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Eclipse 2017: Staring at the Sun and Off-Roading through the Fields

Waiting for the eclipse
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“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.


Eclipse 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.


Getting the cameras ready for the eclipse


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.


partial eclipse through my glasses


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.


Snapchat eclipse selfie


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.


It’s here!


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!


Total Solar Eclipse 2017


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?


Back roads of Idaho


Did you see the eclipse? Were you able to see it in totality? Where did you see the eclipse from?

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25 thoughts on “Eclipse 2017: Staring at the Sun and Off-Roading through the Fields

  1. Fun story telling – having lived in Southern California for 15 years I can agree with you that Utah drivers don’t know how to drive in traffic. My favorite part of the eclipse were the crescent shaped shadows filtering through the leaves.

  2. What an experience! I live in Wisconsin, and unfortunately it was super cloudy where I was, so I didn’t get to see it! So cool that you even felt a sudden drop in temperature.

  3. Great eclipse shots, it’s great when you’re not so keen on a trip and then it blows your mind a bit. I’m glad that there were no close animal calls on your drive either. That freaks me out a little as well, especially at night. Driving to university in the mornings I’d see kangaroos on the side of the roads 🙁

  4. What an awesome experience to witness complete totality! I was in NYC during the eclipse so I didn’t get the same experience but it was still pretty cool!!

  5. What an experience! I live in Denver and we had 92% coverage. Nothing to write home about. However, a ton of people drove up to WY to see totality. I’d say you got lucky with finding a back road and making it home in 6 hours. WY is a few hours from Denver and people were stuck in traffic for 9-11 hours!

  6. We had a total eclipse in August 1999 in Germany, and I remember how excited everyone was. You couldn’t step anywhere without hearing “SoFi this. SoFi that.” (SoFi stands for Sonnenfinsternis – the German word for total eclipse). I had just returned from a year in the US. So I had missed the growth of excitement and it just hit me in its full the-day-before and the-day-off power. But when I finally saw it (must admit, I didn’t have the glasses :-O) it was amazing.

    Happy continued travels!

  7. I was watching on the news as the eclipse was passing over America. You got a good eclipse too at 90%, the UK only got a 10 % eclipse that day and it was cloudy anyway to we got nothing really! I saw an 80% eclipse in London a few years ago and agree it get’s cold! As well as windy, a little dark and the birds get confused. Ashley got a good shot, I’d be proud of that one!

  8. You’re so lucky you got to see the eclipse! I think anywhere outside the US was impossible. You’re so right about being stuck on our phone when something incredible is happening. It makes me realise even more that I want to focus on the moment and witness it with my own eyes than through a lens!

  9. glad to see you got a cool photo result. i agree with you on actually looking at the eclipse with your own eyes and taking in it’s majesty. I think I was in high school when i saw one down here in S. Africa and it was something I actually never forgot. And no…there were no social media or smart phones back then, so i agree it’s more of an experience to have.

  10. Whoa! I’m stunned!!! You managed to get such an awesome picture of the solar eclipse? Wow!!! This time it happened for us just past sunset, so no, we didn’t get to see it! Too bad the return trip took almost double time for you!
    Oh my, I just heard that crazy lady deer crossing radio conversation and its so damn funny! Lolz…

  11. The hype is real about the eclipse! When would you see it again in your life time? No one knows. Too bad I didn’t see a picture of the ground in darkness, though it’s good that you enjoyed the experience.

  12. Wow that’s an awesome shot that you got of the eclipse!! We were in Southeast Asia at the time so we weren’t able to see it. We’ve dealt with horrible traffic right after sold out NFL games so we can imagine that the traffic after a solar eclipse would still be worse! Sorry that your plan to avoid it (by trying to get lunch) didn’t work out. 🙁

  13. You have a very funny style of storytelling. Thank god that truck driver didn’t turn your solar eclipse into a total disaster. You did get a good pic. And I agree I love those friends who let me enjoy the moments instead of just appreciating someone else’s.

  14. Yours is the second post about the eclipse that I’ve read this week and I’m soooo jealous! The only eclipse that I’ve seen is when the earth is in between the sun and the moon – while it’s great, I imagine it’s nothing like experiencing totality like you did, with the sky turning dark and the temperature going down. Never mind the folks back in 1600s, I’d probably feel creeped out a bit too if I were there, haha!

  15. What a crazy, but awesome time! Our family traveled to be in the path of totality, and I think it was a great thing for a family to see. I love how your family came with camera and all prepared. That was not an easy thing to photograph. It looks like you had a great time despite the craziness. 🙂

  16. I just love how you narrate your story. It was fun reading though, haha! I have never seen a total solar eclipse. You are so lucky to be able to experience this spectacular and rare phenomenon. Thank you so much for sharing.

  17. You looked so ready and prepped for that eclipse. Totality was just about the same here in CT. But they say the next one will be a full eclipse on the east coast. The experience itself was still really out of this world. I’m a big space fan. I watch NASA videos for fun.

  18. So lucky you get to catch totality. What a great shot you got there! This shot is definitely worth the post-eclipse traffic. I was in Asia during the eclipse where I didn’t think there’s a chance to see it this time (so no hype there!)

  19. Lucky you are to experience total Eclipse 2017. You have taken beautiful picture of eclipse. It is very nice you took 3d protection glass . Suddenly stars appeared and then disappeared which sounds magical.

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