Excursion 3: Total solar eclipse of my heart

I’m fairly certain this is excursion three. The first was definitely Pikes Peak, documented here. The second would have been Twin Lakes – undocumented, but mostly consisting of overheating on he side of the mountain roads, and lakes.

This time around we took Vicaribus up to Nebraska for some eclipse chasing. Our base of operations was a fantastic gem of a lake called Lake McConaughy, commonly referred to as Lake Mac. What a find that was. Lake Mac is the biggest lake and Nebraska, and when the water is down like now, it is surrounded by exceptional white sand beaches. The sand itself rivaled the best beaches in Florida, though in Florida, there aren’t stumps and reeds sticking out everywhere. The water was clear, with nice green and blue hues appearing at depth.

Heather and I made it up to the lake on Friday night around midnight. Our goal was to get out of town as soon as possible to, hopefully, avoid the predicted traffic nightmares. The ride up was rather uneventful, if not dull, taking a little over four hours. No traffic. Cruise control worked, but the dash instrument cluster doesn’t light up, so there was frequent gauge checking with the light of the phone.

We reserved a spot at a campground on the lake called Lone Eagle, but only for Friday and Saturday night, as that was all that was available. That left us with the task of finding a spot for Sunday night while we were there, being that the eclipse was actually on Monday.

Our friend Tesia made it up Saturday afternoon on her motorcycle, with a 45 lbs backpack (half her weight), which included, but was not limited to, a pancake skillet and a giant pegasus float. No traffic reported. We spent the day checking out the beaches and exploring the area for potential Sunday night spots. It was on Saturday that we also learned that half of the campground was first come – first served. There were plenty of spots available, so we moved to a new spot in that section, and reserved it through Sunday. We picked a spot that had openings on either side of us as well so that when the rest of our party arrived (2:00 AM that night) they would hopefully have a spot beside us – and they did! The rest of our party consisted of Morgan, Murphy, Millie (their dog), Megan and (M)Andrew. No traffic reported.

Sunday morning we rented a pontoon boat and spent a few hours relaxing, tubing, drinking and advancing water fashion out in the middle of the lake to great success. It was a bit windy, so there was some chop making the tubing a little rough, but all-in-all, good times were had. The rest of the day was spent eating, drinking and beaching. The night was spent stargazing.

The Big Day

Before we knew it Monday was upon us. We had a plan, that I dictated, to head northwest up into the middle of nowhere near the Crescent Lake Wildlife Refuge. It was centered in the middle of the totality, was far from any real civilization, and per the AM satellite imagery looked free of clouds, as we woke up to complete cloud cover. We loaded up early and hit the road to avoid the traffic. No traffic.

We stopped at the last gas station to regroup the caravan (Vicaribus, Tesia on the bike, and the M clan in a Jeep Wrangler), before taking the only road straight north into nowhere. Things were looking really good, the clouds were burning off, and then the road turned into dirt with 20 miles to go to our destination. At first we didn’t sweat it too much. The only concern was that it might be too sandy for the motorcycle. We pulled over so Tesia could do a quick spot check. She returned with a thumbs up.

The road wasn’t sandy. It was, however, strewn with speed bump sized washboard features. (Bumpy as f*ck). For the Jeep this was perfectly fine. For the motorcycle, it was manageable, but exhausting. For Vicaribus, it was hell on earth, being that the factory forgot to put a suspension on the bus before shipping it out. Brutal barely begins to describe it. Top speeds hovered around 5 – 15 MPH for us in the bus, and thus the rest of the caravan. I really though the bus was going to fall apart. We did, however, finally find some traffic. Lucky for us, it was all behind us…

About 10 miles in, Tesia had to call it quits, for she would not have had the energy for the 4 hour drive home afterwards otherwise. We helped here get the bike up onto the grass beside the road, put her on the bus with us, and crossed our fingers that the bike would still be there when we came back through.

At this time we still had about 2 hours until totality. We made it about 5 more miles before calling it quits and pulling of to the side of the road on the top of a small ridge overlooking a valley and a ranch. We setup shop long enough to take a christian rock band album cover photo, before be kindly asked to move by the ranch folks.

Really, they just though we were in a dangerous spot, on the road, and didn’t want the Jeep parked on the grass. They were cool, however, with us pulling of just a 1/4 mile further down the road where there was already one RV.

We again setup shop, made friends with already established residents of the corner of nowhere, made friends with the other two RVs to land here and commenced staring at the sun (with glasses).

Then there was an eclipse. It was awesome, and strange, and mystical, and worth it. The sun looked cool at totality of course, but it was the lighting of the surrounding landscape that really tickled the soul.

Then it was over, and we hauled ass to avoid the traffic. (In this context, hauled-ass refers to packing up and going, not the actual rate of travel.) No traffic, except for behind us again. We got home in time to watch Game of Thrones.

We later learned that the location we chose was pretty much the only spot in the totality that did not have miserable traffic afterwards, as evidenced by this map:

Here’s a quickly thrown together video of the eclipse weekend.

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2017-08-27T12:58:32+00:00

One Comment

  1. Susan Harrell Driggars August 27, 2017 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    Photos are awesome, story is very entertaining. The eclipse was only 87% here and was good…can’t imagine totality.

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