August 21, 2017
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Thank goodness, at the time that my husband Fred and I decided to travel to Kansas City to see the total eclipse, it was many months before the prices of airfare eclipsed the normal costs, and hotel and car reservations became scarce as millions of other people also decided to travel to see it!
Fred and I flew from Maryland, my cousin Paula and uncle Dick flew from California, and my cousin Eilene and her friend Mindy drove from Illinois to the home of my brother David and his wife Pam in Kansas City, Missouri.
David (aka "Skyboy") has a 3-story "thunder tower" built into their home where he can go and open up a skylight and stick his head out to take pictures of the sky (he's got unbelievably beautiful greeting cards at SKYBOY PHOTOS).
In the nearest picture on the right (l-r), Fred, Uncle Dick and David are standing on the glass platform under the open skylight, and in the second picture David and Fred peer down at us with the blue skies overhead.
David and Pam's home is not quite in the area where the eclipse would be total, so David found the perfect place - a campground with a large tree at the top of a grassy hill overlooking a lake.
One of the features of a total eclipse is a 360-degree sunset, caused by the light from the surrounding area where the eclipse is not total, so this site would be great for that view!
Meanwhile, Fred got a list of companies that sell eclipse eye shields that the Academy of Ophthalmology approves but by the time we were ready to order them, OOPS!
All but one of the companies was sold out, and the one that was left had to send them from Germany!
Thankfully they arrived just in time.
We wanted to make sure they were approved because there were lots of rip-off sun shields being sold -- Eilene told us about an unsuspecting ophthalmologist in Illinois who had distributed some to his patients, he was horrified to discover that they were knock-offs and had to recall them all.
We all went to the campsite the evening before the eclipse, and strolled along the lake or went swimming.
Half the group stayed there overnight, and Pam, Uncle Dick, Fred and I went back to our warm, comfortable beds.
To the left you can see us the next morning, on our way and looking forward to an exciting day!
We left at 7:00 to be sure to beat the horrific traffic that was expected.
Millions of people were traveling to where the total eclipse would take place - the city talked about restaurants running out of food and had large signs warning about the traffic that was expected.
Once we got into the area of total eclipse, we passed some homes with as many as a dozen cars in the driveway.
Thankfully, traffic was light and we got to the campground by 8:00.
By this time, there were hundreds of people around the camp, and Stephanie (daughter of another cousin) and her husband Eric had arrived after driving for more than an hour from their home in Kansas.
They are in the picture at the near right, at the picnic bench in the shade of a large tree, sitting across from Uncle Dick and Fred.
In the background our chairs are set up in the open, and we can see David's telescope and part of his tent, and a little further are other campers.
In the picture at the far right, David drapes a blanket over his arm to shield the campstove fire from the wind so it can heat the coffee pot.
Missouri can be unbearably hot, but there was a delightful, cool breeze the whole time we were there, and cloud cover to shield us from the sun.
Uh-oh, what's that you say? CLOUDS that shielded us from the sun!? The unsuspecting sun which had such a thrilling rendezvous planned for the afternoon?! Oh, NO!!!
During the hours before the eclipse, patches of blue sky like the one in the picture to the right gave us hope, but I'll save you the suspense and jump ahead to tell you that the clouds completely covered the sun during the critical moments of total eclipse.
And we felt very fortunate!
I can hear you asking, "Why the heck would you feel fortunate, if the clouds obscured the total eclipse?"
Well first of all, there was a lot that I wanted to experience besides seeing the corona around the moon and the totally dark sky with stars that we normally see only in the winter
(it was hard to wrap our heads around the fact that we'd be looking at the stars that are on the other side of the sun, where we can't see them at night until we move around to that side of our orbit).
I already mentioned one of those things that I wanted to experience, which is that during the total eclipse there would appear to be a "sunset" all around the horizon.
The other thing is that I wanted to hear the birds stop singing and the crickets starting to chirp. And fortunately, we were able to experience both of those!
We were also fortunate because, before the total eclipse, the clouds kept opening up to let us peek at its progress.
And perhaps most importantly,
the torrential rain that was predicted HELD OFF until about a half hour after the total eclipse!!!
Had it happened during the total eclipse, it would have been impossible to see OR hear much of anything, and we would have missed the experience entirely.
When the rain came (less than an hour after total eclipse!), Fred and I were on our way to the airport and could hardly see the road.
It dumped 2 inches of water and, later that night, dumped about 10 more inches with flooding.
So all in all, I'm extremely grateful and pleased with the experience we had, and thank David and Pam for making it happen.
So what kinds of adventures did we have while waiting for the big moment?
One adventure happened as Fred and I walked around to see if anyone else needed eclipse eye shields (we found one family from India that didn't have any, they were very happy to have them!).
On our stroll, we saw a man with his head in a box.
Turns out he remembered from his boy scout days about making a box with a pinhole to see the sun projected onto a white board inside the box, so he and his young sons made this one and let Fred and me look inside -- cool!
Meanwhile, Fred had a gadget of his own.
He had read about how to use aluminum foil to make a pinhole to view the stages of the eclipse -- another experiment!
He's trying it out in the picture to the left, holding the foamboard with the pinhole and looking at the white board on the ground.
Below is a close-up of the pinhole in a 2-inch-square of aluminum foil attached in an opening of the foamboard.
We took advantage of any opening in the clouds to view the stages of moon covering the sun. At one point it started to rain slightly.
The first picture below shows (l-r) me, Pam and Eric, and Stephanie looking at the sky.
The second picture shows Pam with her dog Tawny, who always keeps track of Pam and follows her everywhere!
In the video you hear David saying "POTUS is on the move," meaning that Pam is on the move and Tawny steps into action as if he was assigned to be her security.
In the third picture, Stephanie and Erick take advantage of a large opening in the clouds.
The 4th and 5th pictures show almost everyone sitting in the lawnchairs to watch (the two people on the right joined us from the next campsite), with David at his telescope behind them.
In the last two pictures, folks have umbrellas because it was starting to rain, but fortunately it ended quickly.
To the right is a video that starts 10 minutes before and ends a few minutes after the total eclipse of the sun.
While the rest of the family stayed on top of the hill, Fred and Paula came with me down to the edge of the woods to listen to the birds and crickets.
The birds started to sing in earnest just a few minutes before the total eclipse and continued singing through the first few seconds of total eclipse (the last song was heard at 10:30 on the video).
They didn't sing again even after the sun came back, although they flew out of the trees and circled around, seeming confused!
Fred and I had a plane to catch and we were worried about getting stuck in traffic, so thankfully we left about 15 minutes after the total eclipse.
I say "thankfully" because we hadn't gotten very far when suddenly, the torrential rain that I told you about descended on us.
There was indeed some traffic but we made it to the airport just an hour after the total eclipse, and had time to join other travelers who had also come for the eclipse, like the family in the picture to the far right who said they came from Baltimore to see the eclipse too.
Some of them said they had managed to see the first few seconds of the total eclipse with the corona before the clouds obscured it.