A total solar eclipse in 2017

OK, so we’re definitely behind on a few of our vacation posts. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? We’re slowly catching up though, so here goes…

In the summer of 2017, we had a very memorable mini vacation when we flew to Nebraska to view the total solar eclipse that was on Monday, August 21. This was the first total solar eclipse to span the continental United States since 1918, and so we had to see it! As you can see in the map below, Nebraska was one of the best viewing sites—and Aunt Jeanne’s house in Lincoln was right in the path and thus a perfect staging location.

The plan was to fly from DC to Omaha on Friday afternoon—and then from there, drive the hour or so to Lincoln. But when we got to the airport, we found out that our flight to Omaha was canceled and that we weren’t rescheduled to fly out until Monday (the day of the eclipse). Well, that wasn’t going to work…

We had been planning this trip for many months, and so we weren’t going to give up. We hunkered down at the airport and researched alternate flights. Thousands of other people were flying to Nebraska for the eclipse though too, and so all the other flights to Omaha were full.

After consulting Grandpa Rod and Grandma Debbie, we decided to fly to Minneapolis, Minnesota that night. Minneapolis is a long way from Lincoln (about a seven hour drive). Fortunately for us, Grandpa and Grandma are very adventurous and they saved the trip! They drove from South Dakota to Minneapolis that night and picked us up from the airport around midnight. We got a good night’s sleep at a nearby hotel, and the next day we made the trek from Minnesota through Iowa and then into Nebraska. Road trip! It was a long drive, but we had fun.

And here is a picture of Noah getting out of the car when we arrived at Aunt Jeanne’s house in Lincoln. He was ready to stretch his legs!

Aunt Jeannie prepared a feast for our arrival. We had pork loin, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and more. It was so good!

The next morning we had breakfast on the deck. Grandpa Rod made pancakes, and Aunt Jeannie had blueberries, grapes, and other breakfast goodies too.

After breakfast we ran errands to prepare for the next day’s road trip to see the eclipse. While at the grocery store, we picked up cosmic brownies for the occasion. Ha.

That afternoon we went to a nearby park to run off some energy. The boys found fun play equipment to climb on, and we kicked the soccer ball around too.

That night we went out for supper and talked through our plan for the next day. We had been checking the weather forecast throughout the day. We knew that rain was expected in some areas of Nebraska, and we wanted to plan our viewing location accordingly. We were debating three locations: Aunt Jeanne’s house in Lincoln, the Homestead National Monument near Beatrice (an hour south of Lincoln), and Grand Island (an hour and a half west of Lincoln).

After a final weather check Monday morning, we decided to head west to Grand Island. We left before 8 a.m. to avoid getting stuck in traffic on the interstate. But sure enough, there was a high volume of traffic traveling west with us. Yes, everyone else was looking for the perfect viewing location too!

After an hour or so of driving, we noticed that a lot of people had stopped at a rest area along the interstate. A state trooper was stationed there, and he mentioned that Grand Island was already packed with people. He said that we’d likely have better luck with parking and avoiding crowds if we stayed right there—and so that’s what we did.

We unloaded the van and found one of the few remaining empty picnic shelters. It was the perfect location for hanging out and waiting for the eclipse; we had restrooms nearby and shade.

The eclipse began at 11:34 a.m. where we were near Grand Island. We all had appropriate eye protection for viewing. Noah used goggles with shade 14 welder’s glass, and the rest of us used cardboard eclipse shades, including some that the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in DC provided to the public for free—very cool. Noah saw the eclipse in a green color through his goggles, and the rest of us saw it in an orange color through our solar eclipse shades.

The moon obscured the sun more and more for the next hour and a half, and it completely blocked the sun (totality) around 1 p.m. During totality, the sky directly overhead was almost as dark as a night lit by a full moon, and there was a dusk-like horizon in all directions. Totality lasted two minutes and 37 seconds where we were, and the entire eclipse lasted until 2:26 p.m. It was awesome!

And here’s a short video of us looking upward as the eclipse reached totality. Yes, it got dark fast! As a quick reminder: If you’re reading this post in an email, you may need to open the blog webpage in order to view the video. To do so, just click on the title of the post (the link in blue) at the top of the email to open the blog in your web browser.

One of our fellow eclipse watchers shared these great photos with us. She had special camera equipment that allowed her to capture the eclipse so well. Thank you, Lynn, for sharing your awesome photos!

As we were packing up the van, we noticed crescent shadows on the pavement. What causes this? The small gaps between tree leaves act like pinhole cameras, and the light that passes through shows the shape of the sun that is not covered by the moon—very cool.

On our way back to Lincoln, we experienced traffic more typical of DC. While it took us about an hour and a half to get to our viewing location, it took well over two hours to get back due to all of our fellow eclipse watchers. Yes, the Grand Island area was the place to be!

We had a busy day, so we just relaxed at Aunt Jeanne’s house that night. We ordered pizza for supper and played Legos.

We also watched the news coverage of the various eclipse events around Nebraska. We chose our location well. Beatrice had rainy and cloudy conditions until the moment of totality, and Lincoln had nice weather but experienced only about one minute of totality. The road trip toward Grand Island was well worth it!

The next morning we packed up our suitcases and had a quick breakfast with Aunt Jeanne. Thanks so much for your hospitality and letting us use your house as our base camp for the eclipse. We had a great time!

Then we loaded back into Grandma and Grandpa’s car for the trip home. They drove us to the airport in Omaha (for our original return flight) and then headed home to South Dakota. Thanks for saving our trip by taking the scenic route to Nebraska and picking us up in Minnesota! Ha.

Seeing a partial eclipse is rare, so seeing a total eclipse was especially awesome. We really lucked out and had a very cool experience.

If you missed the total solar eclipse in 2017, you’ll have another opportunity in April of 2024. The path for the 2024 eclipse is below. Grandma Cindy and Grandpa Don’s house in Ohio will have more totality time than almost any other location. We are hoping for warm weather and clear skies. Mark your calendars now!

Categories: Grandparents, Nebraska, Space, Summer, Vacations | Leave a comment

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