“Ahhhhhhhh!!” Ashley laid down on the horn as she swerved as far to the right as she possibly could, narrowly avoiding the potato field. Playing ‘chicken’ with an old Ford dually truck down a dirt road in rural Idaho was not something we were counting on. At the last minute, the truck driver finally noticed he was cruising down the middle of a narrow access road and decided that it was okay to share. He lazily meandered away from us, blowing dirt, rocks, and probably cow poop at our Subaru. Blood rushing, hearts pounding, ears ringing, we pulled onto the nearest paved road and breathed a sigh of relief and looked for clean shorts to put on. This total solar eclipse almost became a total disaster!
Full disclosure: I wasn’t too hyped up about the latest solar eclipse we just had; I figured I would be able to look at cool pictures after the fact and get the same effect. Boy, was I wrong! It’s times like this where I am super grateful for adventurous friends who have different interests that I do, invite me to get out of my norm, and chase exciting moments.
Apparently the moon planned on getting between us and the sun, which is how I found myself on the road again to Idaho with Ashley in tow…and there’s never a dull moment. During our last few road trips together, we’ve managed to run over a jackrabbit while driving the Extraterrestrial Highway in Central Nevada and a bird while heading to Yellowstone.
Since I was going to be doing the drive between Salt Lake City and Idaho Falls at night, I stressed quite a bit about our track record. You see, the I-15 corridor between Salt Lake City and probably all the way up to Montana is riddled with wildlife crossing signs. Like, legit warnings…and not like crazy-lady-who-thinks-deer-crossing-signs-are-for-the deer-signs. During my numerous times driving from Eastern Idaho to Los Angeles, I can’t tell you how many animals I’ve seen lying on the side of the road, jumping out in front of me, or just chilling by the wayside. This time, I was white-knuckling it.
Fortunately, there were no close calls this trip (well, at least from deer and wildlife…see above story).
By the time we reached our host’s house, it was after 12:30am and we were barely able to navigate to the front door. Our host was gracious enough, but thought it was appropriate to regale us with her troubled dating life and aversion to certain dating apps until 2am. Our violent and obvious yawns, mentions of how late it was or how long it had been since we last slept apparently flew right over her head. I don’t know if it was because I was tired or what, but I flat-out said goodnight and retreated to the spare room. I was done. Thank you for the room, but we just drove from another state and I’ve got some logs to saw.
Have you ever seen an eclipse before? I don’t remember if I have, so let’s just say that this was my first one. I had no idea what to expect when I woke up the morning of the eclipse, so I stumbled out of bed, brushed my teeth with my finger and some borrowed toothpaste (how could I forget to pack my toothbrush?!), and made sure my phone was charged. Ashley and our host took up our positions outside in the backyard and tested out our Star Trek-inspired glasses.
I’m not going to give a play-by-play on the phases of the eclipse. We all know how they work: the moon moves in front of the sun, creating an awesome effect and making rare photo opportunities. Eyes glued to the sun, hands plastering our glasses to our face, lest they fall and we are instantly blinded, we fumbled to get our cameras ready for totality.
By aligning our camera lenses with the protective eyewear, we were able to capture a few blurry snaps of the eclipse. But let’s be honest…we didn’t drive this far to view the eclipse through our camera lenses. How many times have we read, seen, or heard about articles ranting about the age of the cell phone and camera? How many pictures (ironically enough) have we seen where folks gather for a natural phenomenon…like a sunrise over Angkor Wat…and they’re all glued to their smart phones, not really able to “see with their own eyes” the beauty in front of them? I remember having the same feelings when watching the sunrise over the Haleakala Crater in Hawaii. I got a few quick shots and then put my camera away.
By the time we were counting down to totality (the moment where the moon was directly in front of the sun), I was finally giddy. Up to this point, I thought the eclipse was cool, but my life wasn’t enriched by it. Maybe it was my friend’s excitement as she fumbled around with her camera; maybe it was the host’s dogs who started to act a little weird as it slowly got eerily darker and cooler; maybe it was the fact that we were finally coming to the climax of our journey – the apex of the day. I don’t really care. All I know is that I was excited and couldn’t wait.
At about 90% totality, we took strong note of the temperature and lighting of the sky. Salt Lake City was only getting to about the 90% totality rate and we wanted to compare (I wanted validation). All of a sudden, we became acutely aware that we were cold.
The sky darkened and the heavens opened. Stars were blinking at us.
At totality, we ripped our glasses from our faces and just stared in wonder. I’m still marveling that Ashley was able to get this awesome picture!
Crowds that had gathered from all over the world looked up in wonder and cheered along with us. I don’t know who we were cheering for, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
And just like that, it was over. The stars slipped back into the cosmos and the protective glasses got slapped back onto our faces. Validation, wonder, amazement all coursed through my body and mind. I couldn’t believe what I just saw. No way pictures do it justice. I just witnessed a total solar eclipse. Is this even real life?
Could you just imagine witnessing a total solar eclipse back in the 1600s before we knew what was happening? I’m pretty sure we’d all be running around like animals, weeping and wailing about how the world was going to end. Thank goodness for science.
Apparently everyone and their mother decided to head south immediately after the eclipse, so we opted to go to lunch first at Big Jud’s. Big mistake. Not the food. The waiting. The traffic got worse the later we waited. By the time we finally hit the road, it was 4pm and there was already a few hours’ delay.
Keep in mind: the drive between Idaho Falls and Salt Lake City should only take 3ish hours, unless there’s a white-out. It took us 6. Hours. Oi.
After fighting with every app we could find on our iPhone and Pixel, after getting frustrated with all of the horrible Utah drivers that didn’t know how to deal with so many cars, I directed Ashley to a dirt road and we took off! Navigating around the corn and potato fields, dodging tractors, duallys and livestock, we soon found that we were cruising along and literally leaving everyone else on the highway in our dust. What better way to end a trip to Idaho than in the back country, being one with the spud shacks and cow pies?
Did you see the eclipse? Were you able to see it in totality? Where did you see the eclipse from?