Solar Eclipse 2017

August 21, 2017
5 min. read

I had been planning on driving down to see the eclipse for a few months. My wife’s aunt lives directly in the totality region. We were unsure until the last day if we could make the trip, but headed down on Sunday.

We were able to visit and have a nice slow Monday morning, before the big show. I didn’t bring a tripod or anything, as I wasn’t planning on shooting the eclipse at all. However, I decided to make a poor man’s camera filter for my Fuji 55-200mm lens, out of a spare pair of $1 eclipse glasses. My sun visible photographs were not great, because I had a slight light leak. They might be decent enough for a time lapse, but I’m not sure it is worth the work.

As we started the eclipse around 11:50 AM, the sun had finally heated the ground enough to cause thermals and make cumulus clouds. These occasionally drifted by, obscuring the sun. As the sun reached about 50% obscured by area, the cloud formation completely ceased. A few more minutes and the clouds were almost all dissipated.

I had hoped to feel a more dramatic temperature swing, but the humidity in the air held the previously supplied heat tightly. The light started to turn towards a pre-sunset coloring, with midday shadows. Our eyes continued to adjust to the fading light and the light drop wasn’t really noticeable until 98-99% coverage.

As totality started, the character of the light and the brightness dropped to a 15 minutes after sunset level. All around us, there was a post sunset looking orange and pink glow. The totality width was around 70 miles, so at the center of the totality, the earth was lit only 35 miles away from us. Watching the corona and then noticing stars right next to the sun was incredible.

I have not yet seen a photo or video that captures the look with the naked eye of the corona during totality. I hope someone captured one this time, with the video capability available now. It is really something to behold.

We did not head for home immediately after the eclipse. Both of us assumed that if we waited a few hours, it wouldn’t be too bad. Initially, Google Maps told us that we would be almost 3 hours, about 20 minutes longer than it should. However, as we progressed, we would drive a few minutes and our ETA would be a few minutes later. We started to wonder if everyone had the same idea as we did, to let the traffic die down.

I joked with Amy that every fast food place is going to run out of food. When we pulled off to get a bite at Cave City, this turned out to be more true than I would have thought.

We used all the capabilities of our smart phones. I was running Waze and Google Maps and surprised by Waze’s better predictions, thanks to real time feedback from people, instead of algorithms on car movement. At first, our route was mostly US-31, when it wasn’t I-65. Each time we can into view of I-65, we were at least doubling their speed. It was like solving a puzzle with a partner and quickly gathering as much data as possible before we had to make the next routing decision.

We seemed to keep ahead of the majority of the crowd, by choosing stranger and stranger paths. We passed the most tightly packed truck stop I have ever seen at SR-222 and I-65. This was just before we turned around and made a weird detour through a warehouse area and business park. This took us away from the I-65 and US-31, which became parking lots just south of Elizabethtown.

It was easy to see those using cell based data to make navigation choices and those just bumper to bumpering it on I-65 or US-31. I’ll take the same time driving further, if I can keep moving at 30 mph or better. It is less annoying than stop and go. We made it all the way over through Fort Know area and West Point. I-65 was a mess almost to the river, so we skipped jumping over to it on Gene Snyder and just took a drive through Iroquios area and across the 2nd St. Bridge.

We had just over 4 hours of moving travel time. Normally this would have been around 2.5 hours. If we had stayed on I-65, I guess it would have been closer to 6 hours. Getting to bed just before 1 AM, instead of 3 AM was nice, as I needed to be up at 5:30 AM for work.

I wonder if there was any captured traffic number stats. I am curious how many people packed into the totality region. The eclipse was cool enough to make the effort driving down and back up worth it.

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