The Eclipse

(Mr. Insouciance himself, Andy on the table.)

The total eclipse was exciting! A couple on Lane 3 watched from their back yard, which is the vacant lot, a grassy expanse; Craig and I (not a couple! Ha! Ha!) looked from my yard and the parking lot in front of me on Lane 2; and another couple Craig and I introduced ourselves to joined us as well.

The young couple, Andy and Laura, were from Denver. They had no friends or family here, no arrangements for a room or plans other than to enjoy the eclipse.

They just decided to come yesterday (day before the eclipse on 21 August), slept in their car behind the Dairy Queen (and expected to have a police knock on their window with a night stick, though it didn’t happen), and discovered the grassy ground by taking a walk.

As viewed in Alliance’s sister city, Beatrice (bee-AT-ris)…

I invited them to help us with all the food I prepared, but they had edibles (and beer!) with them. Craig and I had a nice conversation with them before the event anyway.

It was worth the wait! IT WAS INCREDIBLE! At the moment of the totality, you could hear a cheer rise from town! Rather than cower in the darkness, Modern Nebraskans and their guests from all over the world cheered the sun and moon in their celestial dance!

Then we took a little drive to the airport to see how many planes were there, but the police stopped us about a mile from the turn to the golf course. Later, it was reported in the news that 280 airplanes were on the ground there, and many people who flew in camped on the airport ground. Other reports gave lower numbers.

The police blocking the road to the airport gave us the opportunity to turn around or go to the rodeo grounds road to turn around.

We could see several airplanes on the ground and some that were beginning to take off, in rapid succession, in imitation of the traffic on the ground.

After the trip to the airport, Craig suggested we take a gander at the crowd at Carhenge.  I was concerned it would be nearly impossible to return on the south lane, given there was a steady line of cars leaving Carhenge heading toward Colorado and places south, but Craig was driving and he won the discussion!

Based on the license plates on cars passing us from town’s edge all the way to Carhenge (three or so miles or 4,8 kilometers or so), I think Colorado had the biggest contingent of travellers (like Andy and Laura), even though I saw a plates on cars from many places, including New York, Oregon, Manitoba and many closer places as we progressed along the road. Other guests came to Alliance from all over the world, based on the expectation that Western Nebraska and the Sandhills would be among the best places to view the event for lack of cloud cover.

Farmers close to Carhenge had signs saying there was parking for $50, $30, and $20, depending on how close they were to Carhenge – so much for the City of Alliance’s plea not to screw our visitors! – but many people hiked from town, about two miles or so or parked along the side roads for free. Good for them! There were electronic signs warning of turning cars and of the need to watch for pedestrians on the side of the road, warnings well heeded and, perhaps, not necessary given the slow pace of the endless traffic

An ambulance passed us with flashing lights and sirens blaring in response to an emergency of some sort at the entrance to Carhenge while we queued with a seemingly endless line of vehicles headed toward Carhenge.

The local newspaper later reported that a man was found in his car in the Carhenge parking lot in a “no parking” spot. He was unresponsive. The rescue unit took him to the hospital.

Later, the police returned to the car to try to find some identification for the man, but instead found an item they suspected was a bomb. They called the bomb disposal unit from Scottsbluff (a bit less than an hour’s drive away) to deal with the “bomb”, which they determined was “bomblike” but not a bomb.

(They disposed of the “bomblike” item as if it were a bomb…just in case!)

Here’s a time lapse video of the trip to Alliance from Sterling, Colorado and back. It shows how the traffic gradually increases, then overwhelms the road. It has copyrighted music on it, so it may be pulled by YouTube at some point. At 15:20 long, I note that Andy thought it was wonderful, though he took a nap toward the end. Of course, he’s a cat!

That congestion prompted me to suggest to Craig , who was driving, that we take a right turn at the first country road south of Carhenge and drive back roads back to Alliance.

We could see the huge crowd still at Carhenge from the country road, then Craig decided he wanted to take the highway back to Alliance instead of the country roads, the faster, safer route (He must have a cat gene or two. LOL!)

We got to the highway, and after a long, long wait finally had a gap in both lanes of traffic. Craig expertly slipped into the south-going lane, and be returned, slowly, to Alliance. 

We waved at some South Dakotans  who stopped along the country road south of Carhenge enjoy a picnic in a grassy spot there. They were the smart ones! Have a pleasant picnic lunch, then the traffic probably was a lot less so they could return home in relative safety and, maybe, with fewer cars congesting the road. Of course, being from the Black Hills of South Dakota, these visitors know what it’s like to deal with roads congested with tourists! 

The pre-eclipse sky was lightly clouded, but there was a brisk wind carrying the clouds from east to west. When the event began, the sun and the moon managed to do their thing in between them. Whew!

After the event, Craig and I had a lunch of all the salads I prepared for the larger number of people I expected to help eat them. I learned later, Donna and her friends from Denver would have come over but she didn’t remember my address (she just recently returned to Alliance after living in Denver) or have my phone number. I’m still eating my way through the macaroni, potato, and egg salad. I hope I can eat the tomatoes, celery, and peppers before they become compost, too! 

(Andy on the table, and Dougy watching on the cat tree.)

Andy was a bad boy while we ate. Once he hopped up on the table, startling Craig, who doesn’t have pets, but not me. I deflected him off the table while Craig put his hand up to keep Andy’s tail from touching his food. (I’ve eaten so much cat hair, I’m sure, it was just another cat attempt to get to eat human food – or spoil it with hair – on Andy’s part. Ha!)

In other “bad kitty” news, Craig was dressed from head to toe in black, so, of course, Dougy and Andy brushed up against Craig, the only unclaimed territory in the house! I did try to warn him when I saw the kitty boys start to be themselves. 

I try to remember what Jackson Galaxie says about bad cats on the television program “My Cat from Hell”: it isn’t the cats that are bad, it’s their people enablers! Yep, I’m to blame! 

All in all, though, Total Eclipse Day was great fun, both for the sun and moon as for having my long-time friend down from Rapid City, South Dakota to enjoy it with me. Other than dealing with naughty kitties, I think Craig had a great time, too.

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All Craig asked of me was to have a good cup of strong black coffee waiting when he arrived for the eclipse!

Talking with Craig today (the day after, 22 August), he reported it took him five hours and fifteen minutes to drive a trip that takes 2:30 on an average day.

The longest part of the trip with the shortest distance travelled was from Box Butte Avenue to US 385, a mile or so, that took 1:20.

The next part, from Alliance to the Nebraska state line is two-way traffic, 65 mph speed limit, but he had to drive between 35-40 mph the whole time.

The road becomes a divided highway at the South Dakota state line, with two lanes on both sides. He reports he was able to go 55-70 mph the farther north he got, but there was heavy traffic that was complicated further with RVs (tourist traffic in South Dakota in the Black Hills…) that either were trying to match the speed limit of or only 45-50 mph.

He noted there lots of “friendly” hand signals being traded among the drivers, you know, middle finger waves…!

Up by the Hot Springs turnoff, where there is a truck stop and reduced speed (55 mph), there was an accident involving three vehicles. Craig spent 45 minutes there.

I’m glad the total eclipse came to me, rather than the other way around!

Cellphone traffic was heavy, too, and he couldn’t get a signal till he got back to Rapid City and tried again around 7 PM.

As noted, every one of those people in all those cars have a story to tell about their trip to Nebraska to watch the total eclipse, and the same goes for millions of others along the path of totality. It staggers the mind!

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