August 2017 eclipse

(Click on totality photo above for larger image)

Had an awesome trip to see the August 21, 2017, eclipse yesterday. John Payne and I scouted some good places on US 395 south of Pendleton in April, so we had a good idea where to go. Pam and I, along with friends John and Linda Payne and Jeanne Scott, traveled to Pendleton, OR, on Sunday to stay at a motel close to an area where we hoped there would be fewer people.

We left the motel at 6 am and headed about 70 miles south on US 395 to the path of totality. The sun came up soon after we left Pendleton, painting the hills and valleys with beautiful colors.

We were in a pretty large group of cars going south; many others went on to other sites south of ours. We were on a bluff high above the middle fork of the John Day river and overlooking a vast expanse of the rolling hills and steep ravines of the Blue Mountains. Others also figured the site was good; there were eventually about 150 cars or more and probably 500 people. There was plenty of room for all on a large, fairly flat area next to the highway.

The people next to us drove there from Edmonton, Alberta. We saw license plates from all over. We talked to people who had gotten up at 2 am to hit the road to find a good site. Many groups were fixing breakfast on camp stoves; the smell of bacon and eggs wafted through our parking lot.

I brought a portable toilet and one of our old tents for some privacy. Others who had to go were beating a path into a small patch of trees across the road. I'm sure it was a mess by the end. Glad we had our own "facilities."

The cloudless sky was deep blue. It got darker and darker, and colder as well. The leadup was somewhat familiar from other partial eclipses I've experienced, but the totality was incredible. At totality most of the sky was almost black. We experienced 1 minute and 43 seconds of totality, but it seemed longer. We could see stars and the spectacular solar corona, of course. There was a chorus of "ahhhhhh" from the crowd as totality arrived, then mostly silence. It was quite an experience.

Then totality was over, the lights came on again, and the crowd burst into spontaneous applause. It was absolutely awesome.

We packed up our stuff and drove about 25 miles to a picnic area for a leisurely lunch. It was almost like we were in a military convoy, but the longest I've ever seen. There was almost no traffic heading south, but the northbound lane was full of vehicles as far as one could see ahead and behind. And it went for hours. I checked Google Maps last night about 7 pm and there were still backups at the choke points going into a couple of small towns where the speed limit dropped to 25 mph. The last three miles into Pendleton was pretty slow, as was the intersection with I-84, where most vehicles headed west toward Portland. I was amazed that we were going close to the speed limit most of the time on the drive back to Pendleton. Very calm & orderly. I did a little math and assumed the cars were about 100 feet apart for 70 miles. If so, there were about 3,500 cars on that stretch of the road. And it continued for hours. Wow!

We got back to our motel in Pendleton in good order, and we headed home today.

Note in the photo I took that you can see a star below & to the left of the sun. The corona was much more awesome than it looks in the photo. Pretty cool to see stars in the middle of the day.