August 21, 2017: Solar Eclipse Day, North America
Social media reaction to the impending solar eclipse turned many people sour to the event before it got started. Not my husband. He was dead set on an eye witness account of totality, which required traveling to South Carolina.
Hubs insisted the 95.5% solar coverage in our town would be a vastly inferior experience. He was right, but you didn't hear it from me.
I didn't really believe him.
We set off for Greenville, SC, a 2.5 hour drive, at 7 am along with our friends and fellow homeschoolers, the Petty family. At least, I reasoned, the insanity would be educational.
Our 2.5 hour drive evolved into 4.5 hours.
We felt pretty lucky. We'd given ourselves a six hour cushion.
Perhaps the world wasn't converging on South Carolina after all. Besides, we got to see the infamous Gaffney peach.
My retinas were already burning from the unprotected view of the full peach. A clear reminder of the importance of proper viewing glasses before the moon made its blinding trek in front of the sun.
Yes, we were prepared. All safety check performed. Who knew I'd be blinded in Gaffney instead?
We pulled into the A.J. Whittenburg Elementary School, a NASA approved viewing site. This is much more impressive in print than in reality.
I had begun to believe no one else was interested. I mean, we even got a spot in the shade.
The media had fooled us all. Massive traffic delays, no parking, no gas... it was a hoax. Right down to the man in the school parking lot who told us, "You can drive down to the soccer field, but the lot is probably full already."
I wish I'd photographed the five cars in the lot.
What is the world coming to when a solar eclipse falls prey to fake news?
The area slowly filled with families like ourselves, picnicking and looking up at the sun bedecked in glamorous eye wear.
I secretly began to enjoy the growing thrill as the exuberance of the boys, husband included, was contagious. Okay, there was no secret. We were having a blast.
We were hot. Stinking, South Carolina hot. Even in the shade, we were sweltering. Then the temperatures began to drop. We were entering the twilight zone. Quite literally. The entire atmosphere around us changed. Everything looked different. Everything felt different.
I don't have good pictures of those surreal moments. There was too much happening. Even if it were possible to photograph an experience. I'm not that gifted. You have to take my word for it, I suppose. I have one very poor video and not nearly enough vocabulary.
Hubs was right! A partial eclipse does not contain the magic of a full eclipse.
Now, I know.
(Emphasis in bold indicates a revelation made against my better judgement.)
The full twilight zone effect became more apparent on the drive home.
Google stated the drive would be 2 hours 56 minutes. We left at 3 pm.
Again, I wondered where all the predicted masses had gone.
Two hours and fifty-six minutes later Google declared home was 2 hours 54 minutes ahead of us. I'm no mathematician. Neither is Google apparently.
At that rate, we should have arrived home in time for the 2024 eclipse. Again, I'm no math-mind. That's just an approximation.
When the Gaffney peach came into view, we decided to stop at Cracker Barrel to let the traffic thin out.
After eating, Google re-routed us around the I-85 back-up. We would arrive home 20 minutes sooner, 2 hours 42 minutes. I no longer questioned the existence of hundreds of thousands of travelers. Every north bound highway, minor and major, was lined with vehicles. With Google as our puppeteer, turn signals lit up with synchronized predictibility as the endless line snaked through Carolina back-country. Quite honestly, it was a modern, GPS navigation, marvel to behold.
We finally reached Charlotte about 2.5 hours later and cheered excitedly when our estimated arrival time dropped to 1 hour 59 minutes.
We'd left the madness behind as we crossed the state border. Time began to tick according to the natural order of the world.
The driving skill with which Kim Petty navigated through this mess cannot be over-stated. We owe her fortitude and patience many thanks.
One need not be a parent to understand the unnatural phenomenon of no whining from the back of a van on such a journey. While we laughed a lot at Google's expense, we'd do it all over again.
At 11:17 pm we arrived safely home.
Yes, Hubs was still right.
How rare to receive such a magical glimpse into the supernatural majesty of God's creation.
Amy spent her childhood in Melbourne, Australia, where her parents were church planters. After returning to the States, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia became home.