Archive for August, 2017

Father of a Country

Monday, 21st August 2017; 1:10 pm

No, I didn’t take a wrong turn at the Ohio River and end up in Washington. This obelisk standing as a monument to the first president, is for Jefferson Davis.

Fairview, Kentucky is the birthplace of the Confederacy’s only president, and about a century ago, a bunch of unreconstructed traitors to the U.S.A. erected a monument to him, one of the tallest in North America.

There’s a little festival on the grounds today, a perfect chance to celebrate both slavery and astronomy!

Site selected

Monday, 21st August 2017; 1:08 pm

I took a scenic route into Kentucky this morning, scouting for spots to view the eclipse from. It was surprisingly difficult. 

The main issue is that there aren’t a lot of places where one can pull off these roads and park. They’re narrow, with no shoulders to speak of: a few feet out of the lane and you’re in a ditch, a field of grain, or trees. Most of the places you could get out of the traffic lane are people’s driveways. 

Another priority (for me) was finding a spot where I could get photos of the scenery during the eclipse. A lot of places I could stop were surrounded by trees. I found a couple cemeteries on high ground that I considered as possibilities.

Where I ended up is a bluff just off US-68, almost on the center of the Path of Totality. It’s just east of Hopkinsville a few miles, and the spot where the eclipse will last the longest is a bit west of that. This is about as prime as you can get. 

The eclipse is due to start in a few minutes. 

Morning of the eclipse 

Monday, 21st August 2017; 8:09 am

I had a pretty good sleep. I didn’t need the sleeping bag until well into the night: very comfortable sleeping weather. I woke a few times, but that’s to be expected. 

I got up about 6am local time… just before my clock radio turned on at home. I’m not breaking camp, and I showered last night, so not much to do before leaving. I should have plenty of time to find a good spot. 

The weather looks great: just a few wispy clouds in the sky. The last forecast I saw said there’d be a few more clouds coming in this morning, but hopefully not enough to hide the show. 

Eclipse base camp

Monday, 21st August 2017; 12:05 am

I made it to Lincoln State Park in southern Indiana, and set up camp. I can barely get a signal here, so I don’t know if this will post now, or later when I get a better connection. 

I left home a little before noon, expecting an 8-hour drive. That was pretty close. The drive was mostly uneventful. A lot of farmland in northern Indiana. I stuck to the interstates and US highways most of the way, going through South Bend, Kokomo, and then around Indianapolis. My god, that Indy ring road is an automotive-era nightmare. (My scooter route would’ve avoided it.)

When I got to Bloomington I left the expressways for some state and county roads. I wasn’t expecting to pass IU as I drove through B’town, but I did. Much of my route after that went through Hoosier Nationa Forest, which is nothing like northern Indiana. I liked it.

These were the kinds of roads I would’ve taken on my scooter. Unfortunately I wasn’t on my scooter, and motorist mentality took over: even though I was taking the scenic route, I didn’t stop to smell any roses. I was traveling to reach a destination.

There was one section of backroads that would’ve been great on my scooter, but ironically I probably couldn’t have ridden it. I depended on complex turn-by-turn instructions from Google Maps, which aren’t practical on a bike. 

But lest I sound like an advert for Google, their app screwed up getting me to the state park. I asked it for directions to “Lincoln State Park” which is near Santa Claus, Indiana: it took me to a commercial campground in Santa Claus. Fortunately I had the street address… which I gave to Apple’s map app to get me there. Just to be sure.

I ran into some unexpected, unforecast rain south of Bloomington. It didn’t last long, and the forecast for tomorrow still looks pretty good, except for some partly clouds. 

The campground is not full, though the ranger said it was busier than normal due to the eclipse. Since I’d put the bicycle in the car, I used it… to ride over to the adjacent Lincoln Boyhood Home site. It’s underwhelming. Historical and educational, but not much to look at, not even an original log cabin.

Lucky bonus: no mosquitoes that I’ve noticed. Which is nice, because it’s pretty warm, and the campground showers have no temperature adjustment, so I couldn’t use them to cool off. So I’m sitting in the dark at the camp site picnic table in just my underwear.

No internet access means I can’t do any more planning for tomorrow. I have offline maps if needed. I haven’t encountered any eclipsaggeddon traffic yet, but you never know.

It’s only 9pm Central Time, but I’ve had a full day. And hopefully a big day tomorrow. Time for bed. 

Eclipse photography

Saturday, 19th August 2017; 10:00 pm

I’ve read several articles that advise people not to try to photograph their first total eclipse. I’m ignoring them. 

First, that’s asking me to go against my nature. I’ve owned a camera since I was in elementary school. I was photo editor of the yearbook in high school, and the school newspaper in college. My scooter rides are as much photo expeditions as road trips. 

Second, this isn’t my first rodeo. I photographed the partial eclipse visible from Michigan in 1979, and doing that is one of my clearest memories of middle school. Getting to leave the class and take pictures was a special achievement. A total eclipse is a different experience, but the point is that losing my eclipse virginity with a camera was a good experience for me. 

Third, I’m taking this trip solo. Sharing photos of it will be my best way to share the experience with others. Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t self-pity. I’m happy as a singleton, and I like traveling alone. But I still like to share, and this is how I do it. 

Fourth, I think I know how to get pictures that are worth it. Like in ’79, I’m pretty well prepared. I have my gear and I know how to use it. I’ve practiced with it. 

And I’m also prepared to put it down. Totality will last two and a half minutes, and that leaves plenty of time to just be there and see it. 

Plan B-2

Saturday, 19th August 2017; 1:03 pm

I’m a genius.

Which most of us already knew, so I’ll get to the point.

One of my concerns about taking the car to the eclipse instead of the scooter is the potential for traffic jams, as a hundred thousand Indianapolitans try to get into Kentucky to see the show. If my scooter and I got caught in a stand-still or were just creeping along, I could probably pull onto the shoulder and ride past the obstructing cars; in a car of my own, I’d be stuck.

But with a car, I can also bring my bicycle.

Granted, on a bike I have a top sustainable speed of around 15mph, but worst-case scenario – the car gets stuck just after leaving the campground that morning – doing that for a few hours would at least get me far enough into the Zone of Totality to see the show for a minute or so. Not as good as the 2.5 minutes I’d see at the center of the zone, but better than driving all the way for nothing.

So I’m going to throw my bicycle in the back of the car before I leave.