Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Eclipse Trip #8: Colorado and the Rockies

Grand Lake, CO

Boy have we been having fun.  First, we drove up Pikes Peak.  Then we went to Rocky Mountain National Park, and we've stayed there 4 days so far.  I'll let my photo albums speak for me.

Click the links, then click on Slideshow

Pike's Peak

Rocky Mountain National Park

Friday, August 25, 2017

Eclipse Trip #7: The High Plains

Dodge City, Kansas

We sort of fell into a plan.  We headed due west from Kentucky, across Missouri, across Kansas, and we're heading for Colorado.

When we hit the Rockies, we'll work our way north to Rocky Mountain National park.  Then, we'll start heading east again.  The PNW will have to wait until another year.

Missouri was a pleasant surprise to us ignorant Yankees.  I expected it to be like Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa.  But no, it was green and hilly and very pleasant.  We camped in the Ozarks on Lake Truman near Lake of the Ozarks.  It was nice.

Kansas so far has been boring.  We are in Dodge City on Wyatt Earp Avenue, but it looks like any other American city.

The big exception was the Cosmoshpere in Hutchinson.   We spent nearly 3 hours there today.

  • It has 13000 artifacts from space.  
  • It has a real SR-71 blackbird.  I had no idea they were so big.  I have a picture of me touching it.
  • They have real German V1 and V2 rockets.
  • They have the X1 that Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier with.
  • They have real Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules.
  • They have the actual Appolo 13 command module restored to near original condition.
  • It was more fun than the Smithsonian Air&Space museum on the mall in Washington DC.
Metropolis, IL

Chester, IL

The Cosmospere from outside


My dream, me and a SR-71

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eclipse Trip #2: Not To Our Liking

I planned this entire trip using only Federal campgrounds.  They are spaced about 4 hours driving apart.   The first two we not to our liking.

First was the Dewdrop Campground near Bradford PA.  Next was Bulltown campground in West Virginia.  The problem was that both campgrounds were on lakes.  Campers bring their boats.  The same campers like to party a lot and were very noisy at night.  That's the part we didn't like.   We want peace and quiet.

One delightful find, we stopped at the Zippo-Case museum and store in Bradford.  Zippo lighters are way up there as the best of the best icons of Americana.  I had one, my dad, and Libby's dad, and every man I knew had one.  They were dependable. They could be destroyed but Zippo would fix them free for life.  Some people say that Liberty Ships or B17s or the atomic bomb won WWII, but it was the Zippo lighter :-)  

Best of all, you could click the cover open/shut all day long.  I loved the feeling in my hand and Libby loved the clicking sound.  She says that my clicking sounded just like her dad's clicking.  Too bad for today's young men, they don't understand Zippo lighters.

Eclipse Trip #1: A Navigation Snafu

Wed 8/9 - Thu 8/10

We decided to start off with a treat.  We rode the ferry across Lake Champlain instead of using the bridge.  That was nice.

When we got to Essex, NY, we wanted a leisurely route through the Adirondacks to John & Becky's house.  My phone got no signal (T-Mobile's coverage is a lot worse than Verizon's in rural areas).  So we tried to navigate using our Rand McNally Road Atlas.  That was a disaster.  After 90 minutes driving, we came in a circle almost back to the ferry landing again.  Sigh. I guess that our days of navigating with old fashioned road maps is over.

But we had a nice couple of days with John & Becky.  It was fun catching up.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Unusual Trip Planning

South Burlington, VT

We just had a great family weekend.  But now it's time to look ahead to our next trip.

Consultations with my friend Walt, plus a bit of Internet research, discouraged me from trying the PNW as the right place to view the eclipse.  We want a place free from the horror scenes of too many people.  We decided on Nebaraka,  far from any city.

Readers know that trip planning is not our custom.  Libby and I mostly like to just follow our noses and see where that brings us.  But in this case, we need to be a specific place on a specific day.  Therefore, I broke tradition and laid out a plan. Burlington, Rome, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentycky, Missouri, Kansas to Nebraska.

After the eclipse, we'll may follow-on plans to go west, but then guided by weather and wild fires.