Archive for July, 2017

Eclipse packing

Tuesday, 25th July 2017; 9:18 am

Every road trip is unique, and requires a little different stuff to pack. So even though I’ve done trips like this one before, the packing list for my Kentucky eclipse ride requires a little tweaking.

Ironically, because this trip is shorter than most of my previous ones – only five days on the road – it requires packing more clothes. That’s because I won’t be doing laundry at the halfway point. I mean, I could do laundry, but dropping just two t-shirts, two sets of underwear, and a pair of pants into a laundromat washer/dryer steps over the threshold of absurdity. So I’m packing a full set of four days’ shirts and undies; and as usual, two pair of long pants, to alternate.

I’m bringing more photo gear than usual: at the least adding my spare digital camera and a tripod. I almost never do tripod-based still photography, and my tripod went missing ages ago. I have a hiking stick with a camera mount on the end which I use occasionally as a monopod, but that’s useless for this. Hypothetically I could take eclipse pictures without a tripod, but I’ll be zooming in pretty hard, and camera shake gets to be a problem. So I’ll have to pick one up somewhere, maybe at Grand Rapids’ last surviving camera shop.

I’m also thinking of bringing a pair of binoculars for direct viewing of the total eclipse. A camera viewfinder just isn’t the same, especially a digital one. I don’t have binoculars either, so I’ll have to get my hands on a set.

And there’s eclipse-viewing glasses. For the last eclipse I viewed, back in 8th grade, I used overexposed film negatives, which worked well enough. The “opaque” black visor of my helmet actually works pretty well as a sun-viewing filter: I often see the disk of the sun through it when I’m riding. But it’s kind of hazy, and a little awkward to look through. A pair of filters I can just perch on the front of my face would be more ideal.

Eclipse planning

Sunday, 23rd July 2017; 1:09 pm

countiesOne of the disappointing things about being a “seasoned” scooter road-tripper is that there isn’t a whole lot of planning needed for it anymore. I have all the gear I need. I’ve previously figured out what to pack for a 5-day/4-night trip. I even know already what route to take from home to Indiana.

But there are two things I still need to plan for this trip: a route through the terra icognita of Indiana and Kentucky, and what I’m going to do when I get to the Zone of Totality. (Cool name, innit?)

I’ve identified the campgrounds I’ll be staying at. The first night’s will be a departure from the usual: it won’t be a state or federal facility. The Indiana state parks won’t let you camp for only a Saturday night: you need to reserve it and pay for either Friday or Sunday night too. So instead I think I’ll be staying at a private campground in Crawfordsville. On Sunday and Monday nights, I have reservations at Lincoln State Park (adjacent to Abe Lincoln’s boyhood home) as my staging ground for scooting into/out of the Zone of Totality. (I really like that name.) And on Tuesday night I plan to stay a Mississinewa Dam in Peru (the town in Indian, not the country).

The map here shows the counties I’ll be riding through (in red). Hypothetically, I could take the same route home as I’m taking to get there, but I don’t want to spend two whole days just retracing my steps, so I’m veering to the east of Indianapolis instead.

The red county at the bottom of the map is Christian County, Kentucky, where I’ll be viewing the eclipse. The city of Hopkinsville, which is in this area, has a web site linking to various sites in the area that will be hosting eclipse viewers, charging a fee for parking, a spot on their lawn to camp for the day, etc. But especially with my small “footprint” – just my two feet and a small scooter – I figure I should be able to find a spot on my own. Any place with a view of the sky will work, after all. To be honest, I’m a little torn between wanting to find a place by myself, or doing it in a crowd. Totality is only 2 minutes and 40 seconds, so I have to pick one or the other.

The main point of the trip is to experience the eclipse, so I don’t want to get too wrapped up in photographing it. But I’m still going to be bringing along photo equipment. My main camera will be my Fuji Finepix HS20EXR, with its 30X optical zoom. As a backup/supplemental camera, I’ll bring my old ultrazoom, an Olympus SP-500UZ, which has a quaint 10X zoom and only a 6MP sensor… but it was good enough for my earliest scooter trips. Both have manual exposure control, which I think will be useful for photographing the eclipse. And of course I’ll have my iPhone’s camera, which will be good for snapshots along the trip.

Totally INKY

Wednesday, 19th July 2017; 8:55 am

In previous years, I’ve stretched the “MI way” concept a bit by venturing beyond Michigan a little: riding several hours through Wisconsin to catch a ferry home, taking a day trip into Ontario to get to Lake Erie, or crossing the border into Indiana to ride through Amish country. Upon finishing my tour of Michigan counties, I choose a route through northern Wisconsin over a less attractive road in the UP. And to finish my circumnavigation of Lake Michigan, I did a ride in which the only states I slept in were Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin… a ride I ironically dubbed “INILWI way”. But they were all “around Michigan”.

This time I’m stretching it to the breaking point. And I’m calling this ride “Totally INKY”.


I’m going to leave the state and lake of Michigan behind, and take a trip the length of Indiana into Kentucky, to see the total solar eclipse on August 21. “Total eclipse” + “IN” + “KY” = “Totally INKY”.

It’s about 1000 miles round-trip. My plan is to spend two days riding down to the southern end of Indiana, then on the day of the eclipse ride the last 100 miles or so to the total eclipse zone in Kentucky and back to Indiana, then spend two more days riding home. So I’ll leave Grand Rapids on the morning of Saturday, August 19, see the sky turn black in the middle of the day somewhere around Hopkinsville KY on Monday the 21st, and get home the evening of Wednesday the 23rd.

I’ve seen a solar eclipse before: a pretty good partial one when I was in middle school. But I’ve never seen a total eclipse, and this is one of the few that will happen so nearby in my lifetime. It’s crossing the US from Pacific to Atlantic, but the point of the longest eclipse – 2 minutes, 40 seconds – is also the point on that path nearest where I live. One way or another, I really want to get there.

Theoretically I could do it as a day trip by car… a very long day trip, starting before dawn and returning after midnight. Or I could do it as a two- or three-day trip by car… and if something horrible should happen (such as getting a full-time job) that prevents me from doing it by scooter, I’ll fall back on that. But the plan for now is to do it… my way… I mean… totally inky. Or something.