
As soon as we hung up the phone, I took it upon myself to check on hotel rooms in St. Joseph, Missouri. This, again, was October, 2016. The eclipse will be August 21, 2017.
Every hotel I called was booked.
With panic setting in, I reserved a hotel room in Lincoln, Nebraska (which was filling up), a short drive from the eclipse’s path. I bought special eclipse viewing glasses online. Sent away for area travel guides.
Last week, while the entire family was driving up for skiing at Welch Village, we listened to an NPR story about The Great American Eclipse. Lindy and the kids had the gall to say how cool that would be, and how that would be worth a road trip, and how they wished we could experience such an unusual event they did not even know was going to be occurring, and when would it be again?
And I just bit my lip, and told them, that, yes, we had a room already booked in Lincoln, Nebraska, and that I had already ordered eclipse glasses, and staked out a viewing spot, and that we would be at that spot in 7 months, 8 days, 2 hours, and 10 seconds.
Nine. Eight. Seven.