On the Road: Total solar eclipse and advanced umbraphilia

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Click on the image and watch the total eclipse movie. Thanks to Jeff Geyer rigged a filter and recorded totality.

The total solar Eclipse-a-palooza happened on August 21st and stretched coast to coast from South Carolina to Oregon.

Not knowing what to expect, I became a born again umbraphile.”

One who loves eclipses, often traveling to see them.

I’ve had a mild case of umbraphilia. Over the years, I’ve seen several partial eclipses through the pinhole cameras we fashioned out of grocery store boxes in grade school.

Looking at a picture of the eclipse was better for my eyes, but the experience didn’t cut it for me.

In 1979 there was a total eclipse when I was in Lander and the paper-frame eclipse glasses were first commercially available. In fact, I still had them in a box and took them with me.

After August 21st, my umbraphilia has become aggressive.

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Looking at a picture of the eclipse just wasn’t cutting it for me.

For background purposes, eclipses happen when the moon orbits between the earth and sun which casts its umbra – shadow – on the earth.

The fact that the moon orbit around and the earth and the earth / moon orbit around the sun have to perfectly line up is very amazing to me. Total solar eclipses are evidence to me that the universe isn’t random.

The eclipse totality cover image was shot by my neighbor, Henry Kroll, in Arthur, Nebraska. He shot in available light with a stopped down lens through a slight haze.

I made plans with a group of friends to head to Glendo, Wyoming, but the enthusiasm among my crowd waned and it ended up being just me on another solo adventure.

Since I could only be in one location for the eclipse, I wanted to make a home movie based on video and photos taken by my friends and neighbors from across the country.

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Columbus was revered in what is now Jamaica because he “predicted” a total eclipse in 1504.

It was a strange experience.

I can see how 14th and 15th century people would have been freaked out during a total eclipse. There was a war between the Medes and the Lydians in 585 BC that supposedly was stopped because of a total solar eclipse.

Columbus dazzled the people in what is now Jamaica with his eclipse “prediction” in 1504.

These days, big-time celestial events bring people together – family reunions, informal gatherings, and community festivals. Everyone I know who saw the eclipse became an umbraphile.

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McGuckin Hardware in Boulder recalled Y2K.

There was quite a bit of sensational hype about getting ready for the eclipse akin to nuclear war preparations or the Y2K scare. I bought into it. Not knowing what to expect, I brought along:

  • 10 gallons of water – there was water all over the place
  • camping toilet – there were port-potties all over the place
  • gas stove and cooking equipment – there was food for sale all over the place
  • fueled up the car three times – there were gas stations open all over the place

Nonetheless, I headed out on Saturday morning. The roads were clear and a straight shot to Cheyenne. My rounds include a stop at the Paramount Coffee Shop for a boba tea. I wandered across the street to Phoenix Books and Music to visit Don McKee.

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The 2nd state Beatles “butcher” album

He had a 2nd state “Yesterday and Today” record album that I bought on an impulse. I intended on returning to pick it up on Monday after the eclipse, but didn’t make it until much later.

My friends, the Keenans, are breaking in a new service dog named Moose.

They live in north Cheyenne. They weren’t home, but through the miracles of technology, they took a movie of me on their porch and texted me about stopping in to visit them at Culver’s. Bill headed to Wheatland on eclipse day.

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Bill, Susan, Alek and Moose

On my way out of town on the Eclipse Trail, there were bootleggers selling T-shirts and eclipse glasses for inflated prices, thinking there would be no more. The Cheyenne facebook garage sale page had eclipse glasses listed for $20 to $40 a pair.

I got back on I-25 and uneventfully pulled into Glendo. My first stop was Howard’s truck stop. I go there whenever I drive by for my favorite road meal.

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I came here with Matt Mead and his son, Pete, who recommended the fried taco.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend was when I learned that the deep fried tacos are no longer on the menu. “Amy doesn’t work here anymore, ” the lunch counter matron said.

I’ll have to settle on a new “go-to” food item.

My friends Doug and Carrie Quinn have 60 acres in the Glendo city limits and staying there was my destination. Carrie is originally from Glendo. They were renting out spots for RVs, tents and cars.

Doug, Carrie and couple of their friends were busy greeting visitors.

It soon became so busy, that a bunch of others including myself were drafted into being parking lot attendants.

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I worked at the Cheyenne Frontier Days carnival for a newspaper column.

This gig was a throwback to my carnival days when I learned that I was pretty good at getting people to give me money for nothing. I worked in the pop-the-balloon game during Cheyenne Frontier Days many years ago.

There was an umbraphile next to me from Germany who traveled to Glendo. He travels all over the place to watch total solar eclipses. He said, “You get hooked.”

I wanted to get there early to take in the festivities. Saturday night was hoppin’ in Glendo. There was a street show with the Jalan Crossland Band.

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Del trips the light fantastic with Cooper, Sally and Katy.

I whooped it up with Del and Sally Lummis. They were part of my original party and weren’t going to come, but decided otherwise at the last minute.

There were a lot of people like that who jumped in the car and made a quick road trip.

I didn’t get a chance to look around much because parking cars was so much fun shooting the breeze with eclipse goers. Besides, I’d been to Glendo many times before and being mostly a land-lubber, checking out the water wasn’t appealing to me.

On Sunday morning a steady flow of vehicles from all over the place stopped for information. There was quick-get-away parking that cost $20 and free parking in Glendo State Park and the Glendo Airport. The free parking spot exit was bottle-necked.

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In Glendo with 50,000 of my closest friends.

Traffic was heavy on eclipse day. Glendo did a great job organizing the crowds. The population swelled from 225 to 50,000. At least that’s what one t-shirt said. I walked into town early in the morning looking for something to eat.

Downtown Glendo isn’t very accessible, which is a good thing because foot traffic is encouraged. I walked over to check out the morning action.

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Angler’s and $5 coffee

The few food places had lines around the corner and rather than join the crowd, I went into Angler’s Rest thinking there may be some bar food.

No food, but asked to refill my coffee. The bar keep said it was $5, which I thought was pricey even for eclipse prices. He said everything was $5 and I might as well get it with a shot of whiskey. I haven’t had Irish coffee for a while.

I made my way back after cruising by the souvenir stand, which was nearly sold out. I’m a skinny guy and don’t wear the large sizes.

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Part of my parking lot attendant group.

I wasn’t in the mood for a T-shirt. They were the iron-on designs as opposed to silk screened and settled on an under stated Glendo cap. Some of the others had slogans like, “I blacked out in Glendo.”

After parking a few stragglers, I set up a 360 virtual reality camera and turned it on about 15minutes before totality and made a VR movie which can be viewed online and in goggles through a smartphone.

One of the guys in my group, Jeff Geyer, rigged up his camera with a filter and captured the totality.

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Slow moving traffic

As advertised, after 2nd contact, cars streamed out making for traffic jams throughout the night.

I lingered with my crowd and decided to venture out around 3pm, thinking traffic may be less.

My play all along was to return on the back roads. Everyone else had that idea, too. My first mistake was heading north to Orrin Junction and go through Lusk. Once I got to the exit the traffic loosened up until just south of Torrington.

I ran into bumper-to-bumper slow moving traffic on Highway 30 and cut over to Chugwater on Wyoming 312. Then I saw all the taillights on I-25.

Traffic moved along, but I didn’t get back to Boulder until midnight. All things considered, the trip was a good one. It was fun parking cars and meeting some new people.

The next total eclipse is 2019 in South America. After that, there’s one in North America in 2014. Those two events are incentive enough to keep taking my medicine. Umbraphilia will keep me young.

No matter what your memories are about the eclipse, I hope they are fond ones.

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