August 21, 2017
The road to Weiser, Idaho to witness the Great American Eclipse was a lot longer than the 1,144 miles we drove round trip. By the time (early 2017) we realized that we lived a day's drive from totality, all the hotels were booked. We considered hotels close to totality, but gridlock was predicted on all the roads leading to totality for the 24 hours before the event. We didn't want to risk being stuck on the road close to the path.
The next plan was to book a campsite somewhere in Oregon in totality, but these were also completely booked. Since hotels that were only close started at $500 a night with a 3 night eclipse minimum, I booked a campsite as close as I could and we would just have to hope and plan to leave in the middle of the night to reach the path in time. With a campsite in our back pocket, I frequently checked hotel websites hoping for a cancelation somewhere in the path. I even looked at airfare to farther places, still in the path, but every flight was completely sold out. People would be traveling from around the world to witness this amazing event.
We drove through Crater Lake National Park a few weeks before the eclipse and they were strongly advertising that there would be no better place to watch the eclipse than along the rim in the park. I was convinced and was able to book one of the last campsites in the park for the eclipse weekend. We would be close to totality, but I figured the setting would make up the difference for just being close.
After a friend on FB shared a video from a scientist who travels the world to watch total eclipses and his opinion was, travel to totality or not even bother going. He said it was that big of a difference. I was confused, but didn't want to regret just getting close. I started looking at hotels with the hope that someone would cancel and sure enough, I found a room in Bend, OR. It was close to the best viewing spot in central Oregon and just outside of the path. Lisa encouraged me to book the hotel and we would plan on leaving in the middle of the night with the hope that we could drive the last few miles in under 10 hours.
Then I read that the state of Oregon was advising people to arrive inside the path the day before because the highways would be completely stopped. Why pay hundreds of dollars for a hotel room when we would have to leave the day before anyway? What was supposed to be fun and adventurous, was now becoming a test of my torture endurance. I was seriously thinking about just staying home, but I didn't want to miss the eclipse and definitely didn't want the kids to miss this opportunity.
Fires. Smoke. Warnings. Central Oregon was on fire in the week leading up to the eclipse and there were warning that the smoke and haze would block the view of the eclipse. We didn't want to drive hundreds of miles and spend too much money to look up and see smoke and haze. I canceled everything in Oregon and was ready to give up when I had the idea to look at Idaho since it was also within a days drive and in the path of totality.
I found that Weiser, Idaho was in the path and the local high school still had some campsites remaining. As a huge bonus, the high school would open their flush toilets and showers for the eclipse campers. I booked a campsite and hoped the drama would finally end. We drove up to Boise on Saturday with relatively minor traffic. We stayed at a reasonably priced hotel and the girls swam Saturday night and Sunday morning before we made the hour long drive to Weiser.
I got pulled over for speeding, but the officer was from Roseville, CA and was very sympathetic to our pilgrimage to Idaho with the kids and he let me off with just a warning.
We found our campsite and set up the tent. The atmosphere was amazing. A huge crowd of people gathered in this tiny town to watch a rare event. There was a contagious buzz in the air. Everyone knew they were part of something big!
Lisa and the girls fell asleep with ease in tent while I sat up looking at the nighttime sky hoping we made all the right decisions that led us to this moment in time. I was also hoping the clear skies would last until the eclipse. When I finally decided to join my family in the tent, I noticed Lisa was very comfortable inside our two person sleeping bag and spread across both of our air mattresses. Since Lisa was there for me, I did not want to wake her, so I settled in on the floor of the tent with my head on a pillow and my body under a little edge of the sleeping bag. I figured that Lisa would toss and turn and wake up at some point and I would be able to get fully under the sleeping bag at that time. However, it was a long, cold night filled with anticipation as Lisa slept through the entire night.
Morning came and after breakfast, I packed up our camping gear. I wanted to leave as soon as the eclipse ended so we could hopefully get a head start on the traffic. The morning flew by and before we knew it, the eclipse started. We all wore our special eclipse sunglasses to save our eyes. It was magical.
Then it happened....TOTALITY:
Just like that, the eclipse was over, but completely worth the torture and effort it took to get us there. But, like Clark at the Grand Canyon, it was time to go. We headed out and it took us two hours to move less than a mile to get out of tiny Weiser. We all had work or school the next day and we were almost 600 miles from home. Thankfully, once outside of Weiser, there was traffic almost all the way home, but it moved at least close to the speed limit.