Commentary: 'Totality Tour' totally fun adventure
"(Clark), that there's an RV. Yeah, yeah, I borrowed it off a buddy of mine. He took my house, I took the RV. It's a good looking vehicle, ain't it?"...
"(Clark), that there's an RV. Yeah, yeah, I borrowed it off a buddy of mine. He took my house, I took the RV. It's a good looking vehicle, ain't it?"
Randy Quaid, as cousin Eddie Johnson, in "National Lampoon's Vacation"
I would have been perfectly content, and was planning, to watch Monday's solar eclipse from the comfort of my living room in front of a 55-inch HDTV.
But relentless arm-twisting from my wife and friends convinced me to join the "Dos Guys Totality Tour 2017" to Nebraska and eventually to Wyoming for a once-in-a-lifetime event.
"Dos Guys" is a two-man band of Brainerd science teachers/coaches Brian Wallace and Tim Peabody. They also happen to be Brainerd's versions of Bill Nye the Science Guy.
And, since Brian has an RV and is a science guy, he hatched a plan months ago to travel to Grand Island, Neb., which was supposed to be in the path of totality. In the meantime, Dos Guys lined up a gig to play at the Prairie Pride Brewing Co. in Grand Island, about an eight-hour drive from Minneapolis where they played the night before.
Preceding Saturday's gig was a visit to the Liederkranz's Craft Brew and Sausage Fest, an annual event that helps fund Grand Island's oldest social-benefit organization. The festival offers hand-crafted beverages from the region, various kinds of meats and live music.
Liederkranz is a German noun that means "wreath of songs/German singing society." The festival raises funds for the preservation and restoration of the historic Liederkranz, a massive entertainment hall built in the early 1900s and one of Grand Island's most prominent landmarks.
Sadly, today, the Liederkranz is a shadow of its former self. The city's once-bustling organization is only open a few days a week and is badly in need of major renovation and structural updates.
After the festivities in Grand Island, the plan was to hang out Sunday and wait for the eclipse Monday. However, the forecast was now calling for clouds in Grand Island so a group decision was made that we had to travel to another path of totality. So we hopped in the RV and headed west to Wyoming.
The journey to Wyoming wasn't without a few bumps. The RV overheated twice on the freeway. We all wondered if we were going to miss the eclipse. Thankfully a little oil and a little water seemed to solve being marooned in the Cowboy State.
We decided Douglas, Wyo., another city in the path of totality, would be our destination, about eight hours from Grand Island. But we settled on the tiny hamlet of Glendo, Wyo., population 205, another location in the path of totality.
When we arrived in Glendo late Sunday night, cars and RVs lined the streets. Thousands of people were camping at the airport and a nearby state park. We parked on the street and chatted with eclipse watchers from across the U.S., including what seemed to be about half the population of Colorado, and from countries like Scotland, Austria, France, Denmark and Italy. The eclipse was truly a festival of nations.
On a crystal clear day for totality in Glendo, Brian positioned near a sidewalk a "Sunspotter," and a telescope, devices through which one could safely watch as the eclipse unfolded. Anyone who wandered past was welcome to take a peek.
About an hour before totality, we positioned chairs on a bluff across the street from the RV. From there we had a great view as the moon blacked out the sun for 2 minutes, 30 seconds.
When totality was attained, thousands of people cheered, there was a 360-degree pink sunset and the temperature plunged about 10 degrees. It was a breathtaking, almost apocalyptic, moment.
When the sun returned, thousands attempted to depart at the same time. The main road in Glendo ran north and south. We chose the north route which resulted in two-hour gridlock for about 10 miles. A Wyoming TV station reported a backup on the freeway stretched more than 25 miles.
Once we were able to get to the highway intersection, and head east, it was pretty smooth sailing for the multiple-hour trek home. We were in the RV about 18-20 hours, arriving in Minneapolis at 8 a.m. Tuesday to retrieve a vehicle.
The next total eclipse over the U.S. is scheduled in 2024. Several states are scheduled to be in the path of totality. Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois or Indiana, here we come.