Troy, Kansas, looking northwest August 21, 2017 about 1:06p.m. Moon’s shadow approaching. (Photo by Jeff Baker)
Driving to Troy, Kansas to Wait for the Moon
By Jeff Baker
Here is my account of traveling to see the total solar eclipse last month. (Note: All times Central Daylight.)
August 21, 2017, 6:45 a.m. Wichita, Kansas: Heading out, patch of blue sky in east. Clouds otherwise. Sprinkling.
7:58 a.m.: Mild traffic. Cloudy. Tantalizing glimpse of blue sky—may be clearer up north. Saw orange sunrise. Am at truck stop outside Emporia, Kansas. About 1/3 of the way.
9:00 a.m.: Topeka, Kansas. At toll booth. “Busier than usual,” the toll taker tells me. Usually her booth is unattended & automatic. Lots of eclipse traffic. Patch of blue sky—Sun’s out.
10:11 a.m.: Atchison, Kansas. Was raining with patches of blue sky. Rain letting up, hope it clears. Sky is cloudy but bright—hope clouds part. Troy, Kansas is 12 miles away. Listening to radio; BBC World Service has someone in St. Joseph, Missouri, about 24 miles away.
10:55 a.m.: In Troy, Kansas! Hills, old buildings. 204 miles to get here. Going to scope out good spot to take pictures of umbral shadow. Glad I have my compass!
11:08 a.m.: Cloudy. Little town is packed with cars. People parked everywhere! (Imagine mall at Christmastime!) License plates from Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Lucked out on parking space in City Hall parking lot, next to car with guy in KC Royals shirt checking eclipse news on his cellphone.
11:35 a.m.: Partial eclipse starts in a few minutes. Still cloudy. Just in case it clears, I have my spot to take pictures of the Moon’s shadow picked out. Almost forgot to be sure I could watch the sun from there! Sun will be almost directly overhead for totality. Block party on Troy’s main street. Library booth has USA map with pins stuck in places people are from. Someone here from San Francisco.
12:25 p.m.: Cloudy. Raining. Getting darker, may not be from just clouds. Patches of lighter clouds in sky. No blue sky visible. Some people are leaving. I am planning to take my shadow picture at about 1:06. May get shadow on clouds. May get hint of 360 degree gold on horizon. Will keep eye out for birds, ect.
12:28 p.m.: In car, listening to satellite radio. Flashing back to eclipse of February 1979, rushing between T.V. coverage in dorm lobby (three channels!) and outside watching “pinhole effect” in tree shadows on the ground. Hundreds of crescent suns. Not today in cloudy Troy.
12:30 p.m.: It’s raining. But I am in the path of totality. Wouldn’t trade that for anything.
12:40 p.m.: Definitely getting darker. Rain or no, the whole town is decked out in eclipse watching glasses.
1:14 p.m.: I Have Seen The Elephant!!! Around 1:00 p.m. it began to get seriously dark. There had been glimpses of the crescent sun through the clouds; excited cries and shouts of “There it is! There it is!” I had taken my camera and tripod to my planned spot and aimed the camera northwest, towards Last Chance Road, keeping an eye on my watch. Noticed a couple of birds winging nestward. Around 1:06 it got very dark; a huge patch of darkness rushed in from the northwest surrounding us. Streetlights came on and patches of the 360 degree dusk could be seen on the horizon. Then the black ball of Sun/Moon surrounded by a short, frizzy white corona appeared through the clouds for long enough for me to use the binoculars. Happened several times to cheers from the crowd. A communal experience with a crowd a block away.
Then, the darkness receded, heading east.
“It was worth it!” said the guy in the Kansas City Royals shirt with eclipse glasses.
So was the trip back. Leaving around 1:50 p.m. (clouds breaking, naturally) and getting back to Wichita around 8:00 p.m. Massive traffic jam on Turnpike.
In conclusion; somewhere in that crowd was probably some kid dazzled by the whole thing who is already making plans to see the total eclipse in 2024, maybe in Dallas.
And so am I.
Jeff Baker blogs about writing and reading sci-fi and horror and other sundry matters around the thirteenth of each month. He has a story in the new QSF anthology “Renewal” and many other places. He appears on Facebook as Jeff Baker, Author. He also blogs and posts fiction at http://authorjeffbaker.com. He lives in Wichita, Kansas with his husband Darryl.