Solar Eclipse 2017


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Saturday, August 19, 2017: We heard there was a Great American Eclipse, so we headed south to see it. We started planning our trip in February, and many hotels in the line of total coverage were already sold out by then, so we knew this was going to be big.
We headed out around 7:00 AM. There was a down server at Tom's work, so we headed to Gale Force first. That allowed us to use the brand-new roundabout at Hazel Dell and 116th Street which had just opened ten hours earlier.
Here we are at Gale Force at 7:30 AM. Debbie used the opportunity to get a closer look at the Top Golf going in right next door.
An hour later, Tom was still puzzling over the server problem. We had hoped that it just required a manual reset, but nope.
Nearly five hours after our arrival, Tom had the server fixed and running again. Needless to say, we wouldn't be having lunch in Tennessee as planned, but dinner was still an option.
A Kentucky rest area advertised the Gallatin TN Eclipse Encounter. That was our original destination to view the eclipse, but we had since decided that we'd view it from our hotel instead. That turned out to be a great decision. The rest area was extremely busy with cars and vans filled with people crowding the parking lot. We were obviously all headed for the same region of the country.
We arrived at the Black-eyed Pea at 4:30 PM local time, ...
... and immediately set to work ordering the most delicious food on the planet.
Mmmm, tasty rolls and cornbread.
As always, Debbie ordered the meatloaf, served with fried okra and broccoli rice casserole.
Tom got the pot roast with broccoli rice casserole and mashed potatoes. We shared the okra and mashed potatoes, but we each required our own serving of that heavenly broccoli rice casserole. While we were there, we made arrangements to take home two pans of meatloaf, two pans of broccoli rice casserole, and one pan of mashed potatoes. We are very serious about our Black-eyed Pea food.
Next, we bolted to Mt. Juliet. The weather was overcast, but it would be improving over the next couple of days now that we were in town.
We checked into the Comfort Inn and Suites in Mt. Juliet, ...
... our home for the next three nights.
We got settled then jumped back into the car to head to Trish and Greg's home on the south side of Nashville. We had a great time playing Dominion and had the most delicious lemon Bundt cake for dessert.
Sunday, August 20, 2017: We slept in the next day for the first time in what seemed like weeks, but we got downstairs for breakfast just in time. We are no strangers to waffle batter-dispensing machines, but an automatic pancake machine? This was a brand new treat for us.
All you do is push the button, wait a minute, and receive two perfectly-cooked pancakes. Amazing!
We spent all day in our hotel room because Tom had been working nights and weekends for months, and this weekend was no exception. We also didn't want to go out sightseeing on a weekend when hundreds of thousands of visitors were descending on the area.
Debbie worked on adding 2017 photos to this very website. Here's our adorable granddaughter at a pool party with Grandpa.
In the afternoon, we had a very early dinner at Cheddar's across the street. We forgot to take a photo of either the restaurant or our meals (a burger and ribs, preceded by complimentary spinach dip and chips) so we took this photo the next morning to mark the spot in our story.
That evening, a hotel staff member knocked on our door to give us this clever gift - a Moon Pie. Gentle reader, if you ever have a chance to stay at the Comfort Suites in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, do it.
Of course, we had brought our own eclipse-themed treats.
Debbie dropped something between the couch cushions and found two adorable little rhinestones inside the couch. For a brief moment, she wondered if it was possible that they were real. Secretly, she still hopes.
Later on, we treated ourselves to one of the bottles of beer that Debbie had received as a retirement gift a few weeks earlier.
An hour later, we prepared ourselves for a live viewing of ...
... Game of Thrones. In the Central time zone, the show is on at 8:00 instead of 9:00, which means that it is still shown at the same time that people in the Eastern time zone are watching it. The trick was that we were watching it without a DVR and couldn't pause or back up if needed, so we had to pay attention the whole time.
Monday, August 21, 2017: The morning of the eclipse, we awoke to perfect weather.
The hotel breakfast area was overrun with families, so we went out to McDonald's to pick up breakfast.
We were sad to see that our favorite steak, egg, and cheese bagel is not a menu option here in the South. It is replaced with menu options like Southern Style Chicken Biscuit and Country Ham Biscuit.
Back in the room, Tom got back to work, ...
... while NASA TV broadcast eclipse information all day.
This animation showed the path of the eclipse from west to east across the US. It would be passing over Tom's brother in Oregon, Tom's cousin in St. Louis, Tom's sister here in Mt. Juliet, and Tom's nephew at Clemson in South Carolina. It would be passing over zero of Debbie's family members.
At noon, official coverage of the eclipse started on NASA TV. It kept us entertained until it was time to start setting up outside for the big event.
We headed outside shortly before noon, and found that we weren't the only ones who had the brilliant idea to use the open hotel property as our viewing area. The few shady spots were already taken and people had already set up telescopes for viewing.
Not a problem, though, because we had claimed a great parking spot earlier in the day specifically so we could tailgate from it. We draped a travel towel over the window in the back door and a tarp on one of the sides to block the sun. Voila! Instant shade! A cooler, some supplies, and a couple of folding chairs rounded out our little campsite.
Let's do this! We had ourselves a little picnic of cheese, crackers, sausage, and oranges, and kept hydrated with frozen water bottles that quickly melted in the heat.
We used the excellent Solar Eclipse Timer app on our phones to alert us to each phase of the eclipse. Here, we were just two minutes away from first contact - the point where the moon begins to pass in front of the sun, signifying the start of the eclipse at 11:59:04.
The party has started! It would take almost 90 minutes to reach totality, then another 90 for the eclipse to end completely at 2:54:26.
This gentleman was happy to share his telescope setup with others. From our seats, we could easily see the status of the eclipse on the projected screen. This was taken seven minutes into the eclipse, ...
... and here's how it looked 25 minutes into the eclipse. This is a mirror image of what was actually happening overhead.
Here's Tom in his stylish eclipse glasses, purchased from a reputable dealer a half-year in advance.
Debbie modeled a different style. We had purchased extras so we could share them with friends and family, plus Tom had left one pair back at the office to share. These were the last two we had.
We walked around a bit to see what everyone had brought.
This family had a similar telescope set up for their kids to monitor.
Tom talked to these guys for a few minutes about their equipment.
A large family group in the middle of the field had brought numerous things along, including a white sheet that we'll see later, ...
... and a large, homemade telescope.
It was now a half hour into the eclipse, but you still couldn't tell just by aiming a camera at it. Thank goodness for eclipse glasses!
It was starting to get really warm out, but the weather app showed that the temperature was going to dip slightly during the peak eclipse time.
Meanwhile, back at Orchard Software near Indianapolis, they were having a company party to watch the eclipse, an activity that Debbie had suggested back in February when she still worked there, even though she would be out of town for the eclipse. Indianapolis saw 91% coverage of the sun.
Kelly was nice enough to ask everyone to wave to Debbie for some photos, then she sent them to Debbie. Awwww, you guys! Debbie asked for - and received - photos from a few other people who were there too, so it was almost like being there.
We put out a small white sheet to see the phenomenon of eclipse-shaped shadows.
The pinpoints of light in between the shadows of the bush formed perfect miniature crescents that matched the progress of the eclipse.
At this point, we were about 20 minutes away from totality.
The hotel staff started to come out, and we were glad that they were getting to enjoy the event too. Here's one of the front desk staff getting a photo of the telescope view.
We tried getting a photo of the sun through our eclipse glasses. No luck - it just showed up as a round ball of light.
One of the hotel trees projected tiny crescents onto the parking lot.
With 15 minutes left to go, the cleaning staff was now outside as well.
At ten minutes left, that sun still insisted on looking round. It was just a tiny crescent of light now but it still photographed as a full sun. It was clearly darker now though.
Five minutes before totality, the first of several flocks of birds flew past. This was the only odd animal behavior we saw or heard. There may have been insect noises during totality but we were too overwhelmed by everything else to remember to listen for insects.
With two minutes left to go, Tom propped up his phone on our van and started a video recording.
A minute before totality, our Solar Eclipse Timer application told us to observe "shadow bands" but we didn't know how to do that. Fortunately, the family with the white sheet attracted everyone's attention and we went to observe the phenomenon. Ignore the wrinkles in the sheet and the bumps of the lawn underneath. Trust us when we say that there was a faint waviness flickering across the sheet, like the way an indoor swimming pool reflects light onto the ceiling. The effect was stronger when we returned to the sheet right after totality ended.
Before we show you totality, here is a photo taken exactly an hour earlier to illustrate the difference in the light compared to the next couple of photos. The sky was bright blue and there were still some puffy clouds in the sky.
At 1:26 PM, with a minute to go before totality, there was a smoky look to the sky and the hotel sign automatically came on. In this series of three photos, watch the cloud on the left.
A few seconds later, the hotel's exterior lighting and streetlights came on. The cloud on the left is starting to get darker.
At 1:27:45, we entered full totality. We got the full diamond ring effect at both the beginning and end of totality. Notice that the tree on the right is no longer casting a strong shadow on the chairs underneath it. Instead, its shadow is created by the streetlight behind it and it extends across the lawn. The cloud is now fully dark.
All around us, the sky had turned to dusk and our app told us we could safely remove our eclipse glasses and look up.
Overhead was the full eclipse. Here's our first photo of it - out of focus and not zoomed in, but it represents how small it actually was in the sky.
Here's a photo of it in focus and zoomed. This series of photos was taken without any special lenses or a tripod - just Debbie aiming the camera at the sky and snapping pictures as steadily as she could.
This photo is similar to the one above, but now we are getting little bits of light peeking through the valleys on the right side of the moon as it moves to the left.
Let's zoom in further, ...
... and even further. Our little camera really came through for us.
Here's the scene around us. We had two minutes and 21 seconds to take it all in.
Totality ended exactly at 1:30:06 and we were giddy about the experience we had just had.
As quickly as it had disappeared, the sun started to come back out. The difference between 99% and 100% totality is immense. At 99% totality, it just seems a little darker than normal.
Once we had come down a bit, we had some fun. We got out our Moon Pie from the hotel and staged a photo, ...
... then we each selected a celestial-themed lollipop from the box we had received from Doug and Susan the day before we left home.
Cheers!
We went inside to cool off before the eclipse was completely finished, then went out a couple of hours later for an early dinner nearby at Longhorn Steakhouse.
Later on, we enjoyed another one of Debbie's retirement beers and finally got to enjoy that Moon Pie from the hotel.
By coincidence, "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Lightning Thief" was on television and we had come in just as Percy and his friends were about to visit the replica of the Parthenon in Nashville. Here, one of the characters wonders if the statue of Athena really looks like Athena.
Well, it did look a little bit like Melina Kanakaredes (the actress who plays Athena in the movie), but as we discovered the next day, this isn't actually the real statue.
We had originally planned to visit the Parthenon on Saturday, but our delayed arrival meant that we didn't have time, so we decided that we'd visit the next morning while the movie was still fresh in our minds.
Sunday, August 20, 2017: We got up, packed, and checked out. There was a line again for breakfast so we headed across the street to pick up some White Castle for breakfast on our way out. This is a Chicken and Waffle Slider, which is really delicious.
We drove across Nashville and found that the replica of the Parthenon looked exactly as we had seen it in the movie the night before (and a lot like the original in Greece as we had seen it in 2004).
Near the Parthenon is a statue of John W. Thomas (1830-1906), who was president of the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway.
Here's the look at the detail in the front of the Parthenon.
It turns out that we were actually facing the back of the building, so we walked around the side ...
... to the true front of the building where the actual entrance is. The line was out the building by 9:50 AM, but was much longer when we left 20 minutes later.
So, yeah, Nashville has a replica of the Greek Parthenon. The original was built in 1887, then it was replaced with the current structure in 1931 which was renovated in 1988.
It contains a statue of Athena Parthenos. Like the original statue in the ancient Parthenon, it is 41' high and it is positioned in the same place within the structure.
But this statue isn't at all the same as the one in the movie. We have no idea how they did that, because it was clearly filmed in this room. Did they just drop this one through a trap door until filming was finished? It's baffling.
A 41-foot-tall statue has to carry a big shield and this one is 15 feet wide.
Here she is from the back.
Here's the room where mere mortals come to see her.
We left there and drove back across Nashville to Hendersonville once again. On the way, we spotted this Dolly Parton license plate.
We arrived at the Black-eyed Pea before they opened, ...
... so we could pick up all of the food we had ordered several days earlier. It was already chilled, so we just had to buy a bunch of ice and pack it all in the large coolers we had brought with us for this very purpose.
We were almost out of town when we were forced to stop at Shipley Do-Nuts.
We had just discovered Shipley Do-Nuts in Texas last March. Their yeast donuts are unbelievably tasty so the van simply wasn't going to go forward until we ate some.
Want to buy a boat? Just pull into this gas station and pick one up.
We were on the road by 11:15 AM. We had heard tales of horrendous traffic the day before so we were pleased to see that everything appeared to be normal, which is the reason we had chosen to stay overnight after the eclipse.
Our drive was pleasant and uneventful. We were even smart enough to take some backroads to avoid ...
... the construction traffic in Elizabethtown. However, we eventually learned that the traffic reaper comes for all of us eventually, and we ended up in a form of it too for about 20 minutes.
After that mess, we had a late, well-deserved lunch from Wendy's.
We crossed the shiny new bridge into Indiana, knowing that at some point in the future, we'd get a $4 invoice for the privilege. In related news, we purchased an EZ-Pass when we got home so that future bridge crossings would be effortless and half-price.
We were home by 6:00 and set to work processing the huge amount of Black-eyed Pea food we had brought home. We froze full- and half-loaves of meatloaf.
We froze squares of mashed potatoes and added others to ready-to-eat containers.
Ditto for the broccoli rice casserole, except that it refused to stay in such nice squares.
We split the large bag of tomato sauce into smaller portions to freeze.
Finally, we served up some dinner for ourselves. Oh, yeah.

** THE END **


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