I did it everyone! I said I was gonna do it and I actually did it! Probably one of the coolest (and nerdiest) things I've done in my life so far. I became an eclipse chaser and went all the way to Oregon to view a complete solar eclipse of the sun. Was it as epic as it sounds? You bet your damaged retinas it was! As you can probably gather, I'm doing this blog on location, so forgive me now for any typos, technicalities, choppiness or rambling. I will share the ups and downs of everything it took for me to get here, and I must say, it was quite the journey.
I first learned of the eclipse earlier this year. I thought wow, that must be pretty darn cool to see in person. A few months later I learned that it was only totally visible in certain places across America, and only partially in others. If anything, I'm sure it gave people a chance to travel to an obscure part of the country and experience a life changing event in a unique setting. Naturally, I wanted to try and see it from the best possible place, so we decided on Oregon (me, Milly, and T). Oregon was the first and earliest place to view from. I've never been before, but I do watch a lot of Portlandia. There is a small city a little bit south of Portland called Salem where we ultimately chose to watch.
Back tracking a little bit, it didn't really seem like traveling all the way to a small town in the Northwest just to see a 2 minute phenomenon, was very justifiable, so more things got added to the trip. I also have a brand spanking new baby nephew to go see in Seattle, that's in the area! Also, I hadn't been to San Fransisco (otherwise known as my second favorite city) since I first visited about 4 years ago, so why not throw that in as well. Ambitiously speaking, Alaska has always been on my list of top places I want to visit... which is just a touch further up, so who knows! Needless to say, we had big plans.
I was actually on the fence about going on this trip at all, even up until the very hour I was supposed to leave for the airport! In addition to not having a ton of expendable cash to work with, I had a few freelance opportunities that I would miss being out here (when you are a freelance starving artist, you aren't really in positions to turn down jobs whenever they present themselves). Two nights before my fight, I got a horrendous outbreak of itchy mosquito bites on my feet and ankles which left me swollen, scratching like crazy, and unable to walk comfortably in shoes. I was soaking my feet in an ice bath all night just so I could be able to pack! I left my house at 6am after not sleeping all night because my feet were on fire. Got to the airport on time, but my original flight was full so I had to wait for the next one 3 hours later. The second flight seemed promising...an aisle seat with nobody sitting next to me. Unfortunately, the airplane didn't have their air conditioner working for the first 45 minutes. All of the over dramatic travelers were moaning and groaning, huffing and puffing, but I decided to try and nap. I woke up a short while later to us moving a bit, but a lady was sitting on the floor complaining of dizziness. We ended up having to turn back around and get to the gate so she could get off. My original flight was supposed to leave at 9:30am. Didn't end up leaving until around 3pm. Got to San Fran finally at around 5:30pm. Didn't know their train system well, so it also took me a bit to figure how to meet up with Milly. Got off at the wrong stop and had to walk an extra 30 minutes, with itching mosquito bites, up the steep San Fransisco streets. Eventually we met up and had a really fun night out in the Castro area. The hostel she was staying in didn't have anymore room, so I ended up going all the way back to the airport to take a nap until T's flight got in the next morning. Airport sleeping isn't really the worst place I've had to sleep in my life, I must say!
When her flight arrived, we went to get the rental car. It was pre paid for, but trying to get out of the parking lot, we found out they still had to put a 200 hold on one of our cards (and did I mention that this was a strict budget trip?). After shuffling some money around, we finally went to pick up Milly from the hostel. Got a little breakfast and then hit the road! We drove straight through the night and got to Salem at about 7:30am. We scrambled around to try and find solar glasses and a place to park with the best vantage. We ended up at a lovely park, and some nice couple actually gave us a pair of glasses to split! It was so interesting to see the moon covering the sun through the glasses. The sun was going rapidly changing phases before our very eyes. Also, it seemed as if someone was controlling the daylight with a dimmer switch. It kept gradually getting darker, but not in a sunset kinda way. And then it happened... the total eclipse of the sun! Everyone was freaking out. You didn't need to use the sunglasses to see it anymore. Everything got dark, like twilight dusk. The sun became a very bright flash of light (like the freakin' star of bethlehem!). The you could see the bright ring crystal clear. Very surreal and simply amazing.
After the magnitude of seeing science in the raw, I fell right to sleep! Hopefully laying in the freshly eclipsed sunshine, I energized a part of myself that had been depleated. I certainly feel rejuvinated! The journey was for sure a long one, but the experiencces of the journey really are just as important as the destination sometimes. They do say we should spend our money on experienes rather than objects. I really will have this memory forever. Maybe even in another few decades when I decide to go chase the next eclipse!
P.s. Moral of the story though... Never travel during Mercury retrograde! I know I know, I wouldn't believe it if it hadn't happened to me. I was trying to figure out why the heck everything seemed to be going a wry, and then it hit me to look up when Mercury was in retrograde... This week! They say it's the absolute worst time for traveling, yet here I am traveling up a storm!
P.p.s. This is probably the biggest event this small town has had in a very long time. They tried to scam the scammers and get us to pay astronomical amounts for parking aand glasses. Fortunatlly, we found the free option! (There's always a free option.)
P.p.s. I'm currently typing this on an ipad in the backseat of the car while listening to an eclipse playlist. As usual, all the electronics are loosing their juice. I'll probably tweaak this blog a bit when I get settled in my next destination!