Monday, August 21, 2017

Springy G's Great Eclipse Trip (Part the Third)

The total solar eclipse of 2017 has come and gone, and I’m still processing the experience on many levels.

First:  I’m glad I went.  It was an extraordinary roller-coaster, wild swings of emotion to both ends of the visible spectrum -- and perhaps a bit of infrared and ultraviolet moods as well.

Second:  What I saw and what I didn’t see are a bit muddled up in my head right now.  Carbondale was beset by a flashmob of rogue clouds at possibly the worst possible moment, but that made me pay attention to other things:  The glow on the horizon and the rapidly coming and going of midday twilight.  The shadow of the umbra sweeping eastward across the glowing clouds.  The crackle of fireworks to the southeast.  The roar of pure delight coming from the Southern Illinois University stadium about a mile south of my observation post.  The rather puzzled pair of crows testing out the steps of their traditional evening dance, seven hours too early.

The corona did break through for a few precious and eerie seconds.  I think that’s when I started jumping up and down maniacally in a parking lot just south of the Amtrak station, cheering at the top of my lungs.

I wish I could have seen more -- but I always want to see more.  It was more important to just be there, and I was.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Springy G's Great Eclipse Trip (Part the Second)

I’m feeling somewhat grateful that last winter I began to build up some aerobic capacity by skiing and snowshoeing, and continued with short hikes during the warm months.  It came in handy on Saturday afternoon when I walked from the Chicago hostel to the docks where the river cruise boats dock.  I got temporarily lost by taking the wrong staircase to get down to the boats and had to double back, climbing a whole bunch of razzafracking stairs up and down and up and down again.  It’s much warmer here than in Winnipeg, and there’s a distinct old-city smell of oil and creosote.

Did successfully make it onto the boat.  Seated on the lower level, where it was shady and considerably cooler, I took pictures of a lot of the buildings and enjoyed the wind blowing off the water.  My visit coincided with the Chicago Air and Water Show, and we saw a few synchronized jet fly-bys.

After the boat ride I wended my way back to the hostel, pausing to pick up an embroidered Chicago flag patch to add to my knapsack.  Had a light supper, charged up my electronics, and called it a night.

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And now it’s 8:05 a.m. on a Sunday morning in Chicago.  I am now one step closer to my objective:  I’m on board the Amtrak #391 “Saluki” train, destination Carbondale, Illinois.

One of my great worries over the past few weeks was that I would oversleep and miss this train.  I had armed myself with an insanely loud digital alarm clock, and checked it twice last night to make sure the alarm was indeed in the “on” position.  As it happened, I had little to worry about:  Two of the women in my dorm were up before me, 15 minutes before the alarm was scheduled to go off, and I crawled out of bed a few minutes later to get in gear and get over to Union Station.

It just turned 8:15.  With a soft bump, train #391 is on its way.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Springy G's Great Eclipse Trip (Part the First)

It’s a mere two hours since my clock radio cajoled me into consciousness at arse o’clock on a Saturday morning.  I’m now sitting at Gate 3 in the U.S. departures lounge at Richardson International, waiting for a boarding call for a flight to Minneapolis.  I’ve made the traditional stop-off at the Tim Hortons kiosk on the U.S. side of security and scarfed down a coffee and muffin, to supplement the half-glass of milk I guzzled while phoning for a cab.


Once I land at Minneapolis, the plan is to have a leisurely second breakfast -- yes, I do have some hobbit genes -- and then fly on to Chicago.  I could have taken a direct flight, but my check-in time at the HI hostel is 3:00 p.m.  Barring a Random Equipment Malfunction, a completely different alarm clock should rouse me at 6 a.m. Sunday morning, allowing me sufficient time to slouch towards Union Station to board a southbound train.


I am going to Carbondale, Illinois for a glorious 2½ minutes on Monday afternoon at about 1:20 p.m.   I. Am. On. My. Way. To. The. Eclipse.


This has been in planning for about 2 years, and seriously underway since this past April, when I made all the necessary reservations:  Plane, train, and a place to crash the night before the eclipse.  I was fortunate enough to snag a piece of floor space at Southern Illinois University, as upwards of 50,000 people are expected in Carbondale on Monday.  (Personally, I think they’ll be getting off light if less than 100,000 show up.)


Hands are shaking a bit due to excitement (and possibly the coffee kicking in).  Boarding call is imminent (5:38 a.m. now).  To be continued…


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Now I’m in Minneapolis and it’s 8:30 a.m.  I’m not regretting the decision to bring along a fleece jacket, because as I sit here at the departure gate for the hop to Chicago I can feel the air conditioning.


One thing about travelling is that the smells and tastes are ever so slightly different from home.  Although humans tend to be visual, some of us get more impact from the other senses.  As a gardener and cook I’m almost as sensitive to smell as I am to 3D space.  MSP has a scent to it that is very unlike YWG, and when I get to O’Hare I’m sure it will likewise have its own smell.


I’m definitely not alone in making an eclipse trip.  The young man sitting next to me at the Winnipeg departure lounge was also going to Carbondale, and as I was hobbiting on a sausage-and-egg biscuit here in Minneapolis I saw someone walk by with a shirt that said “Come to the Dark Side,” in the Star Wars main title font.  I had already mentally added the traditional response, “We have cookies,” but then I saw the date.


August 21, 2017.


I have a shirt of my own in the knapsack, a homemade design with the same date and an abstract fabric-paint interpretation of what I saw at the total solar eclipse of February 26, 1979.

It says a lot about me and my lifelong love of astronomy that I still have the same piece of #14 welder’s glass that I used to view the partial phases of the 1979 eclipse.

Monday, August 7, 2017