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The eclipse

This past week, a complete eclipse (or at least viewing opportunities for a complete eclipse) passed within a few hours of Grinnell. So I did what any sensible parent would do: I gathered six months of food, water, and emergency supplies, as well as a generator and planned to take my children to a safe place to prepare for the end of the world.

No. Wait. That’s wrong.

What i really did was plan to take my family to see the eclipse. We thought about staying here, but 100% totality sounds much cooler than the 93% or so we’d get in Grinnell. Of course, my two oldest sons made other plans; they decided to drive south with some friends. Michelle, Youngest Son, and I made similar plans.

At first, we worried about the warnings of large amounts of traffic. We shouldn’t have worried. Other than a fifteen-minute traffic jam, which mostly seemed to be caused by a construction detour, the trip was smooth and uncrowded.

The older kids had decided to go a bit off the main route and watch the Eclipse from Maysville [1]. We reached Maysville at about 11:30 [2], and worried that it was significantly overcast. Our worries got worse when the heavens opened up and it poured. After looking at the weather map, we decided that it was pointless to stay there and headed West. We got through some cloud cover and managed to see a few gimpses of the partial eclipse. However, as totality neared, it looked like we’d still have cloud cover. We decided to continue further down a dirt side road. That may not have been the best idea. After way too many twists and turns, we were able to pull off to at least experience totality. It was fascinating to see the darkness arrive and leave. But I wish we could have seen the eclipse itself and the corona.

We comforted ourselves by noting that it was also overcast elsewhere and that we had about as good an experience as we could. The Physics department trip had been in St. Joseph and had reported 100% cloud cover. The weather map showed rain in Grinnell. But the Physics group headed north before the eclipse and made it, and the clouds cleared enough in Grinnell that folks were able to see much of the eclipse.

While we had not encountered much traffic on the way down, we did hit a lot on the way back. I think it added an hour to our trip. And so, on the Monday before classes started, I spent about ten hours attempting to see an eclipse that I didn’t see. Since I drove, I didn’t get to do much else.

Given that it sounds like I could have seen more if I’d just stayed in Grinnell, I find myself asking whether I had wasted the day. I think not. It’s important to take chances. It was nice to spend time driving and talking with Michelle [3]. And it was really cool to experience the darkness.

Still … I wish I had seen the eclipse itself.

[1] Missouri, in case you weren’t sure.

[2] If I recall correctly.

[3] Of course, she also has a large amount of work she needs to be doing, so there’s also the question of whether it was worth it for her.

Version 1.0 of 2017-08-26.