Monday, August 21, 2017

The Ecliplse, Totally Awesome

Grand Rivers, KY

Man oh man.  It was worth waiting 72 years to see.  It was truly the experience of a lifetime.  I don't think that Libby and I will every forget the beauty and awe of that moment.

We stayed right here in the camground for viewing.  We had guests, Old Jim and Faire Ann (Physics Forum friends) came here from Arkansas.   There was no crowd.  We sat in a grassy area about 1 acre with a few shade trees.  There wer e fewer than 50 othe people in sight.

The moment of totality caught us by surprise even though we were well prepared.  It only started getting noticeably dark 2 minutes before the event.  But abruptly the last brilliant sliver of sun disappeared and bang it was total.  The corona was instantly visible and every bit as beautiful as described.

The stars came out,  The night insects started singing.  It did not get noticeably cooler.

At the end of totality there was no surprise.  We could see one corner of the moon around 5 o'clock get  brighter.  Then instantaneously the first sliver of the sun appeared and the glare was immediately blinding.   There seems to be no transition. 99.99% obscured, is blinding if you look at it.  100% is totally different (pun intended) and there seems to be zero time between the two.

My neighbor got a shot where you can see the solar flares (prominences).  Three of them were visible, all beautiful pink or orange colored.

I heard of another man in the park who got a 360 degree panorama from a boat out on the lake.  It was like sunset all around except that there was no direction of the setting sun.

Sun streaming through the trees made crescent shaped shadows.  5 minutes before totality they pointed one way.  5 minutes after totality they pointed in the opposite direction.

I'll post pictures later.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Eclipse Trip #6: At Roost, Grand Rivers, KY

After much nervous worrying, we found a very agreeable place to stay and watch the eclipse.  It is the Canal Campground, part of Land Between The Lakes National Park.   We are just outside of Grand Rivers, KY; a delightful little town population 350.

We'll stay here a whole week.  The local forecast for eclipse day is mostly sunny.  :-)   There is lots of land good for viewing and relatively few people. Double :-)

Last night we went to a show called Pickin' and Grinnin'.  It was delightful; based on the old TV show Hee Haw.  The cast was very talented; especially Casey Mills who played the fiddle.  She was amazing.  Casey Mills is only 18, watch for her name in the future as a possible super star.

This weekend, we'll go to a famous restaurant and garden called Patti's Place.  It too is in Grand Rivers.

We also toured Land Between the Lakes, it is delightful.  We even saw a bit of prairie complete with bison.

Boaters may recognize Grand Rivers as a favorite stop for those doing the Great Loop.  At night, I can hear the diesel engines of the tugs pushing barges on the lake, and also hear them slow down and enter the lock at the nearby Kentucky Dam.

The other day, we visited Paducah KY nearby.  It is a delightful town.  I got to play with a river boat training simulator.  Wow was that fun. :-)

All in all, this has been a delightful stop.

Tomorrow is Eclipse Day !!!!!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eclipse Trip #5: It's The Weather Dummy

We are determined to see the eclipse.  If we miss it, there will not be a second chance in our lifetimes.

First, we planned to go to Idaho.  But research showed that the best rural spots to view, have very few roads.   We are not backpackers.  We need to view from somewhere near our car.  Fear of clogged roads forced us to cancel that idea.

Second, we though to visit my friend Walt in Oregon.  He lives near Bend OR.  But Walt told me that the local media said that his area was expected to be invaded by a half million crazies from California.   Burning Man in the desert is not what we had in mind.  Cancel that.

Third, I chose central Nebraska.  I found a camp site with vacancies only 60 miles from the band of totality.  Best, the landscape has nothing but corn fields for hundreds of miles around.  No big cities nearby, no hoards of people.

But now, we are en route about 2/3 of the way there, and the weather reports are beginning to come out.  Oh no! Clouds!  If we go to all this trouble only to have a cloud pass overhead at the critical minute I'll scream.

There's a fourth plan.  We are heading today for a campground in Western Kentucky near Paducah.   It may be possible that we could squat there for a whole week.  The camp site is in the totality zone.  The weather forecast there for next Monday is much better than in Kansas.

I'll be chewing my nails until the date.

Eclipse Trip #4: Country Charm

Sunday was delightful.  First, the driving through West Virginia was beautiful.  First on state route 19 through counless little valleys with tendrils of fog lifting all around.  Then on I79, the sun came out giving us spectacular views of the mountains and valleys along the way.  We had no idea that West Virginia was that beautiful.

In Kentucky, we were headed for Buckhorn campground.  We left the interstate and had two hours of rural driving.  Wow, really really rural.  It amazed us to see such long narrow windy roads lined by houses and dilapidated trailers housing the people who live in the valleys and gullies.  It was like turning the clock back 70 years.  

We planned on buying groceries along the way.  The only store we found was a Dollar General.  It made us think how difficult for people living in those places to get basic services that most of us take for granted.

The campground was nice, located at the foot of a big dam.  All the weekend people had departed, leaving us almost alone.  The facilities were top notch and seemingly new. (Tip if you're a camper.  The US Army Corps of Engineers has the best campgrounds around.)

At dusk, we were sitting by the fire.  A car stopped at our site and a man got out.  He was a local.  He and his wife just wanted to be friendly and to chat with these strange campers from another state.  We really enjoyed our talk with them.  They were nice people.  But man were they hard to understand.  I have some friends from Tennessee,  so I'm used to the Tennessee drawl and I love it.  But the Kentucky variant was very different.  Probably, it was easier for them to understand us, because we sound like the people heard on radio and TV.

In the conversation, the man let it drop that he had had bouts of alcoholism and addiction to opioids.  Wow, that reinforced many of the stereotypes about hill people.

The next morning, Libby and I discussed it in the car.  The most poignant thought was that people living in these regions have almost nothing in common with urban residents of Boston or Chicago, nor Google employees, nor NPR correspondents.  It would be ludicrous for Hillary Clinton to come here and make a speech about public transportation, or urban planning.

Those people who think that the political divide splitting America is transient and superficial are dead wrong.  The two Americas are real and durable.  Compromise is hard to imagine.  The election of Donald Trump was not a fluke.

Eclipse Trip #3: Mortality - Carpe Diem

Saturday, we were driving down a windy two-lane back road in Pennsylvania.  A logging truck appeared coming the other way. He was heavily loaded with huge logs (not quite as huge as the ones in the picture).  He was going around a curve too fast.  The truck leaned, almost over on two wheels.

I had no time to react.   For 1.5 seconds I believed that the truck was going to tip into my path.  There was no way for me to stop or to escape to the sides.  Death was inevitable.   But the moment passed. The truck didn't tip.  We didn't die.   

My experience was not uncommon.  Almost everyone experiences something like that in a lifetime.  The emotional effects are highly variable.   1.5 seconds is not long enough for the idea to sink in.  It is too short to trigger the fight-or-flight reaction.  Too short for an adrenalin rush.  That minimizes the emotional reaction.   In fact, if I were not writing about this on the blog, it would be forgotten in a short while.

The point is incidents like that are a reminder of how swiftly and unexpectedly death can come.  We can not prepare for them.  We can't even make a reasonable estimate of how likely such a fate is.  It just is.   So what can we do?   Live your life fully every day.  Grab as much as you can before misfortune can snatch it away from you.  Carpe Diem.

Our friends Bob & Sandra have a yacht named Carpe Diem. They chose the name based on the same reasoning about the fragility of life that I just expressed.  It is very appropropriate.

Carpe Diem