Having seen 3 total solar eclipses previously, all of which required considerably more complicated travel (Ghana in 2006, Kiribati in 2009, and Micronesia in 2016), there was no way I was going to miss out on the Great American Eclipse. Looking at the path of totality, I realized what would be the ideal spot for me to go. I planned a full year out for my trip to Alliance, Nebraska, home of Carhenge. This is a quirky place, which is always a plus. The combination of a good length of totality (2 and a half minutes) and reasonable odds of good weather made it an ideal destination.
So, after a night at the Fairfield Inn at JFK (just adequate), I took a Jet Blue flight to DEN, where I picked up a rental car. As is all too typical of google maps, their directions are so determined to shave off every possible inch that they make all sorts of pointless turns. Google also has a touching faith in road signs. I might turn on West Kansas Street, but there has to be some visible sign for it in order for me to do so. Still, I managed to find my way along various back roads of Nebraska and made it to the Alliance Hotel and Suites. I was paying about five times what my room would normally cost and about ten times what it was worth, but it was reasonably convenient. At least it was clean, albeit shabby.
Carhenge itself is a few miles north of Alliance. The weather looked iffy, with rain overnight and a lot of fog in the morning. But things cleared up as eclipse time neared. I should note that they were charging $50 for parking, but this was a charity fundraiser, so I was okay with it. There were other parking options a somewhat further walk away. I toured the sight, amused by the car art (e.g. The Fourd Seasons). The main henge is fascinating – built to the proportions of Stonehenge. It’s a must for any fan of uniquely American bizarre tourist attractions. To make things even better, its founder, Jim Reinder, was there, and he thoroughly enjoyed being interviewed by the local media, as well as watching the eclipse with his extended family.
As for the eclipse, I had brought eclipse glasses, my aluminized mylar filter, and solar binoculars. I also had a small tripod and a device for attaching my iphone to the binoculars. What I had not quite figured out at home was that the tripod interfered with the binocular attachment. And I couldn’t hold the binoculars steady enough without it, so there went my main photography plan. I did take a few photos of the "point and pray" variety, but nothing was really great. The eclipse, however, was great. Even at my fourth experience of totality, the feeling of awe was overwhelming. While there were plenty of people around, the site is big enough that it didn’t feel crowded. And it was obvious that everyone was completely amazed by what they were seeing. I think that even applied to the handful of cosplayers who showed up – a couple of people dressed as aliens and one guy as an auto tech kangaroo.
After the sun came back, I waited a while before braving the traffic. I was smart enough to stay a second night in Alliance, so I only had to make it the few miles back to town. My understanding is that the traffic going any further was pretty dreadful. I was glad to take a nap instead of dealing with that. I would end up doing plenty of driving the next day.
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